Lap-top or lap-dance, today’s pornography looks very different from the Playboy Magazine your father stuffed under his mattress. Pornography is ubiquitous; it’s everywhere and quickly flowing into every nook and cranny of our culture. The Internet allows pornography to be readily available and easily accessible. Because it is anonymous, immediate, and so easy, the Internet is like nothing else we’ve ever known. Without comparison, the intrinsic capacity of the net to engage, enlighten and entertain is remarkable. And, its ability to seduce is simply, incomparable!
Many in our culture like the dichotomy of labeling something as good or bad. However, while there is no doubt that the ease of access of pornography via the internet is impacting relationships, it is not all bad as most like to think. Let’s take a closer look at porn’s role in relationships.
Internet porn comes in varying degrees. The messages that are portrayed through much of pornography, include: women as always ready and eager for sex; people are far more sexually active than one could ever imagine; and that most men and women are not concerned about pregnancy prevention or sexually transmitted infections. The message about women always being ready and eager for sex in combination with the objectification of women in some pornography, may lead some women to feeling badly about themselves. Some believe that if they aren’t a mirror image of the beautiful, sexy women then there is something wrong with them. And their partners might agree, because after all, the women are always in the mood and hypersexual in their go-to fantasy porn.
Internet pornography can also negatively impact a man’s self-esteem and sexual performance as well by them comparing themselves to how “ well endowed” other men are in what they watch, how easily they can delay reaching orgasm, or how talented they are in producing easy multiple orgasms in their partners.
Most significant, is the effect on a man’s sexual performance when with a real partner. It is possible that as a result of a particular masturbatory style that could never be mimicked by a partner (through penetration, oral or manual stimulation), delayed ejaculation and difficulty maintaining a firm erection may occur. In addition, if when watching porn , an individual tends to watch sexual activity that includes more than two people (i.e. threesomes or “gangbangs”) or tends to click (and alternate) between different videos or pictures, then having just one partner and not having the change and novelty every few seconds, might make it more difficult for a male to perform as well.
In addition, if one is not honest with their partner about their internet porn use and it is discovered, this can of course lead to problems in the relationship. Lastly, there are many women who are turned off by porn. When this is the case, it can become a source of tension and start arguments between couples.
But, the news is not all bad. After viewing internet pornography, many people have indicated an increase in sexual arousal and pleasure in “real” non-virtual settings. Couples have reported that exposure to pornography has provided them with material regarding giving pleasure and enhancing their ability to talk openly about sex. Utilizing porn—like a good tutor—can provide mature users with words and tools to discuss their sexual wants and needs with their partner.
Porn’s relationship to sex can be used in other positive ways. These videos can also be a great way to reduce anxieties about sex. Some couples use porn to try to “spice up” their sexual relationships and couples who – willingly – watch it together, report favorable results. Some, however, describe that Internet porn viewing can have the unintended consequence of making real sex less satisfying. For some individuals/couples porn has helped them become more open-minded and tolerant about sex, increased their sexual arousal and pleasure, educated them, provided them with material to spice up their relationship and provided them a tool to talk openly about sex with their partner.
Couples who not only embrace porn, but actually watch it together may fare better. However, it’s important to remember, everything in moderation. This may not be true if the couple is watching porn every day, for example, or each time they are sexual together. When porn becomes a ritualized aspect of lovemaking, it is generally problematic.
Many couples and sex therapists often prescribe their clients to explore various sexual materials at home with their partner. The belief is that it can promote communication about sex and even bridge the gap between the desires and fantasies of each individual. Unmarried couples who watch porn together report having a more committed relationship than couples who do not watch porn together. It provides opportunities for them to discuss what they like or do not like and can help them feel more comfortable with one another sexually.
A few things are clear: 1) there are good things and less good things about the ease of access to internet pornography in regards to relationships; 2) communication is key! Communicating with your partner about your porn use and the boundaries can be helpful to the relationship; and 3) everything in moderation! While some porn viewing can be healthy personally and for a relationship, too much online porn viewing can lead to difficulties with sexual functioning as well as in a relationship.