Couples Using Porn: Does it increase sexual satisfaction?
Friday, July 24, 2015 | Written by Luke Gilkerson
Many people claim porn can increase a couple’s sexual satisfaction—making us excited about sex with our partner and giving us fresh ideas in the bedroom.
The fact that people watch porn because they find it exciting and pleasurable isn’t up for debate. But is watching porn really conducive to true intimacy and real sexual satisfaction?
Porn Use is the Norm
Among the rising adult generation, many men and women see continued porn use acceptable, even while in a longterm relationship. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found, among young adults:
- The largest group (70% of men and 56% of women) say porn use is acceptable while in a relationship, whether it is used individually or by a couple.
- The next largest group (22% of men and 26% of women) say porn use is unacceptable because of being in a committed relationship.
- The smallest group (5% of men and 13% of women) believe porn use is always unacceptable.
For the majority of young Americans, pornography use—at least as long as it doesn’t become obsessive—is not seen as a problem for couples in a romantic relationship.
Spicing Up the Erotic Climate
In one sense, it shouldn’t surprise us that couples who use porn in the bedroom might have seemingly high levels of sexual satisfaction. Compared to couples that have different convictions about whether porn is healthy or moral, or compared to couples where one partner is sneaking around to look at porn, couples that use porn together are at least on the same page.
The research bears this out:
- One study in the journal Personal Relationships found the more men watch porn for personal masturbation, the less sexually satisfied these men feel, but the more men and women watched porn together during lovemaking, the more sexually satisfied men feel.
- Another study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found when only one partner uses porn, this can lead to arousal problems in men and negative self-perceptions in women, but when couples used porn together to enhance their sex life, there is a “more permissive erotic climate” in the relationship—i.e. men and women communicate more about their sexual fantasies and desires.
Bigger Orgasms ≠ Better Intimacy
However, when we investigate the matter of couples viewing porn together, we are often asking the wrong questions—or at least making the wrong comparisons.The question is not whether shared porn use bodes well for relationships compared to solitary use for masturbation. The question is not whether honesty about porn use is healthier than dishonesty.
A better question is whether couples watching porn together is optimal for real intimacy.
In other words, there’s no doubt communication about sexual expectations and fantasies is good for couples. There’s no doubt honesty and eliminating secrecy is good for relationships. Of course couples can benefit from being adventurous or keeping things fresh in the bedroom. But why is porn needed for any of that? Moreover, what needless side effects can be avoided if we pursue sexual vibrancy without the aid of porn?
According to a study of unmarried couples published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, compared to those who watch porn alone and those those who watch porn with their partner, those who don’t view any porn at all have much lower rates of infidelity—and this should hardly surprise us.
If we are using the erotic images of others to turn us on in the act of lovemaking, the focus of our attention is not our partner. As couples watch porn together, they only reinforce the notion that attraction to others is expected and even encouraged. Instead of working to cement a bond where your partner is your standard of beauty, you communicate, “I need someone more to turn me on.”
According to research from Drs. Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, regular exposure to porn—even over a short period—can produce the following effects in both men and women:
- A decrease in sexual satisfaction – Individuals begin to rate their partner’s physical appearance, affection, and sexual performance next to what they observe pornographic films.
- A devaluing of commitment – Individuals begin to undervalue the importance of marriage, the idea of having children, or the importance of faithfulness in a relationship.
- A dehumanization of women – Individuals begin to believe all women are as hysterically euphoric about sex as porn actresses, and they show a drop in support for women’s rights in society.
- A desensitization to cruelty – Individuals begin to believe activities like anal sex, group sex, and S&M are more common in society, and they tend to trivialize sexual violence.
- A desire for more porn – Individuals begin to crave more porn, more varieties of porn, and harder material.
Better sex is not measured by bigger orgasms. The big O of sex is not orgasm; it is oneness. And we don’t achieve this kind of intimacy staring at pixels on the screen.