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Should You Be Worried If Your Partner Watches Porn?

Have you ever walked in on your partner watching porn? Or, perhaps, you’ve passed the bathroom door and heard what you were sure was them getting off to the sound of it. If you have, how did you react? Were you excited that your partner was enjoying themself, or did it make you feel anxious, worried, and insecure? (Don’t worry, there’s no wrong answer.)

If your response was jealousy, insecurity, and concern, you’re not alone. For many people, learning that your partner watches porn can bring up a lot of difficult emotions. You may feel like you aren’t “enough” for your partner, worried you can’t satisfy their needs, or you might even be scared that watching porn will lead to your partner cheating, becoming addicted to porn, alter their brain chemistry, or any of the other supposedly negative side effects of watching porn. Let’s get real, though. Are these claims true? Should you be worried if your partner is watching porn? Well, I’ve got the somewhat complicated answers to these questions. Read on to find out why you don’t need to worry if your partner is watching porn, what situation would be cause for concern, and healthy ways to talk about and approach porn in a relationship.

Why you don’t need to worry if your partner is watching porn

First things first: I need to make it crystal clear that there is no scientific evidence that shows watching porn causes any physical or psychological damage to a person. While there are many people that claim this is true and even say there is research to support it, these accusations are baseless, and the research they’re talking about has all been correlational. It shows a correlation between two things but not a cause.

If you grew up learning how horrible porn is for you, like I did, you might be ready to dig through the research yourself because it feels impossible to believe that porn is not bad for you. Dr. Justin J. Lehmiller has already done the heavy lifting for you and written this article about the major flaws in the studies that anti-porn groups use to claim that porn causes brain damage, violence against women, and toxic relationships. Reading it will be relieving, I promise. 

Research isn’t the only thing that’s flawed when it comes to what we’ve learned about porn, though. While many people see porn or masturbation as a sign that their partner is dissatisfied with their sex life, this is a terrible myth. If your partner watches porn, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in you, that you don’t satisfy them in bed, or that they don’t find you attractive. I know this can be hard to believe, and it might even contradict everything you’re feeling right now, but the truth is you cannot be replaced by porn.

In fact, I talked to Angie Rowntree, Founder & Director of Sssh.com, a sex-positive, ethical porn site made from a woman’s point of view about this. Rowntree said that “The fact that one partner enjoys porn does not mean they are trying to ‘replace’ their actual relationship or real-life partner with porn.” It’s important to remember that “porn is fantasy– it does not depict the ‘every day’ of a real-life relationship, nor does it provide the actual intimacy that makes our mundane partnerships unique and gratifying,” Rowntree says. As much as we have learned otherwise, porn does not, will not, and can never replace you in your relationship with your partner.

What situation would be cause for concern?

I am not saying that there is never a time to be worried when it comes to watching porn. It’s important to develop a healthy relationship with porn, and there definitely are some situations that can be cause for concern. For example, if you’ve noticed that watching porn gets in the way of your partner’s everyday responsibilities and ability to function or it’s impacting their mental health, this is, by all means, an appropriate time to get support from a licensed sex therapist. 

But remember, it’s not the frequency someone watches porn that you should be worried about, it’s how it impacts them. Take, for example, a person who watches porn three times a day and goes about their life like it’s nothing. If you were raised with the same attitudes about porn as me, you might think this is “too much” and that this person should seek support. There’s actually no need to be concerned in this situation, though. On the other hand, someone who watches porn just a few times a week, or less, but it causes them major distress, shame, or out-of-control feelings, is someone you would want to support to find help. Clearly, porn is impacting their ability to function. 

Another situation where you might choose to seek support is if you or your partner are unsatisfied with your sex lives, you’re experiencing jealousy or conflict, and it feels like porn is at the center of these issues. You may have recently discovered that your partner watches porn, and it feels like a betrayal. Perhaps, you’re in a situation where your partner only watches porn and doesn’t have sex with you. This is likely bringing up really challenging emotions, and while porn is probably not the cause of these issues, there are underlying challenges that need to be solved. Getting support can be a major help.

How to create a healthy relationship with you, your partner, and porn 

I’m not gonna lie, creating a healthy relationship with porn is a big topic that I wish I could cover in just one section of this article. Alas, I’ve picked out some of the most important nuggets. If you want to start building a healthy relationship with yourself, your partner, and porn, begin by acknowledging that you and your partner have your own complex relationships with porn. Each of you has a lifetime of experiences that have molded your relationship with porn—all of which are valid. And for all the reasons we’ve talked about, and many more, porn can be loaded AF. So the first thing you can do is take turns listening to each other talk about what has influenced your beliefs about porn, Alexandra H. Solomon Ph.D. says in a Psychology Today article

After you’ve done that (which may be many conversations, not just one), consider making agreements about what kind of porn use each of you is comfortable with. Many people assume that letting porn into your relationship means you have to be “down for anything” and cool with your partner watching every type of porn at any time, but this is not necessarily what creating a healthy relationship with porn looks like. Instead, consider how you want porn to be a part of your relationship and what feels comfortable to you— would you be okay with you or your partner watching porn if it’s ethical or feminist porn? Would you like to know every time your partner watches porn? Do you want to know what kind of porn your partner watches? Will you talk to each other when porn is making you feel insecure and why? 

The key thing to remember here is that making agreements about when and what kind of porn you and your partner watch is not about making rules that your partner has to follow. This needs to be a collaborative process where you’re coming to agreements and compromises that feel good for both of you. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to be compassionate toward yourself and your partner— you are taking a deep dive into tough territory!



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