Partners of porn users often report feeling angry, confused, and betrayed when they find out that the other half of their committed relationship has been watching porn. Consumers may have no idea how they are hurting their own relationships and the people they love.

No one ever woke up and said, “Today, I want to get out there and ruin my current and future relationships. I’m going to cut myself off emotionally, undermine trust, and leave my partner feeling confused, rejected, angry, and betrayed.”

No one says that, but a pile of research shows that’s exactly what can happen when we watch porn.

It’s probably no surprise that women tend to view porn and its effects very differently from men. [1] Studies have shown that most women—even if they believe that pornography consumption is okay for other people—see no acceptable role for porn within their own committed relationship. [2] And no wonder! The evidence that porn can harm relationships and partners is overwhelming. [3]

Two of the most respected pornography researchers, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman at the University of Alabama, studied the effects of porn and media for more than 30 years. They found that viewing pornography makes many users less satisfied with their own partners’ physical appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and affection. [4] They also found that, over time, many porn users grow more callous toward females in general, less likely to value monogamy and marriage, and more likely to develop distorted perceptions of sexuality. [5] Other researchers have confirmed those results and added that porn users tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners, [6] less commitment in their relationships, [7] less satisfied with their romantic and sex lives, [8] and more likely to cheat on their partners. [9]

That doesn’t bode well for any relationship where one partner is using porn, especially since most of us want and expect our intimate relationships to be built on trust, respect, commitment, honesty, and love.

It is very common, when partners find out that their other half has been watching porn, for them to feel a whole range of negative emotions including rejection, humiliation, abandonment, isolation, loneliness, jealousy, anger, and shame.[10]. Even if they don’t believe that porn is the same as cheating, they often feel a deep sense of loss, betrayal, and mistrust. [11] The secrecy, shame, isolation, and lies that are often introduced into a relationship by compulsive porn use can snowball into all kinds of problems. [12]

But even if porn isn’t kept a secret—even if partners are open and honest about their use—it can still do real harm. We mentioned earlier that porn consumption can lead to less satisfaction and less interest in one’s partner. [13] Why does that happen? Part of the answer is that porn rewires the brain, so that consumers of porn become less responsive sexually to their partner, even though they can still respond to porn. [14]

At the same time, porn reshapes expectations about sex and attraction by presenting an unrealistic picture. In porn, women always look their best. They are forever young, surgically enhanced, airbrushed, and Photoshopped to perfection. [15] So it’s not hard to see why, according to a national poll, six out of seven women believe that porn has changed men’s expectations of how women should look. [16]

As writer Naomi Wolf points out, “Today real naked women are just bad porn.” [17]

But it’s not only physical looks that get distorted in porn. Women are generally portrayed as anxious for sex anywhere, at any time, with anyone, and they are delighted to go as long and hard as the man (or men) want. They always climax, usually loudly and ecstatically, and then are immediately ready for more. They never get tired or sore. They never need a break. In fact, they never seem to need anything at all except endless sex. They are depicted as happy with whatever a man wants to do, even if it’s dangerous, painful, or humiliating. [18]

If you think those unrealistic depictions don’t work their way into consumers’ beliefs, expectations and actions think again. [19] In a recent survey of 16 to 18-year-old Americans, nearly every participant reported learning how to have sex by watching porn, [20] and many of the young women said they were pressured to play out the “scripts” their male partners had learned from porn. [21] They felt badgered into having sex in uncomfortable positions, faking sexual responses, and consenting to unpleasant or painful acts.

Of course, the pain caused by porn can go far beyond a bad experience in the bedroom. Individuals who learn of their partner’s porn habit often internalize their shame and confusion, asking themselves why they aren’t “enough.” They may feel undesirable, unattractive, and worthless. [23] Many partners of porn consumers even start showing physical symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. [24] And, studies have shown that because of the shame they feel and their worry about being blamed for their partner’s problem, the majority of women who learn of a partner’s porn use isolate themselves at least somewhat from their normal sources of social support, just when they need that support the most. [25]

If you want to do the Love of Your Life a huge favor, decide now that you won’t bring the potentially devastating effects of porn into your relationship. Or, if you’re already caught in porn’s web, make the decision to get help. Click here to find out how you can give them the gift they really want: You. All of you. Heart and Mind.

Citations
[1] Olmstead, S. B., Negash, S., Pasley, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Emerging Adults’ Expectations for Pornography Use in the Context of Future Committed Romantic Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 625-635. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9986-7
[2] Olmstead, S. B., Negash, S., Pasley, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Emerging Adults’ Expectations for Pornography Use in the Context of Future Committed Romantic Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 625-635. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9986-7
[3] Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysunction? A Review with Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017; Braithwaite, S. R., Coulson, G., Keddington, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2015). The influence of pornography on sexual scripts and hooking up among emerging adults in college. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(1), 111-123. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0351-x; Resch, M. N., & Alderson, K. G. (2014). Female partners of men who use pornography: are honest and mutual use associated with relationship satisfaction? Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 40(5), 410-424. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2012.751077; Poulsen, F. O., Busby, D. M., & Galovan, A. M. (2013). Pornography use: who uses it and how it is associated with couple outcomes. Journal of Sex Research 50(1), 72-83. doi:10.1080/00224499.2011.648027; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations between Young Adults’ Use of Sexually Explicit Materials and Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, and Satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48(6), 520-530. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4; Bergner, R.M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The significance of heavy pornography involvement for romantic partners: Research and clinical implications. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 193-206. doi:10.1080/009262302760328235
[4] Zillman, D. & Bryant, J. (1988) Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438-453. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb00027.x
[5] Zillman, D., & Bryant, J. (2000). Influence of unrestrained access to erotica on adolescents’ and young adults’ disposition toward sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27(2 Suppl), 41-44. doi:10.1016/s1054-139X(00)00137-3; D. & Bryant, J. (1988) Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438-453. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb00027.x; Zillman, D. & Bryant, J. (1984). Effects of massive exposure to pornography. In Malamuth, N. M. & Donnerstein, E. (Eds.), Pornography and sexual aggression (pp. 115-138). New York, NY: Academic Press.
[6] Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysunction? A Review with Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017; Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnason, J., Ezzell, M., (2014). Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 1-12. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4; Bergner, R. M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The significance of heavy pornography involvement for romantic partners: Research and clinical implications. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 193-206. doi:10.1080/009262302760328235
[7] Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4
[8] Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations between Young Adults’ Use of Sexually Explicit Materials and Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, and Satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48(6), 520-530. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4; Yucel, D. & Gassanov, M. A. (2010). Exploring actor and partner correlates of sexual satisfaction among married couples. Social Science Research, 39(5), 725-738. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.20009.09,002
[9] Braithwaite, S. R., Coulson, G., Keddington, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2015). The influence of pornography on sexual scripts and hooking up among emerging adults in college. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(1), 111-123. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0351-x; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4
[10] Kalman, T. P., (2008). Clinical Encounters with Internet Pornography, Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4), 593-618. doi:10.1521/jaap.2008.36.4.593; Bergner, R.M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The significance of heavy pornography involvement for romantic partners: Research and clinical implications. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 193-206. doi:10.1080/009262302760328235
[11] Bridges, A. J., Bergner, R. M., & Hesson-McInnis, M. (2003). Romantic Partners’ Use of Pornography: Its Significance for Women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 29(1), 1-14. doi:10.1080/713847097; Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7(1), 31-58. doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[12] Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4; Wildmon-White, M., & Young, J. (2002). Family-of-origin characteristics among women married to sexually addicted men. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 9(4), 263-273. doi:10.1080/10720760216042; Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7(1), 31-58. doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[13] Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysunction? A Review with Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017; Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations between Young Adults’ Use of Sexually Explicit Materials and Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, and Satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48(6), 520-530. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4; Yucel, D. & Gassanov, M. A. (2010). Exploring actor and partner correlates of sexual satisfaction among married couples. Social Science Research, 39(5), 725-738. Doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.20009.09,002
[14] Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysunction? A Review with Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017; Voon, V. et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors. PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419; Kalman, T. P., (2008). Clinical Encounters with Internet Pornography, Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4), 593-618. doi:10.1521/jaap.2008.36.4.593
[15] Hilton, D. L., (2013). Pornography addiction—a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3:20767. doi:10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 145.
[16] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In Stoner, J. Stoner & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3-20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.
[17] Wolf, N. (2003). The porn myth. New York Magazine. June 14. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/
[18] Layden, M. A. (2010) Pornography and Violence: A New Look at the Research. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57-68). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Ryu, E. (2004). Ryu, E. (2008). Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women: Korean Woman as an Illustration. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 16(4), 75. doi:10.1300/J086v16n04_05; Shope, J. H. (2004). When Words Are Not Enough: The Search for the Effect of Pornography on abused Women. Violence Against Women, 10(1), 56-72. doi:10.1177/1077801203256003
[19] See, e.g. Peter, J. & Valkenburg, P. M., (2016) Adolescents and Pornography: A Review of 20 Years of Research. Journal of Sex Research, 53(4-5), 509-531. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441 (Pointing out that “existing research has produced consistent evidence that adolescents’ pornography use is related to their sexual attitudes.”)
[20] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908
[21] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908
[22] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908
[23] Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Bergner, R.M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The significance of heavy pornography involvement for romantic partners: Research and clinical implications. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 193-206. doi:10.1080/009262302760328235
[24] Steffens, B. A., & Rennie, R. L. (2006). The Traumatic Nature of Disclosure for Wives of Sexual Addicts. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 13(2-3), 247-267. doi:10.1080/10720160600870802; Wildmon-White, M., & Young, J. (2002). Family-of-origin characteristics among women married to sexually addicted men. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 9(4), 263-273. doi:10.1080/10720760216042
[25] Manning, J. C. (2010) The Impact of Pornography on Women: Social Science Findings and Clinical Observations. In Stoner, J. Stoner & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3-20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.

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