In real life, real love requires a real person. Research has found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than men who didn’t see any porn. On top of that, another study found that after being exposed to pornographic images, people were more critical of their partner’s appearance, sexual curiosity, sexual performance, and displays of affection.

Pornographers pretend that what they’re selling is Love 2.0. It’s like love, they say, but easier.

You see, in real life, real love requires a real person. And a real person has thoughts and ideas and talents. Maybe they’re quirky and fun to be around; maybe they’re a great listener and always take time to hear how you’re feeling; or maybe they’re awesome at karaoke and being with them gives you the courage to get on stage too. Every person is a unique mix, and it’s that awesome blend that we fall in love with.

Of course, pornographers can’t offer any of that, so instead they capitalize on the fact that the real people that real love requires come with some complications. In real life, there’s a chance your partner will be having a bad day or a bad hair day. Maybe they’re tired or under a deadline, so they don’t have time to do exactly what you want. And they have needs of their own that need to be considered.

In porn, all of that can get edited out: any physical flaws can be quickly Photoshopped away [1]; no matter what’s happening to them, the people on screen can be made to look like they’re having a good time [2]; and no one seems to have any needs of their own, opinions, or feelings to consider [3]. Besides, if anyone fails to immediately satisfy, there’s always someone new to click to [4].

Doesn’t sound much like real life or real love does it? Here’s the thing: not only is porn a fantasy, but it also makes it harder for users to have real loving relationships [5].

Why? Because just like many other multibillion dollar industries, pornographers feed viewers completely unrealistic expectations in order to keep customers coming back [6]. Real love isn’t any more like what happens in porn than the average Marlboro smoker is like a 6’ 9” cowboy. But it works out well for pornographers since the more porn a viewer watches, the more their real relationships don’t seem exciting enough [7], which gives them a reason to turn back to porn. And the more they watch porn, the more likely they are to be indoctrinated with porn’s version of how relationships should go [8].

Since porn often portrays women as nothing more than sex objects that need to be dominated [9], it’s not surprising that porn users often start seeing real women that way as well [10]. In one study of porn’s effects, researchers broke participants up into three groups: to one they showed a high amount of pornography, one a medium amount, and the third a lower amount, and then followed with questions about what participants thought about women [11]. Results showed that the more porn a man was exposed to, the more likely he was to prefer that women be submissive and subordinate to men. Since most women in our culture are taught to expect love to be built on equality and mutual respect, seeing women as subordinate isn’t exactly a great start to lasting love. [12]

For those lucky enough to have found a special someone, using porn can take things downhill fast. Research has found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than men who didn’t see any porn [13]. On top of that, another study found that after being exposed to pornographic images, people were more critical of their partner’s appearance, sexual curiosity, sexual performance, and displays of affection [14].

Over time, those who consistently use porn often may even lose interest in finding love altogether. Frequent porn use is associated with feeling cynical about love in general, less trust in romantic partners, and with feeling like marriage is confining [15].

Porn doesn’t do any favors for the user’s partner, either. Since so much of men’s porn is only about what the man wants while ignoring anything about what’s good for a woman or a relationship, wives and girlfriends often end up feeling like their partner doesn’t really value them. [16] Many partners of porn users end up depressed, anxious, and feeling like they can never measure up. [17]

Of course, pornographers don’t bother to mention any of this. Part of porn’s fantasy is that a person can live in both worlds—that they can create a real, loving relationship, but also bring in thousands of other sexual partners as long as those partners are kept behind a computer screen. In reality, a porn habit can take a serious toll on a person’s ability to offer someone real, unselfish, meaningful love [18]—which often means that in the end, they’re left without much more than what’s behind that computer screen. [19]

Click For Citations

[1] Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction—a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767; Paul, Pamela. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 145.
[2] Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E. Chyng, S., & Liberman, R. (2010) Aggression and sexual behavior in best selling pornography videos: A content analysis update. Violence against Women, 16, 10. 1065-1085; Mosher, D. and MacIan, P. (1994). College men and women respond to x-rated videos intended for male or female audiences: gender and sexual scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 2. 99-112.
[3] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, Pamela. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 80.
[4] Estellon, V., and Mouras, H. (2012). Sexual Addiction: Insights from Psychoanalysis and Functional Neuroimaging. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2: 11814.
[5] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 155–156; Burns, R. J. (2002). Male Internet Pornography Consumers’ Perception of Women and Endorsement of Traditional Female Gender Roles. Austin, Tex.: Department of Communication Studies, University of Texas, p. 11; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health 27, 2: 41–44.
[6] Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction—a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 91.
[7] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 91.
[8] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Carroll, J. S., Padilla-Walker, L. M., and Nelson, L. J. (2008). Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults. Journal of Adolescent Research 23, 1: 6–30; Layden, M. A. (2004). Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science and Space, U.S. Senate, Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction, November 18; Marshall, W. L. (2000). Revisiting the Use of Pornography by Sexual Offenders: Implications for Theory and Practice. Journal of Sexual Aggression 6, 1 and 2: 67; Mosher, D. L. and MacIan, P. (1994). College Men and Women Respond to X-Rated Videos Intended for Male or Female Audiences: Gender and Sexual Scripts. Journal of Sex Research 31, 2: 99–112; Brosius, H. B., et al. (1993). Exploring the Social and Sexual “Reality” of Contemporary Pornography. Journal of Sex Research 30, 2: 161–70.
[9] Woods, J. (2012). Jamie Is 13 and Hasn’t Even Kissed a Girl. But He’s Now On the Sex Offender Register after Online Porn Warped His Mind. Daily Mail (U.K.), April 25; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 80.
[10] Ward, L. M. and Friedman, K. (2006). Using TV as a Guide: Associations Between Television Viewing and Adolescents’ Sexual Attitudes and Behavior. Journal of Research on Adolescents 16, 1: 133-56.
[11] Burns, R. J. (2002). Male Internet Pornography Consumers’ Perception of Women and Endorsement of Traditional Female Gender Roles. Austin, Tex.: Department of Communication Studies, University of Texas, p. 11.
[12] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.
[13] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.
[14] Zillmann, D. and Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18, 5: 438–53.
[15] Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health 27, 2: 41–44.
[16] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.
[17] Steffens, B. A. and Rennie, R. L. (2006). The Traumatic Nature of Disclosure for Wives of Sexual Addicts. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 13, 2 and 3: 247–67; Wolf, N. (2004). The Porn Myth. New York Magazine, May 24; Wildmom-White, M. L. and Young, J. S. (2002). Family-of-Origin Characteristics Among Women Married to Sexually Addicted Men. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 9, 4: 263–73.
[18] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 155–156; Burns, R. J. (2002). Male Internet Pornography Consumers’ Perception of Women and Endorsement of Traditional Female Gender Roles. Austin, Tex.: Department of Communication Studies, University of Texas, p. 11; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health 27, 2: 41–44.
[19] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.
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