Sure, porn is fake, but what’s wrong with a little harmless fantasy? The problem is, porn isn’t harmless at all. Studies show that viewing porn makes consumers more critical of their partner and less satisfied with their romantic relationship and sex life. Not only does porn impact romantic relationships, but porn influences the ways individuals view themselves, as well their friends, family members, and others around them. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, porn also changes the ways that individuals view the hobbies and passions they used to love!

Porn looks like a newer, slicker version of love. Love 2.0. It’s like love, but easy, fast, and cheap.

In porn, finding a “partner” is effortless. He or she is always ready, willing, and longing for your attention. This partner has nothing else to do with their time but wait for the consumer, breathless and perpetually aroused. He or she is young, attractive, sexually adventurous, and anxious to please. This partner will never get bored or annoyed, never have an “off” day or need a listening ear. In fact, all he or she will ever want is wild, ecstatic orgasms that look real! And if this porn-partner ever fails to keep the consumer entertained, they can simply be exchanged with the click of a computer mouse. [1]

Sure, it’s all fake, but advocates of porn say, “So what? What’s wrong with a little harmless fantasy?” The problem is, it’s not harmless. The problem is that internet pornography has a number of unique properties, such as limitless novelty, on-demand accessibility, and easy escalation to more extreme material, that can condition someone’s sexual arousal to aspects of pornography consumption that do not readily transition to real-life partners. As this happens, real life sex may not register as meeting expectations, and arousal declines.

Maybe that is why counselor’s offices and divorce courts are filling up with couples who have found that, in reality, porn is killing love in their romantic relationships.

An increasing number of couples in therapy report that pornography is causing difficulties in their relationships. [2] Research shows that pornography consumption is linked to less stability in relationships, [3] increased risk of infidelity, [4] and greater likelihood of divorce. [5] While this applies to men and women, studies have found that men who are exposed to porn find their partner less sexually attractive and rate themselves as less in love with their partner. [6] A recent study tracked couples over a six year period, from 2006 to 2012, to see what factors influenced the quality of their marriage and their satisfaction with their sex lives. The researchers found that of all the factors considered, porn use was the second strongest indicator that a marriage would suffer. [7] Not only that but the marriages that were harmed the most were those of individuals who viewed porn heavily, once a day or more. [8]

But it’s not just married couples who are harmed by porn. Unmarried couples in romantic relationships who view pornography together experience twice the rate of infidelity as couples where partners watch it individually and alone, and three times more than couples who don’t watch porn at all. [9] A recent study of romantically involved people (most of whom were not married) found that those who used porn frequently were most likely to have lower satisfaction and intimacy in their relationship. [10]

Why do porn consumers struggle so much in real life relationships? The science is pretty clear.

Research shows that porn users report less love and trust in their relationships, are more prone to separation and divorce, and often see marriage as a “constraint.” [11] Overall, they are less committed to their partners, [12] less satisfied in their relationships, [13] and more cynical about love and relationships in general. [14] They also have poorer communication with their partners and are more likely to agree that, in their own relationships, “little arguments escalate into ugly fights with accusations, criticisms, name-calling, and bringing up past hurts.” [15]

And, as if that’s not enough, porn also ruins a couple’s sex life. [16] (See How Porn Damages Your Sex Life.)

But is this just a “chicken and egg” scenario? Is porn really damaging relationships, or are people turning to porn because they’re in relationships that are already suffering?

Probably both, according to Dr. Ana Bridges, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas. [17] When a couple hits a rough patch, one partner may use porn for distraction or relief, and their partner may be hurt by their porn use because it makes them feel unattractive and insecure, like he or she is being compared to porn performers and the fantasy of porn. [18] The hurt partner may pull away emotionally, which might make the porn-consuming partner feel more distant, so he or she deals with their stress by turning to more porn, and round and round they go. (See How Porn Hurts A Consumer’s Partner.)

No wonder many partners of porn users end up depressed, anxious, and feeling like they can never measure up to the impossible standard of porn. [19] (See How Porn Can Hurt Your Partner.) The truth is, they have good reason to worry. In porn, mistakes are edited out and flaws are Photoshopped away. Porn actors have a whole team there to make them look fantastic, and once their best performance is captured on film, it never ages. Who wants to compete with that? [20]

Regardless of how a consumer’s romantic relationship is being impacted by porn, as human beings, we interact with different people daily, in a number of ways. One of the dangers of porn is that it can distort the way a consumer sees people, causing him or her to see friends, family members, coworkers, or strangers on the street only as a sum of body parts, discarding their humanity. [21] Essentially, porn tells consumers that people are objects with the sole purpose of providing sexual satisfaction, and that’s unhealthy for relationships, romantic or otherwise. [22]

Not long ago, Princeton psychologists performed a study showing a group of men pictures of men and women, some barely clothed and some not. The psychologists monitored their medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is involved in recognizing human faces and distinguishing one person from another. For the most part, the mPFC was activated with each picture. However, when the subjects of the study were shown the pictures of scantily clothed people, it was not activated. [23] Basically, the automatic reaction in their brains suggested that they didn’t perceive the sexualized people as fully human. Just as a body, a sum of parts.

Obviously, porn is not the best representation of how real men and women look or how real sex and intimacy work in a real-life relationship. And yet, whether they realize it or not, porn consumers are affected by the portrayals they see in porn even after the browser window is closed. [24]

While it may not always be “romantic love,” porn can kill love in friendships, relationships with family members, and others in porn consumer’s lives. And it doesn’t stop there, porn also has the potential to kill the love consumers have for themselves. Ultimately, this often leaves porn consumers feeling lonely. [25]

There is a healthy amount of love every individual has for themselves that promotes good self-esteem, confidence, and overall a positive quality of life. Since porn depicts men and women as being nothing more than sex objects, porn consumers can start to subconsciously think of themselves that way, as nothing more than sex objects. [26] Because it can be hard to reach out to friends and family to explain how they are feeling and how they are struggling with porn, many people turn to the easiest source of immediate “comfort” available: more porn. This can lead to a vicious cycle of isolation and self-loathing. [27]

As a porn consumer finds himself or herself further down this cycle, an isolating porn habit can lead consumers to skip out on interacting with friends, trying new hobbies or participating in old ones, and ultimately connecting with the people in their lives. [28] This is all because consumers’ brains have become so reliant on porn that it can start to make them think they will be happier watching porn than participating in those real-life experiences. [29]

Breaking free of this cycle, reaching out for help, finding support, and establishing healthy forms of intimacy in one’s life can eliminate the poor self-esteem caused by porn. Many people who have broken free of a porn habit have reported greater happiness, better self-esteem, improved mental health, and happier relationships.

“I can see beauty in so many different forms now... real forms. I'm back at composing music, studying, my grades have boosted, have way more energy... I take more care of myself, exercise… When I meet a girl now, sex is not my goal. There's no goal. The present is the only goal, so a cool conversation, or maybe just a flirty smile can make my day.

23 year old maleAfter 2 months of quitting porn consumption [30]

Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want a healthy amount of love and respect for himself or herself that is free from porn’s isolating and harmful effects? Who wouldn’t want a healthy view of potential romantic partners and relationships in general? Real love requires real commitment to real people, including yourself. Choosing real love over porn gives people greater freedom and control to decide what they really want to do with their time and energy. Instead of someone sitting in front of a computer for hours, consuming a product that can isolate and damage their relationships, they can focus on reality. Keeping porn out of your life gives you the freedom and time to try that new sport you have been interested in, take that class that sounds really interesting, travel to a new place with family members, invest in friendships, or find the one you want to spend time loving and growing old with—the real way. Real life, and real life-giving experiences have so much more to offer than porn ever will.

Citations
[1] Estellon, V., And Mouras, H. (2012). Sexual Addiction: Insights From Psychoanalysis And Functional Neuroimaging. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2: 11814. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V2i0.11814
[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; Mitchell, K. J., Becker-Blease, K. A., & Finkelhor, D. (2005). Inventory Of Problematic Internet Experiences Encountered In Clinical Practice. Professional Psychology: Research And Practice, 36, 498-509. Doi:10.1037/0735-7028.36.5.498
[3] Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects Of Cybersex Addiction On The Family: Results Of A Survey. Sexual Addiction And Compulsivity, 7, 31-58. Doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[4] 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. Doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00137-3
[5] Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects Of Cybersex Addiction On The Family: Results Of A Survey. Sexual Addiction And Compulsivity, 7, 31-58. Doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[6] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect On Interpersonal Relationships. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Kendrick, D., Gutierres, S., & Goldberg, L. (1989). Influence Of Popular Erotica On Judgments Of Strangers And Mates. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 159-167. Doi:10.1016/0022-1031(89)90010-3
[7] Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y (Porn Consumption Was The Second Most Predictive Factor. The Most Predictive Factor Was The “Lagged-Dependant Variable” Which Is A Statistics Term We Probably Couldn’t Explain Even If We Wanted To.)
[8] Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y
[9] 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] 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
[11] Henline, B. H., Lamke, L. K., & Howard, M. D. (2007). Exploring Perception Of Online Infidelity. Personal Relationships, 14, 113-128. Doi:10.1111/J.1475-6811.2006.00144.X; Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004) Adult Social Bonds And The Use Of Internet Pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85, 75-88. Doi:10.1111/J.0038-4941.2004.08501006.X; Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects Of Cybersex Addiction On The Family: Results Of A Survey. Sexual Addiction And Compulsivity, 7, 31-58. Doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[12] 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; Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y; 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; 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; Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports Of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use As A Correlate Of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, And Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5-6), 257-274. Retrieved From Https://Yourbrainonporn.Com/Young-Adult-Women%E2%80%99s-Reports-Their-Male-Romantic-Partner%E2%80%99s-Pornography-Use-Correlate-Their-Self.
[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; Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y; 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; 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. 8(6):520-30. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; Zillman, D., & Bryant, J. (2006). Pornography’s Impact On Sexual Satisfaction. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 18(5), 438-453. Doi:10.1111/J.1559-1816.1988.Tb00027.X
[14] 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
[15] 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
[16] Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y; Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunction? A Review With Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; 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; 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. 8(6):520-30. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960
[17] Weir, K. (2014, April). Is Pornography Addictive? Monitor On Psychology. 45(4) 46. Retrieved From Http://Www.Apa.Org/Monitor/2014/04/Pornography.Aspx
[18] 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
[19] Steffens, B. A., & Rennie, R. L. (2006). The Traumatic Nature Of Disclosure For Wives Of Sexual Addicts. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 13(2-3), 247–67. Doi:10.1080/10720160600870802; Wolf, N. (2004). The Porn Myth. New York Magazine, May 24; Wildmom-White, M. L., & Young, J. S. (2002). Family-Of-Origin Characteristics Among Women Married To Sexually Addicted Men. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 9(4), 263–73. Doi:10.1080/10720160216042
[20] 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.
[21] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Bostwick, J. M., & Bucci, J. E. (2008). Internet Sex Addiction Treated With Naltrexone. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 83(2), 226–230. Doi:10.4065/83.2.226; Kalman, T. P. (2008). 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; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books. (110).
[22] Rudman, L. A., & Borgida, E. (1995). The afterglow of construct accessibility: The behavioral consequences of priming men to view women as sexual objects. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 31, 493–517; Loughnan, S., Haslam, N., Murnane, T., Vaes, J., Reynolds, C., & Suitner, C. (2010). Objectification leads to depersonalization: The denial of mind and moral concern to objectified others. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 709–717.
[23] Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J.L. & Fiske, S.T. (in press). From agents to objects: Sexist attitudes and neural responses to sexualized targets. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
[24] 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. 8(6):520-30. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960
[25] Brooks, G. R., (1995). The Centerfold Syndrome: How Men Can Overcome Objectification And Achieve Intimacy With Women. San Francisco: Bass. Cited In Yoder, V. C., Virden, T. B., & Amin, K. (2005). Internet Pornography And Loneliness: An Association? Sexual Addiction And Compulsivity, 12, 19-44. Doi:10.1080/10720160590933653
[26] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. New York: Henry Hold And Co., 79; Lyons, J. S., Anderson, R. L., & Larsen, D. (1993). A Systematic Review Of The Effects Of Aggressive And Nonaggressive Pornography. In Zillmann, D., Bryant, J. & Huston, A. C. (Eds.) Media, Children And The Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, And Clinical Perspectives (P. 305). Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates.
[27] Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; 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
[28] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & Mclellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/Nejmra1511480; Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017
[29] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374: 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480
[30] Age 23 – I’m a new human being (ED) | Your Brain On Porn. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://yourbrainonporn.com/age-23-im-new-human-being-ed

Send this to a friend