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10 Reasons Why You Should (Not) Be Cool With Your Partner Watching Porn

Society says it’s not a big deal for partners to have a porn habit, but science and research say otherwise. You deserve to know the facts, and see how porn can seriously affect a relationship.

By December 3, 2020July 15th, 2021No Comments

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Society says it’s not a big deal for partners to have a porn habit, but science and research say otherwise. You deserve to know the facts, and how porn can seriously affect a relationship.

Porn is not harmless.

In recent years, many online articles and social media accounts have focused on normalizing porn and promoting the massively uninformed idea that most people “just can’t help themselves.” These articles tell partners that they just need to accept that their significant other watches it and that’s not a big deal. But is it?

One article on a site called “Total Sorority Move,” for example, represents many unhealthy misconceptions surrounding porn. The article, titled Should You Let Your Boyfriend Watch Porn? starts by telling girls that their boyfriends most definitely watch porn, and if he says different, he’s lying. It then goes on to say that boyfriends watching porn is completely normal—in essence, that boys will be boys—and that girls should consider joining in.

From the article:

“Upon sneakily asking my friends about porn, more than half of them said they not only watch porn, but would—if they hadn’t already—watch it with their boyfriends. Still think it’s super weird and that I’m most likely a crazed sex-addict? Sit back while your man watches two people do the dirty and let me tell you why it isn’t so bad.”

Related: Can Porn Improve An Intimate Relationship?

The article lists 10 reasons why girls should be okay with their boyfriends watching porn. With each point spreading more misinformation than the next, we have decided to go hit-for-hit with each point, responding with research and reason. While this “sorority move” article and our response talk about heterosexual guys and their relationships, the same principles can be applied to any relationship involving any gender.

We’ve listed the original article’s points first, and responded afterward. These are 10 reasons why you don’t have to be okay with your partner, girlfriend or boyfriend, watching porn:

1. He’s Not Cheating
Wouldn’t you rather he watch it than partake in it? You look at celebrities. You look at other guys. Go take a Xanax and chill because he’s not doing anything wrong.

Our response: Your boundaries and comfort matter.

Is watching porn cheating on your partner? It’s not an easy question, and everyone has their own opinion based on their own personal experiences with porn. But are there any concrete answers? The answer is, not exactly. There is not one objective answer to this complicated question because every couple is different, has unique standards, and has its own set of boundaries. And that’s the point—your boundaries and the boundaries of your partner matter. Communicating your boundaries is an important aspect of any healthy relationship. If you are uncomfortable with porn in your relationship, that is perfectly valid. Ultimately it’s up to you and your partner to decide what is best for your relationship.

It’s not our job as an organization to dictate what people’s rules and boundaries are in a relationship, but we do exist to educate on the harmful effects of porn and the harms it can have in relationships, including when one partner in a relationship watches it after agreeing not to. Of course, we hope that everyone reading this will understand the potential risks of porn in a relationship, but that is up to each individual to decide for themself.

The best thing you can do if you’re wondering whether your significant other feels the same about porn being equal to cheating is to have a clear, honest conversation and agree on something together.

Related: Is Secretly Watching Porn Cheating On Your Partner?

2. He Knows It’s Fake
Any mentally stable guy knows that porn is fictional. I don’t know about you, but I would rather him watch another girl do some of these things than do them myself.

Our response: Not exactly.

According to a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens, 84.4% of 14 to 18-year-old males and 57% of 14 to 18-year-old females have viewed pornography. That means that most young people are getting at least some of their education about sex from porn, whether they mean to or not.Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. J.Health Commun., 1-8. doi:10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980COPY  In fact, one study shows that approximately 45% of teens who consumed porn did so in part to learn about sex.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY  Similarly, survey results also show one in four 18 to 24-year-olds listed pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7COPY 

It’s no secret that porn is wildly unrealistic and often incredibly toxic, yet survey results also showed that over half of 11 to 16-year-old boys (53%) and over a third of 11 to 16-year-old girls (39%) reported believing that pornography was a realistic depiction of sex.Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J. R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2016/i-wasn-t-sure-it-was-normal-to-watch-itCOPY 

The same survey also showed that 44% of boys who watched porn reported that online pornography gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try.Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J. R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2016/i-wasn-t-sure-it-was-normal-to-watch-itCOPY 

While some people may argue, That’s not a big deal, it’s just fantasy, research shows that porn’s influence can and does find its way into young people’s sexual expectations and behaviors.Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 years of research.53(4-5), 509-531. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441COPY 

For example, one study indicated that teens often reported trying to copy porn in their own sexual encounters, and that the pressure to imitate porn was often an aspect of unhealthy relationships.Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). Without Porn … I Wouldnt 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908COPY  And according to a UK survey of over 22,000 adult women, 16% reported having been forced or coerced to perform sex acts the other person had seen in porn.Taylor, J., & Shrive, J. (2021). ‘I thought it was just a part of life’: Understanding the scale of violence committed against women in the UK since birth. VictimFocus. Retrieved from https://irp.cdn-website.com/f9ec73a4/files/uploaded/Key-Facts-Document-VAWG-VictimFocus-2021a.pdfCOPY 

While many people may argue that porn consumers know it’s fake, the research is clear that this is not always the case—and even when it is, porn can still influence consumers’ expectations and sexual templates in ways they may not expect.Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860COPY 

3. He’s Going To Do It Anyway
He won’t stop. Once he hits puberty, he can no longer avoid the female form. Accept it or accept the fact that he’ll lie to your face if you ask him about it.

Our response: Contrary to the writer’s shocking boys will be boys argument, people are not driveling neanderthals who will go to any lengths to satisfy every sexual urge.

There is nothing natural about the very produced and synthetic product of porn, research is clear that it doesn’t contribute to a healthy life. Porn is not a biological need, and not everyone consumes it. Regardless, no healthy relationship requires a partner to either accept violations of their boundaries or accept lies. Research is clear that even for those with serious porn habits or even addictions, quitting porn is possible.Young K. S. (2013). Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients. Journal of behavioral addictions, 2(4), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.2.2013.4.3COPY Nathanson, A. (2021). Psychotherapy with young people addicted to internet pornography. Psychoanal.Study Child, 74(1), 160-173. doi:10.1080/00797308.2020.1859286COPY  And for anyone who’s struggling to quit a porn habit, there’s help.

Store - General

4. You Watch Dumb Stuff, Too
“The Notebook,” “27 Dresses,” “Love And Other Drugs.” We watch completely baffling, unrealistic movies where we drool over the perfect guy who doesn’t exist. No man in the actual world is super hot, sweet, loves kids, is great in bed, is totally fine with comforting our insane insecurities, and is all for trying our on-again-off-again sort of vegan lifestyle. Seriously. We know (or we should know) this isn’t real. It’s a fantasy. Hello? Porn is a rom-com for guys, except they don’t drink a whole bottle of wine and cry while watching it.

Our response: Problematic gender stereotypes aside, this is not a fair comparison, according to research.

While the artistic integrity of “chick flicks” is up for debate—and while they can certainly fuel unrealistic expectations—there’s no known research to support the idea that watching a romantic comedy can lead to sexual dysfunction,Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Griffiths, M. D., Potenza, M. N., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2021). Are sexual functioning problems associated with frequent pornography use and/or problematic pornography use? Results from a large community survey including males and females. Addictive Behaviors, 112, 106603. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106603COPY  contribute to unhealthy relationship dynamics,Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7COPY  or even fuel sex trafficking.Kristof, N. (2020). The children of Pornhub. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/opinion/sunday/pornhub-rape-trafficking.htmlCOPY  Next point.

5. Girls Can Watch Porn
Ever tried? There’s tons of stuff out there. It could open your eyes to some new things, and shockingly, girls can be turned on by it, too. And I promise you will get his attention if you start a sentence saying, “So last night I was searching through this porn website…”

Our response: Just because something “can” be done doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

It’s true that many women watch porn,Solano, I., Eaton, N. R., & O'Leary, K. D. (2020). Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. Journal of sex research, 57(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488COPY  but porn’s negative effects don’t discriminate based on gender, or any other diversifying factor. We receive countless stories from women and girls who struggle with porn and how it negatively affects their lives, even years after starting their habit. Based on the research, the harms of porn can affect girls just as much as guys.

Anyone can also get their partner’s attention if they start a sentence saying, So last night I was searching through porn… and it left me feeling less sexually satisfied by you.”

Related: What Kind Of Porn Do Women Watch?

6. Suggest A Night To Watch It Together
Also, please invite me to the wedding, because he will without a doubt think you’re a keeper after that.

Our response: Porn has much more potential to harm relationships than to help them.

While some research suggests that watching porn with a partner can provide an initial spark in a relationship, longitudinal studies show that these short-term effects can turn sour over time.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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4COPY Perry, S. L. (2017). 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-yCOPY  In fact, according to one study that followed couples over time, porn consumption was the 2nd strongest predictor that a relationship would suffer.Perry, S. L. (2017). 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-yCOPY  Additionally, research consistently shows that frequent porn consumption is associated with sexual dissatisfaction.Wright, P. J., Miezan, E., & Sun, C. (2019). Pornography consumption and sexual satisfaction in a Korean sample. Journal of Media Psychology, 31(3), 164-169. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000246COPY Wright, P. J., Bridges, A. J., Sun, C., Ezzell, M. B., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Personal Pornography Viewing and Sexual Satisfaction: A Quadratic Analysis. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(3), 308–315. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1377131COPY Brown, C. C., Carroll, J. S., Yorgason, J. B., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Larson, J. H. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 575–584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0732-4COPY 

The reality is that porn can truly damage relationships from the inside out by driving a wedge and comparison into that special intimacy. Read “Why Watching Porn With My Husband Was The Worst Decision I Ever Made” to hear one woman’s personal experience of porn negatively impacting her relationship.

7. You Could Spice Up Your Own Sex Life
I’m not saying you should be a porn star (but, like, no judgment). I’m just saying you can do some work and be creative every now and again, too, sweetheart.

Our response: Watching porn isn’t exploring your own sexual fantasies—it’s allowing a toxic and abusive industry to dictate your sexual template for you.

There are plenty of ways to spice up your sex life that don’t involve the toxic narratives involved in porn. And again, longitudinal research shows that porn can be seriously harmful to relationships in the long-run.Perry, S. L. (2017). 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-yCOPY  The short-term spark isn’t worth the long-term effects.

Also, read True Story: I Became His Porn Star To Try And Save Our Relationship. Trying to become performative in a relationship instead of intimate doesn’t exactly help the emotional connection, in the long run. Trying to imitate it in real life isn’t going to produce the same results that you see when paid performers are acting.

Related: Why Choosing To Not Watch Porn Is Like Giving A Sex-Positive Gift To Your Relationship

BHW - General

8. He’s Thinking About You When He Watches It
Romantic, huh? I don’t mean he wants you to do every little sick thing that turns him on, but the fantasy he has is that it would happen for him. In his mind, you’re the one doing it for him. So, really, you should be flattered. And next time you ask if he thought about you while you were gone, you can be sure he had you on his mind.

Our response: That’s not necessarily a healthy thing.

Despite not providing any evidence for this argument, the author is suggesting that while your partner is being aroused by impossibly enhanced porn performers and their exaggerated reactions to sex, they are thinking only about you and your relationship. Even if this were true, keep in mind that as few as 1 in 3 porn videos and as many as 9 in 10 videos show acts of physical aggression or violence, while about half contain verbal aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: a content analysis update. Violence against women, 16(10), 1065–1085. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866COPY  Additionally, many popular popular porn categories involve incest, coercion, a lack of consent, racism, sexism, or many other toxic narratives.

Still flattered that your partner is thinking about you while they watch that?

9. Every. Guy. Does. It.
They just do.

Our response: Literally no.

Even at the highest statistical estimates, it simply isn’t true that all guys watch porn.Solano, I., Eaton, N. R., & O'Leary, K. D. (2020). Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. Journal of sex research, 57(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488COPY  There are over 6 million Fighters on our social platforms who beg to differ, many of whom are guys. It’s degrading to say that everyone watches porn because it’s simply not true. There are countless people who have learned about the harms of porn and chosen to do something else with their time.

Regardless, high prevalence rates do not negate the negative effects of porn. Even if everyone consumed porn, that wouldn’t automatically make it a healthy pastime.

Related: Is It True That Everyone Watches Porn?

10. It’s Called Compromise
There are things about you that he doesn’t like. He answers all of your, “Am I pretty?” or, “Do you love me?” questions. He lets you eat all of the food in his house. He buys you drinks when you go out, and lets you pick the movie when you stay in. If you picked a good one, he doesn’t ask for much. I think accepting the fact that he watches porn isn’t that big of a tradeoff considering the fact he’s buying YOU dinner, not the girl on the screen.

Our response: Compromise requires effort from both partners.

Again, problematic gender stereotypes aside, healthy communication and boundaries, loyalty, and devotion should never be a compromise. Healthy relationships don’t “compromise” love and intimacy for the interests of one partner, especially if porn is a deal-breaking issue for someone. Buying dinner doesn’t give someone a free pass to hurt their partner.

Why this matters

We exist to give visibility to the research that shows the harmful effects of pornography and our simple mission, much like the TRUTH campaign against tobacco, is to educate and raise awareness on these facts. Just because humans are wired to desire sex doesn’t mean that everyone needs to consume porn or that it’s healthy for them to do so. In fact, quite the opposite.

The fact is, science and research have shown how porn is harmful, can negatively impact sexual health life, and is inseparably connected to sex trafficking. Men can, despite what popular culture would have you believe, control themselves when it comes to sex. So can women. To believe otherwise is to believe that people are just mindless creatures who can’t help but assault, rape, degrade, and abuse other people in the pursuit of sexual gratification. We all deserve better than that.

Related: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay: What Partners Of Porn Consumers Want You To Know

The all-too-common ideas that “men just can’t help themselves” or that “women who watch porn are hotter” don’t hold up against the facts. Men and women have every ability to think and act for themselves and choose otherwise. They can choose people over pixels, and be healthier for it.

There are millions of people who choose not to consume porn because they know its harmful effects and they don’t want it messing with their relationships or their brains. No one should ever just accept the false idea that porn is cool and healthy, and can provide benefits for a relationship. That is a huge myth in our society, and we’re here to fight for the facts.

If this article inspired you to have a conversation with your partner or someone else about porn, check out our step-by-step interactive conversation guide, Let’s Talk About Porn, for tips.

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