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9 Women Share What They Really Think About Porn and Their Partners Watching It

Each response shows a different opinion about porn, and brings up good points about why porn doesn’t help relationships be healthy.

It can’t be denied that porn is a hot topic in our society right now.

Still, science and research show that the harms of pornography go much deeper than opinion, but it is still interesting to hear what the average person thinks about it. Personal accounts show how porn affects real people in real life, and tends to show us something deeper than statistics in an academic journal.

Thought Catalog interviewed a group of women about their feelings on porn, specifically what these women think about porn and their partners watching it. Because society seems to tell men that watching porn is totally normal and even required for sexual expression, it’s interesting to see what women think about that idea.

We collected a few answers from these and then fact-checked them with available science and research. Each reply shows a different opinion about porn, and brings up good points about why porn does not generally promote a healthy understanding of sex and relationships.

Store - General

Not everyone who performs in porn enjoys it

“I get why guys like porn. I like porn too but if you remember that these are actually people you’re watching and not cartoon characters then I think the whole thing is kind of sad. I’m sure that some people in porn have happy lives but it seems like the majority just don’t. As a result, I don’t watch it and I’m skeptical of guys who defend it.” -Lauren, 25

How can you know whether the porn you’re watching is truly consensual? Well, the unfortunate fact is that in the porn industry, there is no guarantee.

Because of the brave survivors who have shared their stories in recent years, more light is being shed on the abusive practices of the porn industry, including their history of profiting from nonconsensual content.Mohan, M. (2020). ‘I was raped at 14, and the video ended up on a porn site’. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-51391981COPY 

And unfortunately, even with adults who consent to be in porn, many performers are abused or taken advantage of on-set.Lange, A. (2018). This woman says authorities doubted her sexual assault claim because she does porn. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/arianelange/nikki-benz-porn-defamation-lawsuit-metoo#.ldPVz1Yg0YCOPY  At the end of the day, it is virtually impossible to know whether any piece of pornographic content is truly consensual, ethical, or even legal.

Click here to read more about how the porn industry profits from nonconsensual content.

Porn as sex education

“The dude I’m with wouldn’t watch (much) porn. I think a lot of guys watch porn because they want the fantasy of being wanted the way the women pretend to want the dudes in porn. Except I actually really do want my dude that badly. It’s about desire, you know? All the same, don’t try that porn s— on me in the bedroom. I am a real person.” -Sophia, 25

“Overall, college sex was pretty bad until my senior year and I do sort of blame porn for that as well as a basic grasp of sex education. A lot of times I felt like the guy I was with was having sex at me instead of with me. That made for a lot of bad sex and a lot of ‘why aren’t you enjoying this/it must be your problem’ questions from some boyfriends.” -Cindy, 23

Studies show that most young people are exposed to porn by age 13,British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY  and 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.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 

That means that most young people are getting at least some of their education about sex from porn, whether they mean to or not. 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 (24.5%) 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 

Pornography actively spreads harmful misinformation about sex. In fact, one study suggests that the more someone consumes porn, the more sexually illiterate they tend to become.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Herbenick, D., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography vs. sexual science: The role of pornography use and dependency in U.S. teenagers’ sexual illiteracy., 1-22. doi:10.1080/03637751.2021.1987486COPY 

Click here to read more about how porn distorts consumers’ understanding of healthy sex.

Store - Love

Porn fuels shame in consumers

“I did date one guy who I felt looked at porn too often because whenever it came up in conversation he sort of started acting secretive about it. I don’t know if he was just ashamed or what but it worried me. We also didn’t have sex very often.” -Kaylee, 25

According to research, porn consumption can complicate relationships by introducing shame, isolation, and mistrust into a relationship.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/s10508-009-9585-4COPY 

Many porn consumers use porn as an escape mechanism or self-soothing technique, turning to porn when they’re feeling lonely or depressed. But research actually indicates that those who consume pornography to avoid uncomfortable emotions have some of the lowest reports of emotional and mental wellbeing.Brown, C. C., Durtschi, J. A., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2017). Understanding and predicting classes of college students who use pornography. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 114-121.COPY 

In fact, a number of peer-reviewed studies have found a link between pornography consumption and mental health outcomes like depression,Harper, C., & Hodgins, D. C. (2016). Examining Correlates of Problematic Internet Pornography Use Among University Students. Journal of behavioral addictions, 5(2), 179–191. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.022COPY  anxiety,Wordecha, M., Wilk, M., Kowalewska, E., Skorko, M., Łapiński, A., & Gola, M. (2018). 'Pornographic binges' as a key characteristic of males seeking treatment for compulsive sexual behaviors: Qualitative and quantitative 10-week-long diary assessment. Journal of behavioral addictions, 7(2), 433–444. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.33COPY  loneliness,Butler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018). Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601COPY  lower life satisfaction,Willoughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B., & Leonhardt, N. D. (2018). Exploring trajectories of pornography use through adolescence and emerging adulthood.55(3), 297-309. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1368977COPY  and poorer self-esteem and overall mental health.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 

Click here to read more about how porn negatively impacts mental health.

Some guys seem to need porn to get aroused

“I don’t judge it but I find it a little weird that guys apparently need to watch porn to get turned on… I mean, what did guys do before the internet? It’s not like they didn’t [get aroused]. It just seems a little odd to me for some reason. I don’t know.”  -Josie, 24

“Not a huge fan of porn but that’s probably my experience talking. My first real introduction into the world of a guy watching porn was a s— relationship I had in my early 20’s where the guy suggested we watch it while having sex. Well, it turns out that he literally could not get aroused in the same way if porn wasn’t on. It’s been kind of hard to be cool with it since then. I know other girls are cool with it or accept it but I’m just not a fan.”  -Hailey, 27

When someone regularly consumes porn, they can become accustomed to being aroused by the imagery and endless novelty found in porn.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 Hilton D. L., Jr (2013). Pornography addiction - a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective neuroscience & psychology, 3, 20767. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767COPY  Pretty soon, natural turn-ons and real relationships may not seem like “enough,” and many porn consumers find they can’t become fully aroused by anything but porn.

Ironically, despite porn’s promise of improving consumers’ sex lives, there is growing evidence that porn consumption is linked to sexual dysfunction.

Research indicates that compulsive pornography consumption is directly related to erectile dysfunction,Park, B. Y., Wilson, G., Berger, J., Christman, M., Reina, B., Bishop, F., Klam, W. P., & Doan, A. P. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 17. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6030017COPY  sexual dysfunction for both men and women,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  problems with arousal and sexual performance,Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnson, J. A., & Ezzell, M. B. (2016). Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 983–994. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2COPY  difficulty reaching orgasm,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  and decreased sexual satisfaction.Szymanski, D. M., & Stewart-Richardson, D. N. (2014). Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 22(1), 64–82. https://doi.org/10.3149/jms.2201.64COPY 

Click here to learn more about how porn can negatively impact sexual health and satisfaction.

Other guys seem to prefer porn to reality

“I think that most guys these days learn how to have sex from porn rather than fumbling through the awkwardness of losing your virginity. It’s like they store up these ‘go to’ moves in their heads. This is a problem for me and, especially when I was younger, I really didn’t like sex because the few guys I’d done it with had sex like they’d seen in porn and it was awful. So, on those grounds alone I’m not a fan of porn. It’s like, dudes, don’t you know this is screwing you up?” -Amelia, 29

“I’m totally fine with it unless it’s a real problem. I’ve never experienced this but I’ve read horror stories about guys who started preferring porn to their girlfriend or wife. Again, I see no real problem with doing it occasionally.” -Sara, 24

Survey results have revealed 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  In fact, 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 

Dozens of studies have also repeatedly shown that porn consumers tend to have lower relationship satisfaction and lower relationship quality.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108COPY 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 Perry, S. (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  Porn consumers tend to experience more negative communication with their partners, feel less dedicated to their relationships, have a more difficult time making adjustments in their relationships, are less sexually satisfied, and commit more infidelity.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 

And how does this impact partners of porn consumers?

The pain caused by a partner’s porn consumption can go far beyond a bad experience in the bedroom, as many partners internalize their shame and confusion, asking themselves why they aren’t “enough.”Szymanski, D. M., Feltman, C. E., & Dunn, T. L. (2015). Male partners’ perceived pornography use and Women’s relational and psychological health: The roles of trust, attitudes, and investment. Sex Roles, 73(5), 187-199. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0518-5COPY  In fact, one study found that the frequency of an individual’s porn consumption was negatively correlated with their partner’s sense of self-esteem, level of relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction.Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M. (2015). You Looking at Her “Hot” Body May Not be “Cool” for Me: Integrating Male Partners’ Pornography Use into Objectification Theory for Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314521784COPY  This can be true even with “occasional” porn consumption.

Fortify

Not everyone needs porn

“My boyfriend doesn’t watch porn (so I don’t really have any thoughts on that) but I’m assuming no one would ever believe that. It wasn’t at my own request or from some desire to lie to impress me, because I never gave an opinion on it. He’s just a very emotional person when it comes to intimacy, so porn doesn’t do it for him.”  -Isabel, 23

This guy gets it. The kind of “intimacy” porn offers is nothing more than empty sexual stimulation, while real intimacy offers so much more. Real connection is a world of satisfaction and excitement that doesn’t disappear when the screen goes off. It’s the breathtaking risk of being vulnerable with another human being.

It’s inviting them not just into your bed, but into your heart and life. Real intimacy is about what we give, not just what we get. It’s other-centered, not self-centered.

Intimacy is understanding someone at a level porn never attempts, and having the life-altering experience of having them listen—really listen—to you in return. It’s seeing yourself through other eyes, and caring about others as much as you care about yourself.

It’s the astonishing, baffling, wonderful experience that artists and philosophers have been trying to describe for centuries. Tinbergen’s butterflies were simply reacting to instinct when they were fooled by the “supermodel decoys,” but humans are not victims of their evolution.

You can choose to recognize porn for the deception it is. You can reject porn’s toxic messages and choose real life, real relationships, and real love.

Porn is trash, you deserve better

Porn is not harmless. Decades of research and hundreds upon hundreds of studies indicate that porn can have serious negative consequences for individuals, relationships, and society as a whole.

While the multi-billion dollar porn industry may try to sell porn as harmless entertainment, the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise.

But the research is also clear that shame is not an effective way to motivate someone to change.Brown, B. (2012). Understanding and combating shame. Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.COPY  According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182COPY  So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

Help build a healthier world by rejecting porn and its toxic narratives.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

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