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Can Watching Porn Be Like Cheating When You’re In a Relationship?

By June 6, 2018 No Comments
Cover photo by Courtney Clayton. 5 minute read.

Picture this: you’re in a happy, seemingly healthy relationship with your partner. You both love spending time together and understand each other in a way no one else does. You have something really special, and you feel really confident in your relationship and secure in your partner’s love for you.

One day, you find your partner looking at naked, explicit pictures of another girl or guy in your friend group. Suddenly, you might doubt your partner’s love for you. Your world is turned upside down. You may think, “Why are they looking at her or him? Am I not enough? Why are they going outside of our relationship for sexual satisfaction? Why are they cheating on me?”

Most of us recognize that finding our partner looking at pictures or videos of a naked friend would be cheating, at least in some way. That person becomes the “other girl” or “other guy” that drives a wedge in the close, exclusive connection. Yet somehow, in our culture, looking at porn is “normal,” even though it means sharing your time, affection, and sexuality with someone outside of your relationship. Even though it means specifically seeking out another person, strangers on a screen, for sexual gratification.

Check out these real tweets we found, one from a man and one from a woman, defending porn. This is what our generation usually thinks about porn, and it’s probably something that you’ve heard before:

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Wow, harsh. So let’s pose a tough question: can porn become the “other” girl or “other” guy in a relationship?

The Effects Are Still Real

Here’s a tough truth for some people: porn can be destructive to any relationship. Romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships—a porn habit takes the time, attention, and affection that can be given to a partner or friend, and instead, gives it to an airbrushed, exaggerating performer on a screen. It can isolate the consumer from their real-life relationships and affect the way they view their partner.

And at times, consumers may end up seeking sexual satisfaction through their screen rather than with their partner, exclusively. In any other instance where a physical person is involved, this would automatically be considered cheating, right? After all, porn never rejects you, it always wants to try a new idea, and it’s never “not in the mood.”

RelatedThe Problem With Saying “I Would Never Date Someone With A Past Porn Struggle”

Just because the person is on the screen and not in the room, physically, does not mean that the effects on the relationship are not devastating, and this is something our society really misses the boat on. So let’s look at the facts.

What’s the Research?

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 over 30 years. Their studies found that consuming pornography makes many consumers less satisfied with their own partner’s physical appearance, sexual performance, affection, and sexual curiosity. [1] Other researchers have confirmed those results and added that porn users tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners, [2] less committed in their relationships, [3] less satisfied with their romantic and sex lives, [4] and more likely to physically cheat on their partners. [5]

RelatedHow To Tell If Your Partner Is Struggling With Porn & What To Do If They Are

Porn can also change sexual tastes so that consumers no longer respond to their partners. [6] Researchers have shown a strong connection between porn use and low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and trouble reaching orgasm. [7] Many frequent porn consumers reach a point where they have an easier time getting aroused by internet porn than by having actual sex with a real partner. [8]

Related15 Scientific Reasons Why Porn Isn’t Healthy For Viewers Or Society

Whether or not you agree that porn can feel like cheating in a relationship, the problem is that people who have a habit consuming it can often end up consciously or subconsciously comparing their partner to the never-ending variety of men or women of unrealistic proportions and sexual appetites on the screen. And that’s not exactly ideal for a healthy, intimate, and exclusive connection.

So What Can You Do?

Here’s the thing—every person who watches porn can watch it for different reasons.

Sometimes, it’s an old habit that’s hard to kill. Others really are hooked, with no intention of giving it up or trying to stop for themselves. Or, someone could be watching porn because they think it’ll inspire their sex life with their partner (even though research shows how that’s not really a healthy idea). No matter why someone is watching porn, it’s important for a couple to communicate about their expectations and what they think about it. Yes, porn can be very harmful, but there is a huge difference between someone who is watching because they can’t seem to stop versus someone who watches because they don’t want to or care to stop.

RelatedIs It A Bad Idea To Date Someone Who Watches Porn?

In so many cases, porn can really feel like the “other woman” or “other man” in a relationship. Most people want their relationship to be based on mutual love, fidelity, and respect, sharing all of themselves with each other. That’s the best case scenario, right? Giving all of yourself to your partner can be made more difficult if you are simultaneously giving yourself to performers on a screen.

We say strive for the ideal, and keep it real. Your partner might thank you for it.

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Get Involved

In a relationship, porn can seem like that person “on the side.” If you don’t think porn adds to the health of a relationship, SHARE this article.

Spark Conversations

This movement is all about changing the conversation about pornography and stopping the demand for sexual exploitation. When you rep a tee, you can spark meaningful conversation on porn’s harms and inspire lasting change in individuals’ lives, and our world. Are you in? Check out all our styles in our online store, or click below to shop:

Citations

[1] 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
[2] 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
[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; 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
[4] 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
[5] 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
[6] 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; 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; Hall, P. (2013). Sex addiction—an extraordinarily contentious pr oblem. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 29(1) 68-75. doi:10.1080/14681994.2013.861898; Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnason, J., & Ezzell, M. (2014) Pornography and the Male Sexua Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 45, 1-12. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2. Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books. (130).
[7] Wery, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.046; Sutton, K. S., Stratton, N., Pytyck, J., Kolla, N. J., & Cantor, J. M. (2015). Patient Characteristics by Type of Hypersexuality Referral: A Quantitative Chart Review of 115 Consecutive Male Cases. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41(6), 563-580. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2014.935539; Carvalheira, A., Traeen, B., & Stulhofer, A. (2015). Masturbation and Pornography Use Among Coupled Heterosexual Men with Decreased Sexual Desire: How Many Roles of Masturbations? Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41(6), 626-635. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2014.958790; 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; Janssen, E., & Bancroft, J. (2007). The Dual-Control Model: The role of sexual inhibition & excitation in sexual arousal and behavior. In Janssen, E. (Ed.), The Psychology of Sex (pp. 197-222). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press;
[8] 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; 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(4), 1-12. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2; 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

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