Cover photo by Elizabeth Tsung. 5 minute read.

This is a huge question our generation has to deal with.

Before the internet, it may have been possible for people to grow up and have relationships without either partner ever having seen porn, at least not on a regular basis. Unfortunately, with some exceptions, many people are now finding that those days are over.

For a lot of couples, it’s now more of a question of when exposure to porn happened, instead of if. And when someone does see porn, what happens next? Do they continue watching it, or do they do something to move away from it?

Related: 6 Ways To Tell If Your Partner Might Be Struggling With Porn

Because of our generation’s active struggle with the issue of porn, lots of people wonder whether it’s a good idea to ever date someone who currently watches porn casually, or has watched porn in the past and now doesn’t. It’s not an easy questionand different people in unique situations may come to different answers. And that’s totally okay.

While we struggle with the question of whether dating a porn viewer is a good idea (note: there is a difference between “casual” porn consumption, and a struggle with porn), we can know a few things to help us out.

Porn Viewers Are People Too

First, while research is clearly showing us just how harmful porn us, it’s widely known how harmful it can be to feel excessive shame about anythingincluding watching porn.

Hold onso what do we mean by “shame” anyway? Compared to accountability, empathy, and remorse, which are all healthy aspects of relationships and help us grow as people when we struggle, shame is an experience of humiliation within a community that can de-motivate and discourage growth.

RelatedIs Feeling Shame About Watching Porn A Good Thing?

One take-away then is this: while it’s unhealthy to watch pornography, and life is much healthier without it, that doesn’t mean the person who watches it is “bad” or would automatically make a bad partner. It can be easy to villainize and condemn all porn viewers, regardless of how they started watching or why they continue to watch, but that would be unhelpful. There’s situational context with everything, including porn consumption.

This will sound super cliché, but we’re going to say it anywayporn viewers are people, too. They’re your grocery store cashier, your best friend, your sibling, your classmate, your crush. They could be people with the potential to be amazing partners. The truth is, defining their value as a partner based solely on their experience with porn ignores who they are as people with character, a personality, and a heart.

What Do They Think About Porn?

There are obvious reasons why porn can be a real concern for any couple, though.

So here’s an idea worth thinking about: even more important than a potential partner’s current experience with pornography is that person’s attitude about their experience with porn. Don’t misunderstand what we’re saying. Clearly, it’s important to know how frequently someone is struggling with porn, or if they watch it without caring about the harmful effects. That’s a fine question to ask someone you’re thinking of dating.

In addition, though, it might be worth knowing why and how someone started watching pornand what they think about it all: why they continue to watch it, if they do? Have they decided to ditch it, and are they doing anything to try and quit? Have they made progress in their recovery, if they are looking to recover?

Related: How To Approach The Subject Of Porn With Your Partner

Without asking the second set of questions (attitude about viewing), it’s harder to see what the first question (frequency of use) means or should mean for your relationship.

Compared to someone who watches porn and doesn’t really care about stopping, for instance, you might find someone who is actively working to move away from using to be sensitive and impressive in unique ways.

RelatedWhy Being Anti-Porn & Anti-Shame Go Hand In Hand

Our experience has been that an untold amount of those who struggle with porn consumption are loving, passionate and eligible men and women who are so engulfed in their habit that they feel trapped. They want to hide, and they can’t imagine feeling worthy of someone’s love. Sometimes people are hooked to watching porn as a coping mechanism for other painful things happening in their lives. Many times, they hear others focus so much on how hard it is to overcome pornography that they can start to believe they will never be able to quit.

It’s All Up To You

We can’t tell you whether it’s the healthiest thing to any individual to be in a relationship with someone facing an active pornography problem. That’s something only you can decide for yourself. But we can tell you that love seeks to understandand sometimes go beyond the way things seem at the surface.

Labeling someone as being equal to their porn habit alone can easily lead us to forget everything about them that makes them who they are. And who are theyreally? Casual viewer, or struggling consumer? Obviously not ever having exposure to porn doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be a great partner, just like exposure to porn doesn’t automatically makes you a bad partner.

Related: 5 Ways You Can Support Your Partner As They Kick Their Porn Habit

In addition to looking at the direction someone is going, obviously, pay attention to other things like how they treat you and how they treat those around them. Things like that are super important when building a relationship.

Whatever you decide, make sure that the person feels encouraged to keep moving toward a life that’s free from porn. Love seeks to restore, and depending on what feels the best, maybe even encourage someone in their own personal recovery process. Watching porn isn’t healthy for a relationship or the consumer, while love is one of the best things that will can break the cycle.

So in addition to focusing on whether you should date someone who is still involved with porn, also ask yourself how you could best love someone who struggles, or how you could best raise awareness for someone who might not yet understand the harms of porn.

Whether or not you ever date each other, you’ll then become a part of encouraging this person to move towards freedom and healthier living.

What YOU Can Do

Deciding to date someone (or not) who watches porn is a big question our generation deals with. SHARE this article to help start the conversation about porn and relationships!

Spark Conversations

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