Porn: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Porn: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Pornography can be confusing, even downright scary. It can serve a positive purpose and enrich our sex lives, or it can ruin relationships. It can help take pressure off a partner with a lower sex drive, or make the same one feel undesired. How each person in a relationship feels about pornography comes down to many different factors: how they feel about themselves, their personal values, and the safety they feel in their relationship. As a therapist, it is not my job to tell people how to feel about pornography, but rather to help them determine what is acceptable for both partners in their relationship. I do encourage both partners to keep an open mind, as sexuality is very individualized and is something that needs to be nurtured, free of shame or judgement. The opposite of this can be detrimental to a loving, healthy, sexual relationship.

It can be difficult for each partner to distinguish safe and healthy porn use from problematic use. And with easy access to a wide range of pornographic material anytime you want it, healthy porn use can easily slip into problem usage. To try to break through some of this confusion, and hopefully help inform a dialog between partners, here are some ways to think about healthy pornography versus unhealthy pornography…..

The Good….

  • Pornography can help partners keep their sexual drives high. As much as we want always to be the sole source of our partner’s desire, this does become difficult as familiarity, scheduling, and stress from everyday life affect libido. Pornography (and masturbation) can help us to keep our ‘sexual juices flowing’ without making the act of sex another thing on the ‘To-Do List’ of a busy couple.
  • Pornography can be a good tool for people (especially women) trying to understand their own sexuality. It can help them to figure out what arouses them, and where they feel most stimulated. It can help them to understand themselves and their own sexuality in order to fully enjoy intimate sex with another. As woman tend to be less visual, and find foreplay more exciting, some women find erotica books more approachable than video pornography.
  • When viewed together, pornography can help to enrich a sex life. Porn can help to breed arousal and novelty, and make sex more playful and exciting.
  • Porn can be a safe outlet for difference in sex drives. It is rare for two people to have the exact same drives (especially after the excitement of new love has worn off). Porn can help to take the pressure off a partner with a lower sex drive. It is important to remember that some drives (especially with younger males) can be purely biological. A buildup of sexual frustration, and lack of release, can be painful and preoccupying, often leading to restlessness, agitation, and negatively effecting interactions between the couple. As well, it can lead to sex that is more utilitarian and make sex feel like more of a chore to the partner with the lower drive.
  • Pornography can be helpful when there is absence in the relationship and sexual needs are not able to be met by the partner.
  • Many couples enjoy making videos together, which can be a way of incorporating novelty and excitement into the relationship. This can also be an answer for someone who struggles with the idea of their partner watching strangers have sex.

The Bad…

  • Pornography can bring about feelings of jealousy. These feelings typically come in the form of one partner feeling like they are not able to live up to the norms created in the videos- both with body type and stamina. We live in a world surrounded by beautiful people: on the streets, in magazines, and on TV. It is important to understand that an image of a person does not take away from the real thing, and does not account for the power of love. However, any feelings of jealousy or inadequacy in a relationship can cause strain.
  • It is not uncommon for a partner to become too reliant on porn for sexual release, often as a result of intimacy issues in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, porn use should be an adjunct to real intimacy, not a replacement.
  • Sometimes pornography use can shed light on particular fetishes or sexual preferences. The discovery of a partner’s fetish can be a difficult discovery, especially if it something that does not involve them (i.e. preference for a different body type). As stated earlier, sex should to be a loving and safe place for individual expression. Fetishes that are not deviant by nature offer an opportunity for partners to open up to each other, which in turn encourages closeness. As with all delicate conversations, discussion of fetishes should be met with understanding and acceptance.
  • It is not uncommon for women to feel like pornography is degrading to women in general. This is where personal values must be discussed, and there should be agreement on what feels safe for each partner. Although some porn can be misogynistic, or male dominated, this is not true for all. It is possible for partners to work together on finding pornography that does not challenge the values of either person.
  • When pornography starts to bring shame and distrust in a couple, it is time to take a step back and have some real conversations about porn’s effects on the relationship.

The Ugly…

Here we will talk about signs of overuse or addiction to pornography. Not everyone that uses porn is effected in the same way. There is thought that addiction to pornography may be mostly attributed to genetic predisposing.  However, things like early introduction, and overuse, can certainly lead to abuse. It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of pornography addiction before jumping to conclusions. If you are concerned that your partner overuses or is addicted to porn, address your concerns with them and seek guidance from a professional. If someone is overusing, it may be a signal that there is a strain in your relationship. It may also mean that they have a legitimate addiction, either way, professional help is beneficial for recovery….

According to research presented in his book, Your Brain on Porn, Gary Wilson describes the following warning signs and consequences to porn addiction (2014):

  • Addiction to pornography is a relatively new problem that did not have the high numbers when the only outlet for porn was magazines and VHS tapes. The difference in the speed at which images come at you with high-speed Internet, combined with the ease of access, can lead to heightened arousal and subsequent abuse. The arousal experienced by the brain is much like the brains response to a slot machine with its intermittent injection of neurochemicals that focus on the reward centers of the brain. The part of the brain that tells you to “do it again.”
  • Risk for porn addiction is increased when use starts in adolescents, and research has shown that overuse leads to reduced grey matter in the brain in areas associated with cognitive functioning.
  • Excessive porn use can cause antisocial and ADHD like symptoms, impairing the person’s desire and ability to form or maintain connections.
  • Excessive use of pornography can cause the using partner to find real sex boring, or under stimulating. They can begin to develop sexual preferences that are uncharacteristic.
  • They can begin to devalue their partner and see them as less attractive, intelligent, and compassionate.
  • People who become addicted tend to seek out more intense and deviant porn, as tolerance increases. A lot of the more deviant porn portrays men in situations of dominance, which can change the way the user views and treats, their partner.
  • Overuse can, and usually does, cause sexual dysfunction in men, namely delayed ejaculation or erectile dysfunction during sex.

As with all problems of abuse, early intervention is important for recovery. If you suspect pornography addiction is a problem for your partner, remember to express your concerns with love. If you feel you could benefit from further assistance with putting your relationship back together, please call Coastal Counseling to meet with a therapist who can help.

Dr. Jennifer Semmes, Psy.D., is a Licensed Social Worker. She is currently the Clinical Director at Coastal Counseling. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Semmes, please call 1-888-470-4415.

This article and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.

 

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