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Watching porn: When does it become unhealthy?

Pornography has been around for ages. One of the first depictions of the naked body dates back about 25,000 years. Ancient Greeks and Romans left us relics of heterosexual sex, gay sex, oral sex, orgies and more. The famous Kama Sutra text was written sometime after 400 BC and is still widely popular. Even though porn seems to have always been around, it has remained taboo to a large extent. A lot of people like it, but we tend to be hush-hush about it. This can lead to wondering if the amount you watch (as well as the content) is normal. It can also contribute to misunderstandings between members of a couple if it is unclear who is watching what, how often, and why.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with watching porn if it is legal, consenting, involving adults and as long as it is used to enhance lovemaking with your partner(s). Porn use can become problematic though, when it is used to replace the real thing, when it sabotages the ability to enjoy ‘normal’ sex, and when it becomes addictive.

Porn is easy. The variety is stimulating, you can climax quickly, and you have endless access to daily fast sex. Porn is always there for you, it is never busy, and it lets you have sex on your terms. The ease in accessing porn certainly comes with these advantages, but you can become so used to watching a certain kind of porn that real sexual experiences become less stimulating. Maybe your partner does not match your favorite image, requires you to talk or include foreplay, or requires you to take their needs into account.

Porn promises ecstasy – it is often wilder than what you have been able to create in the bedroom. The thing is, pornography does not truly satisfy. If it did, you would not keep searching for more exciting content. Watching porn is comparable to lighting a match: it is exciting when it flares up but it extinguishes quickly. Real-life sex is more like a slow-burning fire that grows over time. It might not be exciting all the time but it tends to satisfy and fulfill more often than not.

Problems arise when your sexual energy is redirected from sex with your partner(s) to porn use. Viewing porn can create havoc on the arousal process in your brain and mess with your sex life. Prolonged use of porn over partner sex can lead to unreal expectations about sex, feeling ashamed, feeling distant from your partner(s), feeling unsatisfied with the real thing, and feeling perverted. If you have become used to watching perfectly shaped people performing wild sex acts, you might naturally run into trouble feeling aroused by your average looking, more reserved partner(s).

If you have found yourself relying on porn to satisfy your sexual needs to the detriment of your relationship(s), you might consider exploring if you have begun using pornography to cope with difficult feelings or situations. In the same way that people turn to alcohol, one can use porn to escape. Maybe you have been feeling lonely, stressed, bored, or emotionally disconnected. Rather than avoid or distract from painful emotions, you might try to understand and learn to tolerate them. See our blog on emotion regulation for tips on how to respond to situations that trigger intense or painful feelings. You might also choose to talk to your partner(s) about your sexual desires and things you want to try to build up sexual satisfaction in the bedroom. Porn can actually enhance partner sex by keeping things fresh and evolving if it is used as a mutual tool and not kept secret. You can use pornography to talk about sex more openly and finds ways to achieve mutual sexual satisfaction.

Porn is great as an alternate sexual outlet when your partner is unavailable or not in the mood. It can also be great for revitalizing things in the bedroom when they have become boring. But if you have found that you are turning to pornography in ways that interfere with real-life sex with your partner(s), consider speaking to a professional. We invite you to come individually or as a couple if you are having a hard time opening up the discussion of sex & incorporating porn. Call us at (514) 223-5327 to set up an appointment.

Written by: Andrea Guschlbauer, Ph.D.


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