Does Viewing Pornography Help or Hurt Relationships?

Pornography is a hot topic among many committed couples. Some people think viewing pornography can be beneficial to the relationship, while others feel strongly that pornography qualifies as a form of infidelity. But until now, few studies have looked at how viewing pornography affects a relationship when it is viewed by men alone, women alone, or men and women together. Also, little research has explored the attitudes toward pornography and how these associations affect pornography viewing and overall relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction.

To get a better idea of the multifaceted effects of pornography, Franklin O. Poulsen of the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Utah recently led a study in which 617 committed heterosexual couples described their views on pornography, their use of pornography, and how it affected their sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction. Poulsen discovered that the men and women in his study had very different views and behaviors surrounding pornography. Specifically, the men in the study were more likely to view pornography alone than the women, and this led to lower levels of sexual desire and lower levels of sexual satisfaction for both the men and the women.

By contrast, the women in the study tended to only view pornography when they were sexually aroused, and do so in the company of their partners. This increased the sexual satisfaction of both the men and the women. However, women who had fewer sexual partners and high levels of religious faith were less likely to view pornography than those with more partners and fewer religious affiliations. “This study has several implications for educators, therapists, and researchers interested in how pornography use might impact marriages or other committed relationships,” said Poulsen. Most importantly, therapists should identify exactly how pornography is being used and should be mindful of the negative effects and positive implications of each type of use. Knowing these subtle differences can help therapists guide couples to a better understanding of whether or not pornography presents a problem within their relationship.

Poulsen, Franklin O., Dean M. Busby, and Adam M. Galovan. Pornography use: Who uses it and how it is associated with couple outcomes. Journal of Sex Research 50.1 (2013): 72-83. Print.

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  • Taylor

    March 11th, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    Definitely hurts- makes guys think all sex has to be all porny and I hate that~

  • FreeThinker13

    March 11th, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    As long as my husband makes me feel desired and wants to have sex with me regularly, then I do not find anything wrong with viewing porn (either alone or together). I believe that if the person starts desiring the porn experience over you, then you have a problem. Otherwise, porn gives the relationship a sense of novelty and playfulness that you can both share or use to your advantage to enhance your sex life (very similar to sex toys or erotic reading).

  • Jeannie

    August 11th, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    Of course your husband will desire you .. You have the same body parts as those women on screen that he’s excited about… Your body will be a great substitute for those women he can’t have…

  • runninfast

    March 12th, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    I think that as women we would be fools to think that our husbands did not at least occasionally look at some form of porn. But this is not something that you should let hurt your relationsship- but maybe think of it as a way to explore some new and creative ways to be together. There are some for whom this can become a compulsion but I think that for the most part most will just use it as a way to feel even more sexual toward their significant other.

  • Jake

    March 13th, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    I don’t see anything wrong with looking at porn from time to time as long as you use it for a sexual outlet occassionally and not all the time.

    I don’t even think that my wife has a problem with me looking and watching even though I know that it isn’t for her. We are okay with that.

    It becomes a problem with these guys who can’t seem to function without it, who have to continuously look for harder and harder core stuff to reach arousal. When you get to that point, t might be time to seek out a little help.

    But if you are only doing it from time to time, where’s the harm?

  • Tracie

    August 10th, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    You really think your wife doesn’t care? You must not know her very well or care how that makes her feel as a woman….you would rather look at someone else instead of the woman who gave up everything for you…

  • Walden Counseling

    June 14th, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    We all pay. We would be niave to discount the effect the use of pornography has in the Macro context. The externalties of pornography include the perpetuation of the stereotype that women ought to continue to be objectified. Objectification discounts the person. So sans the individual’s porn viewer’s momentary dopamine gain…the female gender (overwhelmingly) has to suffer the consequences in the large/macro picture; a lifetime of multiple forms of Harassment, our male’s sense of expectation & entitlement, boundary violations/violence and our continual lack of evolution perpetuating lesser market value for females within the workplace (-30% less on the dollar in the U.S.)…all externalities – of pornography and the objectification of women.

    Then there is the effect on committed relationships.

    The porn industry is gigantic, not because it is a useful/beneficial or evolutional part of society but because it make a ton of money. It is a business, it makes the slithery ones wealthy.

  • Natalie

    September 10th, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    I am a woman married to a man. I watch porn occasionally and my husband usually abstains. We have talked about this openly and are both fine with it. I do NOT watch porn that subjugates or objectifies women as I find this repulsive. There are beautifully crafted porn videos out there that feature loving couples who are even sweet natured.

  • Terri

    March 31st, 2015 at 8:46 PM

    There aren’t a lot of good websites on this topic. Was glad to have found this one. I found out about my husband’s add. to porn this month and I’m devastated. I feel betrayed like he has cheated on me. And I’ll never measure up to what he been getting satisfied from. And I know that porn objectifies women and furthers mysogynistic views. I call myself a feminist and right now, I am outraged. He’s had problems with sex for almost 4 yrs. and I’ve never strayed. Well, I want to now.

  • Jeannie

    August 11th, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    Women that think their husbands or partners have their minds on yyhem while their watching porn is sadly mistaken… Your bodies are being used to fulfil their desires when watching what’s being done by paid actors to make, making love to your partner special, to reducing you to just body parts …. Great substitute for what he really wants and keeps you together… No different then letting another woman in your bedroom…

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