The issue of porn represents a divisive issue to many couples.  This problem is even thornier when the love-making has stopped and disconnection rules the relationship.  Is porn a problem?  In reaction to the use of porn, many couples have conflict, partners are hurt and trust is damaged.  But is this porn’s fault?  It is similar to the age-old dilemma about whether guns are the problem or are the people who use the guns the problem.

    In most relationships where porn has become a problematic issue, the male partner (yes, most of the time, it is the male partner) has been discovered secretly looking at porn.  The greatest amount of hurt is generated by the secretive and covert nature of his self-pleasuring.  Upon discovering hidden use of porn a partner may feel betrayal and deceit. Good relationships are good due to openness and sharing by strong partners.  Secrets and deception harm relationships and represent a symptom of something gone wrong.  Porn can only truly be a problem if partners have not been open about their sexuality and cannot talk about sex, usually due to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

    So what’s gone wrong?  Some of the time, porn has filled a void already created by some kind of disconnection between partners. This is not porn’s fault; porn is just a symptom.  Female partners may feel betrayed by the male partner looking sexually at other women and fear that he is more attracted to the fantasy women.  In actuality, if the male partner is in some way sexually dissatisfied or emotionally disconnected, pornographic material and masturbation function as a substitute helping him not to seek other flesh and blood women…so in a way it may protect a disconnected relationship from dissolution and betrayal.

     A secondary cause for porn usage is for de-stressing and self-soothing especially when self-esteem is low. Men, and sometimes women, use porn to enhance the excitement of solo sexual pleasure to feel more confident, to feel less anxious, less depressed.

    Studies have revealed that men who look at sexual images of women generally do not have feelings of disrespect for them, but on the contrary, tend to have positive, respectful feelings about them. I am not defending men who look at porn.  If a relationship becomes disconnected, rather than turning to porn for sexual satisfaction, it is a better, stronger choice for men to openly discuss the problems with their female partner.

   There are varied scenarios which tend to lead to porn usage:  a man is likely to hide it for the same reasons most couples have difficulty talking about sex; it is the source of shame, embarrassment and discomfort.  After all, as an activity, masturbation is more taboo than sex itself.  So unless a relationship contains openness about sex, such sexual behaviors will commonly be hidden.  Some men have looked at porn habitually since their teen years and have not broken the habit.  Some use it as erotic fantasy material to heighten their excitement for the purposes of de-stressing.  Others use porn as a substitute when the sexual relationship with their female partner is not satisfying, insufficiently active or inactive.  Anxiety-ridden men who are not strong enough to risk intimacy use porn to aid in achieving sexual satisfaction while avoiding closeness with their female partner.

     In most relationships where sex cannot be talked about openly, sex is the source of some discomfort. This cannot help but cast cloudiness over the potential sexual sunshine.  When men look at sexual images of women, they choose images containing women who appear to them sexually enthusiastic.  Part of the fantasy is the complete acceptance by the fantasy woman of the male viewer and his eroticism.  There are many factors which prevent sex lives from being satisfying, but among them are low sexual frequency, unenthusiastic partners, inhibited partners, unfulfilled eroticism and poor communication during sex.  Lost is the potential for relaxing, playful and fun sex.

    The greatest protection from porn-related threats, are provided by successful efforts at making sex satisfying, open and enthusiastic.  For women who are challenged with beauty or body-insecurities, while you may feel threatened by the fantasy women with porn bodies, your ability to give or receive love and be a great sexual partner does not depend upon the shape of your body.  Use your strength to put aside your insecurities and make the discovery of his porn usage an opportunity to learn about his eroticism.  It may function as a step towards building a stronger, more intimate and more erotic love relationship.    

    Porn is neither good nor bad, but for better or worse, it is a reality of the internet age.  It is unlikely to disappear any time soon.  Depending upon porn for arousal does not represent the healthiest sexuality; though porn can play a healthy role in singles and couple’s sex life.  If a couple has a strong erotic sex life, porn will not be a threat because the openness and strength of emotional connection required to build a strong, erotic sex life also builds emotional security. Andrew Aaron, LICSW