This is Why Men Watch Porn (it’s not to cheat on you)

image: Charles Deluvio

Before I start, I want to lead you through a bit of the unexpectedly fascinating history of porn.

From drawings on cave walls to ancient Egyptian scrolls, images depicting people having sex have pretty much always been around.

With the invention of photography in the early 1800s, the first law against pornographic images came into effect in the UK and Ireland in 1857. The motion picture was invented late that century, and pornographic recording started right after, because people like sex.

Then came the invention of the internet, and statistics of people watching porn skyrocketed. Today, 79% of men (and 76% of women!) from the ages of 18–30 watch internet porn at least once a month.

Studies on older populations were a bit harder to find, but one study claimed that 67% of men aged 31–49 watched monthly, and so did 50% of men aged 50–68.

The average age of a child being exposed to porn today is 11.

Ok.

All of this should tell you what you might have already guessed: watching porn is very, very common.

I coach men around their sex lives. And what I hear from men is that if they were born after or just before the internet, they literally grew up watching porn.

Since our society doesn’t talk about sex, they learned about sex from porn. It was the easiest — and often only — sexual outlet.

Even men who didn’t grow up with porn use it as a sexual outlet.

In older populations especially, there are a lot of women not having sex with their partners, while their partners are still interested in having sex.*

This means that it shouldn’t be a surprise that men of all ages watch porn, most of them regularly.

Let’s put the ideas that “porn objectifies women” and “porn is bad for our brains” off to the sides for a moment. They’re not wrong, and I’ll get to them later.

But for now, I want you to take a moment to recognize that if you’re a man who watches porn, porn is fulfilling a need for you. There should be no shame in it.

And if you hate porn, see if you’re able to notice that it fulfills a strong need for people in your life.

The need its fulfilling isn’t wrong. People watch porn for sexual stimulation but also, maybe most importantly, for stress relief.

Humans need outlets for stress, and porn is a very common one.

If you’re in a relationship where you are bothered that your partner watches porn, try asking yourself: what is this triggering in me? What am I worried about? Why am I so bothered by this?

The answer won’t be so much about the porn itself as much as it will be something like: “I’m afraid my partner will cheat on me.” “I’m afraid they’ll want to leave me.” “I’m jealous they’re being satisfied by someone who isn’t me.” “I’m hurt by how I’ve been objectified by men and by society.” Etc.

Those aren’t irrelevant feelings, but they are not the responsibility of your partner, either.

A lot of porn does objectify women. All of society objectifies women, so I hope if you’re concerned about porn, you’re also concerned about our political leaders. There is some really awesome feminist porn being made by Erika Lust that you might want to support instead.

Sex workers also regularly choose to engage in porn, which I support, because I support all people having the ability to choose how they make their money. I hope it goes without saying that no one should be trafficked into porn.

But if you’re someone who opposes porn, I hope you can take a moment to really empathize with the reasons your partner enjoys watching it. They might have a particular fantasy or fetish, and porn fulfills it. They might be experiencing stress relief, or want sexual stimulation without effort. They might simply enjoy it.

They are a human being, and they deserve to have their needs fulfilled.

It’s true porn changes the brain. That’s why I often advise my clients to take a break from it for a while — studies have shown that watching porn may mis-wire reward circuits, causing sexual dysfunction and reinforcing dependence on porn. This happens in both men and women.

It teaches our brains that we orgasm in one particular way, and it teaches us to have sex while not being present in our bodies. And it can become a compulsive behavior — about 17% of porn users are compulsive. None of that is good.

Interestingly enough, I’ve discovered that the more people work on their own sexuality, the less likely they are to want to watch porn.

There are good reasons to take a break from porn. But if your reasons are that it is morally or ethically wrong, you may want to reexamine your ethics. And if you’re shaming your partner for watching it, you may want to reexamine your reasons.

We need to look more deeply at the needs pornography is meeting in people, and work on how to celebrate and meet those needs.

We need to start talking about sex.

Sources:

Psychology Today, Chicago Tribune, Roadtograce, Daily Mail, Wikipedia, Fight the new drug, Church militant, Pornhub, USA Today, Huffington Post

*In older populations, half of men were still “very interested” in having sex, but only 12% of women were — even though more women than men reported being satisfied with their sex lives (USA Today). Women not wanting to have sex often comes from internalized trauma, shame, or insecurity, but all of that requires a completely different explanation and is beyond the scope of this essay. I do work with women on this, so if this is you feel free to contact me.

** This piece uses heteronormative and cisgendered language, and I’m sorry for that — I did that for ease of reading, but I hope it can be applicable to any relationship and any gender.