5 Myths About Porn and Relationships

Lots of things can harm your relationship — porn isn’t one of them

Emma Austin
Sep 13 · 14 min read

When I met my husband, he had the biggest porn collection I had ever seen.

It wasn’t massive by any means. I just hadn’t seen anyone’s porn stash before I got to dig through his. It wasn’t the kind of thing people displayed in their living rooms.

I heard of guys owning one or two X-rated VHS tapes that they would hide somewhere in their closets. But Mr. Austin had bought so many DVDs that he needed to hide them in a box.

I knew some of my friends were uncomfortable about their boyfriends watching porn, or even masturbating. But I wasn’t.

If I felt anything at all, it was curiosity. What kind of stuff got him off? What did he find hot?

And was there anything in that box that I’d want to watch?

After I moved in with him, I helped him grow that collection. We got more DVDs. I downloaded and burned copies of pirated porn films (this was before I smartened up and started paying for porn).

I added dirty magazines to the closet. I loved thumbing through the pages and every week, we’d go to our local sex shop to buy a few more.

Before long, his porn collection became our porn collection.

And even though we got rid of those DVDs and magazines more than ten years ago, porn is still a notable part of our life.

That feels normal to me, but there are times that I wonder if I’m just a little bit out of step with most people’s attitudes. Because porn is often treated like a harmful substance.

Even people who use it themselves and generally approve of it will still imply that bringing a porn habit into a relationship is a risky move.

I regularly see it blamed for poor sexual performance, loss of interest in sex, all sorts of insecurities, relationship strife, and even breakups and divorce.

It’s also really common to see sex and relationship advice geared toward men that treats quitting porn as the first step to making any kind of progress.

All of it seems really strange to me because it doesn’t reflect my experience with porn at all.

I don’t have stacks of dirty magazines anymore, but I’d still call myself a heavy porn user. My husband is, too. We watch some porn on most days, come across it on our social media feeds, and get off to it regularly.

But it never felt like a problem for us. In fact, when I try to think of the ways porn has affected our relationship, I can only come up with good things.

That made me wonder why there’s such a vast distance between the warnings I keep reading about porn and my actual experience consuming it.

Are my husband and I the exception to the rule? Or is it the rule that’s wrong?

I really don’t think we’re such degenerate perverts that there’s no way for us to sink any lower no matter how much porn we watch. And we’re definitely not so enlightened that the negative effects of porn bounce right off of us.

I think it’s much more likely that those negative effects aren’t there in the first place.

The more I look into the effects of porn, the more I’ve discovered that the terrible things it supposedly does to a relationship are seriously overblown. In most cases, the damage isn’t there at all, it’s really insignificant, or it can be attributed to something else entirely.

I want to call the myths about the harms of porn into question because it’s those misconceptions, not the porn itself, that can cause damage to relationships. The myths are what make people panic about their partner’s porn use. They’re what make people feel guilty for enjoying some arousing entertainment. And believing them can keep you from enjoying the benefits of making porn a part of your relationship, including having better sex and having it more often.

Here are the five big misconceptions about porn and relationships, and why you shouldn’t worry about any of them.

Myth #1: Porn Will Make You Dissatisfied With Your Partner

One of the most frequent complaints about porn is that it promotes unrealistic body standards.

Basically, the idea is that porn is full of thin women with big, perky tits and guys with hard abs and huge cocks. And the more you watch it, the less satisfied you’ll be with your partner’s body.

I’m not sure why people like to single out porn for this because impossible beauty standards are everywhere. They’re all over movies, TV shows, YouTube stars, Instagram models and influencers, and basically any kind of popular media. The only difference with porn is that those bodies are more overtly sexualized.

But there’s also way more variety in porn than those claims would make you think. Maybe the pornstars in Brazzers videos all look a certain way, but I see a lot more body types and shapes in porn than I do when I look at movie stars.

And the fact that they’re sexualized in porn actually makes it better for body acceptance. When you see someone who’s plump, chubby, or bigger in porn, they’re presented to you as an object of desire. You’re supposed to get turned on by their bodies, not just accept them.

But even if you only watch adult films starring young, thin women with perky tits, it doesn’t have to make much of a difference. It can be a fantasy without becoming an expectation. In fact, a 2019 study has shown that viewing porn doesn’t affect your desire for your partner (for what it’s worth, neither does looking at erotic images).

Those findings don’t surprise me at all because I’ve been watching really big dicks in porn for about 20 years now and it hasn’t made me a size queen. I don’t even have a preference for above-average cocks. And I’m not even close to having the body of a pornstar but my husband is so eager to see and touch it that he makes me feel like I do.

Myth #2: Porn Causes Sexual Dysfunction and Results in Worse Sex

Porn gets criticized a lot for messing with men’s sexual performance (I specify men because it’s usually assumed that women get better at sex if they’re influenced by porn).

It’s often blamed for erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation (neither of those have to result in worse sex, but they’re often lumped into the same category).

It’s also the first thing people bring up when they complain about guys being too rough or jackhammering their way during sex.

For erectile dysfunction, the story sounds plausible enough: men get used to the intense arousal they experience when watching porn and then can’t get it up for their much less exciting sexual partners.

But plausible or not, it just doesn’t seem to be the case. Multiple studies have found no link between use of pornography and difficulty achieving an erection.

That shouldn’t be surprising because porn isn’t that powerful. It’s really entertaining but it’s not so intensely stimulating that it beats actually having sex. And actual flesh and blood people are way more arousing than porn.

I also don’t really buy the idea that porn is responsible for death grip. When I’ve given myself death grip, it was almost always from masturbating too much due to changes in my hormone levels. In fact, it usually happened when I was so horny that I didn’t bother watching porn most of the time.

My husband also happens to be a severely delayed ejaculator who has never come from sex. But his delayed ejaculation was an issue long before he had regular access to pornography. In fact, it got worse when he stopped watching porn and it’s been improving since he started watching it almost daily. That’s because he made progress by changing the way he masturbates. He’s using more lube, less pressure, and regularly uses strokers. Porn has nothing to do with it. If anything, watching something entertaining probably encourages him to take his time instead of going hard so he can rush to an orgasm.

Now, I do think that people can get some bad ideas from porn. But that seems overblown to me, too.

Some people just enjoy rough sex and I don’t think that’s related to porn. And it’s not pathological — it’s a legitimate and valid sexual preference.

A few months ago I wrote an article about guys not understanding what women mean when we say “don’t stop” during sex. We mean exactly that — don’t stop, don’t change what you’re doing, keep it all exactly the same. But plenty of guys hear “don’t stop” and take it as their cue to fuck harder and faster.

Plenty of guys wrote in to give me their take on it. Most of them said that it’s what feels natural to them. When they’re nearing the end of a fuck, they like to increase the intensity. That’s not a porn thing, that’s just how some men fuck.

This complaint also ignores the fact that porn can help you have better sex. Imitating what you see in porn can be really fun, even if the experiment doesn’t always work out. And porn can introduce you to a lot of moves that can level up your sex life, like pussy jobs and edging.

Plus, the best sex I’ve had was with the guy who owned stacks of porn — and I’m sure he picked up a thing or two from watching it.

Myth #3: Porn Ruins Intimacy and Causes You to Have Less Sex

A lot of the porn-negative articles I read treat sexual arousal like a finite resource. The idea seems to be that if you use some of your sexual spark to enjoy porn, you won’t have any left for your partner.

It’s actually the other way around. Arousal is more like a self-perpetuating thing. The hornier you get, the hornier you stay. The more time you spend being aroused, the more likely your brain is to go to some dirty places the next time you’re daydreaming.

I think of sexual arousal like a fire — you have to keep feeding it if you want it to burn brightly.

And there’s some evidence to back that up. One study found that about half of its participants reported having more sex on the days they watched porn and also had increased sexual desire as a result of it.

It’s also been true for me. Porn hasn’t caused me to have less sex. If anything, it’s the reason I have as much sex as I do. Watching porn is one of the most reliable ways I have of increasing my libido and giving my sex drive a boost.

The claim that porn gets in the way of intimacy also assumes that people only watch porn privately. And yeah, that’s often the case. But there are plenty of couples who watch it together as well.

I use it with my husband as a kind of pre-foreplay. It’s a fun way to get going and inspire us to get more physical.

Cuddling while watching something dirty is a lot more intimate than most of the things couples do on a regular basis. It’s a lot of fun, it can be incredibly arousing, and it makes you desire each other more — not less.

Myth #4: Porn Damages Relationships Because It’s Addictive

Some people try to pathologize porn by saying that it might not be harmful on its own, but the trouble is that it’s addictive. And like any other addiction, a porn addiction will cause you to neglect your partner, ignore your responsibilities, and basically check out of your relationship.

That would be really worrisome if it was true. Thankfully, it isn’t.

A review of the literature on porn addiction concluded that it doesn’t fit the clinical model for addiction. In part, that’s because there’s no concrete evidence that people who use porn shift from doing it for enjoyment to doing it because they feel compelled to consume it. They also don’t exhibit the neurological changes that take place when an addiction sets in.

And it’s yet another supposed problem I haven’t seen in my own life.

I’m really into porn but I haven’t found it to be any more addictive than watching TV, drinking milkshakes, or doing anything that feels good. When I do get sucked into a screen when I have something more pressing to deal with, it’s much more likely to be because of TikTok than porn.

I’m not worried about my husband getting addicted to porn, either. It’s even part of his morning routine. Every day, he wakes up very early and spends the first few hours of his day doing freelance work, handling a few chores, and masturbating to porn.

It’s practically a habit but it’s never been so irresistible to him that he acts irresponsibly to get his fix. He meets his deadlines, stays on top of doing the laundry, and makes sure all the kids have breakfast on time. If he has to skip the porn to do it, he’ll just skip it. And when he does, he doesn’t spend the whole day jonesing for it. He’s just fine.

My suspicion is that porn feels addictive to people who feel guilty for using it. To them, it doesn’t feel like a bit of innocent fun — it feels like they gave in to something they should’ve resisted.

Myth #5: Porn Causes Will Make You Seek Sexual Extremes

Another critique of porn is that it basically leads people to being sexually depraved. The more porn you watch, the more desensitized you get by the ordinary vanilla stuff. You have to go keep looking for darker, more extreme stuff to keep getting enjoyment out of it. You might have gone to an adult site looking for a bit of naughty fun, but you gradually find yourself wanting to do degrading things to your partner and delve deeper into some questionable kinks.

I haven’t seen any compelling evidence of this. I think it’s much more likely that people bring these kinks to their porn viewing, not the other way around.

People look for extreme porn because they have extreme desires. They watch scenes with rough sex because that’s what turns them on. They look for sadism and degradation because that happens to be their fetish.

Porn isn’t giving people these kinks. It’s giving people with these kinks an outlet to explore and satisfy them.

Watching porn sometimes helps me explore my kinks and discover what I enjoy the most about them, but it has never caused me to keep going deeper into them.

I’m into sexual domination, but not degradation or humiliation. And even though I’ve seen a lot of BDSM porn, it hasn’t managed to push me in that direction.

I’m also into some porn with dubious consent, like stuck porn. But it hasn’t caused me to get into more extreme forms of consensual non-consent like rape play.

But it’s not like it would even be a problem if it did. Degradation and rape play would just be turn-ons like any other. They wouldn’t ruin my relationship or my sex life, either. Almost everyone has at least one fantasy that their partner can’t fulfill and that’s fine. And couples with mismatched kinks can still have a healthy sex life.

How to Incorporate Porn into Your Relationship

When there are problems related to porn in a relationship, the real issue isn’t the porn itself. It’s usually the guilt someone feels for using it or their partner’s negative reactions to it.

But there are ways you can make porn a part of your relationship while avoiding those problems.

By far the best thing you can do is talk about your porn use.

Once we got settled into our relationship, Mr. Austin and I started keeping our porn consumption on the down low. We both used it, but we treated it like an open secret.

I don’t know that it caused problems per se, but living like that kind of sucked. It gave watching porn a subtle tone of shame, like there was something just a little bit wrong with it. And having to keep everything discreet and hidden made it less enjoyable.

At the same time, I wasn’t ready to open up my browser history and let my husband see every single porn video I had clicked on. I wanted to be able to get off to whatever I wanted without having to feel embarrassed by my choices.

We’ve since found a middle ground. We found that porn privacy works much better than porn secrecy. We talk about our porn use openly, we give each other porn recommendations, and we can share videos when we find something in them that we’d like to try out.

But we can keep the details of what we’re watching private if we want to. I never feel like my choices are being scrutinized and I can just stream anything that strikes my fancy.

It’s also a good idea to talk about why you’re using porn. So many of the negative feelings around a partner’s porn use comes from our assumptions about it.

When things are left unspoken, it’s easy to assume the worst. You might think your partner is watching porn because they don’t find you hot enough. Or they need porn because fucking you is too boring. Maybe all that porn is going to make them want something you can’t give them.

The reality isn’t usually that bad.

I don’t see porn as a substitute for sex with my husband. In fact, one of my most common reasons for watching it is to get my libido up so we can have more sex.

I know that Mr. Austin uses it as an outlet for his high sex drive. It helps him get sexual gratification when I’m not in the mood to fuck.

Your partner might also use it to satisfy a kink you don’t share instead of suppressing that part of themselves.

But unless you talk about it, you can’t really know for sure and you’ll have to fill in those blanks by yourself.

In general, I prefer watching porn on my own. I find it more immersive that way.

I also like to make time for masturbation, even when sex is available. Sometimes, you just want to play with your toys and get yourself off.

But I still like watching porn with my husband every now and then. It’s a good way to get turned on before sex or to get us going for a mutual masturbation session. It also helps you feel less insecure about your partner’s porn use.

When you watch porn together, it takes the mystery out of it. You see that your partner is just watching it to get horny, the same way you are. And you’ll see first-hand that they still have lots of interest in getting it on with you even though they’ve just watched porn.

If anything about your partner’s porn use makes you feel weird, bring it up.

If he’s into watching girls who are smaller or bigger than you, it’s okay if it makes you feel a little insecure. If her favorite search term is “big dicks” and you feel uneasy about that, that’s okay too. What matters is that you bring it up and talk it out.

If you find out they’re into some kinky stuff you haven’t tried, it’s not a bad idea to ask whether that’s something they want to try out or if it’s just a fantasy they don’t actually want to act out. If it’s not something you’re into, you can ask how they feel about the fact that you don’t have the same kinks.

And if you worry that their masturbation habit is getting in the way of your sex life, you can ask them if there’s a way to keep that from happening. You can find simple ways to communicate whether you’re open to having sex or not, or check in with each other to see if there’s a chance you might want sex or if they should go ahead and take care of themselves instead.

Entertain Yourselves

When you strip away all the guilt, shame, and insecurities that people feel about it, porn is just an entertainment product like any other. It’s no more damaging to your relationship than watching movies or spending time on YouTube.

It can have benefits, too. Watching porn helps me get more creative. It inspires me to try new things. It even helps me get through some difficult workouts.

And it makes me hornier. That hasn’t ruined my marriage — it improved it.

Love, Emma

Articles about sex, love, and relationships by Emma Austin

Emma Austin

Written by

I write about sex, love and everything else that matters to me. Links to my podcast, social media, blog, and Patreon page: https://linktr.ee/EmmaAustin

Love, Emma

Articles about sex, love, and relationships by Emma Austin

Emma Austin

Written by

I write about sex, love and everything else that matters to me. Links to my podcast, social media, blog, and Patreon page: https://linktr.ee/EmmaAustin

Love, Emma

Articles about sex, love, and relationships by Emma Austin

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