Porn: hero or villain in a relationship?

Like most publishers that have enabled electronic accessibility alongside their physical publishing, pornographic content is now as easy and quick to access as funny cat videos, the weather and worldwide news.

The internet has not only exposed us to graphic content but has gradually allowed us to develop categories of taste; from anime to foot fetish, ethnic preference to role-play, our choices for prompting arousal are now more limitless than ever before.

Whilst some enjoy it alone as a means of releasing sexual tension, others use it as a means of enhancing the chemistry in their relationships.

However, it seems that engaging excessively with porn can be damaging to both groups; whether this means triggering feelings of jealousy or self-doubt for one person in a relationship, or a mental barrier that hinders ability and endurance during sex.

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Too much screen time [Unsplash:Gerd Altmann]

Psychosexual therapist Nicola Foster suggests that some people, particularly in couples, consider watching porn whilst in a relationship to be “micro infidelity”, better understood as “micro-cheating”.

In practice, Foster suggests that communication is key to improving your erotic life, as thoroughly discussing your likes and dislikes can be way more effective than resorting to porn. “There’s a great set of cards from the school of life called pillow talk. I use those with couples sometimes to involve their imagination and creativity. This is more engaging than porn which is artificial and has very little to do with real sex,” she says.

This is, of course, dependent on how the use of porn is viewed in a relationship. Angela, a 21-year-old student from South London who maintains a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend of four years, has discovered that the use of porn strengthens their bond whilst apart from each other.

“Porn has been a relatively positive experience for us. Being with someone for a long period of time, as well as being away from each other, we became more open on the subject of porn and we have incorporated it to spice it up when we’re not with each other, and even when we are.”

Though sex alone is enough, Angela told us how porn can help to minimise the distance between her and her partner.  “It’s not an accurate representation of sex, but it can give ideas,” she says.

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Pillow talk may be better than porn [Pexels:Eberhard Grossgasteiger]

Angela also believes that it shouldn’t be considered a taboo or something to be ashamed of doing whilst you’re in a relationship: “You learn a lot more about your partner and how you can please them more. You can tell a lot from the category your partner watches,” she says.

Unfortunately, however, porn usage does not benefit every couple. For 19-year-old Georgina, the internet phenomenon became an intermittent obstacle in her relationship with her partner of a year. Although their mental connection and feelings for each other remain unaffected, Anderson felt the heavy distraction of porn amplified her inability to provide the same theatrical and exaggerated intimacy her partner saw online.

Foster views porn as a concern, in this sense, because it’s a visual stimulation rather than physical, it re-programmes the brain to be turned on in a different way, and one that is unnatural. During real sex, there’s an intense feeling of touch sensitivity that is impossible to replicate artificially. “If you watch a lot of porn, there’s a lot of novelty, it can teach the brain with neuroplasticity to expect more and more novelty. This is what makes it harder for men to get erections,” she says.

More so, it disregards the real build up to sex, which of course involves a lot more than the scripted, staged, first-meet scenarios in porn films. “I think porn desensitises the value of both men and women, and you lose the person behind the naked body performing sex acts,” Georgina says.

This is where the interference rooted in her relationship: “He thought that, due to porn, he’d seen ‘the best’, and because of that, he has very high standards and can’t physically ‘get it up’ if he’s not somewhat impressed,” she says.

Whilst both Georgina and her partner have worked to tackle this issue, certain aspects have left a permanent mark and, if they don’t take a long time to change, may be irreversible. “It has definitely physically affected him, and although he’s much more able to finish, he still has porn-related expectations or presumptions,” she says.

For instance, having explored so many different areas of porn have made her partner curious and, for that reason, longing for something Georgina is unable to compete with. This could be anything from appearance to dark fantasies that “he couldn’t do to someone he loves,” she says. Consequently, the idea that she wasn’t enough for her partner in this sense left her feeling hurt, and unfulfilling.

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Getting close and personal [Pixabay:Stokpic]

Pornhub’s 2018 online report is solid evidence that the popularity of porn is on the rise; they saw a total of 33.5 billion visits over the course of the year – that’s five billion more visits than 2017. More so, 12 videos were uploaded every minute of the day, whilst 962 searches were entered every second.

Foster explained the prevalence of the pressure to conform to ideals of porn: “One of the concerns is that people feel the need to live up to what they see in porn, which is, entertainment. I hear quite worrying things from young women that they’re expected to do some of the things that they see in porn or look like the women in porn. It’s so false and so divorced from reality. It’s really important to keep pushing that message home,” she says.

In favour of a healthy relationship, Georgina does not consider herself to be jealous because of the societal label that porn carries, but “I get a little jealous sometimes when I know my boyfriend finds anyone else attractive, for example, even a celebrity, but definitely with people that he interacts with often. However, I know he watches porn, and I’m never jealous of the much more explicit women he’ll be watching who will be very sexually attractive,” she says.

For others, the jealousy sparked by watching porn has jeopardised a relationship more than the difficulty to perform has. Connor, a 22-year-old from south-east London, suggests that sometimes its easier to pleasure yourself through porn rather than having sex, which is what resulted in disagreements and discussions that led his ex-partner to feel upset.

“When we didn’t have sex I would often get blue balls and have to do something about it the next day. So she told me to tell her about it next time because she said she wanted to be the one that I was thinking about, not other girls. She took it as an insult like she wasn’t good enough,” he says.

Unless one person in a relationship has reached a point of compulsivity with porn, Foster indicates the best way to keep your partner on their toes is by experimenting with different elements of touch.

“Nobody teaches us what our partner likes and doesn’t like, only they can do that. If you are concentrating on what they want and improving the quality of touch with good communication, it can be way better than porn.”

 

 

 

 


Featured image provided by Charles Deluvio via Unsplash CC