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Does Watching Porn Affect Intimate Relationships? (Part One: Men)

There is a documented relationship between the amount of adult male porn use and spousal/partner interest. The more frequently he uses porn and/or the longer the periods of his viewing porn, can cause detachment from his partners, to the point where he is ‘dating’ porn and his need for a partner dwindles.

Increased and consistent porn use in heterosexual men will cause the following to occur:

1. Reduced interest in sex and physical intimacy with long-term spouse/partner.

2. Increased overall sexual objectification of strangers – checking them out more, seeing them visually more as body parts as individuals with lives/roles, etc.

3. Increased overall view of all females as sexual objects, but not just physically (as above), but also in terms of a lower regard for women as people in general (i.e. he becomes less respectful, less considerate of feelings). A man who is viewing a great deal of porn will show a reduced empathic connection to women.All of the above will return to the man’s baseline after he significantly reduces or eliminates his porn use and this is true for males in general, not specifically sex or porn addicts.

Most healthy men, as they mature, do feel over time that porn is secondary to actual sex and while some will have times of increased use – perhaps when a partner is away, when under stress or when single, most adult men experience and use porn as a substitute for the real thing. They “get” and accept the two-dimensional aspect of the porn and use it as such. That being said, there is a small percentage of men (women as well), who can become addicted to the intensity and emotional arousal the porn provides – approximately 3-5% of the total male population. These men use porn as a means of emotional self-stability, comfort, anxiety reduction, etc. And for them – the relationship consequences are far more long-term in terms of reduction in partner intimacy (on all levels), lying, keeping the porn secret and often using it to progress to sex with those met online.

This leads to the age old question – “Does viewing porn and masturbating a few times a week cause men to not be able to climax with their girlfriends during “normal” sex?”

This is very specific to the individual male, his age and sexual relationship of the couple. Some men briefly look at porn 2-3 times weekly and masturbate without any specific negative affect on their relationship or couple intimacy. Consider the difference between the 27-year-old man in a 2-year relationship to a woman he adores and with whom he enjoys having a lot of sex vs. the 44-year-old man with 3 kids and a wife of 21 years.  The effect that the porn use has on each of these men and their relationship is going to differ because of age, life circumstance, relationship connection, etc.

More destructive to relationships than recreational porn use, is the keeping of secrets. Infidelity can be defined as the keeping of secrets in an intimate relationship. So, if a man looks at porn a few times a month and masturbates to it, doesn’t tell his spouse – is that a problem? Only likely to be so if she has strong moral/ethical or other principals about this, has previously asked him not to look at it, if they don’t have sex themselves, and she is understandably jealous of the porn and/or she is afraid that the kids will find it.  But if a man is looking at porn multiple times weekly or daily for extended periods of time and doesn’t tell his spouse – BIG PROBLEM! He is now keeping her out of a part of his life that is likely affecting both of them and if/when she finds out,  it will be worse and she will ultimately feel betrayed.

In general, men want to have that porn experience on their own, perhaps it substitutes in our ‘modern age’ as an affair or infidelity of the mind so to speak – but some bring the porn into their relationship sexuality to “spice it up” or to see if they can interest their partner in doing some sexual act that he has been seeing in the porn. Some female spouses enjoy watching the porn as well, so this is really about each partner and the couple together – hard to answer in generalities. Certainly, the increased access to all kinds of porn without having to go out to buy or rent it or even pay for it online, has increased the amount of porn that men and couples are viewing separately and together.

Part One serves as a segway to Part Two of this post, focusing on women and porn use. Stay tuned!

Does Watching Porn Affect Intimate Relationships? (Part One: Men)

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is a digital-age intimacy and relationships expert specializing in infidelity and addictions—most notably sex, porn, and love addiction. An internationally acknowledged clinician, he frequently serves as a subject expert on human sexuality for multiple media outlets including CNN, HLN, MSNBC, The Oprah Winfrey Network, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and NPR, among others. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including “Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating,” “Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction,” “Sex Addiction 101: The Workbook,” and “Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men.” He blogs regularly for Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and Psych Central. A skilled clinical educator, he routinely provides training to therapists, the US military, hospitals, and psychiatric centers in the US and abroad. Over the years, he has created and overseen more than a dozen high-end addiction and mental health treatment facilities. Currently, he is CEO of Seeking Integrity, LLC, being developed as an online resource for recovery from infidelity and sexual addiction. For more information or to reach Mr. Weiss, please visit his website, robertweissmsw.com, or follow him on Twitter, @RobWeissMSW.


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APA Reference
Weiss LCSW, R. (2012). Does Watching Porn Affect Intimate Relationships? (Part One: Men). Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2011/05/does-watching-porn-affect-intimate-relationships-part-one-men/

 

Last updated: 8 Nov 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Nov 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.