7 Ways Pornography is Negatively Affecting Your Sex Life Right Now

We know pornography is everywhere. Just look around and you will see it in stores, on magazine racks and even your local movie rental place. With the invention of the internet came a real game changer for pornography.

It is now easier to access than any other time in history.  Some people think that is a good thing and, to be honest, it doesn’t always mean it is a bad thing. If people can take pornography with a grain of salt and use it as a means of enhancing pleasure.

man watching porn in the kitchen alone

Unfortunately, most people don’t use pornography as something to enhance their relationship. They often use it alone instead of engaging in intimacy and sexual activity with their partner. This can understandably cause hurt feelings, confusion and a rift between couples.

Looking at some of the negative aspects of pornography in detail can better help us understand how it may currently be affecting our sex lives. Sometimes we internalize this and don’t even realize it is happening. Here is a list of what I would consider being the 7 most common ways pornography is negatively affecting people’s sex lives. Read on and see if you can relate to any or all of these.

Related: The Health Benefits of Sex

1. Unhealthy body image

unhealthy body image

Show me pornography and I will show you a projection of a realistic body image for the majority of the population on the planet. Men and women can both come away from watching porn with the idea of how their body is supposed to look. Women are supposed to be young, thin with perky breasts, no cellulite or stretch marks and are certainly not supposed to have hair anywhere but on their head. Men are supposed to have a six pack, a huge penis and a tight butt.  While we know this is not the case, in reality, it sends messages about what the “ideal” body looks like in our society and anything less that this is considered unattractive or not sexual.

All this does is create an unhealthy body image in people (Horvath et al 2013, Bridges et al 2003). Self-confidence, self-image, and acceptance of your body are very important aspects of sexuality. When those things are affected we cannot relax and enjoy sex. We think we are not attractive to our partner and spend our time worry about what they are thinking about how we look rather than being in the moment and experiencing pleasure.

Research has indicated that women report experiencing negative consequences of pornography, including lowered body image and a partner critical of their body (Albright 2008, Bridges et al 2003)). While men report reported being more critical of their partner’s’ body and less interested in actual sex as effects of watching porn (Albright 2008).

The reality is, people age, bodies change and penis size is not the end all be all of sex. The people who make porn get paid a lot of money to do so and it is to their financial benefit to investing in products and lifestyles that allow them to look the way they look. Many of the women have breast augmentation. A lot of times the camera angle influences the way their bodies look on screen. Photos can be airbrushed. It is often not genuine.  I am all for people being healthy. But that does not mean your body has to or is going to look like a porn star. That is ok.

2Unrealistic expectations about what sex is, how it looks

negative effects of porn on health

By far the question I get asked the most as a sex educator is, “Am I normal?”  This is asked about every aspect of sexuality you can imagine but especially about what behavior people engage in during sex.  

When people watch pornography they get a very skewed view of what constitutes sex, what sex is and how it is supposed to look. ( Horvath et al 2013). Please do not accept what you see in porn as reality.

Not everyone has a sex swing in their house. Not everyone has sex in a hot tub. Not everyone is a yoga master and can get into sex positions that involve incredible flexibility. I would also hope that not everyone has tacky music playing in the background while having sex.

Most people do not have sex as often as people in porn do. Most people do not even come close to it.

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with having a sex swing or playing tacky music or any of the above if that is what  you are into. Feel free to get your freak on any way that you and your partner both consent to. BUT: porn has a way of making people feel like there is something wrong with them if they are not doing everything they see. Trust me, if you are or are not doing any or all of these things you are “normal” is it is all good.

The other  important aspect of the unrealistic aspect of what sex is: sometimes people have to change their idea of what sex is based on illness or disability. For example, many people watch porn while they masturbate. Think of someone who is recently spinal cord injured and is limited in what positions they can have sex in or their sexual function has changed. By showing these unrealistic portrayals of sex it sends a message to them that what they can do is not good enough, not pleasing enough to their partner and can be a real negative blow to their sexual self-esteem.  In addition, women often feel increased pressure to perform acts seen in pornography  (Albright 2008) and doing something because of pressure is not healthy for your relationship or your sex life.

3. Unrealistic expectations about how your partner is supposed to perform

Unhappy woman lying in bed stressed when her husband sleeping

OK people reading this, listen up: sex does not last for hours and hours with screaming orgasms every five seconds the entire time. Men do not have rock hard erections for prolonged periods of time unless they have priapism which is a painful and medically dangerous condition. Women do not stay sexually aroused and lubricated for hours on end.

The truth is what  you are seeing is edited. They often shut the camera off to   made adjustments and when this happens there are people paid to perform oral sex on the man to keep him hard. They sometimes have to wait for him to get an erection or get one back. Women use lubricant and you just don’t know it and can’t tell. Please keep in mind these people are paid actors. They get paid to act like they are having pleasure. Some of them actually do have pleasure while filming. They are only human. But filming sex is often the least sexy thing they do. It is technical and smoke and mirrors. Yes, they are really having sex. But often the noises they make and the things they say are scripted to make it appear that is it something it is not.

When you watch porn and think that is how you or your partner are supposed to perform you are setting yourself up for failure. His erection will last as long as it lasts. She will or may not have multiple orgasms. Sex is not about pounding someone like a jackhammer for hours at a time. Keep that in mind and proceed accordingly.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking that what you see is what should be.

Related: Your Best Orgasm Is Just A Prostate Massage Away ; Your No-Fail Guide To The Female Orgasm

4. How women perceive pornography and men watching it

In the case of heterosexual relationships where the man is the person watching porn women often perceive the porn use in a very negative way. Many feel it constitutes an affair or some form of infidelity (26%), report feeling insecure (42%), felt it adversely affected them as a couple (29%), felt it affected sex with their partner in a negative way (32%) and made them feel less attractive and desirable (41%)  (Bechara et al 2003).

Men tend to perceive watching pornography as simply a sexual release, often a way for a quick release with masturbation to relieve stress. But listen up guys, women tend to see it as much more personal. They may think you are watching porn because you don’t want to make love with them. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes for a minute and think about that.

5. Has been shown to increase aggressive behavior

So this is a scary one because unwanted aggressive behavior can certainly be a game changer in our sex lives and relationships.

What we perceive as normal behavior we start to engage in.What do we know about the relationship between watching pornography and aggressive behavior? Turns out we know quite a bit. Research definitely supports the existence of reliable associations between frequent pornography use and sexually aggressive behaviors (Malamuth et al 2000). Allen et al (1995) also found that consumption of material depicting nonviolent sexual activity increases aggressive behavior. This means the more someone watches porn the greater the likelihood is that they will engage in aggressive behavior.

What constitutes aggressive behavior? It can mean several things including force, coercion, insisting on sex, physical harm, and manipulation. That is certainly a negative effect on our relationships, sex lives and lives as a whole.

6. Not allowing us to focus on our partner and pleasure

There is a lot of talk about sexuality and mindfulness, being in the moment. When we have sex being able to focus on our partner and pleasure is crucial. Porn creates a distraction in the bedroom and you don’t have to be watching it for it to happen.

We know that watching porn leads to less progressive gender role attitudes including male dominance and female submission (Horvath et al 2013). This can certainly impact pleasure if one or both partners do not enjoy traditional gender roles in the bedroom. Sex does not and is not always about a man dominating a female. Rather it should be about equality and mutual pleasure.

We already know from Bridges et al (2003) that pornography makes women feel less attractive, less connected to their partner and that it has a negative effect on their lovemaking. All of this can also contribute to not being able to be in the moment. If all you can think about is your partner comparing you and the sex you are having to what they see in pornography it can be impossible to relax and enjoy what you are doing and drop the unrealistic expectations that can accompany pornography.

7. Increased risk behavior

One of the things you will almost never see in pornography is condom use or any other type of safer sex behavior. Instead, you may see multiple partners and unprotected sex of all types. Horvath et al (2013) did a very interesting yet very disturbing study on  the link between access and exposure to pornography and children and young people’s engagement in risky behavior. This is some of what they found: If young people had viewed a significant amount of pornography they were more likely to report having had anal sex, sex with multiple partners and using alcohol and drugs during sex, were more likely to have had sex with a friend, group sex, oral sex and/or anal sex and have a higher acceptance and engagement in sexually permissive behaviours.

It stands to reason that this behavior learned when young can carry over to adulthood. This increases the risk of not being monogamous, decreased condom use and higher incidents of STD infection, unplanned pregnancy and HIV infection.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that pornography does not constitute sexuality education. It is not the ideal place to learn about sex and get your messages for what sex is. It is not a realistic portrayal of relationships, intercourse, body image or orgasm.

We all carry baggage into our bedrooms. Sometimes that baggage is so heavy we withdraw from sex altogether rather than risk letting ourselves be vulnerable. The next time you consider watching pornography consider how it may negatively affect your sex life and relationship.

Resources

Albright, Julie M., (2008) Sex in America Online: An Exploration of Sex, Marital Status, and Sexual Identity in Internet Sex Seeking and Its Impacts. The Journal of Sex Research 45:2 175-186

ALLEN, M., D’ALESSIO, D. & BREZGEL, K. (1995), A Meta-Analysis Summarizing the Effects of Pornography II Aggression After Exposure. Human Communication Research, 22: 258–283. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.1995.tb00368.x

Bechara, M. V. BERTOLINO, A. CASAB, R. MUNARRIZ, I. GOLDSTEIN,  Morin, F. Secin, B. Literat, M. Pesaresi, and N. FREDOTOVICH (2003)  Romantic Partners Use of Pornography: Its Significance for Women Journal Of Sex & Marital Therapy Vol. 29 , Iss. 1

Bridges A, Bergner R, & McInnis M (2003). Romantic partner’s use of pornography: Its significance for women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. 29, 1-14.

Horvath, Miranda A. H. and Alys, Llian and Massey, Kristina and Pina Afroditi and Scally, Mia and Adler, Joanna R. (2013) Basically… porn is everywhere: a rapid evidence assessment of the effects that access and exposure to pornography have on children and young people. Project Report. Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, London, UK.

Neil M. Malamuth, Tamara Addison, and Mary Koss (2000) Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Are There Reliable Effects and Can We Understand Them?Annual Review Of Sex Research Vol. 11 , Iss. 1

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