Does Watching Porn Ruin Your Sex Life? 7 Ways It Affects Your Relationship, According To Science

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There are a lot of people with strong opinions on how porn affects relationships. On the one side, there are those who are totally pro-porn and say it does great things for your sex life, from helping you get in the mood to giving you new ideas to try. On the other side, there are those who say porn makes people less interested in their real-life partners and could even amount to cheating. As usual, the truth is more nuanced than “porn is good for your relationship” or “porn is bad for your relationship.” Instead, its effect depends on who you are, who your partner is, and how you’re using porn.

One generalization we probably can make is that porn will hurt your sex life if you view it as sex ed. “The issue is not porn,” Make Love Not Porn creator Cindy Gallup tells Bustle. “The issue is this total absence in our society of an open honest healthy conversation around sex in the real world, which if it were had, people would then bring a real world mind set when they view what is essentially artificial entertainment.”

We can also say with some certainty that our culture’s fear of porn is overblown. Sex researcher Nicole Prause, Ph.D. tells Bustle that people have come to her with worries about porn addiction when in reality, their porn habits were totally normal and healthy. Whether your porn habits are helping or hurting your relationship, chances are they don’t indicate any underlying pathology.

If we put moral beliefs aside and look at the research, here’s how porn can actually affect our relationships and sex lives.

1Women Who Watch Porn Expect More From Their Partners

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A recent study in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that women who watched porn had higher expectations of their partners, perhaps because they end up comparing them to porn stars. But TBH, in a world where only 65 percent of straight women always orgasm with their partners, expecting more than we’re getting is probably a good thing.

2The More Porn Men Watch, The Less Satisfied They Are With Their Relationships

A study in Human Communication Research found that men who watched more porn were less satisfied with their relationships both sexually and romantically. However, women’s porn habits weren’t related to their relationship satisfaction at all.

3People Who Watch Porn Appreciate Their Partners Less

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There may be something to the idea that beauty standards in porn make us appreciate real people less. A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that regular porn-viewers were less happy with their partners’ looks and bedroom moves.

4People Who Watch Porn Are Less Committed

The same study found that people who watched porn regularly felt less committed to their partners. At first glance, it might seem like people were watching porn because of their lower commitment. However, a separate experiment had some people give up porn and some watch it, and those who gave it up were more committed at the end.

5People Who Watch Porn Are More Likely To Cheat

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A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that people who watch porn are more likely to cheat than those who never do. On the other hand, a survey by IllicitEncounters.com found that 72 percent of men watched porn before having an affair, but only 34 percent of them did during their affairs. However, it doesn’t seem that the porn was causing them to be more faithful — it seems people watched less porn after deciding to cheat for others reasons.

6Yet Most People Feel Porn Has Positively Affected Their Sex Lives

Just when this was looking bleak, a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior came along and found that people are more likely to report that porn has had positive effects on their sex lives, knowledge and feelings about sex, and lives in general than to report negative effects.

7It Strengthens Your Relationship If You Watch It Together

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One Anne Summers survey found that couples who indulged in some porn-viewing together once a week or more had more satisfying sex and more commitment in their relationships. In addition, more than half of women believed porn gave them the courage to ask for what they wanted in bed.

So, the findings are really all over the place. The truth is, it’s hard to know how porn will affect your relationship. However, the content of the porn you’re watching probably has a big impact. So, if you’re concerned about the effect porn could have on your relationship, you could try watching (or directing your partner toward) a feminist porn site.