13 Real, Live, Sex-Having Women Discuss Your Porn Habits

Surprise: They just want you to talk about it

By The Editors

Paul Rudd
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15 August 2018

“A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.”

Um, thanks, J.G. Ballard.

Dystopian authors aside, there are a lot of takes on pornography out there. It is, after all, a touchy subject (rimshot!).

So we asked 13 real, live, sex-having women — including several relationship and health experts — about their partners’ use of pornography.

Does it bother them? Or does it enhance things? And how much is too much, ahem, alone time?

Nicole Prause, Ph.D., founder of Liberos
“First, there is no such thing as ‘too much’ porn use from an absolute level-of-involvement perspective. Many labs have studied the effects of sex-film viewing and there is no point at which the amount of viewing suddenly turns negative. Scientifically, we would say effects are dimensional, not categorical. Finally, it is important to note that there is no pathology or diagnosis for viewing sex films. Every scientific and diagnostic body has rejected this idea, but the misinformation is so bad we recently wrote an article about it for Slate. Couples who view sex films together report the highest closeness and strongest communication. For couples in whom one member views sex films, the effect entirely depends on whether they communicate about the use. If they are open, the use is positive, if they hide it, the effects are negative. Sex-film use does not impact sexual, including erectile, functioning, so concerns about functioning sexually with a partner due to sex-film viewing are not supported by data.”

Rae, 31
“In theory, human sexuality is a complex and beautiful thing and I’m all for exploring it. In practice, porn completely grosses me out and I hate it. Our libidos match up for the most part, so why does my partner feel the need to watch other people have sex when he could be having sex with me? I’m constantly horny, so through this lens, it almost feels like a betrayal. I’d be crushed if my partner turned me down because he spent his boner on some bimbo’s moneyshot. I also wonder … does my partner watch porn where the women look very different from me? Would I be repulsed by them? Are there elements of violence or fetishes I’m unaware of? Is our sex life missing something he craves and can’t talk to me about? Totally cool with masturbation sans porn though — my partner and I don’t see each other every day and people have needs. I guess I’d care if it started to impact our sex life.”

Jovica Grey, Love/Sex Addiction Therapist
“Porn can can enhance a relationship in a sense that it could increase sexual intimacy by watching together and it can lead to some exciting sex by learning a move or two. On the contrary, it can damage the relationship if your partner is engaging in this behavior too much. Just like drugs, porn can change the chemistry of the brain leading to an addiction. Some red flags include: your partner watching porn multiple times per day or binging to the point where the frequency of sex is decreased between the both of you; they are in favor of watching porn rather than having sex; and they are unable to get aroused/stimulated without watching pornography.”

Katie, 24
“I used to feel weirded out by the thought of a partner watching other people have sex. Partly because I didn’t realize that A) women could enjoy porn or B) were even allowed to. Once I took some time to watch it myself, I realized it’s more visual than anything else. The turn-on stems from the fleeting naughtiness of it, and the way that it engages you physically — not necessarily a desire to literally have sex with anyone on the screen. I personally watch bellesa.com [Ed. note: NSFW, obviously]. It’s packaged (don’t even think about it) as ‘porn for women,’ with videos that emphasize sensuality, champion gentler, consensual sex and focus equally on the man during the act.”

Kayla Lords, writer at JackandJillAdult.com
“My partner watches porn that turns him on, and sometimes we watch porn together. We don't necessarily repeat what we see, but much like reading sexy stories or engaging in dirty talk. It turns us on, gets us ready for whatever we'll do together and enhances the mood. We were open about our porn habits from the very beginning — we met online and one way we expressed our sexual desires was through NSFW images from Tumblr. It was never something to be ashamed of in our relationship. And I'm not concerned when he watches porn without me or masturbates. It’s a healthy expression of his sexuality, and I don't assume that I'm able to fulfill every sexual need he may have. If he were to express that he'd rather watch porn than have sex with me, it's not a moment to blame porn but instead try to figure out what's missing in our relationship.”

Cara, 38
“It's taken time to come to terms with porn in my relationships over the years, especially with the rise of the internet. When I was younger, I was insecure, sure, but I was also with a string of men who just didn’t make me feel adored, so when I was unsatisfied with them I had a very ‘how dare you’ feeling about their porn habits — which I would sometimes snoop to discover, and which I didn’t understand. More than a decade has passed and I’m a lot more lax about it, partly because I’ve come to accept that no one person can satisfy all of another’s needs, and the need for private pleasure doesn’t just disappear even if you’re with someone you’re attracted to. However I’m not convinced ‘just watch it together’ is sound advice unless you’re really comfortable with what your partner’s search terms might be (e.g., the ‘toothless crackhead blowjob’ my ex was ‘just curious about.’)”

Lindsey Metselaar, host of the We Met at Acme podcast
“I'm certain my partner watches porn, and I watch it too. It’s more of an escape from what we actually like in reality to what we like in this odd, fantasy world. When you have a good relationship with your partner, it's likely they know what kind of porn you watch but also know that it doesn't exactly translate to what you like. There are exceptions — if someone likes incest porn and roleplay porn, you can probably try out the roleplay one with them but not the other. Anyone who is offended by their partner masturbating is way too controlling and will likely lead them to cheat.”

Kitty, 34
“I don't mind my partner using pornography at all. It's something we can share, if we want to, but it's also nice to have intimate time without each other! I think it's healthy to masturbate, and while I might prefer the written word, I don't see anything wrong with my partner using something visual. As for masturbation, I do it too, so I know it has nothing to do with not desiring my partner and a lot more to do with wanting to have a quick orgasm so I sleep better.”

Estelle, 35
“My partner does and should watch porn. I take no issue with it. Hell, I watch porn. Why would I limit him? One time, he needed to turn on porn to finish though. That sh*t hurt. I'm down for him to watch — and watch together even — but don't make it about anything more than me when we're already full throttle.”

Dr. Fran Walfish, Psychotherapist, writer (The Self-Aware Parent) and co-star on Sex Box (WE tv)
“Being honest about pornography use with a partner indicates that the person is comfortable with their own sexuality and the things that sexually titillate, stimulate and arouse them. Secrecy about pornography consumption can be felt as a betrayal and raise mistrust, suspicions and put a wedge between the partners. Why was it kept discreet in the first place? Is it because their partner is inhibited and might judge them for this type of behavior?  Does the person feel shame about their own pornography usage? Sometimes, it helps to retain the services of an experienced therapist or counselor to help the couple open dialogue about their sexual likes and dislikes. When both partners are equally open sexually and emotionally, it can be wonderful foreplay to watch pornography together.”

Shannon, 24
“My boyfriends watching porn used to feel like some sort of weird, untrusting, invalidating sexual truth I had to accept without question. But I’ve realized it isn’t about my adequacy, ability or about me really at all. Masturbation is inherent to human sexuality and, for better or worse, usually involves a catalyst. On one hand, I don’t think porn is the healthiest sexual stimulus because it doesn’t always portray the connection necessary for the kind of sex I find fulfilling. On the other hand, masturbation is a completely normal aspect of sexuality even though it's usually discussed in the context of secrets and isolation. Being open about and incorporating masturbation into my sexual relationships has allowed my partners and I to ‘cut out the middle (wo)man,’ so to speak. It has also led to a deeper understanding of our needs when we’re together. I’ve inquired about porn preferences and found they’re not threatening to my self-esteem. In fact, they usually just reveal something new for us to try. I’ve sent nudes to keep a semblance of intimacy alive in masturbation, even if from far away. I’ve even watched porn with boyfriends and it made for an interesting transition to more unique sex. While I don’t like porn, I like making my partner feel shame for their needs even less.”

Grace, 23
“For many if not most people, masturbation and watching pornography is an early way to learn about your body and what you like. There shouldn't be any inherent shame in either, but people are entitled to wanting/not wanting partners with certain habits, especially if they're in the extreme. I think it's attractive and shows a level of trust, respect, openness and confidence when you can have conversations with your partner(s) about your masturbation habits and, if you're into porn, what kind, how often you watch, etc. I think the kind of porn a person watches is really what matters to me. It can illustrate a lot about both what they're into and how they view the world. If someone's watching porn that's extremely overproduced and only caters to the male gaze, that's gonna be a big red flag for me. Also, as a bisexual person and a human being, I have no interest in men who watch theatrical, fake lesbian porn. Cut that shit out! Queer people do not exist for your fantasies!”

Madeleine M Castellanos, MD, author, psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy 
"Whether porn enhances or damages a couple’s sex life depends on how it is used by each individual ... Studies have shown that men actually tend to have better erectile functioning overall if they use porn. This is related to having regular erections and good blood flow – since the body works on a "use it or lose it" principle. There is a smaller population of men who develop erectile difficulties from watching porn. This is related to how their brain works while watching porn and has nothing to do with the porn itself.

As I discuss in my book Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive, I believe that couples should have open communication about their sexuality and their sex lives, and this includes porn. The caveat here is that if a partner has said that they don’t really want to know the details, don’t tell them. If a person starts demanding that their partner tell them everything about their arousal or report on every time that they masturbate or use porn, this points to an unhealthy dynamic fueled by insecurity and rigid ideas about sex and sexual arousal. 

[However] if my partner stopped wanting to go to work because he just wanted to stay home and watch porn, I might want a rule about that."

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