Is Porn Bad? | A Look at the Pros + Cons

by | Oct 21, 2020 | SEXUALITY

This is a picture of a man watching porn on his computer.

When it comes to porn, it is easy to find many opinions and beliefs about whether it’s good or bad for you. The truth is, online pornography, and other forms of sexually explicit content are neither good nor bad. Porn can be a way for a person to explore their turn ons and sexual fantasies. On the other side of the coin, porn can have negative impacts on a person’s life and sexual health if their consumption becomes compulsive and leads to a porn addiction. Whether porn use is problematic depends on each person’s individual relationship to it, and how it impacts their life and relationships.

While there is some research on this matter, experts remain polarized in the ongoing debate of pornography’s positive or negative role in people’s lives. Like many things in life, the answer is nuanced and really depends on individual factors that vary from person to person.

The Possible Benefits of Porn

There can be benefits of watching porn, both in a person’s individual sex life and with their sexual partner(s). Many people watch internet porn simply as a means to increase arousal and pleasure when masturbating. That said, watching pornography is not always a solitary action. Couples often invite porn into the bedroom to add another arousing dynamic to intimacy.

Many people who watch porn claim it is a way to learn about their desires and what turns them on. Porn can help initiate the process of sexual self-discovery and exploration, and can add a layer of adventure. Watching porn can also allow a person to connect with their body, as porn often leads to masturbation which can be a form of much needed sexual self-care. It’s also common for those who watch pornography to learn new sexual desires, explore existing and new fantasies, and expand their arousal template.

Another positive aspect of pornography is it can invite a conversation between sexual partners, to discuss new experiences they’d like to try in the bedroom. Though it can offer some guidance for couples who want to try new things, it is not recommended that porn be used as a sole method for sex education or model for sexual expectations. It’s best for both partners to be on the same page with all sexual acts and that sexual boundaries are respected.

Porn can be a way to escape reality and live out one’s fantasies while in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Many people report watching porn and without experiencing any negative side effects. However, porn can negatively impact a person’s lifestyle and relationships. The effects of porn consumption vary from person to person.

The Potential Problems with Porn

While porn can have positive benefits to a person’s life, in moderation, it also has the ability to have a negative impact as well. One of the ways porn can become problematic is due to the unrealistic expectations it can create around how sex plays out, as well as what body types are most desirable. Mainstream porn often focuses on a white-presenting, cis-gendered, heteronormative style of sex, including adult film actors with often unattainable body types, and unrealistic sizes or aesthetics of genitals. Porn can reinforce unrealistic displays of intimacy and ostracize or fetishize people of other races, genders, sexual orientation, body types, genital sizes/looks, further marginalize people who are already under-represented. This can make porn problematic for people of all ages, and especially for young people who watch pornography, can be more impressionable and interacting with explicit sexual content for the first time. Without a plethora of real-life sexual experiences, they may see porn and believe that this is a realistic example of what sex will be like for them in the future, aiming to emulate the fantasy.

A prospective pitfall of pornography is that, for some people, it can become addictive. It’s important to note that porn is not inherently bad or addictive, but for some the impact of watching porn on the brain can elicit a reaction similar to that of consuming a drug.  Compulsive porn use often originated as a strategy to cope, numb out, or escape stressful or unbearable situations in life. Of course, after some time, any coping strategy used in excess can stop helping, and start to hindering a person’s lifestyle, mental health, sexual health, and relationships.

Another common problem born out of excessive porn use can be the development of problems in a person’s sex life, such as erectile dysfunction, desensitization, or lack of arousal with partners in real life. This can look like someone only being able to attain an erection or arousal when they watch pornography and struggling with arousal with their partner in real life. If someone becomes addicted to porn, they often feel the urge to increase the intensity and shock factor of the content they consume. When this happens, it can make IRL sex less arousing, thus becoming harder to perform sexually with one’s partner. Many who struggle with compulsive porn use and masturbation also commonly endorse a difficultly or inability to climax, unless they are also consuming porn.

Porn & Relationships

There have been numerous studies conducted about the effects of watching pornography when in a relationship and how it can negatively and or positively impact the well-being of the couple. Some studies have found that watching porn in a relationship may lead to less interest in sex with one’s partner, not being able to connect to their partner when having sex, and a greater likelihood of infidelity. However, many couples around the world have expressed how porn has improved their sex life or provided them with a blueprint for what they’d like to explore sexually.

It’s often beneficial for couples to discuss their individual relationships and views on pornography as well as the role they’d like it to play in their relationship, if any. Some couples may have no qualms with each other watching porn in private or together. For others, the idea of their partner watching porn may feel emotionally triggering or as if it’s a betrayal. There is no right or wrong answer to the existence of porn within a coupleship. Each couple is at liberty to making the decision that works best for their individual and relational needs.

Making Sense Of It All

It’s hard to escape porn and other forms of sexually explicit content, and one doesn’t necessarily need it in order to maintain a healthy sex life. Those who are anti porn often deem sexually explicit content as a public health hazard, but it is important to remember that not everyone has an adverse relationship with porn and many use porn in a way that healthily improves upon their sex lives.

It can be liberating to explore your own relationship with porn, outside of influences such as the messages you have received from family, culture, peers, or religion. A person’s relationship with porn and sex is an evolving and individual process; one that can assume many iterations over the lifespan. If your relationship to pornography is something that seems to be taking a negative toll on your life in any way, consider this live workshop  or schedule a free 30-minute consultation to learn more about how to reclaim your relationship to sex, porn and masturbation.

 

Modern Intimacy is founded by renowned therapist Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This blog is designed to be an ultimate resource for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. We have many expert contributors from all around the world! Enjoy!

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Author Bio

Emma Boles + Kayla Tricaso

Emma Boles: Emma is an enthusiastic intern for the 2020 Psychotherapy Internship Program with the intention of fostering education, insight, and experience involved with running a successful practice. Emma is working towards obtaining a BA in Psychology at the University of South Alabama, with the overall goal of becoming a Clinical Psychologist and owning her own practice.

Kayla Tricaso:
Kayla Tricaso is the Office Manager and Patient Intake Specialist at Modern Intimacy. Passionate about mental health and social justice, Kayla spends her free time listening to true crime podcasts, reading and working on her personal memoir..

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