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5 ways watching porn is terrible for your romantic relationships

Matt Fradd Matt Fradd

Two weeks ago I was invited to speak at Sex Week (there is such a thing on most campuses) at the University of Maryland. Amidst such talks as, “BDSM on a Budget,” and, “Deconstructing Gender in Families and Relationships,” there I was, speaking about the negative effects of pornography (watch a similar talk of mine here). At the end of my talk a young lady raised her hand and asked my opinion on the claim that porn can enhance romantic intimacy within a relationship. I, as you might have guessed, shared why I thought the claim false.

The fact is that many studies show that porn doesn’t compliment sexual intimacy with one’s partner, it competes with it. In this post, then, I’d like to suggest five ways—all of which are based on scientific data—in which porn is detrimental to a romantic relationship.

Skeptics may be quick to ask, “But do any of these studies show causation?” That’s a fair question, but somewhat beside the point of this article. While most of these studies only show correlations between watching porn and problems in relationships, this should hardly matter to the porn consumer. No matter how you slice it, if porn makes you a bad lover, or if porn is just the symptom of being a bad lover, or if porn viewing and being a bad lover are both symptoms of the same problem, the verdict about porn is decisively negative.

1. People who watch porn have lower levels of sexual satisfaction with their partner

Drs. Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant, in their now-famous porn experiments back in the 1980s, found the more video porn one watches, the more dissatisfied someone is with their partner’s physical appearance and sexual performance.

A study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy reports similar findings. After being exposed to centerfold models from Playboy or Penthouse, subjects had significantly lower judgments about the attractiveness of “average” people.

2. People who watch porn have lower levels of relational commitment

The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology released the result of several studies about the impact of porn on relationships. In one experiment, half of a group gave up porn for three weeks, and the other half gave up their favorite food, but were allowed to watch porn. Interestingly, those who quit porn showed increased commitment to their romantic relationship at the end of the three weeks.

3. People who watch porn have higher levels of negative communication with their partner

According to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, compared to those who watch porn alone or watch porn with their partner, those who don’t view any porn have lower levels of negative communication with their romantic partner.

4. People who watch porn are more likely to cheat

Some men have thought—or even said out loud to their partner—“At least I go to porn to get my needs met. I don’t sleep around.” This hardly serves as a vote of confidence, does it? He’s essentially saying, “If I didn’t have the ability to get off to virtual women, who knows what I would do to real women?” Hmmm, right. #StayClassyExBoyfriend

In one study, for those who don’t watch any porn, their rate of infidelity is at least half of those who had watched porn either alone or with their partners. 

Another study found, regardless of how satisfied one feels in their own relationship, watching porn heightens a person’s perceptions that “the grass is greener” somewhere else, and they are more likely to flirt with others and cheat on their partner.

5. People who watch porn have consistently lower views of women

In the Zillman-Bryant experiments, those who watched more porn showed a radical decrease in support of women’s rights, compared to a control group. Those who watched more porn were also more likely to believe that real women in society should fit the stereotypes of the women they see in porn.

Don’t be fooled. You’ll never be good at loving one person well when you’re constantly being entertained by a digital harem.

If you or someone you love is struggling to break free from porn, may I suggest you download my new free ebook, The Battle Plan: A Five Step Approach to Removing Pornography From Your Life.

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Matt Fradd

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Matt Fradd works for Covenant Eyes and is the author of the book Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned From Porn to Purity. A popular speaker and Catholic apologist, he has addressed tens of thousands of people around the world and appeared on EWTN, ABC, and the BBC. Matt is also the founder of this website, ThePornEffect.com, which is dedicated to helping men and women break free from the vice of pornography. He lives in North Georgia, with his wife Cameron and their four children.