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Pornography & Relationships

Porn is Great for Relationships. Isn’t it?

Hands up who hasn’t watched porn?
Hands up who feels good about it?

Porn is a complex issue.

Questions like is it good? Is it healthy? Does it help my relationship? Is it liberating for women? For men?

We are all so bound up in our own perspectives that it is hard to answer them without making sure you aren’t grinding your own axe….so to speak.

For years now we have been hearing that  “watching porn doesn’t harm anyone”.

But the difficulty is that scientific research shows when it comes to relationships, that isn’t necessarily true.



Fast Click Porn – Crack Cocaine for the Brain

Your average man can see more hot women – and more of their body parts –  in ten minutes than his grandfather could in a lifetime. But this kicks in changes in the ancient, primitive part of our hunter-gatherer brain an effect called the Coolidge Effect.

This phenomenon got it’s name from a popular anecdote about a visit that U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife supposedly made to a chicken farm. The story goes something like this: 

“Mrs. Coolidge, observing the vigor with which one particularly prominent rooster covered hen after hen, asked the guide to make certain that the President took note of the rooster’s behavior. When President Coolidge got to the hen yard, the rooster was pointed out and his exploits recounted by the guide, who added that Mrs. Coolidge had requested that the President be made aware of the rooster’s prowess. The president reflected for a moment and replied, ‘Tell Mrs. Coolidge that there is more than one hen.’”

 The Coolidge effect is this; a spike of dopamine kicks in whenever a new, available, female presents herself for sex. That dopamine makes him able to mate again more quickly with a new female partner than with his existing female partner.

 With so much internet porn variation available just a click away those dopamine spikes hit the male brain so fast and so frequently that it actually rewires the brain in a way that resembles a chemical addiction.

And like any addiction, the addict keeps needing more quantity, and often more extreme content, to continue to be aroused. The fast-click porn user ends up, like any addict, in the classic binging and craving cycle, where the object of the addiction makes everything and everyone else, uninteresting.



Porn Is Not Sex

Additionally, Internet porn is qualitatively different from traditional ordinary pornography, as depicted by the Playboy magazine (in days gone by). In fact, Playboy eventually gave up featuring mere naked women because the sight of a naked woman no longer raised enough interest. Real sex with a real partner can suffer even more than ordinary porn, since it involves emotional connection, listening, touching, pleasing another person… You can see how this could affect  a relationship. Especially since evidence suggests that there is a risk that women’s self esteem and happiness in a relationship could be impacted by their partners use of porn (Stewart & Szymanski, 2012).

Secrets and Lies

Alongside this there are immense issues of coercion, of secrets within relationships, lies being told, unrealistic expectations placed on us and our partners. For the record, “50 Shades” isn’t real, isn’t realistic but has had real consequences as so many couples struggle to match what is apparently achievable with our own realities. Often, as disappointment leads to disengagement and separation, even our children suffer. 

So if I were to say porn were healthy for us, you couldn’t trust another word I wrote…because the non-porn industry sponsored evidence screams that this is harming us



Wider Questions

Some of us of course are prepared to take the hit of watching porn and acknowledge the damage it causes us. We justify to ourselves that “I understand the risks and costs….and I am prepared to accept them”. I love this aspect of manhood…the willingness to take a bullet for something we believe in. Yet porn isn’t so much a bullet to the chest (or wallet)…but rather a bomb we set off whose collateral damage is unpredictable and widespread. And that’s without even looking at the broader moral questions.


Pornography: the Industry

The porn industry is a global, multi-billion dollar industry.

For every article we read about porn actresses feeling liberated in their industry there are 10 about those who are exploited. From sex cam rings to single mums literally giving their bodies away to feed their children, porn is a destructive and life time damaging disaster. As men we try to drown out the consequences and we convince ourselves that this woman wants it, they like it, they would do it even if they weren’t paid because, oh boy, having sex in front of strange men is all real women want. Right? 

We know that isn’t right.

We block the idea that this woman is someone’s mum, or son, or daughter. We look at our children and pray this catastrophe doesn’t happen to them….whilst justifying watching someone else’s (most commonly) daughter all the same.

I return to my opening question….so who hasn’t watched porn?

Perhaps the very normalcy of its usage has inadvertently provided the moral basis of its acceptance. So perhaps a better question to ask is….if you are uneasy about porn, what are you going to do about it?


Rejecting Exploitation

I have resolved to aim for a higher standard and reject the exploitation of women…and of men. I have resolved to accept the evidence and reject the damage done to me and my peers. I have determined to not go along with friends saying “It harms no one” and point out, however uncomfortably, to the evidence that it harms so many.

I believe that as men we can do better than ignore the reality of our sisters…literally our sisters…being harmed in this way. Let us face some uncomfortable truths, make the difficult decisions, and resolve to not fill our heads with images that are not oasis’ of gratification…but mirages of deceit.

Lets stop lying to each other…and ourselves. 

Dealing with the Addiction – There is Hope

There are a lot of men who want to give up watching porn…but somehow can’t. You are not alone! We’ll look at the addictive aspect in our next article, and at the movement of thousands of men who are supporting each other through kicking the habit. 

 For Online Relationship Support Check out Clickrelationships.




2. Perry, S.L., & Schleifer, C. (2017). Till Porn Do Us Part? A Longitudal Exmaination of Pornography Use and Divorce. Journal of Sex Research, 00(00), 1-13.

3. Maas, M. K., et al. (2018). A Dyadic Approach to Pornography Use and Relationship Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Couples: The Role of Pornography Acceptance and Anxious Attachment. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(6). 772–782.

4. Brown et al 2017 A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 575-584.

5. Stewart, D., & Szymanski, N. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271.



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