Is it okay to watch porn?

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This article is a response to the many questions we get about porn. Together with the sexologist Elena, we tried to figure it out. Is it normal to watch porn, why this is such an emotionally hot topic, and finally – how can couples come to a mutual agreement when one person wants to watch steamy videos, while the other gets very upset about it? 

Is it normal to watch porn? Or is it a deviation from normal? 

The act of watching by itself is obviously normal. The big question is why the person does it. Some reasons for watching may not be quite normal. 

Images of sexual nature have never been a taboo. Let’s recall Chinese and Japanese paintings, cave painting, Indian and Greek art. Sexual images and images of a naked body have never been a taboo – they were a part of the mainstream culture. For example, people would put them as decorations on the walls. This was not a manifestation of promiscuity or savagery, but simply an indication of a different attitude towards sex and sexuality. 

Is it normal to look at such images? Of course, it is normal. We are interested, we are curious, etc. 

The issue is not that we are looking at something, but rather what is our goal and how the subject that drew our attention is portrayed.  

Why there is so much controversy around normal/not normal? Because what they show in porn is not realistic. And in many cases, it has elements of violence. “Ass to mouth” (humiliating), double penetration (traumatic for the woman), deep throat (hard to breath), Japanese porn (many films are filled with women begging “No, please no, it hurts, help!”), etc. – all of this is being shown and viewed as if it is normal. But it isn’t! 

Nothing is realistic – neither the people, nor the sex, nor the relationship scenarios that we see on the screen. For example, the women are cleanly shaved, with white anuses, and they are able to tirelessly engage in all kinds of sexual activity, that require skills of a gymnast. Or men, who have huge penises, who don’t come for a long time, and who are always ready. Sometimes, when people see such scenes, they may start expecting a similar performance from their real-life partners. 

Besides, in order to raise the degree of excitement from watching the film, it is necessary to raise the degree of what is depicted. Up to the point that now, they even include scenes of rapes, murders, etc. In this case, not only our realistic expectations from a partner get broken, the whole system gets destroyed. Sex stops being a place where the partners reach intimacy – it becomes a place for realizing your own fantasies.  

To summarize: watching is OK. Up to the point, that we will discuss a little later. What is not OK, is what is shown on the screen. 

In what cases watching porn becomes a deviation from the norm? 

When a person becomes addicted to porn and is not able to climax otherwise. When a person cannot stop masturbating. Or when they watch it and try to masturbate but cannot climax. 

When it hurts the person’s relationship with other people. One such example is hikikomori: people become hermits. They get their food and their porn delivered, and this is all that they need, and they don’t leave the house. 

When the person gets fixated on porn. When they try to recreate what they have seen in the film and don’t pay any attention to their partner. This is very bad and traumatic for their partner who may feel like a sex gadget. 

To summarize these two questions. 

When does porn become abnormal? When it hinders the possibility of having a normal relationship, to have a real contact, when it becomes impossible to come otherwise (only with porn or with recalling porn images), when it becomes an obsession and controls the person’s behavior, when it becomes an addiction. In the end, it will be hard for a person to have sexual fantasies. They stop fantasizing and will simply recall what they’ve seen on the screen and model their sexual contact after these images.  

Why do people like porn? 

First of all, it is easy. To meet a person, to build a relationship is much harder than to find a video online and to watch it.  

Second, our sexuality requires novelty. We like novelty and porn can provide it to us. In other words, this is a fast and easy way to satisfy our sexual needs.  

With a real person you would have to come to a mutual agreement, but in porn – everything goes. You can do anything in any sequence, and nobody will judge you. If you want something extraordinary – just google it. You don’t need to worry that something is wrong with you – someone made a video on this topic, right? That means you are not the only one with such likings… In other words, we enter the world of porn as a world of fantasies, a quite specific one, obviously. This is why we are drawn to it. 

Also, in the early stages, the person may be interested because they don’t have enough information about sexuality. So, they may be addressing the issue of getting educated and learning something new. How can I do this? Is this normal? 

Some of my clients tell me that they are watching porn and noticing that their orgasms, their reactions are not normal. They, perhaps, are trying to understand what the norm is. Many are concerned about their genitals, but in the films, they can see what is considered normal. In other words, people turn to porn when they are looking for answers. 

What is behind the notion that watching porn is like cheating? 

There is this notion about relationships that is based on “belonging”. For example: you are mine and your body is mine, and I am yours and my body is yours. In this context, your partner’s sexuality becomes your property. All the orgasms need to be achieved within the relationship. In this case, people may get upset not only if their partner watches porn, but also if they masturbate.  

Sometimes such notions are based on cheating or resentment. They are not related to porn, but rather they are related to jealousy. The logic goes like this: this is sex with another person, sex in a different situation, sex that was not approved by me. 

How can a couple arrive at a mutually acceptable solution if one person is interested in porn, but the other one feels jealousy, resentment, or anxiety about it? 

In the same way as in all other situations.  

They need to admit that they have different areas of responsibility. They need to indicate their own boundaries within their relationship, and in the area of sexuality. For example, to whom the sexuality belongs.  

The person who gets upset needs to figure what exactly they are upset about. For example, they may be thinking that their partner’s resources are being wasted in the wrong place. They could think “Why do you get ready with a porn film, but not with me?” 

The resentment may be connected with some kind of competition, or with unrealized needs. It is very important to understand for both partners – what kind of needs are behind their desires. 

Perhaps, the couple may have to accept some things. For example, they may need to understand that the fact that people are together, doesn’t mean that they should stop satisfying themselves. 

Let’s try to break it down, step by step. 

Step one: hear the point of view of each person. 

Step two: understand why the person is taking this position, what makes them upset, what needs of theirs are not satisfied, why they are doing what they are doing, what needs of the person who watches porn are not satisfied. But let’s be honest here. There is no guarantee that the partners will be able to hear each other without professional help. 

Step three: indicate boundaries of the relationship: what lies within the boundaries, and what is outside. Which partner has which rights? 

What does the type of porn that we like, tell about us? 

In general, both something and nothing. 

There is research indicating that women often watch gay porn. 

What does it tell about them? Sometimes, they just find it exciting. They say – I didn’t know that gay couples are treating each other with greater care than straight couples. 

The issue is not only what we are watching, but also with which character we identify. For example, if we see in porn that someone is active, and someone is receiving – with whom do we identify? Sometimes it tells us about hidden unconscious preferences regarding what we find exciting and stimulating.  

Therefore, you cannot tell for sure whether it means something, or it means nothing. This aspect lies more in the zone of emotions rather than in the physiological zone. The issue is what we see, how we see it, what we get fixated on, and what we get out of this experience. 

Let’s try to summarize. There is a lot of information. To be honest, this is a burning topic, and perhaps even somewhat painful for you. 

Watching porn is normal. Up until the point when this takes the form of obsession that we discussed earlier. 

Watching porn is not helpful: neither for the person nor for the relationship. Yes, we need to learn new things, about sex and sexuality too. Yes, we are looking for novelty. But there are different sources for that, more acceptable and healthier for the person and for the relationship. There are books on sexual variety, many good blogs, the project https://www.omgyes.com/, or you can create your own sexual fantasies.  

If you feel jealous that your partner is watching porn, then the problem is not the porn itself. The problem is in the communication within the relationship, perhaps in your anxiety, in unmet needs, or in a codependent view on belonging.  

Porn is not realistic and often traumatic. It may lead to creating lasting unrealistic expectations from sex and from the partner.  

We hope that this article helped you to better understand your position towards porn and to realize why this topic may bring up such different reactions from people. 

Take care of yourself!