The Pornography Debate

the pornography debate - when is porn okay in a relationship?

Does pornography have a place within a marriage or relationship? That’s the Pornography Debate.

Many people are offended by their partner’s use of porn for various reasons. Some see it as a form of infidelity; a reflection on how desirable they are to their partners; or have political or religious objections.

On the other hand, some couples use porn together to rev up their sex life (Kuhlman & Kuhlman, 2012).

For others, it is used as an outlet when sex drives are out–of-sync and whilst  some women may not approve of their partner’s viewing habits, it is clear that sometimes they turn a blind eye and may even be happy that it lets them “off the hook” (Arndt, 2012).

Anytime that a couple is in agreement, porn is certainly an acceptable component of their sex life.

If one partner is offended, then that alone is going to cause tension in the marriage. Ideally, couples should talk frankly and calmly (not when one is angry or upset), and without blaming or criticism about the mismatch in sex drives, desire for novelty, or other things that could be addressed as a team (pp10).

Porn becomes problematic when it is eroding the frequency and quality of sex between the partners, and impacting on the health of the relationship.

If porn becomes compulsive and is getting in the way of the person’s quality of relationships and life, then treatment should be sought as with any compulsive behaviour (see article on Sex Addiction for more information).

Online pornography is becoming an ever–increasing issue, and unchecked behaviour by one partner can be detrimental to the long term health of a relationships.

When is Porn okay?

  • When both partners are aware of the behaviour;
  • When both partners approve of the behaviour;
  • When the behaviour is not a substitute for real relationship intimacy; and
  • Daily life and meeting the goals of the individuals and the couple are not affected.

when is pornography okay?However, pornogaraphy is NOT okay when:

  • It is a secretive behaviour;
  • It is taking time away from the needs of the relationship;
  • It is being used in the place of sex with one’s partner; and
  • The behaviour has become more addictive.

Rev. Dr. Angela Chestern, of New Life Pastoral Counseling, has found that porn can have a detrimental effect on marriage, OR it can have an overwhelmingly positive affect – depending on the couple. Every couple is different!

Consider these two different examples:

  • Couple 1: They like to be different, daring and live by the rules that they put in place. Society can’t dictate how they will live their lives.
  • Couple 2: Traditional values. Religious to a degree. Live their lives in most cases, by the rules of society.

Porn to Couple 1 is used as a sexual appetizer. This is a part of foreplay; getting each other “in the mood.” It can be viewed alone or with the other partner. They feel that porn has no long term negative effect on them whatsoever.

Porn to Couple 2 is not allowed. They feel that it is a slap in the face to their belief system/values. Participating in such acts brings about the same feelings as cheating.

Now, if either couple decides together that they will shift their paradigm, that couple will still be in harmony. The problem only arises when one person goes outside of the agreed upon mode of living in their own relationship.

Many women are offended that their husband would want to watch another woman having sex; while others couldn’t care less. The long term hurt happens when the couple cannot agree on what is “healthy” for them as a couple.

In a time when “traditional” values are being pushed to the side more and more, couples are having to decide what works for them. One goal of any happy couple should be to take care of the other person’s heart.

Common Threads

There appears to be a theme running through this debate, such as:

  • You have to be a particular type of couple to partake without any adverse effects;
  • You have to be able to have open communication and agreement of what is safe, and where  the bottom line is;
  • Those with an addictive personality need to be extremely cautious;
  • You have to feel confident in yourself, your sexuality and your marriage/relationship to partake.

The decision to include porn in a sexual relationship appears to be a very individual one in terms of what suits the individual couple.

When author and psychotherapist Sharon Gilnest O’Neil was asked if she saw cases where pornography does work safely in a marriage, she responded that she did not see many couples using pornography “successfully” – but then those couples were less likely to need to seek out help.

The few couples that she saw where it was working, tended to be cases where the male used minimal online porn. O’Neil likened this behaviour to reading a Hustler/Playboy magazine in the “old days”.

Linda Thomson Brisbane Sex Therapist

Author: Linda Thomson, B Arts, Social Science, Human Services, Masters of Counselling, Master Social Work Studies, Social Work, Member – AASW.

Linda Thomson has many years of experience in different fields of counselling, and has also managed counselling services in the not for profit sector. She has been involved in training and mentoring counsellors, and providing professional supervision. Linda has extensive training in and a passion for sex therapy as she believes that it is such an important and often misunderstood part of our lives.