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Should I Be Worried if my Partner Watches Too Much Porn?

Your Sexual Questions – Answered

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Updated December 17, 2012

How much porn is too much porn, and who gets to decide? The amount of anxiety about porn watching in our culture is staggering, but it’s a reasonable response to the hyper-conservative sexual climate we find ourselves in at the beginning of the 21st century.

We are simultaneously offered easy access to an endless stream of pornographic images and preached to by media, self-proclaimed experts, and former porn lovers that porn will be our downfall. So a question like this makes perfect sense.

Let’s start by clearing the scientific air about porn and health. There is absolutely nothing “unhealthy” or abnormal with watching porn in and of itself. As long as we’re talking about legal adult movies, and as long as everyone who is watching is consenting, there is nothing inherent in pornography that makes it bad. This doesn’t mean people don’t use porn in unhealthy ways; some people indeed become obsessive about it. But people do this with drugs, work, even sports, and we don’t consider those things “evil” (well, some of us do, I guess).

Sex therapist Marty Klein who has written about the problems with the idea of “porn addiction” says that no one in a healthy sexual relationship would consistently choose to watch porn instead of being intimate with an available and interested partner. If this is the case for you, then, yes, there probably is a problem. But the problem may be more about the relationship than the porn.

Try to imagine the situation if it wasn't porn, but something else, like hanging out with friends. If your partner was doing that to the point that you felt left out, wouldn’t you talk to them about that? Porn should be no different.

Also, it's important to take some time to consider your own feelings about porn. Is it something you are interested in at all? If you are you may just need some tips on choosing the right porn. If you are not interested in making porn a part of your sexual relationship, are you OK with your partner still watching it sometimes? If it feels absolutely wrong to you, can you explain why to your partner?

You need to also talk to your partner without judgment. Can you ask what they like about porn? Is it the fantasy? Are there things they see that they want the two of you to try? Is it boredom or habit? Is it an escape?

If you can honestly (and again, without judgment) share with each other your feelings about porn and porn watching, you may find this sexual worry goes away. Or you may also reach an impasse and not know where to take it.

Sexuality is so complicated and it goes so deep, that it is unlikely we will ever share all our partners’ sexual interests. To some extent, being in a relationship is about compromise, and this may be a time when one or both of you will have to meet somewhere in the middle.

If you find yourself unable to work it through alone, it may be helpful to talk to a counselor or sex therapist who could help untangle some of the issues and create a safe space for you both to talk.

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