What you need to know:
- Unlike the popular belief that the consumption of adult movies is the onset of problems in relationships, usage of porn tends to be a result of other problems that a couple may be facing.
- Pornography in a relationship impacts the man and the woman differently.
- Porn can be highly addictive based on how you approach and consume it.
Not many people in relationships will admit to watching adult movies or incorporating adult movies into their sex lives. However, websites that host adult content are very popular. Alexa, a global website traffic ranking site ranks porn sites among the most frequently visited sites globally. In Kenya, these websites have previously featured among the top ten most popular websites. According to counseling psychologist Raphael Mundia, adult content is consumed behind closed doors because it is frowned upon by society. “Consumption of pornography is accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame because of its close association with immorality,” she says. “People who consume this content are considered immoral or psychologically disturbed.” Indeed, there are aspects of adult content that out rightly promote immorality and illegalities. In December 2020, the world’s most popular adult content platform was forced to delete millions of adult materials and institute new user restrictions after a report exposed how sex trafficking victims were being exploited on its platform.
Pornography in relationships is bound to elicit two opposing perceptions. On one hand, there is the perception that pornography helps to spice up a couple’s sex life. On the other hand, adult movies are seen as a form of cheating and pointer to sexual dissatisfaction. “One of the most common comments I get from women whose men watch porn is: ‘I feel like when we have sex, he’s not really doing it with me but with the imaginary female porn models he watches’,” says family therapist Grace Kariuki. The habit of watching adult movies hardly starts when partners start a relationship. “Almost all of my infidelity cases have a background of porn consumption, starting off as early as during adolescence, nurtured masturbation, then sex with multiple partners, and later during a relationship or marriage, deteriorated into cheating or adultery,” says Ms. Kariuki. This is echoed by Ari Tuckman, the author of More Attention, Less Deficit, who says that the ripple effect is that the usage of pornography tends to lead the user into solo sexual activities such as masturbation.
Genesis of problems
Unlike the popular belief that the consumption of adult movies is the onset of problems in relationships, usage of porn tends to be a result of other problems that a couple may be facing. “There are men who feel diminishing love or attraction for their partners, and they often turn to pornography for solace, excitement, arousal, and soothing. In such instances, pornography isn’t to blame for their relationship struggles,” says David Ley, the author of Women Who Stray and The Men Who Love Them.
Pornography in a relationship impacts the man and the woman differently. According to Dr. Wendy Patrick, a behavioural analyst and the author of Red Flags, women who experience a higher level of anxious attachment will have lower levels of satisfaction in the relationship when they use pornography with their partner. However, men who generally view pornography positively will have greater relationship satisfaction in spite of their anxieties. “The downside is that men who turn to pornography as a means of coping with stress and bad emotions have lower levels of sexual arousal and lower sexual intercourse with their spouses,” she says. There are also instances where untamed porn can mess up your sex drive. “There is a possibility that your sex life has suffered because of porn if you are always wanting kinkier sex, often feeling dissatisfied and restless, find your partner less attractive or need more of extreme adult content,” says Dr. Chris Hart, a psychologist based in Nairobi. This gets compounded when one partner becomes preoccupied with porn to a point of ignoring their spousal, family, and career responsibilities.
The other side of the coin
According to Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, a sexologist and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Seduction and Foreplay, the effects of pornography on relationships are not as dire as they are often made out to be. “There is this myth that porn is a public health hazard. The reality is that the effects of porn are not as detrimental as we’d like to believe,” she says. Where pornography is an issue in the relationship, there will tend to be another bigger issue hiding beneath the surface. “People say they are addicted to porn, but the actual fact is that porn is usually a symptom of the problem.” “If mutually agreed upon and if partners have the capacity to distinguish the right kind of sexual engagement from the abusive and demeaning, it could be irregularly used as a catalyst to more exciting physical intimacy,” says Raphael. He cautions that you must never base your sexual expectations on porn. “Porn can be highly addictive based on how you approach and consume it. It is also unreal because it involves premeditated and induced acts, while intimacy brings together a combination of affection, genuine desire, love, and playfulness.”
Porn as a measure of compatibility
Openly discussing with your partner whether or not you should include porn in your relationship could spur an improvement in your sex life regardless of the outcome. “It shouldn’t necessarily be about the players, but about broader issues such as your turn-ons, fantasies, sexuality, desires, and intimacy,” says Tuckman. That said, your problems with pornography as a couple will begin the moment you start using adult content as a guide to sex. “There will be a problem if watching pornography becomes a substitute for sex or stimulation by your own partner,” she says. “Use it in moderation and be honest with your partner about it. If you don’t agree on porn, then you’re probably not compatible.”