Can Pornography Be Good for Your Relationship?

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Alyssa Royse offers a quick primer on porn as a sexual aid to spice up your relationship.

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A few days ago, I spent a rainy day watching Don Jon with my father, daughter and mother-in-law. Yup, that was awkward. Didn’t realize that it meant I was going to spend a rainy afternoon watching porn with my family. Although I went on a major social media tear about how angry I was that no one warned me there was so much porn in it, which meant I didn’t get to consent, the other thing that really pissed me off was how it demonized porn.

Can we please get off the “porn is bad and will ruin you and your relationship” kick? Please. Porn can be abused, just like anything can. But porn is not inherently bad, watching porn is not inherently bad and watching porn sure doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. In fact, I’m pretty sure it can help in several ways.

Yes, I really do think that porn can spice up your sex life. Many of us watch it, many of us would benefit from watching it, and those of us who do, need to admit we do. We also need to support the people who make it for us so that they can get the credit they deserve, be treated as well as they deserve and even make us the better porn that we deserve. None of which happens in the darkness of shame.

Remember, porn is NOT sex-ed. In these instances, we’re using it to expose you to some new stuff. Seek good resources, (like the entire Good Vibrations site) for accurate health and safety info about sex.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW.

Is there something you’ve been curious about but don’t really know how it works? Guess what, there’s porn for that. Whatever you can dream up, someone made porn of it.

To Do It:

  •     Find some time alone, take a deep breath.
  •     Watch some porn. Check out Good Vibrations VOD for lots of great choices.

Note what you see that makes your juices flow, and what does the opposite. Use those feelings as a starting point for a discussion with your partners.

Look for credible information about how to recreate it for yourself, safely!

CAN WE TALK ABOUT OUR SEX LIFE?

There are few things in this world that’s as awkward as talking about our sex life, especially with the people we’re having sex with. If one person says, “Honey, I’d like to try something new,” it’s entirely possible that the other person will hear, “You’re a terrible lover and nothing you’re doing feels good and honestly, this just sucks, and not in the good way.” We do not like to talk about our feelings. However, we love to talk about other people and what they’re doing. Enter, PORN!

Porn is a great way to discuss new ideas with your partner. Slide on over to a porn site and go on a Sex Safari. Watch various clips of things you don’t usually do, and see how it feels in your tingly bits. Talk to each other, and ask “So, what do you think about that? ” “Would you want to try that? ” This way it’s not one of those hard relationship talks, it’s more like gossip, and people are good at that.

To Do It:

  • Agree ahead of time that there will be no “Oh gross” “That’s weird” or other judgmental, shameful language. Just watch, with an open mind.
  • Make a list of “Yes,” “No,” “Maybe” based on what you see.
  • If there’s anything you need to buy, look for it online (Even the act of talking about the sex you will have someday can be great foreplay today.)

SCRATCH AN UNSCRATCHABLE ITCH

Sometimes you or your partner are turned on by something that just isn’t present in your relationship. While fantasies are great, and fantasies don’t have to be shared to be enjoyed, sometimes sharing them adds another fulfilling dimension to your sex life.

I have small breasts. I love them. I had a lover once who just loved big breasts. No matter how generous I was, that’s not something I could deliver to him. So imagine his surprise – and joy – when I suggested watching some Big Boob porn together. It was totally fun and made frequent appearances in our repertoire.

Beyond partner play, there are a lot of things that are better, or at least easier, left in the fantasy realm. Whereas denying your fantasies can lead to depression, anxiety and dishonesty, porn is a great option and safe way to indulge them.

To Do It:

  • Identify the fantasies that you are unable to act out in the real world.
  • Find porn, watch it.

Bonus points for understanding what it is about the fantasy that speaks to your sexuality, because there may be ways to work parts of it into your regular play. And there may be cues to understanding yourself. For example, many people who are super Type A and “in control” in their daily lives are very “subby” in their sex play because they need the release from responsibility and control. Figure out the essence of your fantasy – not the acts – and learn something about yourself.

FIND YOURSELF

Mainstream media – and yes, a lot of mainstream porn – is filled with totally unrealistic messages about body shape and gender roles. However, not only are we not all built the same, we don’t all want the same things. As alienated as some of us feel by mainstream media, we can find a reflection of ourselves in porn.

I will never forget sitting in a seminar with Kelly Shibari, a brilliant and talented porn star whose niche is BBW bondage. She was talking about being a “fat” porn star (their word, not mine) and having a male fan come up to her with gratitude saying that hers was the only porn he and his wife could watch together. Why? Because his wife was also BBW, and watching Kelly perform helped her see herself as beautiful and sexy.

Knowing me, I probably cried when she told that story. In any event, whether it’s a body shape, a kink, a fetish or a fantasy, you will be able to find it reflected to you in the world of porn. And that can go a long ways towards helping you realize that you’re not alone, you’re appreciated and there’s nothing wrong with you.

To Do It:

  •     Identify the things about yourself that you feel are not validated, or feel weird about.
  •     Find porn, watch it.

Bonus points for thinking about the messages from media and peers that make you feel bad about yourself and learning new ways to process that input. This may include having a talk with people who say or do things that hurt you.

GET YOUR MOTOR RUNNING

I have had friends tell me that they will watch porn before getting busy with their partner because it gets them hot and ready and half way there, making it easier for them to enjoy all the sexy time with their partners. I have heard this most often from women – middle age women with kids, to be exact – who are just drained, but still want to have fun sex with their partners. They need a little something to get started, otherwise it’s too easy to just be “too tired” and promise to do it tomorrow. When the same thing happens again…

To Do It:

  • Have a few sites that you like bookmarked on your computer. Or DVDs that you like in a place that they’re easy to grab.
  • Sneak away to “get ready for bed.” No one knows what that phrase means anyway.

Okay, that’s your quick primer on porn as a sexual aid. There are, of course, much simpler reasons to watch porn. Like, you want to. Or, because it’s fun.

Now, in Don Jon, the main character loses his girlfriend (who, let’s be clear, was manipulative, shallow and conniving) because he is not honest with her about his porn-viewing habits. Even as I sit here singing the praises of porn, I have to tell you, I would have dumped him too. Not because he was watching porn, but because he was lying about it.

Lying is always bad in a relationship, but especially when it is an ongoing behavior that is actually important to you. The best way to protect against that is to be honest about what matters to you, and make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. I always recommend that couples make a “Yes, No, Maybe” list.

YES: Things you know you need, want and are willing to do.

NO: Things you know are not ever going to happen for you, hard limit. That can mean things you are not willing to give up, also. (For Don Jon, that might include porn.)

MAYBE: Things that are on your radar that you are curious about and willing to try. Things in your past that you enjoyed but don’t need. Things your partner is into that you’d be willing to try.

The list can – and usually does – change over time. And that’s what’s great about it, it is an organic communication tool.

It is also a great way to figure out if you are truly compatible with someone. Don Jon’s girlfriend wanted him to be something that he is not, and that’s not fair. He deserves someone who wants him for who he is. They were not compatible, it’s as simple as that.

Porn is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. How you use it can be. But dishonesty in a relationship is inherently bad. Be honest with yourself about what you want and need. Be honest with your partners. And learn to let go of things that are not a good fit, in order to make room for things that are.

 

 

Photo: Flickr/Jeremy Vandel

 

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About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa is freelance writer, speaker, fitness trainer and personal coach living in Seattle with her husband and their 3 daughters. They own Rocket CrossFit where she spends most of her time training men and women in ways that are as much emotional as physical. She can also be found on her eponymous blog, where she pontificates about food, family, politics and the Seattle rain. Yes, she would love to speak at your event, host a workshop or write something for you. Just ask.

Comments

  1. nice advertisement for goodvibes.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      Not an ad. Would be nice if it was, but it’s just my personal opinion. I love them. And know that they support the ethical treatment of porn performers and producers, which matters to me.

  2. FlyingKal says:

    You haven’t read Nerdlove’s takedown of Don Jon (and porn), have you?
    http://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/hesaid-learn-from-this-don-jon/

  3. Hi Alyssa

    I do not intend to enter a porn debate. I am not qualified since I do not use porn. That’s a personal choice.

    But when you write:
    ✺”watching porn sure doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. In fact, I’m pretty sure it can help in
    several ways.”✺
    I am sure this is your personal opinion, and not a statement based on research of the use of pornography in marriage and long term relationships?

    You see I am skeptical , but love to read reports if you have any links.
    Online we can see lots of webpages where lawyers tell about porn use often come up in divorce cases.
    Sexologist should know something about this,as they seems to see porn as dissociation of feelings.

    • A good link for you.
      http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-consumericus/201001/pornography-beneficial-or-detrimental

      It basically finds that there is no basis for the thesis that explicit material is harmful.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      Iben, there is tons of research on it. I will try and dig some up for you after I do all the “mom” things that my evenings are filled with. But you can Google it. Lots of sex therapists will “prescribe” porn to people and couples to explore sexual ideas…… The problems come when people lie about it, and / or don’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Which is a problem in general, not just with porn.

      Ironically, I think that’s one of the points that Don Jon was trying to make, but it was so flacidly written that it just didn’t get around to it. But the female character was obsessed with romantic comedies and couldn’t understand how life wasn’t actually like a movie. Same thing.

  4. Carol Queen has written some good books about the beneficial uses of pornography in a relationship. She has written many books and has a PhD. Start with her.

  5. Alyssa, I understand you won’t agree with this assessment, but yes, I do think porn is more bad then good. Do I think it’s “inherently” bad? I don’t know because I’m not even sure I know what really means. Is someone who committed a murder inherently bad? Maybe. Maybe not. I am not trying to compare porn to murder but just make a point about the term “inherently bad” being rather confusing.

    I will tell you what I do think. I do think porn is an industry largely built on, not sex or the desire to benevolently supply a safe sexual out-lit to the public, but to make as much money off of people in regards to their weaknesses concerning sex. You could argue that porn is also about our sexual strengths but I don’t personally believe that porn brings out our sexual strengths or even our best selves. Since porn is largely built around money, not sex, it sets up a lot of unhealthy motivations all around to which porn producers largely base their material on and are very crafty and intelligent in using human psychology and desire to draw users in.

    I think a lot of people have negative experiences regarding partners and/or pornography, not just because a partner may have lied about their porn use, but because of their own inner complexities and the issues they see in the industry that force them to confront their own responses to something that is extremely complex. There are many more situations connected to porn use and sexuality then simply lying about it cause harmful experiences.

    I personally have a very hard time coming to terms with the way women are often depicted in the majority of porn. I see a lot of repression, abuse, sexualization of abuse, objectification, (applied to both men and women), male domination over female subservience, stereotypes about women’s ages and body parts and how we should perform sexually I personally feel very alienated as a woman based on those depictions and it causes me to feel alienated from men and their sexuality and rather uncomfortable with it since how men’s sexuality is projected in a lot of mainstream porn is domineering and often bordering on abusive. The fact that men respond so strongly to these depictions does infact say something that we may not yet be ready to really address yet. especially with so much of culture pushing more of “ accept porn!” attitude then one that says porn is “bad”. At least that’s my opinion.

    Perhaps if I saw more men who truly wanted to see more fair depictions of sex between men and women ,perhaps if I truly saw more men desiring to connect with women on a more authentic level, I would feel differently. But I simply do not see that with modern men and modern porn. Usually the “good” kind of porn is some kind of sub-genre not often found anywhere that you have to really know where to find it.

    Also, it usually seems like women are the ones that want more fairness and men don’t really seem too interested in that. I also don’t really know what to think of the fact that yes, you can infact find every kind of porn out there now-a-days on the internet. Is this good? Is this bad? I don’t know. I for one thing, believe that most men are still mostly interested in the stereotypes of the “young, hot porn babes” then I think they are in treating women like diversified people. I also am not sure if the wide range of porn out there is really all that liberating for women or is simply adding to the classification and objectification of women based on their body parts and age.

    This doesn’t even touch on the fact that most porn, still today, despite whatever link you could supply to the contrary, is still largely geared to men, for men. That isn’t to say women can’t fantasize about the same things. But when we keep repeatedly demand that both men and women draw forth “ideas” from material that largely caters to men, what exactly does that same about our sexuality? When we have to keep reinforcing to ourselves that porn is fantasy, that reinforcement is clearly needed for a reason despite or causal dismissal of the complexities of how the human brain, body and emotions respond to fantasy stimulation.

    Asking both partners to enjoy porn that is specific to male fantasy and pleasure can be dangerous ground. Sure, you can find porn that very well may be more “equal”. But the chances of both men or women looking at that more then the other kind is unlikely for the simple fact that porn about male fantasy is more widely accepted.

    I am a bit confused by the idea that you clearly state that porn is not sex-ed but how if you are “curious about but don’t know how it works? Guess what, there’s porn for that”. To me, that is a contradictory message. Is porn sex-ed or isn’t it? Is porn fantasy or should we be doing it in real life?

    I also really dislike this social desire we have lately to accept everything someone else may like simply because they like it and we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Such as your suggestion to not use judgmental words like “gross” or “weird’. But guess what? Sometimes stuff in porn is both gross and weird. Is it shaming to say that? I am not convinced that it is. It’s shaming if your partner likes something and you think it’s gross and weird and you say to them, “Omg you are so disgusting that you like that!” But that’s not the same as you expressing your own dislike for said thing. It is funny how incredibly PC we get when it comes to talking about porn. Meanwhile, porn itself is the most unbelievably incredibly u-pc thing ever. But we are suppose to just accept that without making any comments on it? That doesn’t seem very healthy to me.

    I personally don’t understand what you got out of watching “big-boobed” porn frequently in your relationship with your partner. I am open to you giving further details on this though so I can try and understand better. I’m small boobed too. And while I think both small and big boobs can be beautiful, I don’t want to be with a man that is always looking for things I don’t have. I want a man who lives with the mindset that he is happy with what he has. He doesn’t need to seek out other things to substitute for what he believes he is lacking. This doesn’t mean that I expect to be everything he wants in a woman. It means that he is mature enough to understand that what I offer him is unique to me and that he values and appreciates that and doesn’t hold the expectations that he needs all this outside titillation to make the relationship better sexually for him. I think porn has largely bread this idea that if your partner doesn’t embody ever fleeting whim or shallow desire, that you MUST seek it out in other ways for you to be a happy fulfilled indivdual. To me, this is an unhealthy mindset. Add on the cultural narrative that often gets spoken about breasts, and how men do often attach more value on larger breasts, asking your partner to indulge your desire for other women with large breasts while he is having sex with you doesn’t seem very intimate or connected at all.

    I really don’t think people need advice to “watch porn” or to “bookmark” porn pages. I think people are doing plenty of that all on their own lol. I actually think that maybe it’s time we put the porn down for a little bit and re-discovered sex separate from porn. Because I got to tell you, lately, it seems like sex is simply all about the porn. It’s not even really about sex itself anymore.

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