Conventional wisdom tells us that porn consumption is not only damaging to our psyches, but also destructive to monogamous relationships. Best friends, parents, clergymen, and therapists -- all folks who have our best interests in mind -- often try to steer us away from temptations such as porn, believing they are saving our relationships. But who says porn is so damaging to monogamous unions? Before we consign it to the relationship deal breaker dustbin, perhaps we should re-examine our prejudices about porn to see if it's really as bad as everyone says it is.
Salon columnist Tracy Clark-Flory recently tackled this very subject in "Does porn hurt relationships?" Clark-Flory cites a highly suspect survey conducted by the folks at Cosmopolitan, who seem to be taking a break from offering silly sex tips, that has determined that watching porn ruins sex because it destroys women's sexual self-confidence. (Unlike their magazine, of course, which is the modern-day version of Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth.)
The fact is -- we cannot ignore pornography even if we occasionally find it distasteful. According to Gizmodo, 25 percent of all search engine requests are pornography related. That's 68 million searches a day and a lot of libidinous viewing.
But despite the dubious claims made by the pages of Cosmo, watching porn doesn't have to ruin your confidence and sex life. There is a place in society and in our bedrooms for pornography. And under the right circumstances and in the proper frame of mind, watching porn together can actually do wonders for your sex life.
"Porn can actually help foster emotional and sexual intimacy," says Colorado psychologist David Schnarch, author of Resurrecting Sex: Solving Sexual Problems and Revolutionizing Your Relationship, who runs a couples therapy practice with his wife. "A significant portion of our work in helping couples develop a deeper sexual connection is through erotic images. Erotica, as well as couples' own masturbatory fantasies, can be useful tools for helping them develop as adults," he explains. Fantasy is part of a healthy sex life, and porn adds to the repository of sexy scenarios in our heads. It can also inspire couples to experiment more in the bedroom (or outside of it if that's where their fantasies lead them).
Rather than being threatened by your man's stash of porn magazines or the time he spends gazing at online erotica, how about sharing the experiences with him? First of all, just because your man gets excited by looking at a porn star with silicone implants and a big round booty that doesn't mean that he isn't also attracted to you! Trust that he knows the difference between what is real (you) and what is fake (porn queens). But joint viewing isn't just about his tastes and predilections -- it's about your preferences, too. Be sure to speak up and tell your partner what you want to watch, what turns you on. After all, this should be a mutually pleasurable experience.
Here are five reasons why watching porn together can be good for your relationship:
1. It is a shared experience. Any time a couple can share a hobby, or even better, a sexual experience, they are investing in the longevity of their relationship. Going solo with porn is fine, but why not include your partner? In a memorable scene in The Kids Are Alright, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore played a lesbian couple who had their own fun under the sheets while watching a porn film together. Just make sure the kids are out of earshot before proceeding.
2. It's an easy way to learn about your partner's fantasies. Some people are very shy or ashamed about sharing their sexual fantasies with their partners. Others don't even know what really turns them on, much less what gets their spouses' engines revved. Thanks to the Internet, there's a veritable smorgasbord of video clips with professionals and amateurs playing out any and every possible sexual act. With a simple touch of a button, you might be fortunate enough to see your inner desires being acted out onscreen. For those rendered speechless by the question, "What do you fantasize about?" a video clip may say it all. That may be precious information if your partner really wants to learn how to please you. And a great lover aims to please.
3. It can speed up foreplay. In this modern world when everything and everyone is moving at an accelerated pace, the term "quickie" can take on a new significance. And if you have young children who are perpetually just one knock away from the bedroom door, you may need to expedite your intimate moments. According to New Scientist, "In a 2006 study at McGill University, researchers monitored genital temperature changes to measure sexual arousal and found that, when shown porn clips, men and women alike began displaying arousal within 30 seconds; men reached maximum arousal in about 11 minutes, women in about 12."
4. It shatters the myth that you can (and should) only be attracted to your mate. We need to admit and accept the fact that our partner can be turned on by others. Chances are great that you and/or your mate will be fantasizing about someone other than each other at some point during the course of a long-term relationship. Surely even Brad finds women besides Angelina to be attractive -- and visa-versa. Watching porn together allows you to see your partner's arousal at the image of another woman for what it is -- a biological response to a stimulus. There's no need to feel threatened and insecure.
5. It may lessen the need to act out on sexual desires outside of your relationship. Home is where the heart is, and home can also be the place where all of your sexual needs and fantasies are met. If couples can get down and dirty together, it may obviate the need for "extracurricular activities," and I don't mean the kind you can put on your resume. If you're sexually satisfied by your partner, you're less likely to look for gratification elsewhere. Some think that watching or thinking about another is tantamount to "cheating" on your mate, but this sort of mindset ignores a central fact of human sexuality -- most of us crave variety. Allowing your spouse to look at someone else out in cyberspace won't wreck your relationship, but forbidding him/her to do so might put a strain on it. And since it's probable that porn will be viewed, giving permission allows for honesty and openness about one's habits rather than feeling like they are shameful secrets that must be kept hidden. You won't need to clear your "history" on your laptop anymore.
For many, sex is the glue that keeps relationships together. If you and your mate haven't included pornography in your sexual arsenal, there's no time like the present. After all, couples that play together, stay together.