Is porn healthy in a relationship? Experts say there’s a balance


Pornography can be a sensitive subject in a relationship — especially if there hasn’t been a discussion about boundaries and what each partner is comfortable with. 

But according to experts, pornography isn’t inherently “bad.”

In fact, it can even be beneficial, depending on the situation and how it’s used, said Jessica’ O’Reilly, a Toronto-based relationship expert and host of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. 

“There is this myth that porn is a public health hazard … but the reality is, the effects of porn, when you actually study the effects, are not as detrimental as we’d like to believe,” she said. 

Myths surrounding porn consumption, including that it impacts our relationships and disrupts monogamous sex lives, are incorrect, she told hosts on Global News’ The Morning Show.

While past research has pointed to porn as a reason for a relationship’s demise, current studies claim that those researchers had inaccurate assumptions about why people watch porn in the first place.

Studies from the last few years found porn is associated with higher sexual satisfaction and openness among partnered women. But it truly depends on why someone is using pornography, researchers at Michigan State university explain. 

Porn does become a problem if one partner becomes preoccupied with it, and ignores their “romantic, family and work life,” because of it, the researchers explained. 

“People say they’re addicted to porn, but the reality is, it is often a symptom of the problem,” said O’Reilly. “If porn is an issue in your relationship, there’s probably something else beneath the surface causing these issues.”

Does porn lead to cheating? 

Pornography is a common part of many people’s lives, with about 46 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women watching weekly. Researchers suggest the rates are lower for women because they may not be as interested in the content, as it’s usually marketed towards heterosexual men. 

But porn is usually not the sole cause of someone cheating in a relationship, said O’Reilly. 

“This is a scapegoat thing. We say ‘porn made me do it’ when in fact it’s narcissism, relationship deficits, issues around sexual personality and compatibility,” she said. 

“Everything we see, we don’t necessarily emulate,” she said.

Watching porn without your partner knowing isn’t a problem on its own, but it depends on your intentions, said Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based relationship expert. 

“If watching becomes a substitute for sex or stimulation by your own partner, this is where this is likely to become a problem,” she said in a previous Global News report. 

Watching porn responsibly while in a relationship 

Relying on porn as a guide to sex and trying to emulate it is a problem, as it’s not realistic, said O’Reilly. “When we do that, we often fall short,” she said.

“Use it in moderation and be very honest with your partner about it,” she said. “If you don’t agree on porn, then you’re probably not compatible.”

“The more out in the open it is, the more the couple itself is likely to benefit from its use.”

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