You, Me & Pornography: Is There a Place for Porn in Modern Relationships?

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According to many recent reports, pornography is destroying countless otherwise healthy relationships. But is it true?

Porn has existed in one form or another for centuries but online porn is affecting people earlier and in more pronounced ways. Still, experts say there is a place for porn (if desired) in most modern relationships.

“Among partners who knowingly and mutually use porn, there should be no concern,” says Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, assistant clinical professor from the school of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Wired for Dating and Wired for Love. “An increasing number of women are attracted to pornography and many enjoy watching with their partners. However, there are many men and women, young and old, who overuse pornography and this is becoming a problem.”

So, how do you know if your “everyone-does-it” porn habit exceeds the bounds of what’s considered healthy?

5 Can’t-Miss Signs Porn Has Become a Problem

#1 Keeping Secrets

Some experts believe that secrecy is a glaring signal that you’ve crossed the line from healthy porn use to a habit that’s putting your well-being and relationships at risk. Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, author and sex addiction and intimacy expert, defines cheating not by whether someone has a physical or emotional affair but by “the breaking of trust and the keeping of secrets in an intimate partnership.”

There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about viewing pornography. But if you can’t be honest about what you’re doing and the emotional impact it may be having, there’s a good chance there’s a problem that needs to be discussed.

#2 Relationship Troubles

Is pornography use a significant source of conflict in your relationship(s)? While the porn-using partner is likely to argue that porn use is healthy, normal and perhaps even a biological necessity, the anti-porn partner may list some of these common reasons why they can’t tolerate porn use:

  1. Viewing porn is a form of cheating.
  2. Pornography use is disgusting, degrading and/or deviant.
  3. Porn gives viewers unrealistic expectations about their partner and/or their sexual experiences.
  4. People who use porn regularly are addicted to sex. 5)Solo porn use disengages one partner from the other and erodes the relationship.

If it’s a problem for one partner, it’s a problem for the relationship. “This problem is no different from partners who disagree on alcohol or drug use or, for that matter, other lifestyle differences,” says Dr. Tatkin. “If partners strongly disagree on the issue, regardless of their reasoning, porn versus no porn may be a deal-breaker. One or the other partner will have to broker a deal that both can live with, fight forever on this subject, or break up.”

#3 Difficulty Relating With Others

Young people who have grown up with unprecedented access to endless varieties of sexual material online may face special challenges. “Pornography is becoming the way very young people orient themselves in terms of sexual performance and expectation, gender roles and sexual behavior,” says Dr. Tatkin.

As a result of this early sex education, some are struggling to relate with others in healthy, effective ways. Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair interviewed a thousand young people for her book The Big Disconnect and found that boys were more likely to be sexually aggressive in their pursuit of girls they liked. When girls rejected their advances, both were left frustrated and confused.

#4 Loss of Interest in Real-Life Experiences

Some people who watch a lot of porn may find increasing relief and excitement with virtual arousal, eventually preferring the high-intensity stimulation of porn to real-life sexual interactions. “The problem here is that Internet porn will increase these individuals’ anxiety and aversion to real, sustained, human sexual contact,” warns Dr. Tatkin.

Psychiatrist Norman Doidge asserts that regular porn use rewires the pleasure centers in the brain, leaving the brain hungry for more and more stimulating imagery in order to be aroused. In his book The Brain That Changes Itself, Doidge writes, “Because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them.”

Heavy porn use has been tied in some studies to erectile dysfunction among young men. It has also been tied to low self-esteem, depression and other negative mental health outcomes. Some regular porn users report that they feel numb or desensitized, not just sexually but also in other areas of their lives.

#5 Porn Addiction

A small percentage of regular porn users may become addicted. Here are a few indications you’ve lost control:

  • Dedicating increasing amounts of time to porn use, often at the expense of other activities such as work, school and family obligations
  • Difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships
  • Viewing progressively more intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Trying to stop or cut back on viewing porn without success
  • Feeling isolated, depressed or ashamed related to porn use
  • Suffering physical injury caused by compulsive masturbation
  • Having legal, financial, career or relationship problems as a result of your porn use

You’re at higher risk of pornography addiction if you suffered early childhood trauma. “People who have been neglected or abused in early childhood are primed for addictions, especially sex-related issues,” Dr. Tatkin explains. “Neglected children will self-stimulate and self-soothe throughout their early developmental years and will become acclimated to something psychobiologists refer to as autoregulation as a default mode of self-care. These children and adults tend to play alone, exploit others, and distance themselves because sustained intimate contact with others is overly stressful.”

Most people who view pornography can do so without negative consequences. But if you’re dealing with any of these problems, you may need to reassess whether porn is a healthy part of your life or something that puts you and your relationships at risk. With widespread availability comes more widespread problems, which means you’re not alone.

SOURCES
Italian Men Suffer ‘Sexual Anorexia’ After Internet Porn Use //ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2011/02/24/visualizza_new.html_1583160579.html

By Meghan Vivo

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