5 Women Get Real About the Role Porn Plays in Their Relationships

How porn affects relationships
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Whatever you think about porn, the reality is that it’s part of our world and is pretty much unavoidable. In 2015, the industry had an estimated worth of $97 billion worldwide—that’s a whole lot of money going into getting off. From politicians seeking to ban porn to social activists discussing how porn propagates rape culture, there are many people in the world who believe that porn doesn’t have a place in our society. Pamela Anderson, of all people, even co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month about the dangers of porn addiction and its negative effects on families and marriages.

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It’s true that porn addiction is a serious issue that should be treated, and some of the portrayals of women in porn leave much to be desired, but it’s shortsighted to claim that that porn has a detrimental effect on everyone who watches it. According to the American Psychological Association, somewhere between 30 and 86 percent of women watch it on the reg, so there must be some women who have good experiences, right?

To investigate, we talked to five real women to find out how they feel about porn and how it’s affected their romantic relationships.

I’d rather watch it together than have my partner hide it.

“I’m not really into porn and I don’t watch it on my own, but I know that my S.O. likes it. We’ve watched it together before, which was totally awkward at first, but I have to admit that it introduced some new ideas and positions into our usual three-position sex routine. I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it alone, but I’d rather that we watch it together than have my partner hide it from me.” –Anonymous, 30, New York City

Openly talking about porn put my boyfriend at ease.

“I actually discovered a sexual fetish while in a relationship through porn, and it was kinda fun to share ‘awkward porn stories’ with my S.O. I was able to just be open about feeling icky about liking something weird, trying to find time to masturbate, and being happy that I had discovered this new part of my brain. From my boyfriend’s perspective, I think having a girlfriend who was openly talking about it may have put him more at ease than being with someone who never ever talked about porn.” –Anonymous, 26, Los Angeles

I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy porn—it makes me feel so awkward.

“It makes me feel lame to admit this, but porn makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t like it at all, watching it embarasses me. Maybe that’s something I need to deal with, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy it because it makes me feel so awkward. It’s very strange for me to watch because even though I know it’s real sex, it doesn’t feel real to me because it’s on a screen. It’s hard for me to understand why people don’t just communicate with their partner about what they want their personal sex lives to be like instead of looking to unrealistic images of what sex is ‘supposed’ to be like. I’ve tried to talk to my partner about it, but he never gives me details about how much he watches porn—just that he does. It hasn’t been a major problem because we live together so I know he can’t be watching it that much.” –Anonymous, 28, Philadelphia

Porn can be empowering rather than degrading.

“For me, porn has introduced things that I find sexually interesting and actually taught me to look at sex in a different way. I know there’s been a lot of conversation about how bad porn is for body image, but I think it can be kind of empowering rather than degrading. In my last relationship, porn allowed me to safely explore fantasies that were pretty kinky and unrealistic in real life. Instead of having to explain exactly what I was into, I was able to just show my partner a video to explain it. It still felt risky, but definitely better than laying it all out on the table.” –Anonymous, 29, Washington, D.C.

Porn has had an influence on what I find exciting in bed.

“I discovered porn pretty early, and I think that for better or worse, it informed a lot of my sexual preferences. I don’t really think that it has affected my relationships specifically, but it has definitely had an influence on what I find exciting enough in bed. When I’ve hooked up with people who keep things very vanilla—meaning no dirty talk, totally gentle, no butt stuff—I find myself getting bored really quickly. I like it when my partners are open about watching porn because it makes me feel less self-conscious about the fact that I watch it, too.” –Anonymous, 27, New York City)

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