Hot and cold

The effects of pornography on relationships

By Don Hurst

Pornography is a global $97 billion a year industry. That wasn’t a typo. That was a B as in billion. To put that in perspective, in 2015, McDonald’s only generated a paltry $25 billion in revenue.

Men spend more money on porn than on Big Macs, but unless they are on a diet, they don’t go to great lengths to hide those burger wrappers like we do our internet browsing history. Entire industries have sprouted to help clean computers so when men die, the bereaved will never know what kind of porn they watched. Even the websites know they are trying to keep this on the down low. The charges show up on credit card statements as
innocent acronyms.

Pornography use is widespread, but it’s not something readily volunteered, especially among men in relationships. It’s a rare type of man who can fire up his computer in front of his significant other and partake of porn. No, it’s often done when everyone is asleep or gone for the day.

Why? Because excessive porn use in a relationship can lead to being out of
a relationship.

According to a study conducted by the conservative leaning Center of Research on Marriage and Religion, porn use was cited as a factor for more than 56 percent of divorces. Those findings align with research from more secular groups. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that two-thirds of its members cited porn as a significant reason in divorce.

Local certified sex therapist Dr. Carol Jaxson-Jager has experience dealing with relationships that suffer due to pornography habits. She finds that most men watch porn because their partner doesn’t sexually satisfy them or their partner is not giving them something they need. Instead of communicating their wants, they retreat to porn. “People watching don’t tell their partners. They are getting sexually satisfied alone,” Dr. Jaxson-Jaeger says. “They rebuff their partner sexually and the partner left behind doesn’t know why. The partner begins to think something is wrong with her.”

Even when women know their partner watches porn, there can be issues. According to Dr. Jaxon-Jager, women compare themselves to the enhanced females with the 44 DD breasts and feel diminished.  When normal can’t compete with unrealistic fantasy, women do more drastic things to regain their partner’s attention.

Advice columnist and author Amy Alkon believes it is unfair men take a lot of blame for fantasizing about the women in pornography. She elaborates that men are biologically wired to look at women; it’s healthy. Women fantasize just as much as men, just in a different way. Women read romance books and wonder why their men can’t be like the rough but gentle pirate lover or the sparkly emotional vampire offering undying devotion. Real men can’t compete with these expectations, just like real women can’t compete with the fantasized women in porn.

As long as adults realize these are just daydreams, then it should not harm their relationships. In fact, Alkon explains, porn can strengthen them if both parties engage in watching together to spice up their love life.

Dr. Jaxson-Jager agrees that porn can have benefits if both partners are watching together to help with their intimacy. However, both partners have to be completely willing. “It causes bad feelings when two people aren’t on the same page. They get upset—they stop speaking to each other because they were emotionally blackmailed into watching porn,” Dr. Jaxson-Jager says.

The harmful effects rise exponentially if a woman feels pressured into performing some of the acts portrayed in pornography. “The problem is that a lot of what happens in these videos is degrading and painful,” Dr. Jaxson-Jager says.

Pornography isn’t going to get lighter any time soon. Dr. Rebecca Whisnant, former director of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Dayton and editorial board member of the journal Sexualization, Media, and Society, has examined the portrayal of women in pornography. “Watching people have missionary sex over and over again gets boring. The industry has to escalate to keep men interested by pushing taboos and raising the level of aggression,” Dr. Whisnant says.

The internet makes it possible to find every niche imaginable from relatively innocent girls kissing girls to more extreme behavior like double penetration, rape fantasies, and digital manipulation to make performers look like children.

“Studies show that after watching a lot of porn, subjects had a more tolerant view on rape and were more likely to use coercion in sexual encounters,” Dr. Whisnant says. These extreme acts can become the new normal.  “Women in relationships with heavy porn users say the sex is more aggressive. They’ve done things they felt forced to do,” she continues.

Amy Alkon points out that the key difference is between men who abuse porn and casual viewers. There will be men who cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, but those few don’t speak for the majority. “Most men know that if they’re the pizza guy, they’re not going to walk into an orgy,” Alkon says. “The moral is we have to be adults. Anything can hurt us if we overindulge. Don’t be a jerk and as long as you’re not watching porn while your girl is upstairs waiting for you, then you’ll be fine.”

The power of pornography to either destroy or enhance a relationship depends on the couple. The motive matters. Is porn used to exert sexual control over another person or is it used to explore greater intimacy? Communication and respect make all the difference.

To reach Amy Alkon, please email To reach Dr. Rebecca Whisnant, please email To reach Dr. Dr. Carol Jaxson-Jager please email

Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at

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Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at

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