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July 11, 2022

The "Porn" Elephant In The Room

Wayne Gray

4 Ways To Address The Topic Of Pornography With Your Partner  

For better or worse, watching pornography has become a pretty mainstream activity in Western society, yet it continues to be a polarizing issue in society and in our relationships. While many people have found ways to integrate pornography into their lives as a healthy component of their sexuality, there is evidence to support that porn can have a negative impact on relationships. 

The elephant in the room

Within a relationship, the use of porn by one partner is often “the elephant in the room” that the other person wants to be rid of. In society, pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry with an economic forecast that grows at an astronomical rate year over year. 

In North America alone, pornography generates at least $15 billion in revenues per year — Netflix generates $12 billion, Hollywood $11.1 billion, and Viacom $13.3 billion, for comparison — making this an “elephant in the room” the size of Godzilla. 

Is porn problematic? 

Rightly or wrongly, pornography has been scorned as the source of society’s ills for a long time, but the fundamental concern surrounding porn is its potential to warp our sexual interests, behaviours and relationships. 

Pornography mixes a hefty spoonful of self-interest, stirred in with a cup full of unbridled desire and a sprinkle of unchecked abusive power cleverly disguised as erotic pleasure. This perfect storm of emotional manipulation is an alluring recipe for many.

The internet has also brought the world to our fingertips. With a device and Wi-Fi, anyone can get access to an overwhelming, limitless supply of pornographic material. Unhampered access to the internet has wreaked havoc in the lives of some adults, couples, families, and children.

Roughly 90% of men and 60% of women watch porn, so what’s the big deal?

I’m not here to pick sides or to tell you what to do. Your decision to watch or not to watch pornography is yours to make, and yours alone. However, as a licensed therapist who works with couples, I can tell you that the topic of pornography gets brought up a lot. And research suggests that porn can be a driver in making relationships worse.

A growing number of couples have reported that pornography:

  • Has increased conflicts in their relationship.
  • Has led to a loss of trust (usually one partner doesn’t want the other to know that they’re watching porn because they feel ashamed, or they know it will cause friction).
  • Has negatively impacted love and intimacy in their relationship.

Whether you watch pornography regularly, or you have a problem with your partner’s use of pornography, here are some things to consider before addressing the topic.     

  1. Be intentional about exploring your thoughts and feelings. Be honest with yourself and inspect what feelings are coming to the forefront. Remember you want your sexual preferences, insecurities, and expectations to be heard in a calm and meaningful way by your partner when that time comes.   
  2. Judgement will extinguish any well-intentioned communication. Communication requires a connection, so all parties must remain receptive. You won’t get answers if your partner is feeling attacked. Judgment regarding one’s sexual preferences only leads to alienation and indifference.
  3. Remember this is not an everyday conversation. Having a conversation about pornography with your partner is not a casual conversation, so be deliberate with your approach, and keep interruptions to a minimum. Speak in a calm and neutral tone for the best outcome. 
  4. What you learn will help to carve a way forward. Pornography isn’t an easy conversation for anyone, but for people from some cultures and backgrounds, it can be an even more challenging topic of discussion. Your goal is to find out if pornography is having an impact on your relationship. 

As a society, it’s important that we continue to create a space where research, education and dialogue can exist alongside hypersexuality. By continuously advancing healthy sexual attitudes, expectations, and values, we can succeed in pushing the porn elephant out of the room.

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