Okay, so pornography has lots of obvious benefits (for adults, that is.): It’s fun, entertaining, often a libido-booster, and often leads to things that feel good.
So why do I tell couples to “proceed with caution” when it comes to porn use?
Because I think porn is bad for women?
Because I am religiously or morally opposed?
Because I think looking at porn equals “cheating on” or dishonoring your partner?
Because research has shown (and I have seen countless examples of this) that pornography is often detrimental to relationships?
Ding ding ding. You have a winner.
Real-life sexual desire, real-life sexual satisfaction, and even non-sexual couples interaction are often compromised by pornography use. (I am going to use male pronouns and the word “husband” to describe the pornography user, since research has shown that male use is generally more problematic than female use.)
While the DSM-5 opted not to include “pornography addiction” as a mental health disorder, and more research is needed on the subject, I have seen uncontrollable, compulsive porn-use ravage relationships (and understandably-so as porn is highly-stimulating, extremely rewarding, often free, and almost always accessible). Pornography use has been cited in 56% of divorces, and 1 in 9 men who have used pornography admit to unsuccessfully trying to stop. A wife who requires conversation, foreplay, and effort simply can’t compete with such mindless, effortless reward, and often-times a husband begins to prefer time with his computer to time with his wife.
Habituation to a certain type of stimulation happens. For example, a porn-watching partner no longer becomes aroused by his partner because he has become “used to” something much more intense and unrealistic than his real-life spouse. “Delayed ejaculation,” erectile dysfunction’s distant cousin, is often a symptom of too-much-porn-itus. And no one wants that for their relationship.
So what does “proceed with caution” mean? It means, be on the look-out for over-use and habituation. If I’m being very honest (and I know lots of readers do not want to hear this), I suggest only viewing pornography with your partner, in the context of increasing desire and arousal WITH one-another. Studies show that women generally use pornography in such a way, and experience increased sexual satisfaction with their partners, while men generally use pornography on their own and experienced decreased sexual satisfaction as a result. Even in this case, if viewing pornography begins to be more enticing than being with your actual partner, this is a huge sign to back away from the computer and erase the hard drive.