You'll probably be surprised how many couples say they watch porn together. And more than half say it's spiced up their sex life. Kerry Hiatt reports on the benefits of porn in your partnership
Thanks to the internet, porn has never been more prevalent. But does it have a place in your relationship?
Their bodies are toned and glistening and they have an expression of sensual, come-hither playfulness. They’re adventurous: they will try anything you want and indulge every sexual fantasy you’ve ever had.
Better yet, they’re never too tired for you. They can be in your home, ready and willing, at the mere click of a mouse.
Pornography is more prevalent and attainable now than it has ever been. It’s easy, fast and very convenient to get hold of. And you might be surprised to discover just how many people are using it.
Not only is ‘sex’ the number one most-searched term on the world’s biggest search engines, studies show that 80 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women watch pornography on a regular basis. Nearly all couples (96 per cent) admit to watching adult films together.
It’s true that with the advent of the internet we have more access to voyeuristic sex than ever before. Yet it seems that talking about our erotic viewing habits is still largely taboo and it’s a subject that remains in the shadows.
With so much conflicting information available, it’s hard to know whether you should be taking advantage of porn’s pervasiveness.
Should it have a place in your home and partnership? What are the pleasures and pitfalls of using it? And, if you want to, how can you start a dialogue about it in your relationship?
Of the aforementioned 96 per cent of couples – in both heterosexual and same-sex partnerships – regularly watching pornography together, 58 per cent claim the shared activity has a positive effect on their sex lives.
Nearly half say porn has helped to spice up their love life, too, by increasing their confidence in telling their partner what they like between the sheets.
A further 23 per cent of couples say watching adult films brings them closer together.
The numbers are impressive. Experts agree that there are lots of benefits to watching porn together. It can add a new and exciting dimension to your relationship, as long as you are both comfortable with the decision and respect one another’s feelings, tastes and desires.
Relationship consultant and licensed marriage therapist Lesli Doares says: “Adult films can be a safe way to open up dialogue about what you each find exciting or things you might be curious about trying.
“They might expose you to new positions or activities you didn’t know about. They can also get you in the mood quickly.”
Anna Kingsley, a private-practice relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist, agrees. “Porn can help you to explore your own fantasies. It can help you to acknowledge your limitations, identify your turn-offs and explore the turn-ons that you never knew you had. Sometimes we need a degree of escapism to separate our erotic lives from our everyday routine.
“Porn has moved on immensely over the past ten years, too. We now have women-friendly porn websites and even what some describe as feminist porn.”
Mature couple Si U and his wife Ming have been using pornography regularly since they were 27. “We discovered hardcore porn on a visit to Copenhagen in 1970. We went to our first adult bookshop there, bought three magazines, went home, looked through them and made love all afternoon. It was quite a revelation to us.”
Si gives more insight: “I think good love making needs to start with making a break with one’s everyday cares. Watching a little porn gets your head out of thinking about the children, work, the stock market, and it gets the libido going.
“We have learned new sex techniques from porn. We have enjoyed watching people with a variety of body types, fetishes, toys, and approaches to sex. And seeing the different aesthetics and attitudes to sex in other cultures has been fascinating, too.”
Vanessa Marin, a leading psychotherapist who specialises in sex therapy, says Si and Ming’s approach is a healthy one. “Porn can definitely add a spark to your relationship. Watching sexual scenes play out in front of you can be arousing.
“A recent study found that couples who shared their porn habits reported having more committed and sexually satisfying relationships than couples who hid what they were doing from each other.”
Discovering your partner watches porn
But what happens if you discover your significant other has been hiding their porn usage?
Sophie M, 50, recalls the day she found concealed pornographic materials stowed away by her husband. They had been married for 15 years. “I felt betrayed, as though I wasn’t enough for him. That he wasn’t satisfied with our relationship,” she says.
“I found it hurtful that he needed to look at porn in secret when I thought our sex life was good.”
Anna Kingsley says women often feel hurt and apprehensive in this situation. “It can make them feel suspicious if he is watching porn secretly behind her back. She can become mistrustful and hurt.
“She can feel like she has become the other woman – that their partner prefers porn to them.”
So what should you do if you discover your partner has a stash of porn, or you find adult websites in their web browser history?
Anna says: “First, don’t jump to conclusions and don’t attack, but don’t stay silent. You need to talk about it.
“You should also take a hard look at your sex life. Are you happy with it? How could it be better? Could you use this conversation about porn to start talking about how to improve the sex the two of you do have?”
In addition, it’s important to remember that, while watching porn in secret has its allure, it’s always going to be a somewhat lonely and voyeuristic pastime.
Real sex, in contrast, offers courtship, touching, pheromones, emotional connection and interaction with a tangible person. There is little substitute for that. Unless you use pornography as part of your lovemaking, that is.
“I suggest watching porn together as foreplay,” says Vanessa Marin.
“You can start by watching movies that have particularly steamy sex scenes. Try talking about what’s happening as the movie is unfolding. Share what you like and dislike. This will help you feel more connected to each other.
“You can then play a fun little game by imitating what’s happening on screen. You may get some new ideas.”
Both the statistics and the experts agree that there is a place for porn in your partnership – if you want there to be. As Vanessa suggests, start slow. And as with all things in relationships, communication and respect are key to making it work.