The Impact of Pornography on Couples: Part 2

Tuesday, 05 September 2023 15:27 Written by Chloe Pimentel

When considering the impact of pornography, it is necessary to also discuss the ethical implications of its use. Even the most mainstream pornography promotes and normalizes violence against women. The documentary Brain, heart, world highlights that in pornography, 95% of the time when someone is hit (typically a woman), the viewer sees either no reaction or a reaction of pleasure. Due to the normalization of violent and criminal pornography, the documentary argues that pornography positively models men acting violently towards women, and suggests to women that they should enjoy it. Pornography use was also found to be associated with domestic violence and attitudes of violence towards women (Brain, heart, world; Gottman, 2021). Any content that is found to be associated with violent behavior within relationships should not be taken lightly. Additionally, pornography and sex trafficking go hand in hand, as there is no way to know for sure if the actors seen on screen are consenting adults (Brain, heart, world). The Gottman Institute argues that the consumption of mainstream pornography inevitably facilitates the continuation of an industry that abuses its actors. Lastly, regardless of whether people watch “ethical pornography” or not, pornography is still associated with viewing sexual partners as sexual objects, and there are still the aforementioned risks.

So what to make of all of this? While it would be unrealistic to expect every couple to stop viewing pornography upon discovering this research, the literature does highlight the importance of being an informed consumer. With this knowledge in mind, you can make an informed decision about what is right for you and what works within your relationship. Being aware and mindful of the risks will help you identify any negative effects of pornography if they arise. In addition, the research discussed above illustrates that it is not necessarily pornography in general, but the type of pornography being viewed that could be at the root of many of these negative effects. Given these findings, it is essential to consider and evaluate the type of pornography you choose to watch, as well as the platform promoting it. Depending on the content, there may be harmful overt or covert messaging about sexual power/control dynamics and violence which can further hinder intimacy and connection within the relationship. Since pornography can also develop into a behavioral addiction, it is imperative to keep in mind how long and how often you are watching it. Lastly, make sure to check in with your partner about the role of pornography in your relationship. There is so much variance when it comes to individuals' boundaries regarding pornography use in their relationship, and pornography use can be significantly more detrimental to your relationship if your partner is not okay with it as well (Huntington et al., 2021).

Written by Chloe Pimentel, Graduate Level Therapist of Wellington Counseling Group


Brain, heart, world - docuseries about the harmful effects of porn. Brain Heart World. (2022, June 23).

Gottman, J. (2021, February 4). An open letter on Porn. The Gottman Institute.

Huntington, C., Markman, H., & Rhoades, G. (2021). Watching Pornography Alone or Together: Longitudinal Associations With Romantic Relationship Quality. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 47(2), 130–146.