The Effects of Pornography on a Relationship

How does porn affect a relationship? The answer depends on the particular nature of each partner.
The Effects of Pornography on a Relationship
Marián Carrero Puerto

Written and verified by the psychologist Marián Carrero Puerto.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Have you ever watched pornography? What do you think the effects of pornography on a relationship are? Do you think it’s a determining factor or that it isn’t that important? This question has been the subject of open debate for decades. Today, we’ll analyze it.

Ever since Playboy magazine was first published in the 50s, society has become increasingly tolerant of pornography. We have instant access to this type of content now, from nearly anywhere in the world. The porn audience has diversified and grown as well. Although men still tend to be the major consumers of porn, the number of women who watch it is increasing.

Of course, such a widespread phenomenon doesn’t go unnoticed by researchers. One angle that interests many social science researchers is the effects of pornography on relationships.

Research on the effects of pornography on a relationship

Sociologist Pat Fagan argues that, in romantic relationships, men who watch porn tend to find their marital sex lives less satisfying and feel less emotionally connected to their partners. Women who discover that their partner watches born often feel betrayed, mistrustful, and angry. They may also feel less attractive and sexually inadequate.

Many people argue that pornography can be beneficial for relationships, and especially for their sex lives. They say that watching porn influences people’s attitudes towards sexuality and sexual exploration in a positive way. In other words, it’s all about including pornography as yet another element in a couple’s sex life.

A couple watching porn together.

Study 1

This study, conducted by Lambert et al (2012), identified a lack of data on the effects of the use of pornography on dyadic relationships. Using this information as a starting point, the researchers decided to conduct a study on the effects of watching porn on a particular aspect of romantic relationships: commitment. Their hypothesis was that high levels of porn consumption would relate to a lack of commitment or a weak commitment in romantic relationships.

In one of their studies, their goal was to determine if there was a relationship between pornography consumption and the level of commitment in people’s relationships. They selected 367 participants between the ages of 17 and 26 who self-identified as being in a heterosexual romantic relationship. To figure out how often they watched porn, they asked them the following question: “Approximately how many times in the last thirty days have you visited a website with pornographic content?”

Their data showed that high levels of porn consumption were related to low levels of relationship commitment.

Study 2

Szymanski and Stewart-Richardson (2014) conducted a study designed to measure the expectations about porn use during a long-term relationship or a marriage and gender differences. They found that women are a decisive factor in the use of pornography in relationships. That’s due to the possible addiction that their partner could develop due to the easy access to the content and the increasing number of couples who seek therapy for pornography addiction.

In addition, these authors argued that avoiding porn is one way to protect the quality of the relationship. It’s a strategy to assure that both partners continue to commit to and respect one another.

Szymanski and Stewart Richardson (2014) also found that men can come up with more positive qualities of porn than women. That’s because they believe that porn has a positive effect on their sex lives. They also think it’s a great way to learn new positions and techniques.

Some participants believed that porn had a positive effect on their relationship, whether they watched it with their partner or by themselves. However, the study showed that people who watch porn with their partner are more dedicated to the relationship.

On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that some people are addicted to porn. Their consumption is chronic and out of control. They usually lose interest in having sex with their partner, and their sexual desire for their partner dissipates. That’s because they become desensitized from all of the exposure to sexual stimuli. The only way for it to keep working is to increase the amount. Porn addiction can also cause erection problems, as well as difficulty reaching orgasm. Thus, it often leads to less sex with your partner.

Are the effects of pornography on a relationship positive or negative?

As we mentioned above, this question has been around for a long time. Sam Carr, a professor at the University of Bath, argues that it’s all a matter of perspective.

  • Negative opinions. Those that believe that pornography has a negative effect on relationship stability, frequency of sexual activity, satisfaction with sex, and less commitment or infidelity (Bridges et al., 2003, cited by Lambert e al., 2012; Bergner, 2002, cited by Lambert et al, 2012; Fagan, P.F.).
  • Positive opinions. Some believe that pornography can be beneficial to the relationship, especially for their sex lives, because it’s sexually arousing and can be a way to learn new positions and techniques. They also argue that it’s a way to make partners more dedicated to their relationships (Szymanski and Stewart-Richardson, 2014).

“I once stole a pornographic book that was printed in braille. I used to rub the dirty parts.”

-Woody Allen-

A woman's hand gripping a red sheet.


The human conception of sex and sexuality has evolved over the course of history. We have more information than ever and are exposed to more sexual elements every day. This has repercussions. For example, one of them is that watching porn has been normalized and is now much more widespread. Consequently, the idea that someone’s significant other would watch porn isn’t that strange. Nor is it necessarily negative or a deal-breaker.

Lastly, the benefits or negative effects of pornography depend on who consumes it and if both partners are okay with it. Mutual respect is essential. Otherwise, the consumption of pornography in a relationship would be counterproductive.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Fagan , P. (s.f). Los efectos de la pornografía sobre los individuos, las familias y la sociedad. Estados
    Unidos: Centro de investigación de matrimonio y religión.
  • Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A Love That
    Doesn’t Last: Pornography Consumption and Weakened Commitment to One’s Romantic Partner.
    Journal Of Social & Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410-43.
  • Szymanski, D.M., & Stewart-Richardson, D.N. (2014). Psychological, relational and sexual correlates or
    pornography use on young adult heterosexual men in romantic relationships. Journal of men´s
    studies, 22(1), 64-82. doi: 10.3149/jms.2201.64.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.