Why Do We Watch Porn?

The consumption of pornography doesn't seem to be associated with the satisfaction that a person feels with their own relationship. So, if it's not to fill this gap, what are the reasons that people watch porn?
Why Do We Watch Porn?

Last update: 08 July, 2022

It’s no secret that pornography can give a biased view of sexual relations. However, it’s equally well known that consuming this type of content has become a habit for many -whether or not they have a partner.

When this happens, many partners find themselves wondering: If my partner is satisfied with our sex life, why are they watching porn? Aren’t I enough for them?

A team of researchers led by Beáta Bőthe found that only 5.94 percent of porn consumers said they viewed porn due to a ‘lack of sexual satisfaction’. In other words, most watch porn for reasons other than feeling that their partner isn’t ‘enough’ for them.

So if that’s true, why do we watch porn?

Why do we watch porn?

Man facing the temptation of pornography.

With a seemingly limitless appetite, man has been producing and consuming pornography for as long as it’s been available. For instance, the Romans devoured the love poems and ‘adultery manuals’ of the poet, Ovid, 2,000 years ago. While, today, novels about sex such as Fifty Shades of Grey, 365 Days, and After are breaking ever-increasing sales records.

Pornography had its heyday in 1960. Suddenly, magazines on the subject began to occupy the windows of newsstands as well as the most remote corners of private homes. Now, hundreds of pornographic movies and images are on the Internet for anyone who wants them.

That said, what really happens in our brains when we see a body being caressed and touched? How much porn is it acceptable to watch? Finally, does it really matter that women watch less porn than men?

Unlike the scant research available on reasons for viewing pornography, the study on porn viewing behavior is more substantial. In fact, it’s guided by several theoretical perspectives, including evolutionary ones such as sexual strategy theory (Salmon, 2012 ).

1. To emulate casual sex

Most of the content of pornographic films contains sexual acts and scenes that induce moods and emotions similar to those elicited during casual sex (Hald & Malamuth, 2008). Therefore, it can be argued that the consumption of pornography serves as a substitute for this practice.

Consequently, people who are oriented toward casual sex may watch porn movies to satisfy their need for the stimulation they’d get with the practice in reality.

2. Because of the emotions it awakens

Porn awakens certain common sensations in us. The problem lies in the type, frequency, and function of consumption.

Porn movies are surrounded by a multitude of clichés. Some argue that they present a wrong image of sexuality, but who still honestly thinks that movies are copies of reality?

No one is convinced anymore that romantic comedies are a true reflection of our love lives. Of course, we can recognize ourselves in certain elements and identify with certain situations, but we never believe 100 percent in what happens on the screen.

3. For sexual arousal or pleasure

According to Bőthe, the main reason people watch porn is for sexual pleasure. Sexual desire is, of course, natural and healthy.

In a relationship where partners have different drives, porn is often seen as a way to satisfy that need. However, porn is produced specifically to arouse, not with the health of the consumer or their relationships in mind.

Porn promises a variety of ‘hotter’ and extreme sex but it doesn’t translate to real-life sex. In fact, world-renowned relationship experts and researchers, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have raised serious concerns about the effects of pornography on sexual relationships.

Regular porn consumers may find it eventually takes much more than a normal stimulus to elicit the same response as porn does in them. Indeed, in some cases, ordinary stimulus levels become no longer interesting for them. Therefore, normal sex often ends up becoming much less interesting for porn users.

4. To learn about sex

Another common motivation for viewing porn is to learn about sex. Indeed, this is a common reason for young people to turn to it. As a matter of fact, one study demonstrated that about 45 percent of teens who used porn did so, in part, to learn about sex.

The results also showed that one in four 18-24-year-olds (24.5 percent) cited pornography as the most helpful source for learning about sex. After all, they’re curious and porn may seem like the easiest place to find out about it. But is it the best place?

5. To deal with negative emotions

Another common reason for viewing porn is to deal with uncomfortable emotions. More specifically, ‘stress reduction’ and ‘distraction or emotional suppression’ are listed as motivations for consuming porn. People turn to it to escape these kinds of feelings.

However, although it might seem like a quick fix for temporary loneliness, at best, it’s a cheap distraction, and at worst, it simply fuels those negative feelings.

Whether it’s to de-stress at the end of a bad day or to escape emotions that feel too much to handle, research shows that porn doesn’t really help in the long run. In fact, it’s indicated that those who consume porn to avoid uncomfortable emotions tend to exhibit low emotional and mental well-being.

6. Out of boredom

While boredom is now described in some circles as a positive state of mind that stimulates creativity, even earning the approval of Steve Jobs, many people prefer to avoid it. Consequently, our digital world has done a pretty good job of providing endless amounts of entertainment and distractions for those who can’t stand a dull moment.

But consider this definition of boredom: ‘the aversive experience of wanting, but not being able, to participate in a satisfying activity’. Porn can’t help with boredom because it leaves a person dissatisfied and disconnected. Of course, it’s new and exciting at first, but when the brain is regularly stimulated by porn, it gets bored with watching the same content. Therefore, the person may slowly begin to desire more and different kinds.

Is porn an addiction?

We must take into account that some people simply can’t kick this habit. In fact, because of the ways that viewing porn can affect the brain, it can be really difficult to quit. Furthermore, all of these movies are extremely easily accessible for people to consume as and when they feel like it.

This easy access to porn means consumers achieve immediate and continuous satisfaction and it becomes a kind of drug. Psychology professionals have to take into account this ease of accessibility and addiction when planning any intervention.

Furthermore, they must avoid blaming or moralizing clients suffering from porn addiction. They should promote audiovisual content that conceptualizes sex, not as an immediate, unilateral, and violent need. In addition, clients should be encouraged to view other types of stories of seduction. The kind of productions where sex is represented as an experience that’s surrounded by warmth and long-term satisfaction.

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  • Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Bella, N., Potenza, MN, Demetrovics, Z. y Orosz, G. (2021). ¿Por qué la gente ve pornografía? La base motivacional del uso de la pornografía. Psicología de las conductas adictivas: revista de la Sociedad de Psicólogos en Conductas Adictivas, 35(2), 172–186. https://doi.org/10.1037/adb0000603.
  • Cameron C. Brown, Jared A. Durtschi, Jason S. Carroll, Brian J. Willoughby,
    Understanding and predicting classes of college students who use pornography,
    Computers in Human Behavior. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0747563216306355
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