Porn is seriously affecting your sex life – whether you watch it or not

From issues reaching orgasm to an obsession with fantasies, Marie Claire investigates porn’s devastating effect on our sex lives

Words by Olivia Foster

Porn is now more accessible than ever before, with sites such as PornHub which currently boasts nearly 10 million videos, to others where viewers can watch real-life ‘normal’ people engaging in sexual acts either alone or with a partner. In fact, research says that within the last six months 73% of women and 98% of men have watched porn.

But with scenes that are often skewed entirely towards male desires and over dramatic representations of female pleasure, what does regular viewing of this type of material really do to our sex lives? Well, reports suggest that overuse of porn could be linked to a rise in the number of men suffering from erectile dysfunction, as well as delayed ejaculation. This can be because of ‘edging,’ where men hold off from orgasm when watching porn in order to climax at the perfect scene – the result being that when he has sex IRL, without the high levels of visual stimulation, he can’t orgasm.

This is something 32 year old Harriet* experienced with her last boyfriend. ‘I knew that Tom was into watching porn because he’d mentioned it a couple of times, but I hadn’t thought anything of it,’ she said, ‘It quickly became apparent though that it was a bigger issue when we started having sex and he could never orgasm with me, always having to finish himself off. It was hard for me because it always felt like our sex lacked true intimacy.’

Relationship counsellor and BBC Three Sex On The Couch presenter Lohani Noor told Marie Claire, ‘Many people are influenced by porn in terms of how they define their sexual self. Much like an actor or an activist might influence your thinking. But this is quite scary when you think the whole premise of porn is fantasy and largely male fantasy,’ she says. ‘Further a woman is not likely to achieve orgasm in the ways often defined by pornography. Female orgasm is largely linked to stimulation of the clitoris, consequently vaginal penetration alone is not likely to generate an orgasm.’ And Noor has a word of warning about porn’s negative effects regarding emotional intimacy. ‘Pornography also generally tends to omit the deeper feelings of intimacy and emotional connectedness – factors which rank fairly high on what determines good sex.’

porn affecting sex life

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Indeed, all the women we spoke to confessed that the way their sexual partners behaved left them feeling a lack of true intimacy, such as 25-year-old Lily.* ‘I met a guy on a night out and took him home, it was all going really well until he started asking me to call him, “Daddy,” and later, “Papi.” That’s not something I’m comfortable with which I explained to him, after that he was really awkward and when he left in the morning I never heard from him again.’

Sarah*, 31, revealed the last person she dated introduced fantasies about ‘breeding,’ her the second time they had sex. ‘He started telling me he wanted to get me pregnant,’ she said, explaining that she later discovered this is a common strand of pornographic story in which men take ownership over a woman by impregnating her. ‘Having had a pregnancy scare with a previous partner this was not a turn on for me, but when I tried to talk to him about he just shut me down saying, “People say all sorts during sex.”’

In fact, with most of the women we spoke to the problem wasn’t necessarily the sex itself, but their partners’ inability to have an open dialogue with them. ‘If you want to act out some fantasy role play based on pornographic images/ videos [then you should] speak to your partner and negotiate some terms. Role play can be hugely exciting and stimulating,’ Noor says. Communication is the key believes the relationship counsellor to overcoming the disruptive and negative effects of porn. ‘If you cannot speak to your partner about your sexual needs then you really need to address communication and trust before advancing onto sexual play of any kind,’ advises Noor. ‘Couples that engage in sex without communication are couples who are sorely lacking in intimacy and potentially missing out on the real joy of sex.’

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