Contributed by Sammy Uyama
“What’s wrong with porn?”
It’s a legitimate question, especially if you grew up with porn and it seems like just a normal thing people do.
Porn implants itself deep into our psyche and filters how we view sex in ways we are not even aware of. It creates a template in our minds for what to expect from sex and what we think good sex is. It takes the possibility of something unique and creative and turns it into something predictable and trite. That’s especially sad because sex is great, but it takes something to make sex great. Porn is an easy distraction that makes great sex harder.
Someone with a pornified view of sex will naturally pornify their intimate relationship. It may be unintentional, but it’s unavoidable. Having a pornfied view of sex doesn’t necessarily have to come from direct exposure. Porn has affected our cultural understanding of sex and has likely seeped into each of our psyches in one way or another.
Here are signs that you are in a pornified relationship or have a pornified view of relationships:
(Credit to Andrew Bauman and his essays on The Psychology of Porn for helping me formulate many of my ideas on this topic)
Wanting your partner to have a certain vibe. Thinking that in order to be sexy they need a particular body shape, hairstyle, hair color, personality trait, hobby, way of talking, attitude, fashion, etc.
A telltale sign of a person with a pornified view of sex is the line, “I’m into ______________.” where they fill in the blank with whatever flips their switch; blondes, Asians, butts, tattoos, whatever it may be.
Viewing thousands of sexual images over many years trains the brain to view people in a certain way and for a specific purpose. Porn is about bodies and the purpose is orgasm. The people and their stories are irrelevant. Once they no longer serve their purpose, they’re discarded without a second thought.
Objectification turns a multi-dimensional person into a single attribute. That’s not even two-dimensional. A person’s value is reduced to a collection of singular traits. People become instruments to serve your objectives, rather than humans with whom to engage in a dynamic relationship.
This way of relating never allows us to experience contentment. Objectification seeks perfection; a never-ending quest for the collection of perfect qualities to satisfy our deepest sexual desires. It’s what fuels the always-scanning radar for sexually pleasing stimuli that many of us have.
The solution to objectification is dignity. Dignity seeks to see the totality of a person, their aspirations, opinions, history, and ultimately, their inalienable value as a human being.
Wanting sex to happen a specific way. Scripts adapted from porn are most apparent in how they influence our preferences for the actual act of sex. Always going for a specific act, a certain pose, or angle.
When we become insistent on how sex happens with our partner, it means we have an expectation. There are many ways for sex to be great and all of them have to do with the quality of relationship that the sex is built on. The logistics of sex are far less important. If you rely on these things to provide great sex, then the chances are ten times out of nine (that’s not a typo) you’ve adapted this concept directly or indirectly from porn.
It’s fine to develop preferences that come from your couple’s direct experience. It’s also natural to be curious and want to experiment and explore a variety of sexual experiences together.
It’s also perfectly fine to make requests from your partner. A husband has every right to ask his wife for any sexual favor he would like, and vice versa. In a healthy relationship, each person delights in making their spouse happy.
What’s unhealthy in a relationship is having expectations. If a husband makes a request of his wife and gets upset when she says no, it indicates that he has an expectation of her. Likewise, the wife is free to say no, but if she gets angry on top of that because her husband has the audacity to even ask such a thing, she’s having an expectation of him. Genuine requests are a straightforward expression of a person’s wishes. They’re freely given and freely accepted or denied. If there is any attachment to the outcome then it’s not a request, but a demand.
Healthy sex is a creative act between two people. The wording on that is important. It’s between two individuals, unfretted by outside forces. In a loving relationship where each side honors and uplifts the other, the world is their oyster. They’re free to explore any expression of sexuality to their hearts’ content. The key is that they maintain a heart of honoring and uplifting one another and relinquish any expectations for what is needed to have a sexually satisfying relationship.
The solution for sexual expectations is to generate an attitude of sexual discovery. Treat your sexual relationship like an unprecedented, never-before-in-history occasion. There is nothing to model, no standard to achieve. It’s an uncharted territory for your couple to discover and create together.
Porn turns the user into the absolute ruler of their sexual universe. It’s a one-sided dynamic where we control every aspect of the sexual experience and those involved exist only to perfectly serve our every desire. There is no one else to satisfy, no one to consider, and we control the romance, the rituals, and the climax. That control becomes familiar, safe, and then expected. When one or both sides of a relationship are unable to relinquish sexual control, they are in a pornified relationship.
Porn is very quick. 52% of users spend less than 5 minutes a session watching porn1. 86% of users spend less than 20 minutes a session. Porn creates expediency around sex that is instantly gratifying. It’s the opposite of intimacy. Intimacy is slow. The majority of men care that their partner is sexually satisfied2 and many will take the time to prioritize her orgasm, but he wants her to be quick about it. He’ll go a little faster, a little harder, in the hopes that it will speed things along. Women will often feel pressured to orgasm, which is a direct cause of the high rate of faked orgasms among women3.
Another sign is an abrupt disconnection between the couple after climax (the guy rolling over and falling asleep trope). Porn is like that. Thrilling, quick, and then done.
Healthy sex is often (but of course, not always) leisurely, gentle, relaxed, and not bent on orgasm as the end-all-be-all. Healthy sex also builds on itself, providing more experience and more closeness for the couple. It’s not a collection of singular experiences. If you’ve NEVER experienced naked cuddling, intimate eye contact, massage, or touch that doesn’t lead to sex, then you’re probably in a pornified relationship.
Porn causes us to create a secret world for ourselves behind closed doors where our sexuality remains hidden. This becomes a sacred space that no soul may dare enter. We become paranoid of anyone discovering it. The idea of letting someone into this space feels threatening and disruptive. Sometimes our experience of sex is so engrafted onto this sacred space that we find it difficult to talk about sex in any capacity.
The antidote to this isolation is connection and communication. If a couple is unable to openly talk about sex with one another, it’s a sign they’re in a pornified relationship. Couples are meant to share openly, discover, and evolve their sexuality together.
Porn nourishes a fantasy world within our minds and dulls the quality of our reality. Fantasy seeks to escape from what’s real when reality is painful, whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, or the inevitable challenges of a genuine relationship. Fantasy provides respite, but never resolves our innermost needs.
The opposite of fantasy is authenticity. Healthy relationships dwell in reality. They tackle the challenges of real life and focus on growing together.
This isn’t to discourage couples that enjoy role play. Fantasy is a solo experience within our minds and is the soil in which objectification, control, isolation, and expectation grow. Role play can be an intimate and vulnerable way for a couple to bond. Remember what was said earlier, a couple is free to explore any expression of sexuality as long as they do so with a heart of discovery that uplifts and honors one another.
If you identify any of these traits in you or your partner, all is not lost! It’s an opportunity to recognize something for you to work on, and we’re here to help. You can join one of our programs to break away from porn, create a dignified view of sex, or begin your couple’s journey to heavenly intimacy. Porn has a tangible effect on our intimate relationships, but we can always grow and move towards where we want to be.