This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Put together, the top ten most visited websites in the world attract nearly a trillion visits every month. High up the list, you’ll find all the usual suspects: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter… Then, coming in at #9 and #10, several spots before streaming giants like Netflix (#17) or Disney Plus (#208), are the two largest pornography streaming platforms today. So it’s safe to assume that loads of people watch porn.
But just because everybody’s doing something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good, right? With pornography becoming not only incredibly pervasive in our society but also highly accessible, it makes sense to wonder whether watching porn can have harmful effects.
Is watching porn bad?
Asking the question “is watching pornography is bad?” compares to asking whether watching television is bad. The answer is that it depends. No, there’s nothing inherently wrong with watching porn, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with watching TV. Some people would argue, in fact, that there are physical and psychological benefits to watching porn. But, on the other hand, both activities have negative aspects and have the potential of becoming problematic.
Pros and cons of pornography
Online pornography is the most common form of porn, but it isn’t the only one. Any explicit depiction of erotic behavior — as in pictures, writing, video, audio, etc. — that’s intended to cause arousal could be defined as pornographic. This includes non-commercial materials (i.e., for your or your partner’s eyes only), like home videos and even nude pics.
Since porn can mean different things for different people, it can be good or bad for you, depending on how you use it. Millions of men and women consume porn every year, and the vast majority do so without any issue. However, it has also been associated with adverse outcomes. Here’s a look at the pros and cons.
It destigmatizes sex: sex is still considered a huge taboo in many parts of the world. This stigma continues to affect how people interact with each other in society and in relationships and contributes to the rising number of STDs. Some folks find that watching different kinds of people have different kinds of sex makes it feel a lot less intimidating.
It can increase intimacy in a relationship: many couples report that watching porn together makes them feel closer and more intimate. But how each person feels about porn also influences how it affects the relationship. A study in the Journal of Sex Research found that porn was associated with more relationship satisfaction among people who were more accepting of it. But for those who were less accepting of porn, watching it was associated with lower relationship satisfaction.
Unrealistic expectations: it’s no secret that many pornographic videos and images promote unrealistic standards about beauty and sex, especially concerning the female body. Many mental health experts worry that these unrealistic expectations contribute to body image issues and low self-esteem. It can also help nurture unrealistic expectations about sexual partners, which can be very damaging for relationships.
Can be addictive: pornography use can turn compulsive and potentially lead to addiction. This compulsion can stem from a variety of factors: underlying mental health conditions, relationship problems, oppressive cultural norms and beliefs about sex, and more. Learn more about the potentially addictive side of pornography here https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/pornography/.
Should I watch pornography?
Deciding to watch pornography or not is entirely up to you — and there’s no shame in either decision. Porn can be good, bad, or totally meaningless, depending on how you use it. If you have concerns about your porn use, don’t be afraid to speak up. A sex-positive mental health professional can help you look at the role porn plays in your life and relationships and encourage you to explore your sexuality in a non-judgmental way.