Relationship benefits from pornography

Today I came across a mention of an interesting study, titled:

Female Partners of Men Who Use Pornography: Are Honesty and Mutual Use Associated With Relationship Satisfaction?

Annoyingly, only the abstract is available; the article costs $39. But from the abstract, we have:

“Participants reporting more honesty showed higher satisfaction and lower levels of distress, and participants disclosing mutual use showed lower levels of distress, although no differences were reported in satisfaction.”

… from which Scientific American concluded that being honest about your porn use leads to more relationship success. But it seems the study only interviewed heterosexual women about their male partners’ use of pornography. A bunch of questions crowded into my brain, like:

  • What if more honesty about anything leads to more relationship success (because you feel there’s more communication or whatever)? Where’s the corresponding study on honesty about something that isn’t porn?
  • Why is there an assumption that only men use porn, or that only women would be distressed by their partner’s use of it? Where’s the corresponding study on men’s opinion of their female partners viewing porn?
  • Why the restriction to heterosexual women? Clearly they really wanted to focus on male use of porn. Or there’s some assumption here that it’s a male-only thing. I don’t think that’s true?

So then I browsed around and found this article (of course we only get the abstract again):

Pornography Use: Who Uses It and How It Is Associated with Couple Outcomes

which looks at porn use by both men and women. However, it concludes that “overall results from this study indicated substantial gender differences in terms of use profiles” (I’d be interested to know what they were) and that:

“Specifically, male pornography use was negatively associated with both male and female sexual quality, whereas female pornography use was positively associated with female sexual quality.”

Here I think “sexual quality” means something like “sexual satisfaction.” Or does it mean the quality of the sex one has? It’s also not clear whether “associated” means “what these couples report thinking about it” or “what we actually measured in these couples,” and I’m curious about what the negative associations were. And if any of that $39 were to go to the authors of the paper, I’d be tempted to pay it and find out.

Instead, I was able to find someone else’s summary of this article, which clarifies:

“Specifically, the men in the study were more likely to view pornography alone than the women, and this led to lower levels of sexual desire and lower levels of sexual satisfaction for both the men and the women.

By contrast, the women in the study tended to only view pornography when they were sexually aroused, and do so in the company of their partners. This increased the sexual satisfaction of both the men and the women.”

This suggests that porn viewing as a couple activity can be beneficial. Is there room in our society’s generally negative, condemnatory, and narrow view of pornography to accommodate these findings?

1 of 2 people learned something from this entry.

  1. renee said,

    January 20, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    try #icanhaspdf on twitter :)

  2. Susan said,

    January 21, 2014 at 10:24 am

    (Knew it already.)

    I sort of knew this already.

    I think part of this is that porn is taboo and the sort of expected case is, “Man watches it alone and feels ashamed of it; female partner is disgusted/offended by the very idea.” Inasmuch as both sexes buy into that stereotype, porn use degrades the relationship. Seems like the first study was focusing its methodology around that stereotype as well.

    Porn use in the open by a communicating couple with the goal of augmenting sex life can be beneficial.

    I’m going to guess that porn in homosexual relationships wasn’t examined because it follows some pretty different taboos and social patterns.

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