Sex advice: Why does my lovely boyfriend use porn during sex?

My boyfriend likes to watch porn before (and sometimes during) sex. He’s so considerate and lovely in all other ways that I find it puzzling. I definitely don’t like it. I’d rather he was focusing on the intimate moment between the two of us than the acrobatics on screen.

Your boyfriend’s openness is unusual, because although men use porn more than women, they generally do so alone. In 2017, Professor Jason S Carroll explored gender differences in porn use in relationships and found that 50% of men — but only 1.2% of women — reported looking at porn weekly. However, 44.6% of the male participants always used porn alone, whereas women were three to four times more likely to report watching it with their partner.

Findings from research into the impact of porn on relationships are mixed, but — inevitably, perhaps — they are more positive for couples who use it together, rather than on their own. Studies have suggested that couples who use porn together are generally more open to new sexual experiences, have sex more often, and find it easier to discuss desires and fantasies. 

This is much more positive than the research on couples in which only one partner uses porn. These couples end up being less committed, more sexually dissatisfied, and are three times more likely to split up.

There are several explanations as to why this may be. The most widespread theory is that porn depicts improbable sexual scenarios that foster unrealistic expectations and that this serves to increase dissatisfaction. Carroll’s work demonstrates that men and women routinely hide their porn use from partners and that this contributes to feelings of exclusion, reduced trust, and increased conflict. It could also be that while some people are comfortable with their partner having a private, solo sex life, others are not.

There is a positive — your partner is open about his porn use. Carroll’s research would suggest that is a good thing. However, you are right to question why he relies on it and what that means for you. Studies have found that higher rates of porn use are associated with greater levels of depression in men and that it affects female partners psychologically too. 

In an online survey of women whose partners viewed sexual media, conducted at the University of Arkansas, 42% reported feelings of personal insecurity and 39% said that it had a negative impact on their relationship.

There is a well-established link between porn use and erectile dysfunction, so I wonder whether your boyfriend has become so conditioned to using porn that he is afraid that he won’t be able to sustain an erection without it.

Porn is the sexual equivalent of a junk-food diet — a cheap thrill that has none of the erotic nuance of sex with an actual person, but it is a shortcut to arousal and many men become reliant on it.

Regardless of their age, once men begin worrying about erectile function, it can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is time to lay down the law and insist that your boyfriend stops, for his own benefit and for yours. There will be some readjustment, but be patient — by the sound of it he is a lovely guy in all other ways, so it will be worth the effort. Once he has broken this habit, both of you will be much happier.

- Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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