How watching porn changed my life

When I didn't know how to build a relationship with my partner, porn was there to teach me.

Jun 15, 2020, 4:34 pm*

Internet Culture

Pornography is endlessly vilified in our culture. 

And, in many cases, for good reason. It’s misogynistic, it’s staged, it’s completely unrealistic, and in some cases, it’s abusive. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s been produced ethically or not. There’s a high risk of transmitting STIs between performers, including HIV. Porn has ruined marriages and relationships. It’s caused addictions. It’s gotten people fired. It’s contributed to our hyper-sexualized rape culture. It’s an embarrassingly poor sex education for many people throughout the country. And studies say it’s just detrimental to health.

But the fact remains that people are watching porn. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s estimated that 68 percent of men and 18 percent of women view porn online at least once per week. That’s a whole bunch of eyes on the screen for all this chatter about how destructive it is.

But, all that hypocrisy aside, I believe that porn can be healthy. I believe it can be therapeutic. I even believe it can change your life—under the right circumstances. At least it did mine.

Now, granted, my situation is a bit unique. I was a previously straight man who had no real interest in my own sex—that is until I fell in love with my also straight best friend (a story I’ve written about extensively). With no real physical attraction to one another and no good guide on how to make this work, I went to the only resource I knew: porn.

I wanted to dig deep into my psyche—to explore any unknown turn-ons or fantasies. I wanted to watch men make love for the first time and see how I felt about it. I wanted to know what positions were used and what foreplay was employed. If I was going to make my relationship work one day, I was committed to at least exploring the idea of physical intimacy.

With porn, nothing was real. I didn’t have to actually try anything. I didn’t have to live anything out. I didn’t even have to tell anyone about it.

With porn, nothing was real. I didn’t have to actually try anything. I didn’t have to live anything out. I didn’t even have to tell anyone about it. I could just privately get comfortable with the idea of a type of sex that was so foreign to me. I could privately pursue strange or surprising fantasies to get to know my sexuality on a deeper level.

And, years later, my partner and I found a level of intimacy that works for us. It may not be the same as every other relationship. It may not look exactly like two paid actors. But it works. It’s ours. And we never would have found it without pornography.

Yes, porn is fake. Yes, it’s unrealistic. But so are action thrillers, and we run to the theater to see those. In both cases, it’s a way to explore a fantasy world—one that doesn’t really exist but that can possibly teach you about yourself. About parts of yourself you might not know existed. Movies—of all kinds—are a safe place to explore a fantasy for a short while.

If the porn jumps off the screen and starts causing problems in life, then, sure, there’s absolutely an issue. If a person isn’t as sexually aroused by his or her partner, if a person gets violent or abusive thoughts, if a person becomes addicted to porn, then he or she should probably quit it. But the same holds true if a person becomes obsessed with a movie or video game and confuses it with real life. World of Warcraft has certainly seen its share of addiction.

At the end of the day, these are all just tools we have at our disposal. And there is a way to watch non-abusive, semi-realistic pornography and use it to explore our innermost selves, if we choose to.

There is a way to watch non-abusive, semi-realistic pornography and use it to explore our innermost selves, if we choose to.

Maybe if there was less of a taboo around porn, then the images would be healthier and more realistic. Maybe people wouldn’t be so hypocritical about vilifying it and watching it in secrecy. In fact, self-proclaimed religious fundamentalists are estimated to be 91 percent more likely to watch pornography. That’s one of the highest percentages of any demographic.

Telling ourselves that some desire, thought, or fantasy is wrong is the surest way to develop an unhealthy relationship with it. It will sneak its little way into our behavior one way or another. Because, at our core, we crave self-acceptance.

So, yes, there are certainly problems with pornography. And I’m not here to defend the industry as a whole. There’s plenty that could—and probably should—be changed about it. But porn saved my relationship. It helped me to explore parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. It helped me to play out scenarios without ever having to physically try anything. It helped me to become more whole as a person.

Whenever a client asks me if his or her porn consumption is okay, I always say the same thing: “Do you feel it’s healthy? Or do you feel it’s impeding on your real life? If it stays on the screen and helps you to explore fantasies, accept yourself deeper, and just enjoy some alone time (or time with a partner) every once in a while, then who am I to tell you to stop?”

We’re all looking for ways to be happy. We’re all looking for ways to understand who we are. We’re all looking for ways to accept ourselves.

For some people, journaling works. For others, meditating does the trick. Still others enjoy yoga. And maybe a few of us (or more than a few) watch porn.

This post originally appeared on the Good Men Project and has been reprinted with permission.

Photo via Skley/Flickr (CC BY-N.D. 2.0)

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*First Published: Jan 21, 2015, 1:00 pm