Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

How Pornography Affects Male/Female Relationships

November 24, 2007

Like tobacco, pornography is a legal poison. It is a poison our society is loath to give up - in spite of the facts. We can see explicit sex in the privacy of our homes through cable TV, movies, videos, and sexually pandering music videos. Easily accessible sexual images are a click or two away on the Internet, cell phones and I-pods.

Violence and pornography. Viewers and readers are exposed to sexually arousing scenes and images followed by violence. Experiments have shown that this produces a desensitization to violence and victims of violence, increased beliefs that women enjoy coerced sex, less sympathy for victims of rape, and lower regard for females.

Researchers found that states with the greatest amount of per capita sex-magazine readership also have a proportionately greater incidence of reported rape. One study showed that males who are exposed to both violent and non-violent pornography are twice as likely to commit rape as those having had no exposure to pornographic materials. Exposure to pornography reduces the perception that rape and child sexual abuse are serious criminal offenses. Incest offenders and pedophiles feed off of pornography.

Sexual addictions. Pornography is addictive. People need more to get the same effect. Exposure to these images affects attitudes and sexual practices. Pornography creates and maintains sexual fantasies which are powerfully reinforced through masturbation.

Compulsive use of masturbation is a substitute for intimacy, for a relationship, for meaningful work, for spirituality, or for other deficits in a person’s life. It offers instant relief from tension and pressure.

Pornography hurts marriage. Perhaps the most pervasive effect of pornography has to do with depersonalizing and dehumanizing sexual expression in marriage.

Pornography puts false standards into a marriage and leads to sexual demands, tensions and rejection. When a husband uses pornography, he begins to treat his wife like an object for his sexual gratification.

Exposure to pornography creates discontent with a partner's physical appearance, sexual performance, and affectionate behavior. A husband’s exaggerated sexual ideals, demands or masturbatory practices undermine his wife’s femininity, self-confidence and perceived adequacy as a sexual partner.

No longer satisfied with the "ordinariness" of their sexual relationship, he pushes the relationship toward heightened physical sensation. In the process, emotional intimacy is undervalued in creating arousal for his female partner.

Fantasies are nurtured. Nothing measures up to the perfection of a fantasy. Worst of all, pornography seduces the user into believing fantasies should be reality. Research shows individuals with a prolonged exposure to pornography consider less common sexual practices to be more widespread in our society than they actually are.

Some mates become dissatisfied and imagine a much more romantic and responsive partner. Their spouse can’t measure up in appearance or performance to their media-induced fantasies. They feel cheated. "If this is all there is, I’ve made a mistake." Unfulfilled fantasies create a greater likelihood for having a sexually oriented affair.

Pornography and courtship. Traditional sex roles and dating patterns may no longer guide the courtship process. Teen and young adults engage in non-exclusive and non-committed relationships without investing their emotions in them. Much like pornography, sex has become a thing in itself, devoid of meaning other than satisfying physical desire. Young adults who are exposed to pornography are more likely to engage in premarital sexual relations.

Male fascination with female appearance and beauty is boosted by media portrayals that the ideal woman should look a certain way. Females feel pressure to adopt immodest fashions, figure enhancement and provocative behavior to attract the attention of their male peers.

Research has shown that when men view images of highly attractive females, it lowers their commitment and satisfaction with their existing romantic partners. By adding pornography to the mix, males become even more reluctant to commit themselves to any relationship that is less than the ideal. Exposure to pornography decreases trust between the sexes, reduces the perceived value of marriage, and reduces the desire to have progeny.

Role of modesty and restraint. Allen Bloom comments on the role of modesty in regulating male/female relationships. "Modesty was the female virtue, because it governed the powerful desire that related men to women, providing a gratification in harmony with the procreation and rearing of children, the risk and responsibility of which fell naturally - that is, biologically - on women."

Delaying sexual relations was central to a serious life and allowed time for the delicate interplay between the sexes and for attachment bonds to form.

Media depictions of sexual behavior are robbing youth of the joy and beauty that comes when modesty and premarital chastity make sex symbolic of love and commitment. Despite their sexual freedom, many young women miss the traditional courtship patterns and feel used and discarded under present conditions.

With emotions, attachments and commitment being eliminated from sexual relations, young adults are losing their ability to progress toward true intimacy and love. They don’t know how to relate or commit.