Does Pornography Affect Relationships?

According to media analysts, ‘pornography’ is the most searched for term on the Internet. It’s easy to access, cheap and readily available. Most debate focuses on the effect of pornography on children and young adults, but it can affect the personal and intimate relationships of adults too. Compulsive porn viewing can even lead to a couple separating.

Why men are more drawn to pornography than women

Researchers have found that excessive pornography can ‘rewire’ the male brain. “Pornographic images seem to activate a man’s visual system in a manner that goes beyond just looking at trees or people,” says William Struthers, the author of ‘Wired For Intimacy’. “It’s almost like a high-definition signal compared with a standard signal.” Once this signal hits the male antenna, the mesolimbic (reward) system kicks in, producing a rush of feel-good dopamine. This reinforces the behaviour in a similar way to addictive drugs.

When pornography becomes harmful Scientists have also linked the motivating power of porn to the ‘mirror neuron system’, a part of the brain that compels us to imitate the actions we see other humans perform. In one study, men who watched erotic videos experienced mirror neuron activation and reported a desire to replicate the acts they saw. Studies have shown that it is precisely this reason why porn leads to violence against women. Morality in Media, an American non-profit organisation that opposes indecency, is trying to bring attention to studies that show pornography increases violence against women. They believe that today’s porn producers are featuring violence due to its popularity among consumers. Spousal violence is also a great concern — the husband consuming violent porn and then living out the pornographic scenes in his marriage. The organisation’s findings also show that men are watching porn movies that are very violent and they want their wife or partner to repeat out what they see in the films.

Addiction & isolation Pornography is a problem also when it becomes addictive and isolating. Individuals then use it to withdraw into a world where they don’t have to deal with normal relationships. Patrick Carnes, a US author and expert on sexual behaviour, says that there is a percentage of viewers that are at risk of developing problems, and one in ten become compulsive users, which can lead to difficulties when the user forms a physical and emotional relationship with the material being viewed. Something that began as a harmless pastime takes up more and more emotion, energy and time so that real relationships lose priority.

Discovering that a partner is using pornography can cause some to question their strength as a couple. Trust, loyalty, honesty and intimacy can all be compromised, throwing the relationship into crisis. You may have an unhealthy fixation with pornography if you

  • Are spending hours viewing pornography when you should be sleeping or working.
  • You would rather view porn than spend time with family and friends.
  • Find it difficult to cut back on the amount of time you spend viewing porn.
  • Prefer porn to real intimacy with your partner.

If you think you could have a problem, talk to someone you can trust, or see a therapist.

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