Porn Is A Self-Esteem Issue

Weighing in about porn is like entering a lion’s den – you’re thrust (pardon the pun) into a controversial arena dominated by religion, big business, moral debates and arguments about freedom of speech. I don’t want to go near any of that, I’m only risking talking about it because porn’s become a big issue in my field – couple therapy. It’s difficult for couples to talk about porn when they don’t agree over it because it tends to evoke feelings of shame and insecurity and can impact the self-esteem of both partners.

It’s surprising how frequently users who claim to physically enjoy porn say that they actually don’t feel great about using it. They give any number of reasons, most commonly, religious influences or that they feel guilty for hiding solo erotic pleasures from their partner. Their self-esteem may suffer from ongoing low-level guilt about being morally ‘bad’, hiding sexually, feeling judged as having distasteful desires, or being hurtful to their partner although they don’t mean to be.

For some of my therapy clients, finding out their partner looks at porn felt like a slap in the self-esteem. Women in particular express feeling that they must be inadequate, unfulfilling or not good enough if their partner’s getting off on other women with different body shapes and sizes to theirs. To make matters worse, male partners often struggle to empathise because for them, it’s just random, meaningless masturbation, not any reflection on their loved one or her assets.

The fact is, for some people porn is mindless fun and easy masturbation. For others, watching other people having sex is feels like cheating and it hurts to think of their lover having orgasms that way. I’ve heard partners who aren’t into porn express sadness, anger and anxiety that they’re possibly the tenth or twentieth body their partner’s checked out that week. They fear not being special in their partner’s eyes and that prompts feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.

I think the way to minimise damaging self-esteem is to maximise compassion between you. Aim to understand why each of you do or don’t like it and refuse to let it become a shameful or divisive secret between you. Love means prioritising one another’s hearts not judging or bringing each other down.

Porn’s useful on one condition – that it’s fun and it helps both partners feel good about themselves individually and as a couple, in and out of the bedroom. If it’s a self-esteem flattener to either or both of you, it’s working against your relationship in the long term. Maybe try something more personal, ‘real-world’ and creative, something not involving third parties’ bodies, to turn yourselves on, like your own private movies or raunchy homemade stories. Focus on erotic inspiration that you’re not ashamed of and that helps both of you feel good rather than conflicted.

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Deb x