Does social distancing translate to a greater use of pornography? I don’t know but many people do ask me if pornography is a contributing cause to the demise of relationships?

This is an extremely controversial topic and always will be. As a relationship therapist, I journey with clients without judgment and respect their opinions and values. With thanks to the contributions on this topic to clinical psychologist Dr Clare Rosoman.

Firstly, here are some interesting statistics from Pornhub. It is a pornographic video-sharing website and stated to be the largest pornography site but certainly not the only one on the internet. The site attracted a total of 42 billion visitors in 2019 (around 115 million a day). The United States was the top country by traffic. Australia is in ninth place. The breakdown of viewing age groups and data are:

18 – 24 (25 per cent)
25 – 34 (36 per cent)
35 – 44 (17 per cent)
45 – 54 (11 per cent)
55 – 64 (7 per cent)
65 plus (4 per cent)

  • Female users increase each year and now makeup 32 per cent of worldwide Pornhub traffic.
  • Most frequent time for viewing is between 10 pm and 1 am.
  • The most popular day is Sunday and the least popular is Friday.
  • 76.6% is viewed on a phone, 16.3% on a desktop PC and 7.1% on a tablet.

It’s a big profitable billion-dollar business and researchers Paul and Shim (2008) say the four main reasons for using such services are for:

Fantasy: sexual excitement, satisfaction, curiosity, exploration and anonymity
Mood management: emotional regulation, stress relief, escapism
Habitual use: habit and convenience
Relationship: enhancement, skills and novelty

Some of the common effects of pornography use for those in a relationship are:

  • Feelings of internal conflict such as shame, depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Social withdrawal and guilt over the financial outlay

With frequency, pornography can normalise and desensitise associated behaviours that lead to the pursuit of another person and possible affair. In my experience, the partner not involved in the pornography may view it as a betrayal to the relationship. Not only can the partner feel sexually inadequate and threatened by pornography use but also find certain new sexual activities objectionable. A new "sexual script” can be introduced and not welcomed.

Risqué images can start as entertainment, may escalate to compulsions then distorted beliefs, expectations and addictions. The user faces difficulty becoming sexually aroused without pornography. They can lose interest and engage in fewer sexual experiences with their partner. Emotional closeness wanes due to a decrease in trust and pornography can be associated with dishonesty.

Is there any benefit for relationships?

Some studies say it is not harmful and positive, while others say it is detrimental. The difference lies in how the questions are asked and who you ask. For example, people in casual relationships are far less likely to have a problem with it than those in long-term relationships who have built a life together.

Consistent results across studies show the greater the discrepancy between partners in attitudes towards porn, the greater the negative impact on the relationship. Most discrepancies involve a male partner using more pornography than the female, which lowers her relationship satisfaction, reduces positive communication and creates instability, more relational aggression and lower female sexual desire.

In summary, can it lead to affairs? Yes, but not always. Is it good for your relationship? Ask your partner.

© 2020 Jo Wilson. Used with permission. Originally published at

Joanne Wilson

Joanne Wilson is a neuropsychotherapist, relationship specialist of TheConfidante Counselling. Joanne is a weekly radio co-host on Salt106.5, workshop facilitator, guest speaker and a weekly columnist for the Sunshine Coast Daily. Listen in to her Apple podcast discussing these articles and more, "Is This Love?" and download your "Spouse it Up" Guide at

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