In 2012, I wrote an article here in which I asked readers to share their experience with pornography in their relationships. I created a short questionnaire—“Pornography and Your Relationship.” The first four statements that participants were asked to respond to were:

  • My partner and I use pornography to enhance our sexual experience together.
  • I think if a person has a problem with his or her partner viewing pornography that they should relax because it is not that big of a deal.
  • I don't have a problem if my partner wants to view pornography when I am not with him/her.
  • My partner's use of pornography has hurt our relationship.

I had no idea how the readers would respond, I simply wanted to know how couples experienced pornography in their relationship. Since 2012, more than 4,000 readers have completed my short questionnaire. Let me share the results of those who chose to complete this short assessment.

Question 1: My partner and I use Pornography to enhance our sexual experience together.

  • Always                           .68% (28)
  • More often than not     1.82% (75)
  • Occasionally                6.79% (280)
  • Rarely                        14.26%(588)
  • Never                         76.45% (3,152)

Question 2: I think if a person has a problem with his or her partner viewing pornography that they should relax because it is not that big of a deal.

  • Strongly agree                          3.00% (124)
  • Agree                                        5.74% (237)
  • Neither agree nor disagree       8.83% (365)
  • Disagree                                 17.30% (715)
  • Strongly disagree                   64.38% (2,660)

Question 3: I don’t have a problem if my partner wants to view pornography when I am not with him/her.

  • Strongly agree                          5.84% (241)
  • Agree                                      10.79% (445)
  • Neither agree nor disagree      7.22% (298)
  • Disagree                                17.14% (707)
  • Strongly disagree                  58.34% (2,407)

Question 4: My partner’s use of pornography has hurt our relationship.

  • Strongly agree                       65.67% (2,669)
  • Agree                                     13.07% (531)
  • Neither agree nor disagree      6.23% (253)
  • Disagree                                   6.03% (245)
  • Strongly disagree                      9.01% (366)

(To see all of the questions and results, click here.)

Findings

As a professional therapist and researcher, I have sought to understand the role pornography has on individuals and their relationships. While my sample is a self-selected sample, it doesn’t change the fact that many individuals have a significant problem if their partner uses pornography and the majority feel it has hurt their relationship.

I find it interesting that over 75% of couples “never” use pornography to enhance their sexual relationship and another 14% “rarely” use it to enhance their sex. Over 80% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that they should relax and not have a problem if their partner wants to view pornography. In fact, nearly 75% answered that they would have a problem if their partner wanted to view pornography when they are not together. Finally, a majority of those who completed the questionnaire felt like their partner’s use of pornography had hurt their relationship (78% agreed or strongly agreed).

When I asked the partner who felt like pornography was hurting their relationship to respond to this statement, “I feel like I cannot trust my partner because of his/her involvement with pornography,” they responded:

  • Strongly agree                        69% (1,955)
  • Agree                                      23% (650)
  • Neither agree nor disagree      5% (132)
  • Disagree                                   2% (54)
  • Strongly disagree                      1% (42)

Next, when I asked them to respond to the statement, “My partner's involvement with pornography causes me to worry a lot,” they answered:

  • Strongly agree                        71% (2,007)
  • Agree                                      22% (637)
  • Neither agree nor disagree      4% (123)
  • Disagree                                  1% (41)
  • Strongly disagree                     1% (24)

Of those who completed this questionnaire, a partner’s use of pornography clearly triggered significant feelings of worry and made him or her question whether to trust his or her partner. After years of working with individuals and couples whose lives have been significantly altered due to pornography, these findings do not surprise me. Unfortunately, learning how to help these individuals and couples rebuild trust and strengthen their relationship, which is my goal, is not always easy.

Since my questionnaire was completed by both people using pornography and those whose partners use pornography, I was able to explore this from both sides. Let’s look at what those who view pornography had to say about pornography and their relationship.

When I asked those who use pornography to respond to the following statements here’s how they responded: (note they could check more than one of the below statements).

  • I really enjoy viewing pornography.                                           47% (n = 357)
  • I enjoy porn, but others around me have a problem with it.      26% (n = 200)
  • I view porn but don’t really like it.                                              19% (n = 146)
  • I have tried to stop viewing porn but can’t.                                32% (n = 237)
  • I feel like porn is destroying my life.                                          23% (n = 170)

The results provide some valuable insight into the mind of those viewing pornography. While many people enjoy viewing pornography, a majority don’t like it, want to stop and can’t, or feel like it is destroying their life. My conclusion to these responses is that many people really enjoy porn, but a significant amount of those viewing pornography do not like what it is doing to them.

Next, I asked those who view pornography to respond to this question, “I feel that porn has hurt my ability to be successful in my relationships.” Here’s their responses:

  • Strongly agree                        18% (136)
  • Agree                                      24% (182)
  • Neither agree nor disagree     15% (114)
  • Disagree                                 19% (143)
  • Strongly disagree                    24% (186)

Nearly 42% of individuals agree or strongly agree that pornography is hurting their ability to be successful in their relationships. On the other hand, roughly 43% of individuals disagreed or strongly disagreed with the idea that pornography has hurt their ability to be successful in relationships. Another 15% do not know if pornography is hurting their ability to be successful in relationships.

Finally, I asked those who view pornography this question, “To what extent do you feel that pornography has influenced how you treat the people close to you?” They responded:

  • Not at all                                                                               46% (n = 347)
  • Some, but not a lot                                                               23% (n = 174)
  • More than I would like to admit                                            19% (n = 145)
  • I have deeply hurt the people who should be close to me    12% (n = 93)    

In this question, the focus was to understand whether those viewing pornography felt like it influenced how they treat people close to them. Most (46%) felt like their pornography use had nothing to do with how they treat people close to them. This leaves a little more than 53% who believe that their use of pornography has influenced how they treat people close to them.

Summary

With more than 4,000 individuals completing this questionnaire, there is solid evidence that pornography is having a negative influence on a majority of these individuals and their relationships. Some of the key findings include: 1) Most couples do not choose to use pornography in their relationship; 2) When a partner uses pornography outside of the relationship, it creates a lack of trust and heightened worry in partners; 3) Of those viewing pornography, one third would like to stop but can’t, nearly one in four feel like it is destroying their life, and four out of ten feel like it is hindering their ability to succeed in their relationships.

If you would like to take the questionnaire, click here.

Note: I am currently conducting a research project exploring the level of trauma symptoms partner’s experience after the discovering sexual betrayal. I am looking for individuals who have discovered their partner's use of pornography or other sexual behaviors outside of a committed relationship. This is an in-depth assessment that explores various types of trauma. If you would be interested in participating in this research please click on this link.

About the Author

Kevin B. Skinner, Ph.D.

Kevin B. Skinner, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He is the author of Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery.

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