How To Talk About Porn With Your Partner

Having the chat could improve your sex life.

You only have to have an honest (read: wine-fuelled) discussion about porn with your mates to know that as a subject, it’s pretty divisive, particularly if you’re in a relationship.

While some view watching porn in a relationship as cheating, others are all for using it to spice up their sex life. Throw in the topics of feminism, sexual empowerment and violence against women and what started as light-hearted gossip can soon turn into heated debate.

An estimated one in three women watch porn in the UK each year, so whether you love it or hate it, chances are it’s not going away anytime soon – so it’s worth talking about.

After all, a previous study published in the Journal of Sex and Martial Therapy found that couples who were honest with one another about their consumption of porn were happier than couples who were not. So what are you waiting for? Bite the bullet and have the talk.

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Why is it important to talk about porn with your partner?

According to Relate sex therapist Peter Saddington unless you talk about porn you “don’t get to understand what your partner thinks about it” and “misunderstandings can happen”.

“If people have used porn a lot in the past, they sometimes become quite desensitised to it and can assume their new partner also thinks it’s fine to watch it, when perhaps they don’t,” he told HuffPost UK.

Sex expert and Durex ambassador Alix Fox said discussing porn with your partner can also give you both a much-needed reality check as a lot of porn portrays sex in an “unrealistic way”.

“There’s a lot that’s not shown, like male actors using penis pumps, taking breaks or taking Viagra because they can’t naturally sustain an erection for as long as they’re made out to on camera” she told HuffPost UK.

As resident agony aunt on The Modern Mann podcast, Fox said she receives an “unbelievable amount of letters” from men who are worried that they can’t last as long as the men they watch in porn, or produce as much ejaculate.

“In fact, the huge loads of semen you see in some fetish videos may not be semen at all: it’s often a fake gel made from a product called methyl cellulose, which is also used to create SFX gloop and ooze in movies like ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Alien’” she said.

“Talking about porn can help remind you that a lot of what you’re watching is fantasy.”

Fox added that talking about porn is essential to learn your partner’s boundaries as porn often doesn’t show consent.

“Even if actors have agreed off-camera to everything that’s going to take place, we rarely see these discussions in the final cut,” she said.

“There are a lot of videos out there that can easily give the impression that the majority of folks will automatically be up for things such as rough anal sex, gagging, spanking and strangling, with no prior conversation, no warm up or foreplay, and no need to check in regularly that they are feeling safe and enjoying themselves.”

Fox pointed out this that is especially concerning given that a recent survey carried out by Durex revealed 19% of young people consider porn a type of sex education tool: something that they watch to learn from.

“Talking with your partner about the difference between what it seems
like people crave in porn versus what they truly want in real life – and where their boundaries are; what reassurances and safety measures they would like to put in place; how slowly they want to take things and the places they really do not want to take them at all – can help you explore sex together in a consensual, connected, constructive and pleasurable way, rather than directly copying videos that could potentially result in traumatic experiences,” she said.

When should you bring up the topic of porn in a relationship?

According to Saddington there is no set time a couple should bring up the topic of porn because levels of openness will vary from couple to couple. However, it’s a good idea to raise the topic if your relationship is likely to become long-term.

“Because of past experiences or lack of confidence people often wait until something has gone wrong before they discuss these issues,” he said.

“It’s not essential to talk about these issues at the very beginning of a relationship but if it starts to feel like the relationship is an important one and you can see it becoming long-term, then it’s time to start talking.”

Saddington offered these practical tips for bringing up the topic:

Choosing the moment - don’t ruin the opportunity by ambushing your partner or choosing a time where either of you are already stressed or tired.

Reflect on your own experiences and attitudes towards sex and porn - we all have our own views and expectations about what “normal” sex looks like, which are influenced by previous experiences with or without partners. Thinking about how these may be different to your partner can help you to better understand each other sexually.

Define your objective - Before you open your mouth, make sure you know why you’re doing it and what you want to say.

Don’t interrupt - Even if you’re 100% sure your partner has nothing else worthwhile to say, keep quiet and let them finish. They may surprise you by telling you something you didn’t know.

Stay calm - When we’re anxious we all become defensive. The best way to stay calm is to control what’s going on in your body. Make sure you sit in a comfy chair where you can keep your muscles relaxed, breathe deeply and if necessary, count to 10 before you start each sentence.

What are the benefits of talking about porn with your partner?

Saddington believes that having an open discussion about porn can lead to a more rewarding relationship and improve your sex life.

“It doesn’t mean that everything you talk about will necessarily happen but the fact that you felt good enough and safe enough to talk about it demonstrates the qualities of this relationship,” he said.

Fox added that being honest with your partner about porn and your own sex life can also give you a welcome boost of body confidence.

“A lot of mainstream pornography gives atypical, homogenised and unrealistic depictions of people’s bodies,” she said.

“It can be easy to start comparing yourself to the actors you see on screen and begin worrying [about your appearance].

“Chatting with your partner about what you’re viewing can help you check in with reality, and get some reassurance that just because your bod may not match the matchy-matchy ones in porn, you can still be intensely sexy and attractive.”

She added that selecting a film to watch together can be an “incredibly erotic
experience”, something which is backed up by a previous survey conducted by Ann Summers. The research found that 58% of women who’d watched porn with their partners said that it had a positive effect on their intimate lives and 23% claimed it had brought them closer together as a couple.

“Done carefully, sharing porn in this way can help it feel less like an ‘enemy’, a ‘threat’ or ‘competition’, and more of a form of entertainment or titillating tool available to the both of you to enjoy as an accompaniment to your real-life love,” Fox said.

“Try something with an element of comedy as a low-pressure option to start with – having a giggle together can make watching porn feel less intimidating.”

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