Perceived Effects of Pornography on the Couple Relationship: Initial Findings of Open-Ended, Participant-Informed, "Bottom-Up" Research

Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Feb;46(2):585-602. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0783-6. Epub 2016 Jul 8.


The current study adopted a participant-informed, "bottom-up," qualitative approach to identifying perceived effects of pornography on the couple relationship. A large sample (N = 430) of men and women in heterosexual relationships in which pornography was used by at least one partner was recruited through online (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and offline (e.g., newspapers, radio, etc.) sources. Participants responded to open-ended questions regarding perceived consequences of pornography use for each couple member and for their relationship in the context of an online survey. In the current sample of respondents, "no negative effects" was the most commonly reported impact of pornography use. Among remaining responses, positive perceived effects of pornography use on couple members and their relationship (e.g., improved sexual communication, more sexual experimentation, enhanced sexual comfort) were reported frequently; negative perceived effects of pornography (e.g., unrealistic expectations, decreased sexual interest in partner, increased insecurity) were also reported, albeit with considerably less frequency. The results of this work suggest new research directions that require more systematic attention.

Keywords: Pornography; Relationship quality; Relationship satisfaction; Relationships; Sexual satisfaction; Sexually explicit material.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Erotica / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data*