Dating: Should you watch porn with your partner?

·Lifestyle Contributor
·5 min read
Keyboard showing 'xxx' instead of Enter key and a woman unhappily looking at her partner who is smiling
Watching porn with a partner can be a polarising topic. (Photos: Getty Images)

We often hear that porn use in a relationship can be damaging. Introducing porn into a relationship could lead to jealousy issues and other intimacy problems.

So, it took me by surprise then when a friend asked if she should watch porn with her partner in a bid to ignite their intimacy and improve their relationship.

Porn is such a polarising topic. In 2020, research found that couples who shared pornography use and frequently watched porn together tend to be more satisfied with their relationship and sex life.

Other studies have found that frequent porn use could diminish commitment in certain couples.

In Singapore, it’s not illegal to watch porn or visit sites with pornography. However, it is illegal to create, distribute, and possess pornographic images and videos. It’s also illegal to possess images or footage without consent.

Oddly enough, the answer to my friend's question was a difficult one to answer.

Now, I’m no sex expert, but when she asked, I couldn’t help but think about how loaded this question actually is.

A quick online search on ways to improve intimacy and sex in relationship often bring up results from lifestyle sites like Cosmo and Women’s Health that are in favour of watching porn together.

While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with watching porn, I couldn't help but think of all the nuances that these publications tend to miss when advocating for its use in relationships.

Most of these sites rarely discuss the proper ways of communicating your sexual wants with your partner, and very few touch on what to do if porn use has caused more harm than good.

An expert's view

Curious, I decided to reach out to Dian Handayani, a Singapore-based psychotherapist who specialises in sex therapy and working with clients with wide range of sexual issues, from mismatched libido, erection issues, body image and even trauma..

“Before we even begin to answer the question, we need to understand what porn is about,” Dian said in a phone interview.

“Essentially, porn is a form of entertainment, not sex education. It’s not accurate, or even a reflection of real-life. In fact, porn is highly stylised, it’s almost like sex on steroids,” she laughed while sharing her definition.

In Dian's view, that there’s nothing wrong with watching porn with a partner.

“When done in a consensual and mutual way, porn can be a great tool to spice up a relationship. Porn can add a sense of adventure or novelty that can enrich your sex life."

"However, as with anything in life, using porn in unhealthy ways could be more detrimental than beneficial to a relationship. There’s a shadow side to most things in life,” she cautioned.

The male gaze theory

In her years of experience, Dian has seen both sides of the story where porn can make or break couples.

When asked about her counselling experience on how porn could negatively impact a relationship, she shared some instances in which couples struggled with having different views on porn and how it led to arguments, comparison and self-esteem issues.

“A lot of porn is designed for the male-gaze and it can be inaccurate and a turn-off for most people,” she shares.

For those unaware, the male gaze theory involves framing women in a way that objectifies and exerts power over them.

Through the male gaze, women are often highly sexualised and positioned as objects of desire.

With this context in mind, Dian highlighted that porn could set unrealistic values and expectations on sex.

She added that besides the differing ideas and values about sex, most couples also lack of awareness in the proper ways of introducing porn into a relationship.

“Unfortunately, none of us are equipped with the skills and ways to talk to our partner around introducing porn or value laden issues into a relationship”.

So, how should couples begin to talk about it?

“To begin discussing porn use, couples could first set the mood by going on a date and spending quality time with each other before one of them introduces the idea of watching porn together,” Dian suggested.

“Start by asking your partner what they’re into and what they absolutely dislike or cannot stand watching (or doing). It’s also worth understanding that there are different types of porn creators out there who create content for various types of audiences,” she shared.

Some production houses pride themselves at creating inclusive and ethical content where actors, producers, and directors are paid fair wages for their work.

“If your partner starts showing dislike for a particular type of porn or action, instead of getting defensive, try to have a conversation around it and understand what it is about the material they’re watching that doesn’t appeal to them. Are the actions too rough? Does one of the actors look unhappy? By discussing why your partner is opposed to something, you’ll be able to understand them better,” Dian explained.

Couples can lose sight of their goals when trying to introduce porn into a relationship, she added. Often, the reason for introducing porn into a relationship isn’t solely to have sex — it’s to build intimacy and interject some sexual fun into a relationship.

In some ways, just trying to include porn or finding the right materials to watch can be a journey of improving intimacy in itself. For example, looking at the different types of porn out there and discussing what a person likes and doesn't like might actually provide better insights into a partner’s mind.

"Alternatively, if porn isn’t working out, couples can try other forms of erotic material. Perhaps, they could consider going toy shopping together and have fun getting to know the different toys. Otherwise, they could try watching movies with erotic themes. Sometimes while on these dates, the anticipation that comes with knowing you could be having sex later is exciting enough," said Dian.

Ultimately, couples should go into this journey with an open mind, and try to remind themselves of what the end goal is when trying to include such sexual aids in their partnerships, she said.

A Millennial's Dating Diary series explores real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series features the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.