Looking at porn – can it be cheating?

Online Affairs Looking At Porn Can It Be Cheating

Porn is controversial. Even though its use is increasingly acceptable in Western cultures, studies have shown that using it is linked to lower sexual satisfaction, lower levels of attraction towards a partner and also cheating. However, there is some evidence that sexual wellbeing can be improved in relationships where both or all partners use pornography. Some people also view it together as a regular part of their sex lives. If you’re worried about a porn addiction, see our ‘addicted to porn’ page.

Porn – yay or nay?

Pornography use is mainly seen as something passive (i.e. being an observer but not interacting with another person or persons in a sexual manner), which is one of the reasons why some people may not consider it cheating. If you are looking for information about other online activities that are more interactive, you can read our article on ‘virtual sex’.

The first thing to understand is that opinions can vary depending on a person’s worldview, experiences and beliefs. For some it can be extremely difficult to accept that their partner is looking at pornography because it can bring up feelings of insecurity; of not being attractive enough or good enough. It can also bring up worries about the future of the relationship, questions about commitment and about whether the person who is using pornography is satisfied with the relationship. For others, using porn is an acceptable activity within the context of a relationship.

Whatever your attitude to porn, it is key to understand that your partner’s view may be different to your own and that your relationship will be better if you can negotiate with your partner what is acceptable and what is not, rather than making assumptions.

How can it be cheating?

Using pornography could be cheating when one partner goes beyond the boundaries of the relationship with their use of pornography. This could mean:

  1. You know your partner considers the use of porn cheating and you are still doing it.
  2. You are using a type of pornography that your partner considers unacceptable. This could include certain fetishes, or materials with specific kinds of sex, that you know your partner does not approve of.

These examples rely on you being aware of what your partner thinks about pornography. If you don’t know what your partner thinks then the best thing you can do for your relationship is to start the conversation.

Talk about it!

The best way of knowing whether looking at porn is okay in your relationship is by talking to your partner about it. You, or your partner, may find it uncomfortable to talk about the subject but it can be extremely helpful to know what the other thinks. Most people will have an idea about how their partner feels about porn but if you need a hard-and-fast rule about what’s acceptable; make that rule together.

In the end, caring about your relationship and making it work means that you may have to consider each other’s views about porn. It can be difficult if you have completely opposite opinions but by getting over the discomfort and openly talking about pornography, you’ll be in a better position to not hurt each other in the long-term.

You might find it helpful to think about your own opinions first:

  • What is porn to me? Is it videos online? Are suggestive ads porn?
  • How can we use it, if at all? Together? Alone? Is it okay to view it with other people?
  • Double standards: Do I consider it okay for me to view porn but not for my partner? Why is that?
  • Do I consider it cheating if my partner looks at porn?

If you are concerned about you, or your partner, using pornography too often or the content of it, please look at the Helpful Resources area of this website to find out about where to go for help.

To see the full list of research references which have informed the content on this page, please see our research references section.

Page authored by Yessica Apolo (Marriage Care)

Picture credit: Andrew Neel

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