The Impact of Pornography on Marital Sex

By Juli Slattery
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One of the devastating effects of pornography and other sexually explicit material is that it sabotages the ability to enjoy normal sex.
The final, and perhaps most damaging, reason couples fall into the 20 Percent Club is involvement in pornography on the part of one or both partners. One of the devastating effects of pornography and other sexually explicit material is that it sabotages the ability to enjoy normal sex. In many marriages, the husband isn’t interested in sex with his wife because he has been programmed to respond to a much higher level of erotic stimulation.

The effects of pornography: Addiction

After viewing material filled with perfectly shaped women doing wild and perverse acts, a man naturally may have difficulty becoming stimulated by his 40-year-old average-looking, reserved wife. In his clinical research, Dr. Victor Cline described this progression as “escalation”:
With the passage of time, the addicted person required rougher, more explicit, more deviant and “kinky” kinds of sexual material to get their “highs” and “sexual turn-ons.” It was reminiscent of individuals afflicted with drug addictions. Over time there is nearly always an increasing need for more of the stimulant to get the same initial effect. Being married or in a relationship with a willing sexual partner did not solve their problem. Their addiction and escalation were mainly due to the powerful sexual imagery in their minds, implanted there by the exposure to pornography.
I have had a number of couples/clients where the wife tearfully reported that her husband preferred to masturbate to pornography than to make love to her.

The effects of pornography: Addiction

Not only does porn present a higher level of sexual excitement than married sex, it also allows a man to have sex on his terms. Porn is always available, never too busy and always inviting. It doesn’t criticize, doesn’t require foreplay or patience, isn’t dependent on “feeling close” and never has a headache. When a guy is engaged in this type of sexual outlet, his sexuality becomes centered on his immediate needs and demands. The prospect of working through the messy issues of marital intimacy is pretty unattractive.

Sexual role reversal

While reading through the possible reasons for your membership in the 20 Percent Club, you may find that your marriage fits into more than one of the categories. In fact, one cause for sexual role reversal may even feed into the others. For example, Brent naturally has a lower sex drive than the average man. He never compared himself with other men or thought anything of it until his new wife, Amy, began complaining about wanting sex more often. As a young husband, Brent has been thrown off balance by Amy’s lack of sexual fulfillment. He feels like a failure as a husband. If he can’t effectively meet his wife’s sexual needs, he must be a loser. Because of his fear of inadequacy, he begins withdrawing from Amy, failing to assert himself in all areas of their marriage. What began as a bell-curve difference has snowballed into a serious marital issue.

Hope for your marriage

As you seek to address these multiple issues in your relationship, define them without blame. Regardless of how you got where you are, assigning blame to each other will only hamper your efforts to heal. Neither you nor your husband consciously chose to have a low sex drive, go through depression, experience childhood trauma or any of the other maladies that compromise your intimate life. Every couple has roadblocks to address, and this is yours.

Find freedom from pornography

Talk to a Counselor

Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective.
Reach a counselor at 1-855-771-HELP (4357)

From No More Headaches, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. © 2009 Julianna Slattery. Used by permission.

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