The Impact of Pornography on Marital Sex

By Juli Slattery
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
AndreyPopov/iStock/Thinkstock
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. 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 couple-clients where the wife tearfully reported that her husband preferred to masturbate to pornography than to make love to her. 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. 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. 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.

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.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Dr. Juli Slattery
Juli Slattery

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, a public speaker, and the author of 10 books. She is also the president and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy, a ministry devoted to reclaiming God’s design for sexuality. Prior to starting Authentic Intimacy, Juli served at Focus on the Family from 2008-2012 as a writer, teacher and co-host of the Focus on the Family …

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.