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7 Ways Porn Kills Marriage–Plus Tips for Talking to Your Teens

Parents might not verbalize this, but most of us want our kids to have a wonderful sex life and a strong, loving marriage in their future. Sadly, our youth are growing up with a much different view of romantic love and relationships as the lies of porn poison their expectations. The truth is, porn kills marriage and our kids deserve to know!

Studies on how porn kills marriage

Studies confirm the trend that porn is not only hurting relationships, but also decreasing the ability and desire to engage in a serious, long-term relationship. Here are some of the findings:

7 ways porn kills marriage and romance

Let’s uncover the 7 ways porn kills marriage and romance. Then check out the 7 discussion questions to help you talk with your teens so they understand the stakes of allowing porn to poison their sexual and relational expectations and ideals.

Related: Will Talking about Porn Today Save Your Child's Marriage Tomorrow?

#1. Porn use increases infidelity

Infidelity can irreparably damage a marriage.

Fight the New Drug wrote about a study which showed that when one partner watched porn alone, they reported twice the rate of cheating compared with couples who didn’t use porn. But it gets worse. Individuals who watch porn alone and with their partner reported three times the rate of cheating compared with those who don’t watch porn at all. 

Why would porn lead to infidelity instead of improving a couple’s sex life? So many reasons–but one I’ve heard over and over again is that wives often don’t want to do the things their husbands see in porn. If their wife won’t do it, a paid prostitute will–often out of desperation. 

Discussion question: Why would watching porn increase infidelity (cheating) in marriage?

Related: My Spouse Has a Porn Problem--4 Tips for Talking to Kids

#2. Porn’s fake extremes distract users from enjoying real sex

Have you ever eaten a brownie and then taken a bite of a sweet apple? The apple, which is by far the healthier choice, doesn’t taste so sweet. It’s kinda blah or even sour. 

It’s similar to sex portrayed in porn as compared with normal sexual relations. Why? Because pornography causes a super release of dopamine in the brain. 

Dopamine is the seeking neurochemical–it’s the “I want it!” molecule (not the “I’m satisfied” molecule). Our brains are not designed or set up for such high dopamine levels. Two things happen as a result: 

  1. Porn watchers constantly chase novel material that causes higher dopamine levels. Always looking for a higher and higher shot of dopamine is not conducive to being satisfied with a normal (though still pleasurable) long-term sexual relationship with the same person.
  2. In an effort to regulate dopamine, the brain begins to shut down dopamine receptors. What used to be arousing (like sex with your spouse), is no longer exciting. Only porn can bring that level of excitement. 

Related: Porn Addiction and Kids–Neuropsychologist Reveals Who Is Most Vulnerable: An Interview with Dr. Gola

In fact, this super-stimulant effect was clearly demonstrated decades ago by Niko Tinbergen, a Nobel Prize winning scientist. He painted cardboard female butterflies with larger and brighter markings and put them where male butterflies would see them. It worked! The male butterflies were attracted to the fake female butterflies and tried to mate with them, even though there were plenty of real females nearby. 

In the same way, individuals are tricked by pornified pixels on a screen–on a never-ending quest that never satisfies them.

Discussion question: If you train your brain to be attracted to the fake sex (and fake, exagerated body parts) shown in porn, what could be the result? 

Related: Healthy Sex vs. Porn Sex: 7 Crucial Comparisons to Teach Your Kid (Before XXX Hijacks Their Future)

#3. Porn contributes to sexual insecurity

Another result of the extremes portrayed in porn is sexual insecurity. Porn performers are often surgically enhanced and comparison with them is a losing game. We often think of women who undergo cosmetic surgery to enhance their appearance, but men in porn do this as well. Both male and female porn performers normalize exaggerated body parts. All of this has driven an increase in sexual insecurity among females and males, as well as a surge in elective cosmetic surgeries (Jason & Lisa Frost, The Glass Between Us, p. 111). 

Porn is definitely not helping our kids with body image issues! And it’s also causing them to have concerns about whether they can live up to expectations regarding performance. In an interview with the New York Times, one teenage boy said, “You are looking at an adult…the guys are built and dominant and have a big penis, and they last a long time.” Another boy added that if you don’t do it like the guys in porn, “you fear she’s not going to like you.” 

Kids need to know that people of all shapes and sizes can enjoy sexual pleasure, especially when love and intimacy are the goals rather than mimicking an extremely fake performance. 

Discussion question: Should people have to go through cosmetic surgeries to enjoy a happy, sexual relationship? In a real relationship, will body part enhancement make a difference in the long run?

Related: Your Daughter’s Body Image - Healthy or Shameful? 4 Ways to Counteract Toxic Media

#4. Porn promotes sex as a solitary sport

When users masturbate to porn, they are in fact conditioning their brains that sex is solitary and that porn can replace a real partner. 

As quoted in The Glass Between Us by Jason and Lisa Frost, therapists Wendy and Larry Maltz conclude that “it’s easy for porn to silently slip into the role of our ‘Significant Other’. This is not surprising. We are likely to become emotionally and physically attached to anything we regularly turn to for emotional comfort and sexual satisfaction.”  

More from the Frosts:

“Pornography teaches youth that the point of sex is neither to express love nor to have an amazing time with their partner, but to pleasure oneself in the context of being alone…Masturbation is on the rise, while sex is in a drought” (p. 110).

Discussion question: How does porn train the brain to expect and prefer masturbating instead of sex with a real partner?

Related: Do You Know Why Kids Masturbate? Therapist Gives 5 Reasons and Top Tips for a Healthy Response Plan

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#5. Porn normalizes sexual violence and confuses kids about ever wanting sex

It’s been decades since mainstream porn was simply a man and a woman having steamy sex and being filmed. That’s been replaced with extreme, degrading and violent sexual acts

A groundbreaking study showed that 88% of the scenes in the most popular porn videos include acts of violence, both physical and verbal, towards the female performers. If you don’t believe that, read the video titles and descriptions on any porn site and you’ll be convinced that porn is violent and hateful, degrading and dehumanizing.

In her book Guardians of Innocence, Mary Muller states “Hard-core pornography involves sex with animals, children, corpses, and adolescents, and it may involve violence, bondage, group sex, prostitution, rape, and sodomy involving weapons (such as knives or broken glass, inanimate objects, and so on) used to sodomize the victim. Also included would be sexual activities involving defecation, urination and vomit. And last, but not least, it can include hard-core torture, mutilation, and snuff films” (p. 2).

Increasing the level of violence in porn has a lot to do with dopamine and the need for users to constantly up the ante in order to achieve the same level of arousal.

It’s easy to see that if porn teaches kids that sex and violence go hand in hand, then a loving, trusting, intimate sexual relationship may never even be considered. 

Those teenage boys from The New York Times interview find violence in porn confusing. “[One boy] said some girls acted as if they wanted some thug rather than a smart, sensitive guy. But was it true desire? Was it posturing? Was it what girls thought they were supposed to want?” One of their peers answered, “that maybe the girls didn’t know either. ‘I think social media makes girls think they want something…but I think some of the girls are afraid.'”

This comment on porn from an 11 year old girl is heartbreaking:

“I didn’t like it...the man looked like he was hurting her, he was holding her down and she was screaming...I know about sex but it didn’t look nice. It makes me feel sick if I think of my parents doing it like that.”

And this from a 13 year old girl:

“You see what is happening in porn and you almost get worried about other people’s relationships and it puts me off having any future relationships as it is very male dominated and not romantic or trusting--or promoting good relationships.”

These are taken from a UK report on how pornography affects children’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. These children saw the violence and the degrading acts in porn and wondered if they ever wanted to have a sex life.

Discussion question: Would a person who has learned about sex through watching violent porn find it difficult to engage in sex that is kind, caring and respectful? 

#6. Porn decreases empathy

A long-term, happy marriage isn’t possible without empathy–the ability to see and feel things from your partner’s point of view and actively show care and compassion for them. A lack of empathy leads to decreased connection. 

For a quick primer on empathy (and how it’s different from sympathy) check out this video by Brene Brown.


Unfortunately, empathy has been decreasing among youth. Dr. Michele Borba, Ed.D. explores the topic of empathy in her book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. Dr. Borba states that, “Among today’s youth, there’s a measurable dip in empathy, clear increase in peer cruelty, more cheating and weaker moral reasoning, and our plugged-in, high-pressure culture is leading to a mental health epidemic among young people” (pp. xv-xvi).

“Pornography encourages people to be less respectful towards others because it treats people like objects who simply exist to satisfy another person’s sexual urges or desires….When people begin to objectify other humans, we lose part of our humanity and diminish our divine ability to love and care for others” (Jill C. Manning, What’s the Big Deal About Pornography? A Guide for the Internet Generation pp. 42-43).

Pornography disconnects sex from love and replaces intimacy with objectification and dehumanization. The study mentioned above documenting violence in porn also noted that the vast majority of the female porn performers reacted to verbal and physical violence with a neutral expression or one that portrayed pleasure. How confusing to kids! They see women acting like they enjoy being hurt–no wonder empathy is decreasing.

Discussion question: What are some ways that porn decreases a person’s ability to empathize with others?

Related: Selfie-Centered Kids? How to Teach Empathy with 5 Quick and Easy Activities

#7 Porn leads to dramatic rise in sexual dysfunction 

It used to be that erectile dysfunction (ED) was a vascular problem, mostly in older men. Now it’s become a problem for a large percentage of men in their 20’s.

Gabe Deem knows this from personal experience. He’s the founder of Reboot Nation, an online forum for men seeking relief from Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED). He began looking at porn from the age of 8 and got hooked with online porn at the age of 12. By his early twenties, he could no longer have sex with his girlfriend. After searching online, he found other young, healthy men were having the same issues. You can hear Gabe tell about his experience here.

The late (great!) Gary Wilson started documenting these issues as well on his site Your Brain on Porn. 

“In a paper published in Behavioral Sciences,…several US Navy doctors documented a near 1000% increase in youthful ED, pointing out that 15 years ago ED among men aged 18-40 was 2-5%, and all studies assessing youthful ED since 2010, shortly after the dawn of porn “tube-sites,” report ED rates in the same age group around 30%.”

Another study shows that 35% of men who watch a lot of porn get more aroused by porn than by actual sex.

Some men are so distressed by PIED they consider suicide–see this story for an example with a positive outcome. (Note: contains swearing). The good news is that once men quit porn, their sexual function can return to normal. And not only that, but men report increased clarity, energy and joy in life. 

For an excellent overview of the problems inherent with high speed internet porn, and examples of the benefits of quitting it, watch the TEDx talk, The Great Porn Experiment, by Gary Wilson.


Discussion question: How can training your brain to be sexually aroused by porn decrease your ability to be sexually aroused by a real partner?

Related: How Porn Use Becomes an Addiction (Simplified!)

Conclusion

A strong marriage without porn has enough challenges, but one encumbered with the toxicity of porn will always suffer. 

Using porn can hurt the likelihood of a healthy, happy marriage by promoting sexual violence, sexual insecurity, loneliness, fake extremes, objectification, addiction, a decrease of empathy, and sexual dysfunction.

Our kids deserve to know the truth about how porn hurts and ends marriages so they have a greater chance of enjoying a happy, healthy future.

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Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids

"I really like the no-shame approach the author takes. It's so much more than just "don't watch or look at porn." It gave my children a real understanding about the brain and its natural response to pornography, how it can affect you if you look at it, and how to be prepared when you do come across it (since, let's face it... it's gonna happen at some point)." -Amazon Review by D.O.

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