Is Porn Bad? Effects of Porn on Your Marriage


After about 40 minutes of nonstop complaining, the man who came into my office for counseling finally paused. He wasn’t happy with the frequency or quality of sex with his wife. He wanted to know how he could convince her to have more sex and spent most of his time attempting to build a biblical case for his “rights as a husband.”

When he stopped, he was looking for me to affirm his stance and maybe even give him a few extra Bible verses to support his case. Instead, I asked him, “How often are you looking at porn?”

My question was intended to shock and was a bit risky, but not by much. Between 55% and 70% of men and 30% and 40% of women under age 40 report viewing pornography each year[1]. That, combined with several comments he made during his opening monologue, made it clear porn was likely affecting his marriage.

He briefly attempted to avoid the question but soon abandoned his denials and came clean.

Is porn bad?

It’s easy to think porn usage, as long as it stays secret, will have little effect on your marriage. But even if no one ever finds out, damage is taking place.

So is porn bad? Here are six effects of porn on your marriage.

1. It turns sex into a performance.

People having sex in front of cameras are performers. Even if the act of sex is real, everything else is staged, edited for effect, and exaggerated. The actors do what the producers tell them to do and respond how the producers tell them to respond. No matter how amazing the performance might appear, it is fake. 

There’s a reason the Bible uses the term “know” for marital sex. Sex was designed to do more than allow couples to experience pleasure or reproduce. It’s about learning to get in sync with your spouse. It’s about communicating, listening, and responding. It is about knowing each other.

If we try and emulate what we see others do, we become mere performers, and any chance of experiencing intimacy dies.

2. It distorts reality.

Pornography trains you to believe women like X and men like Y. The thing is, pornography producers can make almost anything look alluring with the right music, lighting, and sound effects. Linger in the world of pornography too long, and you may find things you once found disgusting slowly become attractive.

This is how Hollywood can produce a movie series about a rich and powerful man violently dominating and sexually demeaning a woman and make millions—with a primarily female audience!

Porn reprograms our definition of normal. When our reality differs, we begin to feel as though something is missing. Instead of being satisfied with what we have, we begin to think we need something else. Most sexual dissatisfaction can be traced back to extramarital sources. According to Pornography and its impact on the sexual health of men, “decreased sexual satisfaction owing to unrealistic expectations of sexual partners and performance may be caused by long-term pornography use”[2].

Instead of learning what your spouse likes, you wind up having sex based on what some porn producer implied your spouse would like, and you miss the mark.Every piece of sexual information gained outside of your marriage must eventually be unlearned.

3. It creates self-doubt.

Maybe I should look different. Maybe I need surgery or liposuction. Maybe I should be more vocal during sex. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Porn usage creates self-doubt. It subtly introduces the thought that we are not enough. And if sex were merely a physical act, it might be right. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws and parts of ourselves we would rather others not see—physical or otherwise. But that’s the point. You may not be enough for the entertainment of others, but you were perfectly crafted by God for your spouse.

Marital sex, free from the influence of porn, is a place where we can expose all our imperfections yet still receive acceptance. It’s no wonder the Bible uses the marital relationship as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His church. 

4. It fosters a pattern of deception.

Even if we manage to never overtly lie about porn use, a lie of omission is still a lie. And hiding one thing, makes it easier to hide other things.

The more of ourselves we hide, the further we drift from marital oneness. When spouses eventually find out, they will feel betrayed.

5. It increases your chances of divorce.

According to a recent study, “Till Porn Do Us Part? A Longitudinal Examination of Pornography Use and Divorce,” the probability of divorce roughly doubled for married Americans who began pornography use. Perhaps most striking was the finding that “married women who discontinued pornography use saw their likelihood of divorce decline by two-thirds.”

So is porn bad? The bottom line: Porn is bad for the long-term health of your marriage. 

Is it porn? The effects of porn in all forms

Turn on any mainstream hit from your favorite streaming service, and before long, someone is naked and having sex. You may not see yourself as a consumer of traditional porn, but that may be more about the culture we live in than anything else. Sex scenes that were once relegated to peep shows on the seedy side of town are now thrown into almost every new show. Books that describe sex in more vivid detail than an iMax screen routinely make it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Even if you don’t currently think you have a problem, pornographic media still distort our sexual thinking and can serve as “gateway drugs” to even more explicit content. And like any addiction, tolerance eventually develops. The more sexually explicit content you consume, the less it affects you. 

For those of us whose primary sexual stimulation is visual; our bodies can become desensitized. In severe cases, you may even lose the ability to be sexually stimulated without ever-increasing doses of explicit content. 

But thankfully, we can retrain ourselves to respond differently. Read “Finding Freedom for Pornography” to find out how.

Is watching porn cheating?

But is porn bad or equal to having an affair? It’s easy to compartmentalize and pretend looking at porn is no big deal: “I don’t look at it that often.” “Everyone does it.” “It’s not real.”

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

It is a big deal to God. And if we claim to follow Him, it must be a big deal to us too.

Without pornography, sex is free to be a pure expression of love, vulnerability, discovery, and intimate communication. There is no need to hide. There is no “standard” of beauty or sexual prowess to compare yourself. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, your spouse becomes your standard of beauty, and you can learn to be “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25).   

If you want true sexual intimacy in your marriage, don’t crowd your bedroom with images and fantasies of others. Learn to forget every piece of sexual information that hasn’t come directly from your spouse and trade the imaginary for an extraordinary reality.

[1] Regnerus, M. D., Gordon, D., & Price, J. (2016). Documenting pornography use in America: A comparative analysis of methodological approaches. Journal of Sex Research. 53(7), 873–881. doi:10.1080/00224499.2015.1096886

2 Kirby M. Pornography and its impact on the sexual health of men. Trends in Urology & Men’s Health. 2021; 12(2):6–10.


Copyright © 2022 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Carlos Santiago is a senior writer for FamilyLife and has written and contributed to numerous articles, e-books, and devotionals. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. Carlos and his wife, Tanya, live in Orlando, Florida. You can learn more on their site, YourEverAfter.org.   

 



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