A Couple's Guide To Porn

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Watching pornography is usually thought of as a private activity, maybe even something to be a little embarrassed about. When you imagine the typical porn viewer, some might think of a man, hunched furtively over his computer in the dead of night, leaving only a drift of dirty Kleenex behind. But, that's not the case.
First off, we watch way too much porn for it to only be solitary dudes. MindGeek, the home company of the well-known "tube" sites RedTube, PornHub, and YouPorn, is one of the top 10 consumers of Internet bandwidth worldwide. That's not even counting independent and feminist porn companies, webcam sites, fan-fic stories, and Netflix's occasional offering of Diary of a Nymphomaniac.
Advertisement
Secondly, it's definitely not just men who are porn consumers. Exact data are a little hard to track down, but one recent survey put the number of women porn-watchers at over 30%.
In other words, you're probably doing it. And, your partner is probably doing it. So, why the big secret?
Whether you want to watch porn together — and lots of couples do — or just be a little less hush-hush about that part of your sex life, read on. Here's a couple's guide to porn.
1 of 6
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Ask Questions

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about porn, "I know it when I see it." Figuring out what exactly constitutes porn is actually an individual experience: While one person thinks those Milo Manara comic books are smut, another sees them as examples of fine artwork (albeit with a lot of boobs). The best way to figure out what porn is so you and your partner can enjoy it together? Be creative — and ask your partner!

Martha, a 65-year-old resident of Utah, says, "We started with our own Polaroids and sex tapes...or maybe my copy of Caligula." While we tend to assume that all porn comes through the Internet these days, don't discount the inspiration provided by magazines, vintage videos, erotic art, or short-story collections. Sexual expression is unique to every person. Porn preferences and desires can vary not just from person to person, but also from year to year as you or your partner find yourselves interested in new experiences or discovering scenarios you'd never before considered. Breaking new ground, sexual or otherwise, in your relationship strengthens bonds and fosters intimacy, experts say, and porn is as good a place to start as any.
2 of 6
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Have The Talk

Your partner probably won't find out about your porn-consumption habits unless you bring them up. Discussing your preferences should be as straightforward and honest as discussing any other emotions, behaviors, or actions. Fiona, a 24-year-old from Vermont, says, “I think being able to have good conversations about everything is the foundation of a solid relationship...plus, talking about porn is sometimes as hot as watching it!”

Hopefully, you've established an atmosphere in your relationship where open discussion of sexuality is not just acceptable, but encouraged. This means sharing your fantasies (and honoring your partner's sharing of theirs), and feeling secure that your partner will hear you out. Good communication skills will serve you from cradle to grave, and feeling supported by your partner is essential to creating a long-lasting attitude of trust and sexual health.

Take turns speaking, ask questions, listen to the answers, and reserve judgment until you have heard the whole story. If your relationship is new, you may find it easier to bring up watching porn together in the "honeymoon period," when all you want to do is send each other erotic text messages. You could easily just say, "I found a video I want to watch with you," with a winking emoticon and leave it at that.

If you aren't sure how your partner will take your revelation — that you enjoy porn and what kind you enjoy — I'd suggest opening up a hypothetical dialogue about sexuality and pornography. You could mention having seen an article about porn performers, and ask your partner what they think.

Some people think it's cheating if their partner watches porn. If you or your partner feel this way, it's probably a good idea to discuss your general attitudes toward sex and see if you can find out how to set your minds at ease: What specific actions can you take to ensure that your behavior is not seen as cheating? Would consuming porn only when you are together make you feel better? If you're pretty comfortable talking about your sexuality, you could designate certain kinds of porn as being special "couple's night" porn — for example, you only watch anal together.

If you feel like your partner is getting bad sexual messages from porn that affect the way you engage sexually, you could investigate non-mainstream options — feminist and independent pornography includes enthusiastic consent and performer-directed writing. Fiona adds, “Part of the reason I don’t like mainstream porn is that it looks less like sex and more like a performance of sex. Feminist porn looks more like actual real bodies having actual real encounters.”

If you are concerned that your partner may be addicted to porn, it is important to honestly and openly discuss their consumption habits. Nobody can feel sexy if they are concerned about being used as a prop for someone's addiction.
Advertisement
3 of 6
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Make A Date

You may have to strike a balance between personal porn-watching time and shared couple times. It can be sexy and fun to make “porn night” part of an upcoming date. You don’t have to mark it on your calendar, but having that to look forward to at the end of a dinner out could make dessert more interesting.

Some of the hottest pornography I've shared as a couple has been sending each other links to videos, Tumblr GIFs, or photos that we each found erotic. This works well for long-distance relationships, too: You can get pretty riled up sitting at your laptop and checking out a nonstop stream of sexy images to find just the right one to send to your partner on an instant messenger.

How do you feel about your partner consuming interactive pornography, like visiting cam-girl sites? While they are not physically interacting with another person, they are having a much more direct and personal relationship than just watching The Crash Pad Series on DVD. Some people are all right with knowing their partners visit these sites, and some people aren't. Don't make assumptions: Talk to your partner about this if it seems like something they are interested in doing. You could also look into the possibilities behind visiting a cam-girl site as a couple; talk about a safe way to explore threesomes!
4 of 6
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Touch Yourself

Masturbation habits are really nobody's business, but your own. Masturbation is a healthy part of personal sexual development and can be done with a partner if you feel like it. But, no partner should be able to dictate where or how you masturbate (unless it's part of a role-play scenario).

As Martha says, "Masturbation is like any other hygiene activity, but more pleasurable. I do it less often than I brush my teeth, but more often than I go to the gym."

Consuming porn while you masturbate is pretty normal, and you could involve your partner in your masturbation experience (if you want to) by filming it and sending them the video or texting them while you're in the middle of it. (Who wouldn't like personalized pornography?) You could also have your partner direct your sexual actions to make the video even more personal.
5 of 6
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Start Your Engines

The biggest issue that seems likely to arise for any couple is a mismatch of sexual desire: when one person wants to watch porn and the other one doesn't. Gina, a 45-year-old from Sydney, Australia, says, "My partner wants more sex than I do, and I'm not very sexual, so I need something external to myself to get me into the mood. He will masturbate in bed next to me while I'm reading, and sometimes I will join in by watching what he's got on the laptop screen...but sometimes not. It's never a big deal."

Watching porn can be a good way to jump-start your libido and have an engaging sexual encounter with your partner. Martha says, "It's relaxing and helps set a playful mood. We like to laugh at the really awful porn and marvel at the sleek, modern, hairless genitals. Porn is for fun."

If you share your spaces — whether physical, with roommates or children, or digital, like a laptop or accounts — porn consumption can be a little trickier. Obviously you want to keep your personal sexual encounters just that — personal, not shared with unwilling participants. Leaving porn up on your shared laptop or strewing magazines around your shared kitchen is rude, intrusive, and non-consensual.

In the case of children, it's actually against the law! However open-minded everyone is, it's best for all if you treat everyone in a shared space with respect, and don't force your porn habits on the unsuspecting or unwilling. This includes your partner! They don't need to be surprised by that one fetish you never mentioned. That's not good communication, and it's not fair. So, when you find yourself wanting to get all revved up, close (and lock) the door before opening the laptop.

6 of 6
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Decide Who Drives

You could have a very fluid, organic attitude towards consuming porn — whoever wants to do it gets to pick what you read, watch, or see. You could also designate one person in charge of picking the porn options, or take turns. Make sure you're not always engaging with the kind of porn that only one partner likes. Simply asking "Do you like this?" is a great way to find out more about your partner and get the skinny on what they might want to see. I was dating a guy once who seductively asked me if I liked lesbian porn. When I said 'no', he showed me some anyway and was disappointed when I didn't get all hot and bothered.

If you do have a fetish you want to explore, or find an offbeat kind of porn to be completely hot, definitely discuss it with your partner first — but don't make it a big deal. If you treat something like the end of the world, so will the person you're talking to. Remember: porn is fun, and we consume it because it's enjoyable, not to make ourselves or others feel bad.

Support ethically-produced pornography (yep, even the far-out, kinky stuff), and share the hot outcome with your lover. You might be surprised at how well things go — not just in your sex life, but for your entire relationship.
Advertisement