Q&A: Bothered When My Boyfriend Watches Porn

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QUESTION: Sometimes my boyfriend watches porn and I can feel intimidated by this. I know this is a common and natural thing for people to do. Sometimes I think I’m okay with this and other times I can’t quit thinking why - Am I not pleasing him enough? Are the girls in his porn prettier than me? Is he thinking about them? I have talked to him about this before and he says it’s not a big deal and I have nothing at all to worry about. So why do I feel intimidated still?

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Although it is common for many men and, to a lesser extent, women, to watch porn, it is also common for many people to have questions or insecurities about their partner’s choice to watch sexually explicit materials.

Good To Be Aware Of Your Feelings

There is nothing wrong with you for feeling anxious or uncomfortable about your boyfriend’s interest in porn. It is good that you are aware of your feelings.

Many people use porn as part of their masturbation routine because it can be a quick, enjoyable or easy means of sexual arousal. This does not mean that it is more arousing than you or that your boyfriend prefers porn actresses to you; his use of porn may be part of a long-standing habit that says more about his masturbation routine than it does about his relationship with, or feelings for, you.

I commend you for trying to communicate with your boyfriend and address the issue of how he can enjoy this part of his sexuality at the same time that you can come to feel comfortable it.

Nothing To Worry About?

You mentioned that when you talked to him about his, he said that his porn watching was not a big deal and that you had nothing to worry about. While he was likely trying to reassure you, it may be that you need more from the conversation in order to feel adequately reassured.

You might consider approaching him again and saying something like, “I know that we’ve discussed your watching porn before, and I understand that this feels normal to you, but it would help me to talk to you more about my fears so that I can learn to feel better about this.”

In relationships, it is good to voice your concerns rather than keep them secret, and you may find that conversations go more easily when you use “I messages” where you express how you feel rather than focus on what someone else does (e.g., “When I think about you watching porn, I feel insecure” rather than “You make me feel insecure”).

Sometimes it can be helpful to give your partner insight into your train of thought, as in “Sometimes when I think about you watching porn, I can’t help but wonder whether I’m pretty enough, sexy enough or arousing enough for you. I know you don’t mean for this to happen, but these are my feelings and I’d like to talk about this with you so that I can feel better about it.”

Negotiating Boundaries

You two may also want to negotiate boundaries. For example, just because you want to become okay with him watching porn does not mean that it is okay with you under all circumstances. If you don’t want to see it yourself, or you don’t want him watching it when you are home, it is okay to discuss that.

Further Reading

All relationships have their challenges and learning to communicate in gentle, respectful and effective ways is key. You may find the book The Relationship Cure by Dr. John Gottman to be a helpful resource.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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