Every political season we hear a lot of talk about “family values.” Although we’re not sure exactly what they are, there’s always the possibility the politician touting them is about to either be called out for soliciting prostitutes or caught with his pants around his ankles in an airport restroom. For the rest of us, maintaining strong relationships takes far more than platitudes — it requires concerted effort to keep things spicy after the honeymoon phase fizzles.
One way to heat things up and keep them steamy is to turn up the burner on your sexual repertoire. Without communication, however, things can very quickly go awry. For instance, you may decide it’s a good idea to reach back into an old playbook but, what worked on an ex back in college may not be the thing that gets your current partner off. Let’s just say it’s never a good idea to start peeing on the love of your life if she’s not both into it and ready for it. Seriously. And never, never, ever jam a bit in his mouth and ride him like Silver if, up until now, he’s only been down with missionary.
It’s best to start slow, so say the experts. Although scientists aren’t usually known for their salaciousness (except maybe Kinsey), they’ve been out there in the trenches studying the things that turn us on, keep us going and, ultimately, help us stay coupled. One thing they’ve been looking at a lot of is porn.
To hear it bandied about in the popular media and among most mainstream advice columnists, there are only two schools of thought when it comes to pornography: His and Hers. His goes something like this: “It’s awesome.” Hers is more along the lines of, “It’s the same as cheating.” Of course, out in the real world, there are as many different takes on porn as there are guys lining up for the World Bukkake Championship.* The word on porn from science is, well, mixed — especially when it comes to its effect on relationships.
The Bad News
Recent evidence shows that porn may be hazardous to your relationship. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that pornography consumption is related to “weakened commitment in relationships,” including lower levels of reported commitment, higher levels of flirting outside of the relationship and an increase in infidelity. The researchers behind the study believe it has something to do with pornography creating heightened expectations that a partner can’t fulfill. However, they did admit the limitations of focusing only on 20-something college students (who may already have heightened expectations, having not yet suffered the drudgery of a soul-killing corporate job.)
The Worse News
All men watch porn. All of them. And that’s the rub…er…so to speak. In a now well-known would-be study by the University of Montreal in 2009, researchers set out to compare the views of men who had never been exposed to porn with regular consumers. Their plans were thwarted, however, when they failed to locate a man who had never seen porn. Not a single one. “We started our research seeking men in their 20s who had never consumed pornography,” said lead researcher, Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse. “We couldn’t find any.”
Finally, the Good News
A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine scanned the brains of women watching erotic movies and found something unexpected. Watching porn actually shuts down a part of the brain responsible for producing anxiety. The brain seems to be sending blood to the parts of the brain responsible for arousal instead, say researchers. According to Gert Holstege, a uro-neurologist at the University of Groningen Medical Center in the Netherlands, the brain can be either aroused or anxious, but not both. “During orgasm,” he says, “activity in brain regions associated with anxiety plummets.” This could turn out to be good news for some women. Anxiety is a known “libido killer,” and, says Holstege, “women with low levels of sexual desire often have high levels of anxiety.” watching porn together can be just the thing to reignite lost passion.
watching porn together can be just the thing to reignite lost passion.
Adventurous couples may just find that watching porn together can be just the thing to reignite lost passion (because, hey, he’s doing it anyway). Even though the average porn consumer is still a man, more and more women are getting in on the action. Studies have found that 30 percent of Internet porn viewers are women — and the numbers are rising. Unlike men, however, most women prefer their porn to be more relationship based with plenty of communication, tenderness and foreplay. Men would be wise to keep this in mind before springing “Anal Chiropractor“** on a shy mate. Based on his findings, Holstege has some advice for men: “If you want to have sex, as a man, you need to produce a safe situation for the woman…that is the most important thing.”
* Fun fact:
when I wrote that line, I didn’t know if the World Bukkake Championship was a real thing, so I looked it up. It is! (Consider yourself warned if you decide to Google it yourself — very NSFW.)
** Real title
When he’s not penning posts for Tokii, award-winning Portland, Oregon writer M L Kerr takes solace in uncomfortable silences.
Kastleman, M. “Behavior Studies of Women and Porn.” Official Site for Net Nanny. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. <http://www.netnanny.com/learn_center/article/122>.
Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A Love That Doesn’t Last: Pornography Consumption and Weakened Commitment to One’s Romantic Partner. Journal Of Social & Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410-438. doi:10.1521/jscp.2012.31.4.410
Liew, J. “All men watch porn, scientists find – Telegraph.” Telegraph.co.uk – Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. N.p., 2 Dec. 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/6709646/All-men-watch-porn-scientists-find.html>.
Pappas, Stephanie. “Porn-Brain Study: Erotic Movies Make Brain Regions ‘Shut Down’.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/porn-brain-shut-down_n_1435324.html?ref=science>.
Zitzman, S. T., & Butler, M. H. (2009). Wives’ Experience of Husbands’ Pornography Use and Concomitant Deception as an Attachment Threat in the Adult Pair-Bond Relationship. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 16(3), 210-240. doi:10.1080/10720160903202679