Illustration for article titled How to Ask Your Partner to Watch Porn With You

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Pornography has a troubled history in the United States. From the “Golden Age of Porn,” when it was a marginally accepted sub-genre of cinema (with movies like Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door receiving nationwide releases), to its downfall in the late ‘80s thanks to Ronald Raegan’s anti-pornography legislation, to the rise of amateur porn on the internet, much has changed over the years. Although the art form has negative connotations, it can still be enjoyable when consumed in a healthy fashion.

Watching porn alone can be personal and intimate, but viewing in a partnership can be even more beneficial. As reported by Psychology Today, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found couples who watched pornography together reported increased sexual intimacy over time, while those watched separately reported mixed results: Women tended to report solo watching led to increased “relationship commitment” and intimacy with their partners, while men reported the opposite.

Despite the potential redeeming qualities, watching porn while you’re in a relationship still often gets a bad rap, and asking your partner to share the viewing experience can be a complex conversation. Here are some expert tips to breaking the ice with your partner(s) on the subject of porn.

Have an established connection with your partner before discussing porn

There is no right or wrong time to bring up the subject of porn to your partner. The right time is when you feel ready. Sexologist and somatic sex educator Juliana Goldstone (who often offers individualized counsel on the matter) advises having an honest conversation on the matter. “It is important to bring up the idea of watching porn together when you already feel connected,” Goldstone says. “If you are currently struggling in your relationship, take some time to think about what is working before you suggest watching porn with your partner.” Porn can be exciting and bring a new level of pleasure to your relationship, but shouldn’t be introduced in hopes of fixing any existing issues with intimacy.

Get yourself in the right mindset

People watch porn for lots of reasons. It might help the watcher visualize a fantasy or introduce them to sexual experiences they had not imagined before. Goldstone invites people to consider their intentions when watching porn with their partner(s). “Is there a fantasy that you have that you are wanting to share with your partner but don’t have the words to describe?” she asks.Would watching porn help you to share that fantasy more effectively? And more importantly, how do you want to feel before, during, and after watching porn together? Inspired? Connected? Turned on? Curious?”

Once you have a clear idea of what you and your partner can experience and explore together by watching porn, you will feel more confident talking about it with them.

There is also a lot of shame around consuming pornography, so it’s important to make sure you are in a good place and able to be vulnerable when sharing your desires. First, know that you are not alone in enjoying porn: In 2020, the popular video site PornHub reported a whopping 120 million daily users—and noted its traffic rose dramatically during the onset of the pandemic. Watching porn is something millions—if not billions—of people do regularly. But sharing these desires can be a very vulnerable act. Goldstone suggests using “I” statements and grounding yourself with a few deep breaths before and during the conversation.

“Be transparent with your partner about how you are feeling during the conversation. Some simple statements like,” This is vulnerable to share,” or “I’m feeling a little bit nervous right now,” or “I might not get this right the first time so please bear with me,” can breathe some spaciousness and grace into a conversation that might feel scary. You don’t have to say the perfect words to have a successful and connective conversation.

Communicate your boundaries and triggers

While pornography can be playful and sexy, it can also be abrasive and harmful in some situations. “Unfortunately, porn is rife with harmful stereotypes, sexism, racism, and just bad behavior. Shop around for porn that feels in integrity with your values as well as your turn ons,” says Goldstone. You want to make sure the porn you choose is desirable for both parties and that you’re communicating your boundaries clearly during the experience. Goldstone instructs couples to stop and address any uncomfortableness that may arise if anyone involved is feeling triggered or distressed. She also implores couples to “leave enough time to process the experience after you are finished.”

You are embarking on a new experience with your partner, one that may bring up new thoughts and feelings. For one, seeing your partner aroused by someone other than yourself can be a strange feeling. “It is important to remember that just because a partner is turned on by something or someone other than you does not mean that they don’t love or want you,” assures Goldstone. When those feelings may arise, it’s important to remember to breathe and be transparent with each other. Keep the lines of communication open and ensure everyone involved feels cared for.

Manage your expectations

While pornography depicts the act of sex and sexual situations, it is still entertainment. Some scenarios don’t translate to reality, so manage your expectations accordingly—just because you enjoyed watching something together, that doesn’t mean your partner would want to engage in that activity in real life. Goldstone explains that “with care and mindfulness,” watching pornography together can offer a level of “fantasy and fiction [which can] can be a wonderful ingredient to add some spice into your own life.”

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