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Porn and Intimacy


Sex is an important part of a romantic relationship. However, often sex and intimacy are confused or used interchangeably. To add to the confusion, porn is becoming a part of people’s sexual experiences and is influencing our conceptions of intimacy. To appreciate the interconnections between porn, sex and intimacy, let us first understand what each of them actually implies.

Intimacy is not just about physical closeness, but it also involves an emotional connect and is the crux of the bond that you share with someone close to you. Sex could be a physical expression as well as the means to build this intimacy. Porn on the other hand, may be an aid to a sexual experience

‘Sex is emotion in motion’ – Mae West.

I often see couples going through relationship difficulties while at the same time, also experiencing sexual issues. It’s tricky to say if one causes the other but it definitely, is a very thin line. I also see couples fighting along the lines of “I need sex to feel close to you” or “I need to feel close to you to have sex” but what we need to understand is that both – sex and intimacy are mutually exclusive of and yet very inclusive of each other.

First and foremost, we must understand that sex is a biological need and whenever you try to curb this very fundamental you will feel pain and awkwardness. Being one of the only animals in the kingdom who are monogamous, we tend to exercise enough self-control and restriction to only express these urges with our loved one. Expressing this core need to your partner can make you feel passion, excitement and sometimes even anger – all of which are important elements of a relationship.

This act of expression itself, can help in building intimacy. Thus, intimacy builds sex and sex builds intimacy.

Conventional knowledge tells us that pornography is bad: damaging our psyches and ruining our relationships. Porn changes the way men view sex, and leads them to expect “porn sex”. This is results in more violent acts of sex. Besides, porn ends up setting the standards for women sexually – and this is a scary thought.

Basically, porn could give a fabricated sense of fulfilment without emphasizing intimacy.

However, the fact remains that it is hard to ignore porn.

Watching porn does not necessarily have to ruin your sex life; it can also turn your sex life around, in an adventurous way. Porn can at times, serve to stimulate desire and serve as a release for physical and/or emotional needs.

It is important to accept that fantasy and imagination are part of our lives and both play a crucial role in sexual experiences.  Knowing this, couples can use porn to get inspired and experiment more in the bedroom (or outside of it if that’s where their fantasies lead them). In this way, porn could become a fun, shared experience in a relationship.

Excessive porn on the other hand, negatively impacts relationships in various ways. By bringing in ideas of threesomes, voyeurism, BDSM, porn fulfils a physical desire, and forces partners to negate the intimacy between them. It can end up highlighting only the physical aspect of the sexual experience.

Thus, it may be a delicate balance, trying to figure out when porn can stop helping and start harming.

  • Porn is an easy way to learn about your partner’s fantasies – it gives you an edge when you discover this side of your partner. Watching porn together can also often speed up the process of foreplay.
  • It also shatters the myth that your partner should only be attracted to you and can help you accept that your partner can be turned on by others.
  • It is natural to feel threatened or insecure knowing that your partner feels sexually aroused by the idea of someone else. However, watching porn together allows you to see your partner’s arousal at the image of another woman/man for what it is: a natural, biological response to a stimulus.
  • Introducing restrictions and forbidding your partner from sharing their sexual fantasies with you, might bring strain into the relationship. Instead, these fantasies, if explored together within the relationship, can help both partners feel sexually satisfied and this in turn, makes them less likely to look for gratification elsewhere.

Since porn is unavoidable in almost any time or generation, being open about it will allow more room for honesty about it rather than dealing with guilt, shame and the burden of keeping it secret. This openness itself can make additional room for intimacy and lead to a wholesome sexual experience.

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(This article is contributed by Nandita Sarma, a psychologist at Inner Space. In addition to addressing emotional concerns, she specializes in helping individuals and couples work with sexual difficulties in their relationships.)

Image Credit: Nattu


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