Changing my mind on porn, changing my gut

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I recently came across some new research via Dr. Justin Lehmiller (huge fan) showing that porn use is only linked to relationship dissatisfaction when one partner uses it alone and the other doesn't. In fact, "Partners who watch pornography together report higher relationship and sexual satisfaction than partners who do not, and notably, this association was not moderated by gender,” the authors write. When porn is a problem, it’s less about the porn itself and more about solo porn use by one partner but not the other being a symptom of dissimilar sex drives.

This finding backs up other research showing porn may be linked to easier, better orgasms for women. Another study found that viewing porn “was associated with their own and their partner’s higher sexual desire and with higher odds of partnered sexual activity” for women.

Another study found that couples who watched porn together “reported more open sexual communication and greater closeness than those that did not.” 

Another study found that most partnered people report “no negative effects” of porn on their relationship. In fact, many thought that watching porn improved their sexual communication, sexual experimentation, and sexual comfort.

A recent paper argues that for some, viewing porn is associated with health-promoting behaviors, including increased intimacy, more solo masturbation, and feelings of acceptance. Porn might be the only healthy way to experience sexuality for LGBTQIA+ people or kinky or poly folks who live in conservative parts of the country.

This matters because Evangelical groups like NCOSE and Exodus Cry are waging a war on porn based on lies about pornography.

Legislators in 16 states have passed resolutions declaring that pornography, in its ubiquity, constitutes a public-health crisis. The wave of bills started five years ago, with Utah, which went a step further this spring by passing a law mandating that all cellphones and tablets sold in the state block access to pornography by default. (The measure will not go into effect unless five other states pass similar laws, but that’s very possible: Alabama is now considering a similar bill.)

Groups such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-obscenity nonprofit that produced model legislation for the porn-blocking bill and the public-health-crisis bills, argue that pornography increases problematic sexual activity among teens, normalizes violence against women, contributes to sex trafficking, causes problems in intimate relationships, and is “potentially biologically addictive.”

The truth is that porn isn’t harmful for the vast majority of users, provides real, measurable benefits to many users, and isn’t particularly addictive. Feeling ashamed of watching porn is more strongly correlated with believing you’re addicted to porn than how much porn you actually watch. Religiosity is actually the best predictor of self-perceived sexual-use problems, like pornography addiction.

As I write this I’m procrastinating doing my gut hypnotherapy. I kind of hate doing it. I’m supposed to relax, but I never really do. I just lay there trying to relax and conjure up the images I’m told to visualize. But I keep getting distracted with thoughts of all the other things I want or need to do. I’m not in a 17th-century apothecary, Nerva. I’m on my bed and I’d rather be doing many other things right now than trying to imagine that I am.

There was a time that I was vehemently anti-porn. I cringe thinking back to how I used to shame my now ex-husband about looking at porn while we were dating long-distance. The churches I grew up in taught that porn was evil. It ruined marriages before they began. If my husband watched porn he’d always unfavorably compare me to the actresses who were younger, thinner, and better lit and he’d be dissatisfied with me as a result. If he watched too much porn he’d eventually lose interest in sex with me altogether in favor of masturbating alone to pornography.

I literally didn’t know any better. I’d never really watched porn. I’d never read any legitimate studies of porn. I’d never talked to porn actresses or talked openly with men who used porn about their experiences.

I did have a friend who knew more about the topic than me try to change my mind in college. Lauren, you’re the shit. But I wasn’t ready to listen then.

The Evangelical church took advantage of the fact that I was already insecure about my body. Thanks to puritanical bullshit, I’d rarely seen what real women look like naked. The women’s bodies I saw were mostly via media, where they’re overwhelmingly young, thin, and airbrushed to perfection.

But once I got new information and had new experiences, I changed my mind. Now, one could argue I might have overcorrected a tad by going from hating pornography and shaming people for looking at it to, you know, making and selling it. But what can I say? I commit.

That’s one the things I’m most proud of. Not the tendency to overcorrect. Or that I don’t always come to the right conclusion at first. But when I know better, I tend to do better. This, in and of itself, is something I’ve put effort toward cultivating. I’ve tried, with some success, to put more effort into becoming more right and less into seeming right.

This demonstrated ability to change my mind and behavior gives me hope with the gut stuff. I do have the capacity for change. It might not be today or tomorrow. It might not be through this hypnotherapy app. Or any form of hypnotherapy. But it’s possible that I can change myself for the better over time.

I have no idea what the “hating porn to making porn” pipeline equivalent will be for gut health. But if I know myself, I’ll commit.