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Is porn cheating?

About the author: Allison Leigh is a pornographer, producer, polyamorist, and professional kinkster. When sexuality is business, business is fun! 

When it comes to infidelity, where does fantasy cross the line?

Sexuality, while an integral part of the human experience, is something that continues to polarize pundits and plain folks alike. With adult entertainment at the forefront of politics across the US and UK right now, opinions are not in short supply. Something that continues to perplex us is where pornography sits in the scope of our marriages and relationships. Is viewing porn cheating, or is the link between erotic materials and romance more complex than that?

A new study released in February of this year sought to answer that question by comparing opinions on pornography with other cultural attitudes in the United States and Spain. In examining the data gathered from University of Florida and the University of Alicante, researchers found that an overwhelming number of participants (73% in USA and 77% in Spain) believe that viewing erotic materials is not cheating.

In the sample that did find porn use to be infidelity, researchers found strong correlations to their lifestyles, including religiosity, relationship status, and overall attitudes on jealousy and infidelity. A participant from the United States was more likely to view porn as cheating, as was someone who did not use erotic materials themselves, or was single (and therefore perhaps more likely to be idealistically rigid about their attitudes toward relationships). Having low self-esteem was also a factor tied to attitudes on porn and infidelity, but only in participants from the US. Interestingly, there weren’t any gender differences - women were not more likely than men to view porn as cheating.

Church attendance was the strongest predictor of a participant’s attitude toward erotic materials and infidelity. In respondents from the US, being religious predicted the view that porn is cheating, whereas Spanish respondents showed no such effect. About 70% of Spaniards identify as Catholics, but only around 9% of citizens attend church at least monthly. In contrast, as many as 42% of Americans attend church weekly. This suggests that it is attendance of church services, rather than self-identification as religious, that has an impact on one’s views on pornography.

Also worth noting is that Europeans, including Spanish Catholics, tend to be less punitive about sex in general, and also less dogmatic and energized about their religion, compared to many US evangelical churchgoers. These differences may also account for the differentiation between the two countries regarding whether or not low self-esteem played a factor in participants’ opinions on infidelity -  it is hardly a stretch to think that those with a pronounced desire to belong to a group may feel more pressure to conform to church ideologies.

So is the answer to avoiding marital strife a detailed survey of your partner’s demographics? Are our cultural attitudes toward porn immutable? Hardly! Studies have shown that porn use adds more positive things to your relationship than negative, including improved sexual communication - if things are properly discussed. Couples have reported that they perceived porn as being linked to more sexual experimentation and sexual comfort in their relationships. Viewing pornography is also tied to higher levels of arousability, which can keep a sexual relationship alive.

As with all things in a partnership, communication is key - talk to your partner about their attitudes to porn and infidelity. While this is a conversation that many avoid due to fear of ensuing conflict, discussing these things early on can allow couples to navigate potential problems before they occur. Odds are that your partner will be amenable to your viewing habits, and honesty is far preferable to introducing secrecy and deception into your relationship, which is more likely to hurt your partner. Instead of undermining trust, use the conversation as an opportunity to promote understanding and develop your sexuality together. Strong relationships are built upon strong communication - something no amount of porn can damage or replace. We hope SexArt will play a role in that communication.

This post first appeared on MyErotica.com

REFERENCES:

“Dogmatic and Spiritual Religion.” Psychology Today. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201412/dogmatic-and-spiritual-religion

“Is Watching Pornography a Form of Cheating? It Depends.” Psychology Today. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-who-stray/201802/is-watching-pornography-form-cheating-it-depends

“Why Secrets Can Ruin Relationships.” Psychology Today. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201609/why-secrets-can-ruin-relationships

Stephanie Both, Mark Spiering, Walter Everaerd, and Ellen Laan. “Sexual Behavior and Responsiveness to Sexual Stimuli following Laboratory‐induced Sexual Arousal.” The Journal of Sex Research 41, no. 3 (08 2004): 242–58. doi:10.1080/00224490409552232.

Taylor Kohut, William A. Fisher, and Lorne Campbell. “Perceived Effects of Pornography on the Couple Relationship: Initial Findings of Open-Ended, Participant-Informed, “Bottom-Up” Research.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 46, no. 2 (07, 2016): 585–602. doi:10.1007/s10508–016–0783–6.

Charles Negy, Diego Plaza, Abilio Reig-Ferrer, and Maria Dolores Fernandez-Pascual. “Is Viewing Sexually Explicit Material Cheating on Your Partner? A Comparison Between the United States and Spain.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 47, no. 3 (02, 2018): 737–45. doi:10.1007/s10508–017–1125-z.

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