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Study: Men's Porn Habits Hurt Women's Self-Esteem

When does a harmless habit become hurtful?

By Kristin Wong Jun 4, 2012 4:39PM

Photo: Patrick Sheandell O'Carroll/Getty ImagesAs a generation of men are growing up with virtual sex lives, their real-life partners are becoming increasingly unhappy, a new study finds. Specifically, young women with porn-loving partners feel they just can't measure up to Jenna Jameson—or whoever happens to tickle their man's fancy.

Destin Stewart is a clinical psychology intern at the University of Florida. After her clients began complaining about pornography use in their relationships, Stewart decided to study exactly how porn use is affecting those relationships.

She surveyed 308 college women (ages 18 to 29) and asked them about their current partner's pornography habits. She also wanted the women's perspectives on their relationship quality, sexual satisfaction and self-esteem. Stewart found that the ladies who reported their partners looked at porn more frequently were not only less happy with their relationships, they also had less self-esteem and were less satisfied with their sex lives.

Stewart told LiveScience that when some women discovered pornographic material on their partner's computer, it made them "feel like they were not good enough, like they could not measure up."

While one might argue that the men weren't there to confirm their habits in the study, it's apparent that pornography is negatively affecting an increasing number of relationships. Psychiatrist Norman Doidge studied the effects of porn use in his patients and then reported the findings in his book, The Brain Changes Itself:

"They reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive." Doidge wrote about his patients. "When I asked if this phenomenon had any relationship to viewing pornography, they answered that it initially helped them get more excited during sex, but over time had the opposite effect."

Stewart says that when porn becomes a problem in relationships, she advises women not to compare themselves to porn stars. She also urges couples to communicate and compromise.

"It's just about trying to do some education about what is realistic and unrealistic and trying to get couples to be honest about what their wants and needs and desires are," Stewart said.

As much as we women would love our men to only have eyes for us, let's face it. As long as there are women willing to do anything, everything and put it out there for the world to see, men are going to look. But Aristotle said to seek moderation in all things, and while I don’t think he was referring to watching online porn, it's not bad advice.

Tell us on Facebook: Do you think porn is hurtful or harmless?

Photo: Patrick Sheandell O'Carroll/Getty Images

More on love & sex from MSN Living:

10 Ways to Improve Your Love Life (Right Now!)
The Secrets to Great Sex (in 50 Words or Less)
5 Sexy Steps to Get Out of Your Date Rut

Jul 14, 2013 5:38PM

Two years ago, I posted a comment on this article stating that I had given up watching porn at the age of 29. (I posted it under the username "VitoM1981"--however​​​ that username is unavailable this time around). 


Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stop at 29.  Now at age 31, however, I feel I have finally kicked the habit for good!

Mar 30, 2013 12:28PM
All very interesting but... who cares what she / they think?  Your self-esteem ranks below pretty much everything on my radar.  I don't care what fad you are interested in, what miniscule issue just popped up in your tiny brain, what your friends think about you (or me) or what you think about [insert latest thing on Oprah].  I simply don't care.  All you represent to me is a thing that is of vague use in housekeeping duties and from which I can extract a degree of sexual pleasure, while I fantasize about racing a mega-yacht in a round the world solo race.  You are unimportant.  You are unworthy of consideration.  You do not matter.  You should go make me a sandwich.
Nov 22, 2012 8:48AM
What is the temporal sequence here? Do viewing habits lead to relationship trouble or does relationship trouble augment viewing habits. Stupid soft sciences are only good for shock value.
Jun 7, 2012 11:02PM
The question has been proposed "How would a guy feel?"

Personally, I don't care either way... take it or leave it. There have been times I have encouraged my wife(25yrs) to go do some shopping on porn sites... see what's out there and what she would enjoy. If she saw something she liked, lets try it and see what happens! Obviously, I'm a bit more adventurous than she is but she lately has been seeing the "value" of my time online. I don't have any hang ups or illusions about what it can turn into if not kept in check and with the exception of an all out ban on porn in our house, I do keep in mind her feelings on "objectifying" women... especially in public.  absolutely don't go around telling her how hot someone is or in any way try to compare her to someone else(because she does that already) and I don't "flaunt" my time online to her.

How would I feel? No worse than feeling like a walking wallet... or a personal handyman, or a workhorse! Women are generally insecure about their looks... their physique... their ability to get and keep a man. Men have the same issues... when they care about getting a woman. The difference is that for a man, it's about money and resources, status, providing security... things women look for in a man. We know most men aren't hunks... and therefore the odds of you getting a hunk are much less... and consequently, not worth trying to compete against a hunky man on the internet or video that you can't interact with. FWIW, my wife has a thing for "the Rock" along with a few others that in no way are anywhere close to my looks or my wallet. 

So, for a man, a woman looking at porn or considering a man a piece of meat, we're good with that cause we understand what it means and we know the objectification of men happens whether it is in the open or not!


Jun 7, 2012 6:46AM
I have grown up with only brothers so was familiar with boys and there looking.  When I married I was open-minded with this whereas my husband every friday had his "only" girl movies (no men) and "every" night he had to review his magazines before he went to bed. But when I tried to role play a character he beat me and said "You are my wife, when and if I want a whore, I will get one."  Needless to say, we did not stay married.   During my recent relationship I was in for years it was known that he and his friends made it a habit of sending each other porn videos or pictures of just knock out nude women, I even shared some interesting ones with him. I then found out he was on-line daily looking at multiple nude women, along with going on sex chat sites (only to look at the pictures per him). I tried to understand and not take it personally, but it did not work.  As time went on I realized even in public he was objectifing other women even with me at his side. There was even an occassion when he objectified another woman as a piece of meat and she approached me asking "How do you do it, allow your man to disrespect you like that."  When it came to someone saying that out loud to me I could no longer surpress my feeling of being disrespected so needless to say when I relayed this to my significant other by stating to him I deserved to be valued and respected and that he needed to think about how he objectified woman so he could give me the respect I deserved..........he chose his objectification. So, do I think porn is distasteful.........it absolutely is when it comes to disrespecting your partner. What I would like to know is how would men feel if there were the same (equal) opportunities for woman to go to a strip club on every corner, to have 1000s of free male nude sites (that were not gay) for us to look at every night before we crawled in bed with them and when as women we objectified men as pieces of meat when we were in public with our men...............and we could say to them "Don't take it personally, it's just the way women are, we just admire male beauty whenever we see it. We just can't help ourselves, it's part of us."
Jun 7, 2012 5:26AM
As the wife of a recovering sex & porn addict, I can 100% agree with this article.  But for me, it isn't the issue of being compared to the porn stars.  We are all beautiful and that is ok.  The problem lies in the fact that the availability and accessibility of porn .... and I mean hardcore porn .... is sooo damaging and addictive.  

At first, the men are turned on by it, and that's fine.  Some porn is ok, even fun, as long as the energy is channeled back their partners.  But over time they become desensitized by what they are watching.  They then look for more extreme porn to find the excitement .. and this extreme porn is not what the average woman is doing for sex.  It becomes harder and harder for the guy to get turned on and eventually shuts down with their partner.  There is an actual physical shutdown.

This is where it affects so many women and so many relationships.  The women feel ignored, unattractive (because their man doesn't want to have sex with them) and like they aren't good enough.  It is a tough place to be in .... trust me, I KNOW!!!

I blog about my crazy journey with my hubby and our road to recovery and finding connection together.  Check it out ...  http://mishkawifeofsexaddict.blogspot.com/
I seriously thought this was gonna be about the loss of explotation potetial it causes to the "fairer" sex in American society. Just imagine if they had to actual operate with the equality they demand, way to go europe keep that prostitution legal!!!!
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