Two years ago when I asked my boyfriend to stop using porn, I was afraid. I didn’t want to break up, but in the 15 months since we had met, this became a deal-breaker for me.

I was scared he would take it personally — consider it an attack on himself, rather than a condemnation of the entire industry.

I was scared he would think less of me — think I was too prudish, judgmental, or controlling. After all, it's not like he had a particularly bad porn habit. What gave me the right to tell him what to do with his time?

I was scared he would get angry — as men do.

He didn’t agree with me at first. He had a lot of questions and wanted to talk through each point in detail, over and over again for weeks, ad nauseam.

Eventually, after mulling over the facts, he agreed.

Two years later, our relationship, sex life, and love and respect for each other has never been stronger. I can’t imagine ever dating a man who uses porn again.


I realize in a culture that constantly tells us that porn is healthy, normal, empowering, and can improve your sex life that this is a controversial opinion. In fact, my partner is the only man our age I know who does not use porn. Every other man, and most of the women, in our progressive group of friends uses porn — gay, straight, and everything in between. Research suggests that nearly all men in their 20s use porn, on average beginning at 13 years old.

Even feminists have sold out to the lobbying of the massive porn industry. Now, a woman who refuses to use porn or takes a stand against the sex trade is considered a prude, or worse, a “SWERF” (sex-worker exclusionary radical feminist).

Yet, neither of these things are true. Women who want to enjoy healthy sexuality and relationships unmarred by one of the largest industries on the planet are not prudes, and those who stand up against the abuses of the sex industry are not “exclusionary”.

Rather, every individual has the right to healthy and loving relationships, sexual dignity, and to live free from objectification— all of which the porn industry is eroding for nothing more than profit.

Porn Ruins Healthy Relationships

Fight the New Drug, a non-religious, non-partisan organization which is taking on the porn industry, has been collecting and analyzing research on the impacts of porn on sexuality and relationships:

“Consuming pornography makes many individuals less satisfied with their own partners’ physical appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and affection. [4] They also found that, over time, many porn users grow more callous toward females in general, less likely to value monogamy and marriage, and more likely to develop distorted perceptions of sexuality. [5] Other researchers have confirmed those results and added that porn consumers tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners, [6] less committed in their relationships, [7]…”

Despite the mainstream push to normalize porn use, most women actually do not consider porn use appropriate inside a committed relationship. The research suggests that women have good reason to take this stance.

Porn use in relationships also often involves secrecy and betrayal, with women reporting traumatic responses to discovering their romantic partner’s porn use. Even if partners are open about their porn use in the relationship, the consumers of porn report less satisfaction with their partner as their brains become rewired to respond sexually only to porn. Consumers of porn are also more likely to cheat on their partners.

Why does porn have such a strong effect on the psychology of those who view it?

The answer is simple: porn is addictive.

Porn hacks the brain’s dopamine system and tricks the male consumer into feeling like they are accomplishing their evolutionary goal: to spread their seed and multiply the chances of their genes surviving.

In his talk, “The Great Porn Experiment”, Gary Wilson explains how the Coolidge effect drives porn use. The Coolidge effect is a biological phenomenon seen in many animals where males “exhibit renewed sexual interest whenever a new female is introduced to have sex with, even after cessation of sex with prior but still available sexual partners.”

The Coolidge Effect, from Wilson’s TedxGlasglow talk

Porn hacks the male evolutionary desire to fertilize as many different females as possible. Eventually, though, simply being exposed to new females isn’t enough, and men are forced to watch increasingly violent and obscene content to receive the same effect — much like how drug users have to take bigger and bigger hits to receive the same high.

This escalating behavior explains why as men use more and more porn, their tastes become more and more extreme.

Eventually, these attitudes seep out into their real-world relationships. A 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven different countries demonstrated that porn consumption is linked to both verbal and sexual aggression.

Men, themselves, are starting to realize that they’ve been duped by porn. Entire communities of men, like r/nofap, are rising up to encourage each other to break their porn habits and reclaim their sexuality.

Porn Trains Men to Objectify Women

There’s no evidence that men are born misogynistic. The claim that “boys will be boys” both lets men off the hook for their behavior and does them the disservice of implying that men are simply slaves to their base instincts and could never be better.

If we want to create a world with equality for the sexes, confronting the societal means of training boys and men in misogyny is a vital step. By supporting male porn use, we are doing the exact opposite.

The evidence that porn leads to misogynistic belief systems is overwhelming:

  • A 2011 study found that among college fraternity men, porn consumption led to less willingness to intervene if they saw a woman being sexually assaulted, increased behavioral intent to rape, and increased belief of rape myths (such as “When girls go to parties wearing slutty clothes, they are asking for trouble.”)
  • Boys who are exposed to porn young are more likely to want power over women, support male dominance, and agree with statements like, “things tend to be better when men are in charge”.
  • Both men and women who view porn are less likely to support affirmative action programs for women in the workplace.
  • A 2013 Danish study found that increased past porn consumption was linked with less egalitarian attitudes towards women, specifically in hostile sexism. This pattern was true even for non-violent pornography.
  • Porn is deeply linked with sex crimes, being found at the crime scene of 80% of violent sex crimes, or in the homes of the perpetrator. The Michigan State Police Department found that pornography is used or imitated in 41% of the sex crimes they have investigated. A 2015 study found a strong correlation between increasing Internet availability in India and rates of the rape of minor girls and other forms of sexual violence.

It’s not surprising that men are absorbing these attitudes from porn. A 2010 analysis found that 88.2% of all porn scenes contained physical aggression such as gagging or slapping, and 48.7% of porn scenes contained verbal aggression such as name-calling. The violence was overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, and the women most often responded with pleasure to the violence.

“88.2% of all porn scenes contained physical aggression such as gagging or slapping, and 48.7% of porn scenes contained verbal aggression such as name-calling.”

This narrative is dangerous and perpetuates rape culture through myths such as “girls want to be abused” and “sluts deserve it” — both of which could be titles of porn videos themselves.

Porn also gives men and women unrealistic ideas about how women should look and act during sex.

Gail Dines, anti-porn activist and academic, reports the impact that a pornified culture is having on young women:

“Some boyfriends had even refused to have sex with non-waxed girlfriends as they “looked gross.” One student told the group how her boyfriend bought her a waxing kit for Valentine’s Day, while yet another sent out an email to his friends joking about his girlfriend’s “hairy beaver.” No, she did not break up with him, she got waxed instead.”

Women who don’t watch porn themselves, or are only light users, often don’t realize how extreme the content their partners are watching actually is. While Playboy Centerfolds used to be the height of pornography, “gonzo” porn has taken its place — depicting extremely violent and hateful representations of sexuality. Dines writes:

“When I interviewed producers at the Adult Entertainment Expo held every year in Las Vegas, they told me that this was an industry fast running out of ideas. This particular producer’s latest movie showed a woman being anally penetrated as she lay in a coffin.”

As the porn industry ramps up the violent acts it portrays to keep men addicted, women are the inevitable victims. A rise in non-consensual choking, for example, has been linked to the rise of “breath play” porn.

The Porn Industry Abuses Women

Even if there were no real consequences on the consumers of porn and their partners, there is still one major reason to abstain from participating in the industry — the victims of porn themselves.

While the porn industry has lobbied and engaged in a massive campaign to make participation in porn seem like an empowering (or even feminist) act, the truth of the industry is constantly seeping out.

The porn industry, which some estimate may be worth up to $97 billion annually (more realistic estimates are at $6- $15 billion), works hand-in-hand with sex trafficking — and viewers have no way of knowing which “actors” have been trafficked or not. The Rescue Freedom Project reports that 49% of trafficking victims have pornography made of them while they are being sold for sex. Porn also helps funnel young people into sex trafficking:

Young girls, including teenagers, are also coerced or tricked into participating in porn through a variety of means — even if not physically forced.

Even when women “choose” to participate in porn to make money, the sex still can not be seen as fully consensual, especially for those who are the most financially insecure and vulnerable. A modern understanding of sexual consent recognizes that that sex that is coerced is not truly free. In our current capitalist system, money is inherently coercive — so sex that is conducted purely for survival is non-consensual.

The brutal reality of the porn industry is constantly being exposed, especially by former victims, yet mainstream narratives are driven by the propaganda put out by porn stars who are still on industry payroll. Listening to sex workers means listening even when we don’t want to hear what they have to say — including those who have escaped the industry.

As Jonah Mix put it: “Pornography Doesn’t Cause Sexual Violence. Pornography IS Sexual Violence.”


It shouldn’t have to be on women to demand men stop using porn. Male allies to feminists need to start holding other men accountable for their actions that perpetuate patriarchy — and more and more men are doing just that, speaking to each other about why it’s time to ditch porn.

Yet, as those who are most affected by male porn use, women should feel comfortable asking the men in their lives to stop using porn. Porn harms the relationship, is likely to increase misogyny, and perpetuates violence against women and girls — asking your boyfriend to stop using it is not an unreasonable demand. Rather, it is a show of faith in your relationship and your partner’s commitment to equality.

If he refuses, even after being presented with the facts and having time to research for himself, at least you’ve learned something about his priorities and values.


Cover photo by Walid Riachy on Pexels

Originally published in PS. I Love You, CC-BY-SA, M. K. Fain