In contrast with research discussed in the previous "Is Pornography Helpful?" sec­tion, other studies report correlations between Internet pornography use and dimin­ished quality of relationships. One study of heterosexual college students found that higher use of pornography was associated with less sexual and relationship satisfaction (Morgan, 2011). A study of unmarried couples reported that individuals who viewed sexually explicit materials alone had lower relationship quality on measures of commu­nication, relationship adjustment, commitment, sexual satisfaction, and fidelity com­pared to couples where individuals never viewed sexually explicit materials (Maddox
et al., 2011). Divorce attorneys and marital therapists have seen a great increase in the number of couples for whom Internet pornography played a significant part in bring­ing them to counseling or divorce (Eberstadt, 2009; Hanus, 2006b).

A concern about exposure to pornography is that viewers will come to assume that what they see is "normal" and represents what sex should be like (Bowater, 2011; Lofgren – Martenson & Mansson, 2010). Ordinarily, the more often individuals see something, the more likely they are to view it as typical. A survey of heterosexual college students found that those who used sexually explicit materials most frequently also had a greater prefer­ence for the types of sexual practices typically presented in pornography (Morgan, 2011).

At the very least, typical scenarios in most of pornography are bad sex education and a very misleading guide to mutually pleasurable and satisfying sexual experiences (Castleman, 2008). The standard porn sexual style is impersonal, unfriendly, nonsen­sual, mechanical, and almost exclusively genitally focused. Oral sex to both men and women is portrayed as fast and rough. Women are instantly and continuously turned on and quickly want intercourse, but never experience orgasm. Commercial porn uses men whose penises are extra-large, and the men always have instant, continuous, long-lasting erections. Anal sex to women is aggressive, and the penis often goes directly from anus to vagina—almost a guarantee for vaginal and bladder infections. Viewers never see the actors use lubrication for vaginal or anal intercourse.

Researchers are also finding that young male adults—and adult males in general—are experiencing sexual problems related to extensive use of pornography. In some cases a man’s arousal becomes dependent on the intense, varied sexual stimulation provided by pornography, and when he is sexual with a partner, he has difficulty experiencing or sus­taining an erection. He may be unable to ejaculate and may resort to faking orgasm to con­ceal his difficulty (Robinson, 2011; Rothbart, 2011). Sex therapists have begun to see men who prefer to masturbate to pornography instead of having actual sex (Albright, 2008).

Another problem arises when individuals justify coercing their partners to engage in typical behaviors found in pornography (including, perhaps, ejaculating on a wom­an’s face or body or having anal or group sex) (Morris, 2011; Paul, 2005). Research has found that in heterosexual relationships men are more likely than women to pres­sure their partners to engage in sexual behaviors they have seen in pornographic films (Albright, 2008). Further, because pornography portrays women as wildly responsive to anything men do, but real-life women do not react in such a manner, men may feel inadequate or cheated, and both men and women may doubt the normality of their own sexuality. For example, a woman may believe that there is something wrong with her when she does not experience anal sex as unrealistically pain-free and pleasurable as portrayed in porn (Castleman, 2008; Drey et al., 2009). These kinds of influences may help cause a relationship to deteriorate, as reflected in the following account:

During my early and mid-twenties I spent a lot of time (and a fair bit of change) paying women with Web cam businesses to role-play sexual scenarios I liked to masturbate to. I considered it a healthy, safe, simple way to take care of my needs instead of counting on dating for sex. Then I met Jennifer and fell for her. After several months I started getting bored with our vanilla sex and asked her to do the "schoolgirl" role-play I’d liked via Web cam. She tried her best, but I was kind of pissed that she didn’t do it "right," and I made her feel like she wasn’t sexy enough for me. I hadn’t figured out that I couldn’t expect her to pull off a fantasy like the Web cam professionals. It’s a trade-off, but I’d rather have sex with a woman who really cares about me than one who’s a good actor. (Authors’ files)

Daily Weekly Monthly Less than Never

once a month

Should My Genitals Look Like a Porn Star’s?

I Figure 18.2 Percentage of adolescents who believe their genitals should look like a porn star’s genitals, correlated by frequency of pornography use.

Internet-related sexual difficulties occur in both adults and young people. How­ever, the consequences of this dramatic social change will likely have a more significant impact on the sexual development of young people than on that of adults who came of age prior to the advent of the Internet. In the United States, 90% of young people have seen Internet porn by age 16. The average age of their first exposure was 11 years (Ropelato, 2012). Unlike the pre-Internet era, when a young person might see a Playboy magazine before his or her first kiss, significant numbers of young people in developed countries are exposed to a wide range of pornography on the Internet and other wire­less technologies before they begin having sexual experiences with other young people.

Viewing pornography on the Internet can also negatively influence how people feel about their genitals. For example, I Figure 18.2 shows that the more often young people watch pornography, the more likely they are to believe that their own genitals should look like a porn star’s penis or vulva. (Even 5.2% of male and 11.8% of female young adults who have never seen pornography believe that their genitals should look like a porn star’s.) Young women are more likely than young men to believe that porn star vul­vas are the "ideal," as demonstrated in the figure (Drey et al., 2009). Many of the young women who consider having plastic surgery to alter the shape of their labia do so for that reason, instead of appreciating the uniqueness of the shape and size of their labia (Gohman, 2009). In addition, after viewing pornography, heterosexual men and women are more likely to be critical of the woman’s body in general (Albright, 2008).