One important issue is the impact of pornography on those who use it. Arguments have been advanced on both sides of the question of whether and how pornography is helpful or harmful. Pornography can provide an endless variety of sexual fantasy material for arousal during masturbation without the potential of being rejected, being criticized by a partner, becoming pregnant, or contracting an STI (Peter & Valkenburg, 2011). When individuals in a couple have significant differences in how frequently they want to be sexual, pornogra­phy can also facilitate sexual arousal for masturbation for the partner with the higher sex drive. Watching sexually explicit materials before sexual intimacy can help an individual who has difficulty getting in the mood for sex with a partner do so more easily.

Some couples find that watching mainstream pornography or erotica together has improved their sexual experiences. One study found that almost half of unmarried couples sometimes viewed sexually explicit materials together. Unmarried couples who only viewed sexually explicit materials with their partners reported more dedication and higher sexual satisfaction than those who viewed similar materials alone (Maddox et al., 2011). Studies have found that viewing pornography and engaging in online sexual activities helped individuals expand their previous sexual repertoire by being open to and exploring new sexual behaviors (Gowen, 2005; Grov et al., 2011). For example, a woman watching porn will see that it is common for porn actresses to stimulate their own clitorises during intercourse and may feel more comfortable doing this herself.

Individuals may also increase their communication about sex in their intimate rela­tionships after revealing their sexual interests anonymously online (Grov et al., 2011): One study found that about 50% of women and 44% of men told their partners about sexual desires they had previously concealed after online sexual communication with others (Gowen, 2005).