Though I consider myself sex-positive, I hate the idea of my partner watching porn. The thought of him getting aroused by a porn star’s body evokes the same knee-jerk jealousy as the thought of him sleeping with someone else. It’s pretty common to get triggered by a partner’s porn usage, says Marissa Nelson, marriage and family therapist, sex therapist, and founder of Intimacy Moons. But do we have the right to tell our partners not to watch porn? Or is that our own shit to deal with? 

Before trying to influence your partner’s porn habits, it’s important to have a conversation about why they bother you so much, says Nelson. Are you afraid they’ll find someone on a porn site more attractive than you? Do you secretly suspect that porn is a slippery slope to cheating? Discuss these feelings with your partner and analyze what’s behind them before acting on them. It might lead to a productive conversation about your own insecurities or fears, and then you can address their roots rather than scapegoating porn. “There is no way around having that direct, honest conversation,” says Nelson.

“You’re both entitled to your feelings. And you’re also responsible for your own feelings,” agrees Astroglide’s resident sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly. “Your partner’s behavior may affect how you feel, but your emotional response is complex and is influenced by a great number of factors (e.g. your past, sexual values, sexual associations, mood, sleep, previous relationships, your own experiences with porn). You can ask your partner to take your feelings into consideration and you can ask them to engage in a dialogue about porn. Hopefully, they’ll be willing to listen and consider your feelings. This doesn’t mean they have to adjust their behavior to make you feel better; perhaps you need to adjust the way you think to make yourself feel better.”

Well said.

If the issues you have with porn are ethical ones, such as concerns that portrayals of women in porn are demeaning or the actors are being exploited, that’s worth discussing with your partner as well. However, being aroused by degrading acts is not the same as advocating degradation. “Just because a fantasy makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s inherently bad — as a fantasy,” says Dr. Jess. “When actors consent to perform a degradation scene for example, they’re not personally being degraded; they’re actors playing a role for pay with consent.” Dr. Jess suggests asking yourself if you have the same issues with your partner watching potentially degrading TV shows or movies or if something about porn in particular is triggering you. 

For many people, it helps to remember that watching sexual activity and engaging in it are two separate things, and in fact, the opportunity to watch porn may prevent someone from cheating because it gives them another way to indulge their fantasies, says Nelson. 


If you’ve done some soul-searching and you really can’t get past your partner’s porn habits, you have the right to tell them you’d prefer they didn’t watch porn, but they have the right not to accommodate your request, says Dr. Jess. And, in many cases, people won’t accommodate it, even if they say they will, says Nelson. 

Couples who limit each other’s porn use might consider making sex tapes themselves so that they can enjoy adult videos without overstepping anyone’s boundaries, Nelson adds. If you’re not comfortable with your partner watching porn, she also suggests seeing if you can help fulfill their fantasies yourself.

In fact, talking about the porn you like is helpful for any couple. Nelson recommends discussing what you’ve seen in porn that you might want to try together. “Porn can be a gateway to exploring what kind of sex is pleasurable,” she says. “You could take the lessons and tools that are arousing and exciting in this arena and bring it into your relationship.”