porn with partner Illustration by Emma Olswing

Porn brings up a lot of feelings in general, but when it’s introduced into a relationship, it often warrants a discussion. Sometimes it can be as easy as “Let’s watch porn together,” while other partnerships need a little bit more finessing to find a balance. No matter where you’re at, there are fun ways to talk about it. Here are some tips on how to talk about porn with a partner. 

First, Take A Step Back 

Pornography is fantasy. It has a budget attached. It requires b-roll shots and breaks to reposition lights. Sometimes, there are makeup artists on set. Sometimes, there is a wardrobe team and a prop stylist. Basically, no matter how realistic the porn is, there is always a level of production required to create that fantasy. In real life, we have scars and bad days and have to find our balance when climbing on top of another person — you know, all the human elements that go into sex. It’s super-important to look a porn with a critical eye, and not take it as reality. 

That isn’t to say that we can’t learn a lot from it. Porn is an ideal medium to understand technological trends, how beauty standards shift in culture, and the attention span of digital consumers across all mediums. PornHub releases a yearly, data-driven study that categorizes information based off genre, watch time, location, and device in order to understand the porn watcher with greater context. There is something beautiful about using data to comprehend the complexities behind human desire. 

The simplistic view is that porn is people engaging in sex, sexual acts, sensuality, power dynamics on screen, and that’s super hot! Porn also gives us a chance to see different people with varied bodies and backgrounds enjoying pleasure. But let’s also acknowledge the pitfalls of an industry that reduces people, demographics, and looks into categories. When it comes to consent and autonomy, all porn is not created equal. The industry has both upsides and downsides. 

Understand Your Feelings

Before jumping into the conversation with your partner, trying articulating to yourself what you want to say about porn. Maybe the visuals are a conduit to easier sexual arousal. Maybe the ability to enact a variety of fantasies without having to physically engage is appealing. Maybe it inspires different ways to be physical with your partner. Maybe you want to explore more porn but feel uncomfortable about it, or maybe your partner’s porn habits bring up tensions for you. Or maybe it’s not that deep: It’s just super-hot and you want to share in those moments. Create a list on your phone of everything you love, share a Google Doc with your partner, or have a notebook where you can jot down ideas.

How To Bring It Up

There isn’t a right or wrong way to bring up porn into the conversation as long as both of you are in the head space to receive the information. (For instance, don’t bring it up in the middle of a fight.) Find a neutral ground so both people feel stable and heard. Taking your sweetie out to dinner or an early morning coffee date is a great way to establish equal footing while also ensuring neither party has a metaphorical upper hand by being in one or the other’s space or bedroom. We want to be respectful and strive for neutrality. 

As far as saying the actual words, draw inspiration from how you both speak about mundane topics that evoke zero pressure. When we’re unsure about something, it makes the explanation of that subject uneasy — starting off with a rocky foundation right from the beginning. Let’s speak about it the way you would if deciding on dinner: Do you want to do pasta? Are you into having a porn conversation with me tonight? Being direct and calm will result in a respectful and positive outcome. 

What To Talk About

Start with your main thesis statement: I’d love it if we could try watching porn together or I want to talk about how we both feel about porn in this relationship, and take it from there! As the presenting partner, be prepared to have this be little more than a jumping off point, as the receiving partner might not have done a deep dive into their own feelings yet.

Let’s speak about it the way you would if deciding on dinner: Do you want to do pasta? Are you into having a porn conversation with me tonight?

Submerge in what you both appreciate about porn, while exploring the parts of porn you’re both unsure of. Even framing the conversation as a way to explore new things together through pornographic prompts opens both of you to be on a sexual discovery together. If you or your partner come across a hard “no” when deciphering your favorite porn categories, respect this decision and speak to each other about ways to feel good without crossing that boundary. 

Insecurities and Porn

Feelings are aplenty when it comes to how we interact with pornography — as they should be. We are seeing nude people interacting in a sexual way inciting arousal, intimacy, panic, jealousy, literally everything! And this may strike bouts of insecurity or even jealousy within your relationship because of the comparisons we make to ourselves, the people onscreen, and how that manifests within our partner’s porn preferences. For example: Partner One loves porn with big bums. Partner Two doesn’t have a big bum. This makes Partner Two feel insecure that maybe Partner One would prefer a partner with a bigger bum. That insecurity evolves into resentment every time Partner One turns on this particular kind of porn, making Partner Two feel less-than in comparison to these visual references. 

In this scenario it’s important to understand where this feeling is coming from so you can have an honest discussion about the root of the insecurity. Let reassurances, reminders, and feelings of affirmation reconnect the partnership outside of porn.

What If I Don’t Want My Partner To Watch Porn Without Me—Or At All?

Before limiting porn for a partner, take some time to understand the reason, the purpose, and what you’re specifically gaining from this decision. This is a great time to bring out the Yes, No, Maybe list as a reference for how you both feel about sexual activity. Essentially, it’s a master list of sex acts for both of you on your own time to fill out whether you’re into, interested, or not interested in pursuing for yourself and with your partner. Go on a date with your partner and compare notes! 

What About Alternatives?

Pornographic video is not the only medium out there that works as an erotic stimulant. If you and your partner decide that watching porn together isn’t going to be your thing but you’re still into finding an alternative, try erotic novels, magazines, digital erotic forums, or even writing your own. Audio porn from companies like Dipsea take erotica to a whole new level by providing short stories that celebrate healthy sexual narratives free of shame or judgment. 

Ethical Porn

To go a step further, ask yourself about the ethical nature of the porn you are consuming. Is it important to you to pay for your porn or make sure performers are being compensated fairly? Is it important that there is condom usage, verbal consent, or known testing provided by the production company? If so, maybe this becomes a monthly subscription to purchase with your partner — a little expense you both share. That way, you’re building a relationship with the performers and company through a couple’s investment.

How To Integrate Porn Into the Relationship

While reading, listening, and watching are often solo acts, there are many ways to make it interactive between you and your partner. For example: Pick an erotic novel for both of you to read. One of you highlights the sexiest parts in yellow, and the other does the same in blue. Trade the book back and forth during the week and check out what the other highlighted—or take it a step further by acting out those roles at home. Find different ways to send your own homemade porn to your partner during the day with a note that suggests to play more tonight. Or watch a full porn scene and pick the parts that you both gravitate towards and recreate it for yourself. 

Be Kind

The reason all of this can be so difficult to verbalize is because sexuality and sexual interest is still stigmatized and has roots in antiquated, repressive ideals. The fear of having a partner shame, embarrass, ignore, or dismiss those desires is scary. So, be kind and listen to what each other has to say.

swell in your inbox, every week

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *