Internet Pornography and Couples
Clinical Update October 2014
By Zur Institute
Internet pornography use is so widespread that it’s become a common presenting issue in couples therapy. According to some estimates, 31% of Internet users visit sites with sexual content and 74% of therapists had seen couple clients dealing with pornography issues in the past year.
As our knowledge of Internet pornography has expanded beyond a mere awareness of how rapidly its use has grown, we have come to realize that there are no easy over-arching generalizations we can make about its use and its users. We must be able to separate our values about pornography use–positive and negative–from our understanding of how it affects different couples–again positively or negatively. Clearly, there are no clear-cut, one-size-fits-all answers or judgments we can make about its use. The solutions must fit the unique situations of Internet pornography use and each individual’s and couple’s characteristics.
The proliferation of sexting and porn sites have ignited an intense debate of what is normal, healthy, pathological, legal, acceptable, etc. It has also sparked the debate over what is acceptable or OK to do at what age, and what are the meanings of privacy and normalcy. A survey in Divorce Magazine found that only 46% of men considered intense Internet relationships to be infidelity, compared to 72% of women.
Cybersex, like porn, sexting, and online infidelity, is highly prevalent today with the easy access through mobile devices and the constant availability of sex sites and online pornography. Unlike the common perception, Internet porn has gradually become more of an equal opportunity activity with the exponential increase in porn sites primarily geared to and used by women.
Questions to consider:
- To effectively treat Internet pornography use in couples therapy, we need to understand several key concepts:
- What drives an individual pornography user?
- Where is the line between recreational use, compulsivity and addiction?
- Do not automatically assume that any use of porn negatively affects couples. Instead wonder whether heavy Internet pornography use affects some couples’ intimacy and if so, how?
- What are the specific issues affecting women when they discover their mates are using Internet pornography?
- What is the effect of the increase in women viewing porn sites geared to women?
- How and when should therapists address Internet pornography?