4 MIN READ | Relationship

Dynamics of Digital Erotica: The Psychology of Online Porn

Stephanie Wijkstrom

Cite This
Stephanie Wijkstrom, (2018, April 2). Dynamics of Digital Erotica: The Psychology of Online Porn. Psychreg on Relationship. https://www.psychreg.org/psychology-porn/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you recently discovered your partner is viewing porn or wondering whether your own porn use is unhealthy?

In the digital age more than ever, a number of couples and individuals struggle with determining what their sexual boundaries are, we wonder, ‘What does it mean to have a healthy sex life?’ With things that are culturally taboo such as pornography, many are not sure where to draw the line.

As therapists we know that a healthy sexual relationship is one where we mindfully create our terms, where each partner is empowered and encouraged to discuss their needs and creative desires as well as their red lights, in a proactive way. Yet despite this qualifier, there are so many variations to what a healthy sex life is so by drawing out the distinctions between what is unhealthy we can start to understand what kinds of behaviours we should observe as caution signs. Maybe you are concerned about the frequency or kind of pornography you watch, perhaps you have recently discovered that your partner is using pornography and you are not sure how you feel about it.

By drawing out the distinctions between what is unhealthy we can start to understand what kinds of behaviours we should observe as caution signs.

Read on for some questions which will help you to determine if you or your loved one are developing a problem with their use.

  • Do you lie to your partner about your use? Anything that we do which keeps us from being honest with our partner is an indicator that there is something off. Keep in mind however that if one partner is using porn in a non-addictive way and the other partner has religious or moral opposition to it, the partners may struggle to discuss this out of fear of hurting each other’s feelings. Make space for discussion and honesty, most couples state they would rather be hurt with the truth than live comfortably in a lie.
  • Do you spend more than an hour per day watching porn or use it as a form of escapism? If you find that using porn, webcam, erotic videos, etc. is interfering with your ability to complete daily normal tasks, or if you use it to avoid feelings and intimacy, then you may be struggling with a problem.
  • Do you use the technique of ‘edging’ and or masturbation that results in self-injury? Edging is when orgasm is delayed resulting in a lengthening of the time spent on masturbation. Edging is often symptomatic of addictive use of pornography. Sometimes edging can be taken to such lengths that the masturbatory session results in injury such as chaffing, cuts, or bleeding.
  • Do you feel guilty or ashamed after watching? If this is affecting your self-image or making you question your morality it may be a problem. While there are lots of people who struggle with irrational guilt related to many facets of themselves including their normal range sex lives and masturbation material, in some instances guilt may indicate that you are stepping beyond your own internal boundaries.
  • Do you have a healthy and normal sex life? If you find that you are unable or struggling to maintain partnered sex because of the amount of pornography you use then you might have a problem. Or if you have so many fantasies that are related to the porn that real partnered sex dulls in comparison, this also could indicate an issue.
  • Have you attempted to quit or cut back unsuccessfully? It is likely that if you have noticed some of these patterns that you may have even tried to cut back, feeling helpless to move in the direction of a more balanced sexual behaviour. If you repeatedly attempt to cut back and are unable this may indicate a trend toward compulsivity or addictive behaviour. Bear in mind that any porn viewing that is illegal or involving persons of non-consenting age, is not healthy and can result in legal action and jail time.

Use this checklist to do a self-assessment to start to think about whether you or your partner may be struggling with a problem when it comes to porn usage. Remember there are couples who use porn as an occasional enhancement to their normal and healthy intimate life so not all use is wrong or unhealthy. While the DSM does not recognise sexual addiction as a true addiction. This is in part because the sexual impulse and masturbation are important and vital, just as eating fruit is nourishing but if we over consume we end up bloated and full.

We must be mindful of our feelings, values, behaviours and needs, to make space for our normal and healthy range behaviours that allow for the enjoyment of self-pleasure and coupled sexual intimacy in all of its varied forms and be cautious of ourselves when we move beyond healthy range sexual behaviour.


Stephanie Wijkstrom MS, LPC, NBCC is co-founder of The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh. As a therapist, Stephanie devotes her practice to helping couples and families in the Pittsburgh area to co-parent, regain intimacy, communicate better, and heal from trauma and infidelity. She is passionate about applying the wellness-model to marriage counselling. Stephanie is proud to work as a part of the exceptional team of multi-specialty counsellors and wellness providers at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville. 


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