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I'm Fine If My Partner Wants to Watch Porn

Man lying on sofa and working on his laptop at night.
Photograph by Getty Images

A recent episode of the The Carmichael Show—a TV series about a family with adult children, tackled an issue that isn’t often talked about on network television: pornography.

In the episode, a church pastor has confessed to watching porn and apologizes to the congregation for his sins. The family talks about the big reveal all the way home. The matriarch of the family Cynthia, expresses her discontent and that she believes porn can ruin marriages. The young daughter-in-law, on the other hand, believes that porn can be healthy. She argues that it can help people understand human sexuality.

Ahhh, the two dissenting opinions regarding porn.

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This all reminded me of a conversation I had with my partner, back when we were first going out. He told me about a friend of his whose new girlfriend had become furious when she found out that he watched pornography. Apparently, the girlfriend had become even more upset when his friend told her that men never stop watching porn, even if they are married. I asked him if he believed that statement. He thought about it for a second and said, “ I think for most men yes.”

That's when I let him in on a little secret: Woman watch porn too.

That's when I let him in on a little secret: Woman watch porn too.

Years ago a married female friend of mine once told a story about how a contractor found her sex toys under her bed when they were moving it. She was totally embarrassed. We all had a laugh over it, but no one flinched at the thought that she enjoyed these types of activities. This must be what happens when you come of age watching "Sex and the City." (I’m a Carrie and a Miranda, btw.)

Photo from the episode "Sex Scandals"
Photograph by Chris Haston/NBC

It was a very honest moment in the relationship, and it also opened up a dialogue about sex and sexuality that we maintain to this day.

On "The Carmichael Show," this discussion about the pastor sparked a conversation among one the young couples, Maxine and Jerrod, about their own viewing habits. Maxine expressed a bit of shock at how frequently Jerrod was watching porn and that he even followed his favorite porn actresses on social media. Meanwhile, when Maxine revealed to Jerrod that she, too, watches porn—sometimes while he’s even in the house, he expressed discomfort and insecurity over this.

Equally important is being comfortable with our own sexuality. That translates to being more comfortable talking to our kids about sex and sexuality when the time is right.

Meanwhile, women watching porn happens. A lot. A recent study pointed out that in heterosexual relationships married women watch porn more than married men. The report published by Sexologies Journal revealed that “The consumption of pornography increased after marriages in females and decreased in males.” The study also concluded that “Women are now more likely to feel less social stigma about viewing this type of material than in previous years.”

Hopefully, this means that as we get older we are more comfortable discussing these issues regardless of whether we watch or don’t watch porn. Which is what I found refreshing about The Carmichael Show. The conversation was about having the conversation around porn. Not about whether or not porn is OK. The show demonstrated what it can look like for a couple to have honest conversations about sexuality and porn, and how to express their boundaries. Having honest conversations about sex is healthy. This is where can freely express our boundaries, desires and, if necessary, our concerns.

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This is good for our children, because happy parents means happier kids. Equally important is being comfortable with our own sexuality. That translates to being more comfortable talking to our kids about sex and sexuality when the time is right.

When it comes to sex among consenting adults, my belief is “Don’t yuck another person’s yum.” I know there are issues with the industry itself, but that is an entirely different conversation. What’s important is that we keep an open dialogue about these topics and approach our partners with love and respect.

Here’s the another great outcome from direct and honest conversations: Talking about sex can often lead to sex.

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