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You Totally Don’t Have to Watch Porn With Your Partner

If you or someone you love watches porn, there’s a good chance at some point the idea will come up in your minds, or out loud, that it might be cool or exciting to see what gets each others’ rocks off. While this is typically advised as a thrillingly chill pro-sex position to take in a world where porn is ubiquitous and men and women both enjoy watching it, it is also fraught with potential for the disaster that comes with knowing too much about someone’s weird secret inner sex desires.

A piece at New York magazine’s “The Cut” makes a strong case against sharing porn with a partner for these reasons, in spite of the typical advice that it can foster greater sexual intimacy or make it easier to show someone what you want them to do to you. “Showing your partner a video of something you like might be easier or less awkward than trying to explain it in words, and sexual communication is important in satisfying relationships,” Priscilla Pine writes. “And while that might be true in a certain literal sense, its usual application to porn-sharing fundamentally misunderstands why people like the porn they like and the role watching porn plays in their sex lives.”

Pine’s examples, culled from her own experiences and interviews, bear this out: Maybe you find out your dude really really exclusively loves male-POV hand jobs where the guy jizzes into a woman’s mouth. That’s great sometimes, maybe, but all the time? Then there’s the risk that man you show your favorite porn to will take this is a literal example of what you want him to do or to be done to you, when it’s only a fantasy that turns you on.

In the piece, Erin, 28, shares porn with her boyfriend (she gave him her login so he could see a variety of the stuff she watched) to tell him that she wants him to slap her during sex. She gets what she asked for, but when he’s given full access to browse her habits, she gets something a little extra, too: “He caught on to the fact that I watched the hell out of a video that featured something I wasn’t 100 percent sure I was ready to try,” Erin said. “It opened the floodgates for a conversation that ended in me drunkenly trying to justify why I wasn’t quite ready to eat ass.”

Then there’s the risk of crossing the boundary you weren’t sure was even there. Another woman and man in the piece told Pine that their porn watching was what they thought of as their “creepy ‘Me’ time.” Having to give that up in the interest of closeness can feel invasive, even if it’s well-intentioned, but once that door is opened, there’s no closing it.

Then there are a number of other potentially fraught scenarios they don’t cover: What if it turns out your partner really digs violent or nonconsensual porn to a degree that makes you uncomfortable? What if every porn star that really gets them hard is the opposite of you in every way? What if the girls in their favorite porn look uncomfortably young? What if he can’t get over the fact that most of your porn bank involves lesbians, fisting, or kink to a degree they aren’t comfortable with (or that you don’t really want IRL)?

What if he loves to watch pegging, and you aren’t the pegging type? Now you’ve got a boyfriend you’re never going to peg.

What was once done in the spirit of sophisticated thrill-chasing could lead to longing for the days when you had no idea your partner liked ball-gags so goddamn much. Another possibility: You’re suddenly not that jazzed about your sex life now that you’ve watched pros doing it. It can, in other words, open up a Pandora’s box of porn feelings that can never be stuffed back in, much less tied up to anyone’s orgasmic satisfaction.

And it may all be for naught anyway. Porn researcher Taylor Kohut, whose work involves better mapping of porn categories and keywords so as to create a genome of desire, told MEL that his research has shown porn use among couples to be beneficial—but the key is just that they both use porn at all, not necessarily together.

Looked at in that light, no one should feel too uptight for not wanting to forge ahead in porn-sharing. If it ain’t broke, and it’s too creepy to talk about in the first place, maybe don’t fix it.