Porn Can Help A Relationship, But Proceed With Caution. Amanda Pasciucco LMFT, CST; Wendy Haggerty LMFT, CST (2016)

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Love Notes: Porn Can Help A Relationship, But Proceed With Caution

TERESA M. PELHAM

The primary problem with porn is that it creates unrealistic expectations. Well, and other things.

Back when pornography meant getting a copy of Playboy from the convenience store down the street, we didn't hear too much about people with porn addictions or porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

(For a moment, please imagine what the search history on my laptop is going to look like by the time I finish writing this column. Yes, I had to look. The take away? The plot lines were pretty predictable, and the character development left a lot to be desired. )

But today, an infinite number of video clips can appear on your computer or smartphone with the click of a button. And while the easy access alone can lead to some of these problems, experts say it's the over-the-top sex scenes that can cause trouble in the bedroom.

Sex therapists report that when viewers allow themselves a steady diet of waxed, extremely pleased women, they can become disappointed when in contact with a non-professional naked person.

"There is a correlation between men watching pornography and their inability to become aroused with people in real life," says Amanda Pasciucco, a certified sex therapist in West Hartford. "They become desensitized and their partner can't compete. The bodies they see are not realistic."

I realize that pornography is fantasy and is not supposed to look like a typical loving relationship between two middle-aged people with back hair and drooping parts. But when fantasy is all an individual sees, it's easy to imagine trouble ahead,.

Pasciucco counsels couples of all ages, and says the way back to a good sexual relationship is to create fantasies together.

"Talk about what you can do to bring some of the fantasies they've seen to their own relationship," she says. "Get your mind excited about the person you're with."

Your mind? I thought we were talking about, um other organs.

But studies have shown that there's a big difference in the way the brain reacts to looking at a still picture and watching a video. Pasciucco suggests a 90-day porn fast to "reset the fantasy part of the brain."

Because of porn's easy access, new research estimates the average age that young men begin watching porn to be 12 years old. (But not your kids, and certainly not mine.)

"When people are using pornography as their sex education, that can lead to trouble," says Pasciucco.

Wendy Haggerty, a certified sex therapist with offices in Glastonbury, Guilford and West Hartford, says there are real concerns about pornography use by young people.

"Overuse has been shown to lead to social isolation and patterns of behavior that can negatively impact one's ability to form and sustain healthy relationships," she says. "Issues around integration of love and attachment with sex and pleasure may come into play. Body image and performance related issues are also potential consequences ."

But porn's not all bad in terms of marriages and relationships, Haggerty says.

"I can think of plenty of good examples where I've seen it benefit individuals and relationships. I've also witnessed some people have compulsions that need to be addressed," Haggerty said. "In balance, pornography can be inspiring and stimulating. A healthy use of erotic material can aid in self-loving practices and...sexual relationships."

The Boyfriend and I decided to test her theory , and watched some soft-core porn on Showtime. Aside from the impossibly round and immovable breasts, viewers aren't shown any private parts and the actors aren't actually engaging in sex. We got distracted by the bow-chicka-wow-wow music and ended up in a discussion of whether musicians creating music for porn films ever get a number one hit.

Haggerty offered specific examples of how pornography can help.

"A high desire partner may find that self-pleasuring with the aid of visual stimulus effectively satisfies his or her needs and takes the pressure off the lower desire partner to participate," Haggerty said. "In addition, a lower desire partner may choose to use pornography as a way to incite his or her sexuality and be more available for partner intimacy."

So, aside from the misogynistic nature of the majority of porn, and issues of addiction, and the bad things it can do to relationships, and the way it has created an entire generation of people spending lots of money on body waxing, pornography can possibly be a positive addition to a relationship (just not for those easily distracted by bad acting, and mediocre music).

Teresa M. Pelham is an author of the children's books "Roxy's Forever Home." For more: www.roxysforeverhome.com.