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Is Watching Porn Cheating?

Is Watching Porn Cheating?

For most people in a relationship, watching porn is a regular activity and is not considered cheating. But for other people, it is. In some monogamous relationships watching porn is a gray area. It’s an activity that is usually done in private without telling your partner which leads to the question… is watching porn cheating? 

Our lives and our relationships are becoming increasingly digitalized, and with that, the once clear line between fidelity and cheating is now blurred. As we explore our sexualities online—through dating apps, kink & fetish apps, pornography, cam rooms, sexting, and forums—what we consider cheating is evolving too. 

So, is porn cheating? 

For some people, no it’s not. Watching porn is a form of entertainment and an erotic tool that can help you explore different fantasies. It’s a healthy and important part of exploring your sexuality with yourself and can enrich your solo and partnered sex life. 

A 2018 study of adults aged 18 to 36 in the United States showed that 73% of respondents believed that viewing sexually explicit material in a relationship is not cheating. However there were 14% of respondents who were unsure and 13% who thought that it definitely was cheating. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, religion and low self-esteem correlated with those who thought watching porn in a relationship was cheating. 

Unfortunately, society and religion shroud pornography in shame by telling us that it’s a sin and it’s addictive. But the idea of porn addiction is a pop psychology concept that has consistently been rejected by medical professionals. These false ideas result in people seeing porn as a ‘dirty secret’ which pushes people to watch it in secret and clear their internet history afterwards. This makes watching it a secretive act by default and can contribute to a feeling of unease for the viewer’s partner. 

At the same time, we’re told that watching porn is a comment on sexual satisfaction, or lack thereof, and if our partner is watching porn instead of having sex with us, it’s a cause for concern. These anxieties stem from the misconception that porn and masturbation are a replacement for something that is missing in your partnered sex life. 

But an individual’s solo sex life with themselves is completely different from their sex life with their partner.

We do not, and should not, have control over our partner’s behavior and what they do with their body. Unless that person has agreed to not watch porn themselves, we cannot enforce rules dictating how someone can explore their sexuality. Ultimately these types of rules lead to unhealthy power dynamics in your relationship and add to sexual shame. By shaming your partner’s porn use you turn a source of pleasure into a source of guilt. 

What is cheating?

Before assessing whether porn is cheating for you, you must first define what cheating is in your relationship. A dictionary definition of cheating is much less important than what you define with your partner. Yet most couples, especially those in monogamous relationships, never discuss the agreements that rule their relationship. 

So, what does cheating mean for you and your relationship? Sit down and have a discussion with your partner about your emotional and physical boundaries—both online and offline—and decide what constitutes cheating. 

If you want some pointers to get your conversation going, work your way through the situations in the list below and see what else comes up: 

  • Dancing and grinding with someone 
  • Subscribing and paying for an OnlyFans 
  • Following your favorite porn performers on social media 
  • Flirting with someone in a bar 
  • Watching porn in secret 
  • Sending flirtatious texts to someone

Be as clear as you can and bring up as many different circumstances as you can think of. 

💡Tip: This is something that monogamous couples can look to non-monogamous partnerships for help with. People in polyamorous and ethically non-monogamous relationships are often experts in communication, setting boundaries, and defining their relationships in their own way. 

Why some people consider watching porn cheating

Some people feel anxious about their partner’s porn use and consider watching porn cheating because they think:

  • Their partner is doing something behind their back
  • Their partner isn’t sexually fulfilled 
  • Their partner is more attracted to the performers on screen than them
  • Their partner would prefer to watch porn and masturbate than have partnered sex
  • Their partner is watching porn that shows sex that they do not have in their relationship  

All couples have the right to agree upon the terms and rules of their relationship, and some monogamous partnerships may come to the agreement that watching porn is off limits and is considered cheating. However, it’s important that this decision is made without coercion or pressure and is a consensual agreement for all parties involved. It should be a conversation, not a presumption. 

Everyone has the right to watch porn 

Unless you have both consensually agreed to not watch adult material, attempting to restrict a partner’s porn viewing removes their right to their own fulfilling solo sex life. 

Porn may not always be a part of someone’s solo sex life, but it often is, and it can be an important part of sexual discovery and identity. Everyone is entitled to a healthy solo sex life and shouldn’t have to sacrifice it for their partnered sex life. 

Aside from the freedom to explore their own sexuality, abstaining from pornography as a condition of your relationship places the majority of your sexual needs on a partner. This is not only unrealistic for most people but it can also end up being a burden.

Watching porn can be a good thing

Despite what we’re told, watching porn and having a solo sex practice can indicate a healthy sexual relationship. Giving your partner the freedom to nurture their solo sex life and explore their sexuality alone, could benefit your partnered sex life too. 

Masturbation plays an important role in figuring out what you do and don’t like during sex, which can make partnered sex more enjoyable for everyone involved.  It can also rekindle your sex life, help you discover new kinks and fantasies, and even reduce stress. 

Research shows that when women view porn, they report increased sex drive for a partner and for experiencing sexual pleasure. And another study shows that when couples watch porn together they report a more satisfying sex life. 

Plus there is a growing number of educational porn out there which may just benefit you too!  

Improve your sex life with educational porn

Watch eduporn on afterglow

If you’re feeling insecure about your partner’s porn use 

If you’re the person that is feeling insecure about your partner watching porn it would be a good idea to take some moments to reflect and understand why you’re feeling this way. It may shed some light on the root cause of your fears and make it easier for you to process your feelings.

Is it because the actors don’t look like you? Porn is a fantasy and not reflective of what we want in real life. Just because the performers don’t look like you doesn’t mean your partner isn’t attracted to you. Think about your celebrity crushes – do they all look like your partner? Probably not. 

Is it because they are watching porn with sex acts that don’t resemble your sex life? Again, it’s a fantasy. It may be something that they find arousing to watch but would not like to create in their personal sex life. It’s totally healthy to daydream and most of us have fantasies that we would never like to fulfill in reality. What your partner watches doesn’t define them.

Is it because you think if they watch porn it’s because they don’t want to have sex with you? This is a false belief that is fed to us by society. Our solo sex lives and our partnered sex lives are two different things and both can flourish at the same time. Masturbation is essential to our health and wellbeing. 

How to talk to your partner about porn 

Having open communication with your partner about your boundaries with viewing porn is important. Be sure to define what porn means to you and your partner to ensure there are no surprises later on. Are cam performers a form of porn? What about live chat rooms? 

Here are some conversation starters to bring up the conversation: 

  • “Before we got together, watching porn was a part of my daily self pleasure ritual and I’d like to continue exploring my sexuality alone as well as with you. What are your thoughts on porn? I’d love to talk it through together so we both know where we stand” 
  • “I’d love to talk about our individual porn use and how we can both continue watching it in our relationship.” 
  • “I’ve never really watched porn, but I know that it’s a part of your life. I’d love to better understand the role that watching porn plays in your sexuality.” 
  • “I’ve been feeling insecure about the porn you watch recently. I noticed that you like watching [insert genre] of porn and that doesn’t look like the type of sex that we have together. Could we chat about that?”

What to do if you and your partner don’t agree 

If you’ve had a chat with your partner about watching porn but you can’t come to an agreement – perhaps one of you believes that watching porn in a relationship is cheating and the other isn’t prepared to stop watching porn – what next? 

There are a couple of avenues you can take. 

The first thing you can try is to come up with a compromise. Like everything in life, romantic relationships require compromise. This could look like an agreement to watch only certain types of pornography or only watch it within certain parameters, for example watching porn films but not entering live chat rooms or talking to cam performers. Be clear with each other about what you agree on so boundaries are not crossed further down the line. 

An alternative solution could be to explore watching porn together. This could be an intimate, bonding activity that you do together and it may just help you renew excitement in your relationship. Watching porn with your partner is a great way to start discussions on sexual activities you like, dislike, or might not have even known about but are interested in exploring. There are a whole range of benefits to it – check out our guide to watching porn with your partner.

Watch couples porn with your partner

The bottom line 

So, is watching porn cheating? To sum up, it’s shouldn’t be thought as of cheating by default. It’s important to acknowledge and respect both partner’s right to self-pleasure and a solo sex life of their own, and this includes viewing pornography.

However, it ultimately depends on the partnership and how you define your relationship. For many people in relationships, they want their partner to experience pleasure and explore their sexuality alone and together. For other partnerships, they will not be comfortable with it and may both opt out of watching porn altogether.

Like everything in a relationship, this is yet another example of why communication is key.

Want to know more? Read The Ultimate Guide to Porn for Couples


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