I'm very appreciative of all the comments different views on the Ask The Audience-- Pornography post. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!
Some have asked for my opinion so I'll share.
My thoughts on pornography stem from my training and research, experience working with many couples, families and individuals in counseling as well as more personal experiences with friends and family. I realize that not all of you will agree with me, but I hope we can still have respectful dialogue.
Pornography is intended to cause sexual arousal. There are varying forms of pornography from soft porn to hardcore. There are varying story lines or not, varying types and levels of violence or not, varying characters, varying levels of reality etc. Regardless of all of these types- the purpose is still to cause sexual arousal.
There is some research that suggests the addictive power of pornography. I've certainly seen some individuals in therapy for starting out with a little bit here and there and developing an addiction that they are disgusted with and feeling shameful of themselves. Some of these people have religious or moral beliefs against pornography and others don't. I've seen some in therapy that view hours and hours of porn each day and don't even realize the extent of their viewing until history logs are reviewed. Spouses may begin to wonder if their partner is thinking of them or someone else during sex. I've seen couples come in where the husband has a porn addiction and the wife has an eating disorder. I believe they are related. More women are viewing pornography than ever before. The pornography industry will continue coming up with more extreme sexual portrayals, means to distribute and will continue to grow.
Pornography is meant to be individualistic, self-gratifying, and sexually arousing. Pornography can create a false sense of being wanted and needed, an escape from reality. Masturbating is a simple way to ease anxiety, feel gratified and sexual. As I stated earlier, I find it interesting that most people view pornography alone. I think people intuitively realize that pornography is objectifying. Most people don't openly broadcast when they're going to go look at porn and masturbate or even that they do it at all. The sexual response cycle is naturally meant to be a bonding experience as oxytocin is released so I think it's important for couples to have this experience together as much as possible.
I know that a main argument in favor of pornography in a marriage is that it can spice things up. I believe sex can still be fun and exciting without pornography. In my opinion, the risks of pornography outweigh the possible benefits. With the couples I've worked with where desire and arousal are difficult, they have found other methods. I don't usually recommend viewing pornography to improve a couples sex life. However, I recommend varying types of erotica within a relationship.
If you and your spouse have found either pornography or erotica useful in your relationship then I applaud you for expanding your sexual repertoire out and doing what works for you! I believe each couple should find what works well for them. As a counselor, I am open with my clients about my opinions and the research I am familiar with and will work with each couple to find what best fits them.
For those that asked, I've heard Candida Royalle makes some tasteful couple-oriented pornography. She has also written a book.
Feel free to read the following links from Psychology Today for some references to research:
Cupid's Poisoned Arrow
Not All Warnings about Porn are Moralistic or Unscientific
The End of the Porn Debate?