Behind Closed Doors: Individual and Joint Pornography Use Among Romantic Couples


pornography, couple relationship


Most previous research on the associations between pornography use and relational well-being has utilized individual data sets that have limited scholars’ ability to truly understand the dyadic nature of pornography use within romantic couples. Using a dyadic data set of 240 committed heterosexual couples from the United States, we explored actor and partner associations between pornography use, sexual dynamics, and relational well-being. We also explored how couple pornography use and partner knowledge of pornography use were associated with well-being. Results suggested that female pornography use was associated with higher female sexual desire but no other dependent variables. Male pornography use was associated with a wide array of negative well-being indicators, including less male and female relationship satisfaction, lower female sexual desire, and lower male positive communication. Couple pornography use was associated with higher reported sexual satisfaction for both partners but no other well-being indicators. Partner knowledge of use had little direct association with well-being, but some evidence suggested that unknown individual use may be associated with less sexual satisfaction but more relationship satisfaction. Results suggest that different configurations of use among heterosexual couples are associated with varying relational well-being indicators.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J., & Leonhardt, N.* (in press). Behind closed doors: Individual and joint pornography use among romantic couples. Journal of Sex Research.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


The Journal of Sex Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor