What’s your relationship with porn—and how might it be affecting your real-life relationships?
That was the issue on the table for Monday’s episode of Red Table Talk, titled, “Does Porn Ruin Relationships?” which featured Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and “Gammy” Adrienne Banfield-Norris broaching perhaps their most awkward topic yet with each other.
Jada sites 2015 findings by Southwestern Assemblies of God University, indicating that 40 million people regularly watch porn on the web. What does that mean for the way we accordingly view sex and relationships?
“Actually, really reading some of the effects of porn—like the idea that it really gives you false expectations—I can definitely see with men,” says Jada, launching into a list of examples. “A woman should always be willing and ready ... he should be able to have sex however he wants...”
“In any position, in any way,” Gammy interjects, gesturing.
And aside from the unrealistic expectations porn often sets up in men (and likely, many non-men), how does the typically cisgendered, hetero world of porn inform us about women’s pleasure?
“You should enjoy it, no matter what ... and it shouldn’t just be joy, but exhilaration,” Jada adds. “ In porn, you’re never tired. There’s never a ‘no.’”
“I don’t think we really know, culturally, what women like, in regards to sex,” Jada later adds. “Because women have not been allowed to explore the way men have.”
And yet, Jada, who fessed up to a one-time sex addiction last season (h/t HuffPo), also admits to at having a past “unhealthy relationship” with porn.
“Back in the day, I had a little porn addiction,” she told her mother and daughter. “I wasn’t in a relationship when I had a porn addiction, believe it or not, thank goodness.”
“I actually feel like I was using ‘addiction’ a little lightly,” she later said, backtracking a bit. “And maybe I’ll say now that I had an unhealthy relationship to porn at one point in my life where I was trying to practice abstinence.” When pressed by Willow about the genesis of her preoccupation with porn, Jada said, “it was actually like, feeling an emptiness—at least you think it is. But it’s actually not.”
Having watched, enjoyed, and simultaneously questioned our fair share of porn, this episode was a particularly relatable one, as the three women spoke openly about not only how porn affects our global culture, but how each interprets it through the lens and stigmas of her own generation. For instance, while Gammy recalls using porn to help free her from a fairly repressed attitude about sex, she raised daughter Jada with a much more open perspective. And as the youngest at the red table, Willow surprisingly dropped some gems about how patriarchy informs both those stigmas and porn.
“Because that structure that will label a woman as a slut and a ho when she expresses her sexuality and, you know, finds joy in sexual pleasure, that’s the same structure that is upholding this porn industry,” she said, as Gammy co-signed.
But the real crux of this episode is about how porn can affect relationships. We’re fond of saying “the couple that plays together, stays together,” but as one couple who joins the red table reveals, there can also be a tremendous amount of shame, secrecy and isolation that ultimately affects the intimacy between people who are otherwise in love. There’s also the issue of how it can affect sexual dynamics, and the development of healthy sexual habits, trust and expectations of each other.
“Porn is always there,” says the table’s red guest, Garrett. But your partner may not always be. Watch the video above to hear how Garrett and his wife handled his porn addiction, and consider your own relationship with porn.