Sex

How to Watch Porn With Your Partner for the First Time

If you're nervous about judgement or comparison, try thinking of this as a hot way of getting to know each other better.
October 5, 2020, 11:00am
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Collage by Hunter French
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It's not a set of rules—it's a state of mind.

If you’ve been living with your partner or safely hanging with a hookup over the past few months, you’ve probably gotten to know the ins and outs of each other's sexual repertoires a lot better. There’s nothing wrong with playing the hits and sticking to the stuff you know you both like (also, congrats on having consistently great sex!!), but with many more months of extreme togetherness on the horizon, even mind-blowing sex can start to feel routine. 

If you’re not into the idea of “spicing things up” (or if the phrase “spice things up” grosses you out), it's entirely possible try something new that doesn’t involve acrobatic positions, flavored lotions, or expensive gadgets: watching porn with your partner. You don’t even have to leave the couch to do it. 

Porn can be a tricky subject. It might feel weird to think about who or what your partner jerks off to, or what your partner would think about the stuff that turns you on, but porn can also make for a rad shared activity. The point of watching porn together isn’t to make comparisons or copy exactly what you see on screen, but to find a helpful jumping-off point for conversations about what you each like or want to test out in bed. Watching porn together gives both partners a clear visual you can point to and say, “I like THAT.” On a more basic level, porn can also help you get in the mood when you’re not feeling your sexiest (like after a day of sitting indoors). It can also just be hot with no additional caveat, which is more than enough reason to try it.

If you’re curious about watching porn with a partner but don’t know how to actually go about doing that, or how to even ask, here's how to make it happen—and actually enjoy it.

Check in with yourself about how you feel about watching porn with a partner before talking to them about it.

Even if you want to try two-person porn consumption, it's normal to worry that it might not be the right fit for you. So, before you ask your partner if they’re into watching porn together, ask yourself if this makes sense for you and your relationship. Why would you like to share this experience with your partner? Would you like to feel closer to them? Are you hoping to communicate more openly about your fantasies and desires, or learn more about theirs? Are you just hoping to change up your sex life a little and think it could be fun for both of you to watch other people fuck? The more answers you're able to pin down about what you want from the experience, the better you’ll be able to articulate them to your partner. 

Take stock of any concerns or anxiety you might have about watching porn with someone you're regularly intimate with. Are you really into BDSM porn and worried your partner will judge you? Do you want to check out some pegging videos, but aren’t sure you’d ever want to do that IRL? Make a mental note (or an actual list!) of what turns you on, what you might want to try, and what you definitely don’t want to do, even if you're into seeing it.

Have general conversations about sex and desire with your partner before bringing up porn.

Your partner might not have any idea you’re even into porn at all, and hearing you’d like to watch it with them may come as a surprise. Whether you’re with a monogamous partner or a more casual fling, try leading up to discussing porn by first making sex a more regular topic of conversation, if it isn't already. Unless you're already doing that, “I wouldn't jump right in,” said sexologist Gigi Engle. “If you go from ‘I can't talk about sex’ to ‘Let's watch gang-bang porn,’ that's how these conversations get derailed. Your partner might think, We've never even talked about me giving you a blow job, and now we're talking about gang-bang porn. Springing that kind of thing on someone with whom you haven't had sexually open conversations with could be overwhelming and off-putting.

You can ease into this by talking about what you already enjoy about your sex life. Let your partner know how much they turn you on. “Offer genuine compliments whenever possible,” said Jess O’Reilly, a sexologist and the host of the podcast @Sex With Dr. Jess. “This initial conversation doesn’t need to lead immediately to requests and critiques, and [having a conversation about sex] isn't a one-shot deal.”

However you go about talking about porn: Do it when you're not already hooking up.

When you feel ready to bring up porn, think about how you want to approach that in advance. Don't expect to have the actual watching of porn happen immediately in the moment or right after, which might add undue pressure to something with the potential to be really fun. “Make sure you’re in neutral territory,” said Sunny Megatron, a sex educator and series creator of Sex With Sunny Megatron. “That reinforces the message that you’ve entered a judgment-free zone.”

You can even come at it from a little more of a remove: “My favorite way to [see if someone's interested in watching porn together] is by mentioning that you read an article about this,” said sex therapist Vanessa Marin, which, if you go this route, would be the truth! “You might say something like, ‘I was reading this article today about couples who watched porn together,” said Marin. “What do you think about that?’ This opens up the conversation in a nicer, gentler way if you're feeling a little shy.” You could also send them the link to this and say, "Would you be into this?" (If you're someone's partner who came here that way: Hi!!!! Enjoy the porn!)

Talk through what kind of porn your partner's interested in and how it matches up with what you like.

If your partner is interested in watching porn with you, talking about that should give both you and your partner a sense of what it would be like to watch it together and what both of you would be down to watch. “Talk about your interests, likes, dislikes and concerns," said O'Reilly—and ask your partner what they want, and if there are any specific fantasies or scenarios they'd particularly want to watch with you. O'Reilly recommended asking not only what your partner likes, but why they like it, to help you find common ground.

Talk about the porn you'd rather not explore together, too.

Ask if there are any sex acts or styles of porn your partner definitely don’t want to watch, or aren’t sure about. Address not only the kinds of sex acts or fetishes that aren't your style, but your own feelings and boundaries when it comes to the roles and appearances of performers, too. “If you have partners that you know are triggered by rough sex or very young-looking actresses, steer away from that,” said educator, author, and porn performer Rain DeGrey. It might be a good idea to stick with body types that resemble you and/or your partner at first if either of you think comparison or jealousy might creep in.

If you and your partner are down to watch porn together but still not sure where to start, keep things sort of vanilla at first.

If you’re totally lost, that’s OK! Browsing through a free tube site can be extremely overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and you may have to scroll past a bunch of stuff you don’t like before you find something you both enjoy. “A good rule of thumb is starting with the porn that the partner with the tamer or more apprehensive taste likes,” said Megatron. 

Engle suggested starting with queer-inclusive and independently owned sites like PinkLabel TV, CrashPad, and Indie Porn Revolution, which prioritize high-production value, chemistry between performers, and intimate interactions like kissing and sensual touch. 

 You can explore these together to create a porn playlist so you’ll have a few different options on hand when the time is right, although you might want to clarify that this doesn't have to mean committing to an entire evening of porn—it's just meant to help you move on if something isn't the right fit.

Tweak the more technical aspects of watching porn as needed.

 Watching on a laptop or TV will keep your hands free if you and your partner should get inspired, though you can just as easily pull something up on your phone. Just because you decide to watch porn together doesn’t mean you both have to sit there and stare at your phone or laptop screen the whole time, though—try playing one clip in the background to start. 

 Ask your partner how they feel about the volume level. “Perhaps exaggerated sounds are off-putting, seem unrealistic, or [otherwise] take you out of the moment,” said O’Reilly. Adjust as you go, based on what is and isn't working.

Account for nerves—but also be clear that comfort levels are subject to change at any time and that it's totally fine to pause or stop.

Even with advance planning, you’re probably still going to feel a little nervous. Some of your porn preferences, or your partner’s, may come as a surprise, especially if it looks a little different from your shared sex life. “[Sometimes] a partner can feel like whatever they [picked to] watch is too weird, and their partner will see them differently,” said Megatron, or, alternatively, “feel threatened by the adult actors, and may assume their lover will compare them to what they see on the screen.” 

 Certain fantasies may turn you or your partner on, but that doesn’t always match up with the kind of sex you actually want to have together. “Your partner’s porn preferences have nothing to do with you,” said Megatron. “You may discover they like something you would’ve never expected or you’ve never seen them do before. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t enough because you’ve never done that thing.”

Once the action starts, ask your partner if they like what they see, and tell them how you're feeling. If either of you are unsure or feeling weird, or if the experience isn’t as hot as you thought it would be, you can always just shut it off and go back to the porn-free sex you both like best—or just take a break and do something else. “You have to respect their ‘no’ if that is something that they are not interested in doing with you,” said Rain DeGrey, and the same goes for you if you're not feeling it. 

If you decide to hook up while you're watching porn, make sure your attention stays first and foremost on you and your partner's connection and pleasure.

Porn isn't an instruction manual. “Just as you can't learn to drive from watching NASCAR or Fast And The Furious, you will not learn about the nuances of sex from porn,” said O’Reilly. “You certainly won't learn about what your partner wants unless you ask them.” 

DeGrey offered a helpful way of accounting for porn's role in your hookup: “Porn should be an added sauce to your sex life.” You really don't have to recreate the scenarios and gravity-defying positions you see on screen, unless you're both enthusiastically into that—which you'd know by asking, and by generally keeping your primary focus on your partner.

 If everything seems like it's going well the first few times you check in, you can relax a little and trust your partner to communicate how they’re feeling in the moment. “It can actually be possible to over–check in with someone, much like someone looming over you and asking, ‘Are you cumming yet? Are you close?’” said DeGrey. “If the person has consented to go forward with the experience, take them at their word.” 

If videos aren't for you, see if other kinds of erotica feel more like something you'd want to share.

“Part of the conversation is understanding that your partner might not be into [visual] pornography,” said Engle. “Not everybody's going to be interested in porn videos, but there's lots of stuff out there for everyone.” 

 If watching porn feels like visual overload, or you prefer to let your imagination run wild  instead, erotic literature or audio content might be more your speed. Engle recommended the Dipsea and Ferly audio erotica apps and FrolicMe, a subscription site with both erotic audio stories and explicit video content. She also likes erotic fiction writer Tabitha Rayne’s work: “It's got every type of sex you can imagine, and it's well-written. There's incredible erotica out there that's not Fifty Shades of Grey.”


Whatever you’re into, be honest with yourself and your partner. “We only get one shot at life. Why would you spend it hiding your desires from the person that is supposedly the closest to you?” said DeGrey. When you show your partner exactly what you like, even if it’s something new or unexpected, they’ll probably feel more comfortable about doing the same. You might be pleasantly surprised—and turned on—by what you learn, and what you see.

Follow Sofia Barrett-Ibarría on Twitter.