You won’t have to feel guilty the next time you lock the door, turn off the lights, and get under the covers to watch an X-rated movie. Watching pornography may actually be a good thing for you, especially for your sex life. According to a recent study published in the journal Sexual Medicine, at least 40 minutes of porn twice a week, which is the equivalent of three months of your lifetime, can boost your sex drive and your overall desire to have sex.

The link between porn consumption and its effect on genuine sexual interactions has received mixed reviews. The availability of free Internet porn is believed to have contributed to a decline in relationship sexual satisfaction and even marriage among young men. A 2014 study published in the Eastern Economic Journal found free Internet porn has not only led to a decline in young adult males who are married, but could actually be contributing to the trend. The allure of “easy sex” and stimulating variety from virtual pleasure allows men to have endless access to sex every day at any time of the day.

Other psychologists beg to differ, however, and suggest watching porn can enhance sexual enjoyment and happiness, especially if you’re in a relationship. Couples who engage in watching porn together and have a mutual agreement on what’s considered to be acceptable porn are more likely to have thriving relationships because of their level of honesty and communication.

“Often, watching can stimulate ideas, themes, and scenarios that can elicit spontaneity and adventure for the couple,” Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills psychotherapist, author, and expert panelist on WE TV’s Sex Box, previously told Medical Daily.  

Nicole Prause and Jim Pfaus, authors of the study from UCLA and Concordia University, sought to test the effect of watching erotica sex drive and erectile function in a cohort of 280 male volunteers in their 20s, of which 127 had regular partners. The men were asked to record their own porn viewing habits while tracking their libido. All of the men reported having spent from zero to 25 hours per week watching sex films, and they also completed questionnaires measuring levels of sexual desire. They also viewed films in the lab that showed a man and woman having consensual vaginal intercourse and then reported their level of sexual arousal.

The findings revealed there is a positive correlation between the amount of time spent viewing porn and the desire to have sex. Men who watched no porn were found to score just over 40 on the researchers' arousal matrix. Meanwhile, men who did watch porn scored over 50. Those who watched more than two hours of porn per week were found to have the highest level of arousal, meaning they had more desire for masturbation and sex with a partner.

"While one could object that this was expected since they like sex films, the result is important because clinicians often claim that men get desensitized by watching these films," said Prause, in the press release. "They are responding more strongly to very vanilla erotica than the guys for whom the films are more novel. While this association doesn't establish a cause, it proves viewing erotica at home is not desensitizing and perhaps even sensitized the men to respond more strongly."

The researchers also looked at instances of erectile dysfunction based on the International Index of Erectile Function, a questionnaire that requires men to rate their experience with erectile function. They wrote: "erectile functioning with a partner was not related to the hours of VSS (visual sexual stimuli) viewed weekly." This contradicts previous literature which suggests porn leads to problems in the bedroom. "The erectile dysfunction is most likely caused by the same issues that have been known for some time, such as performance anxiety, poor cardiovascular health, or side-effects from substance abuse,” said Pfaus.

Prause and Pfaus believe it would be useful to assess erection maintenance directly in the future to get to the root of the problem, not porn.

Until then, it seems science has given the “OK” to healthily indulge in porn and give yourself a helping hand.

Sources: Pfaus J and Prause N. Viewing Sexual Stimuli Associated with Greater Sexual Responsiveness, Not Erectile Dysfunction. Sexual Medicine. 2015.

Malcom M and Naufal GS. Are Pornography and Marriage Substitutes for Young Men? Eastern Economic Journal. 2015.