Eating disorders in women may worsen if their significant other regularly watch pornography, according to new research performed at Ohio State University. A study led by investigators from Ohio State University is the first to look at how a partner’s pornography viewing habits can affect how women will experience guilt about eating, as well as their preoccupation with body fat, binging, purging or compulsive overeating.

“Unlike other media forms, partner pornography use is indirect in the sense that women aren’t necessarily viewing it themselves, but they may be aware that their partners are viewing it and perhaps using it while limiting, or even avoiding, sex with their female partners,” lead author Tracy Tylka, PhD, professor of psychology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, told Medscape Medical News.

Study results showed that women who had partners who currently view pornography and/or who viewed pornography in the past are more likely to engage in disordered eating patterns, have low self-esteem and develop a body fat preoccupation. These women could be engaging in disordered eating behaviors because they believe their partners have a desire for a ‘thinner woman” and are using their unhealthy behaviors as a means to cope with negative feelings that may arise due to their partners’ porn use. The media and our society idolize thin women and use a thin body shape as a measure of beauty. Women often will go to extreme lengths to lose weight and try to cope with their body dissatisfaction, especially if they feel unwanted by their partner or if they feel their relationship is in jeopardy.

Eating disorders resulting in a lack of intimacy and isolation

Engaging in disorder eating behaviors as a way to cope with relationship turmoil can be a slippery slope. By nature, eating disorders are isolating diseases, and therefore, a woman who is struggling with an eating disorder or body image dissatisfaction might slowly pull away from her spouse or partner; causing even more tension and dissatisfaction in the relationship. The spouse may not understand why their partner is practicing disordered eating behaviors which can create even more pressure in the relationship which can lead to the other partner feeling more isolated, unwanted and ashamed; until the cycles continues. Individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder will often find ways not to be intimate with their partner, which can sometimes lead the partner to engage in pornography. This spider web of isolation, low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and partner pornography cannot only be devastating to the relationship but can result in an increasingly severe eating disorder, requiring inpatient hospitalization.

Couples therapy as part of eating disorder treatment

Romantic partners should be integrated into eating disorder prevention and treatment interventions as a way to open communication within their romantic relationships. This can allow their partner to understand how their behaviors, or their perceptions of their behaviors, may be driving the disordered eating patterns.

Source: Medscape Medical News via
Tylka, Tracey., Int J Eat Disord. Published online January 9, 2019.