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- What to do if porn is a problem
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- Are relationship problems because of porn common?
- Online porn is changing (read “destroying”) relationships.
- A Laptop Never Says No
- Statistics indicate that sex is by far the most popular search term on the web. Can porn can be part of a normal relationship?
- What problems can porn cause?
- Porn and relationships
- This anonymous guy doesn't claim to speak for all men—just most of them. Here's a peek into what's going on in front of those glowing screens, and what it might mean about your relationship.
What to do if porn is a problem
So if you're still thinking, It's gross! It's dumb! It's unenthusiastic actors having mindless sex in front of cameramen who are probably wearing jeans shorts! We men would entirely agree. Watching it lowers us even in our own estimation. Knowing that regardless of how sophisticated we believe we are, we're still just Neanderthals inside is humbling. It's one of the reasons I'm not arguing that you have to be pro-porn. If you find pornography abhorrent on principle, that's more than understandable. The point isn't that it's awesome; it's that, again, it's like ice cream. Your husband's habit of consuming it isn't necessarily great for him, but it's a pleasure impulse that isn't easy to turn off—or that you'd want us to completely turn off.
Several studies have shown that pornography can actually have a positive impact. One 2007 study found that "many young Danish adults believe that pornography has had primarily a positive effect on various aspects of their live." If you're scared that your guy's predilection for porn will harm his performance in the bedroom, think again: a 2015 study also concluded that viewing sexual stimuli (a.k. a. things that turn you on) "is unlikely to negatively impact sexual functioning..." because "responses actually were stronger in those who viewed more VSS [visual sexual stimuli]."
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The other day I was texting with my friend Max. Max is a fake name, which I'm using because what Max and I were texting about was porn. (And yeah, that's why I'm anonymous here too.) I wrote, "Want to come over tomorrow night and watch the Mets game?" Max responded, "No, can't, in Chicago for business." And I replied, "Okay, have fun in your dimly lit hotel room with a hot laptop in your lap watching YouPorn." And Max texted back, "Um, that's literally what I'm doing right now." And I texted back, "Ew."
It's not all about physical gratification, though, says David Greenan, a family and couples therapist in New York City who's been treating people in relationships for more than 20 years: "People do it to escape. To escape the moment. To escape their minds. To deal with anxiety, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy"—you know, being a human being on Earth. I have to admit that this is true for me. I sometimes fire up the PornHub for the same reason I compulsively check my email or sports scores or anything else on my phone: to escape the discomfort of having to be where I am, to fight the boredom of ordinary life.
Are relationship problems because of porn common?
But why do you do it? you wonder. If it's not because you're going to sleep with other people or you're hiding a secret yen for sadomasochism, why do happily married guys want to watch strange women have sex? Well, because we can. When I turned 14, it was like a switch had been thrown and I became a kind of Walking Dead zombie, only instead of eating brains I just desperately needed to see breasts. It's why I sat through stultifying, boring soft-core porn movies on late-night Showtime in the '80s. It's why I stood at the drugstore helplessly staring at issues of Playboy magazine that stood only feet in front of me but might as well have been a thousand miles away. But now? It's like a friend used to say about not buying ice cream: It's easier to say no at the grocery store than every time you walk into the kitchen. In 2015, every time we open our computers, we are walking into a proverbial kitchen stocked with more kinds and flavors of ice cream than you could possibly consume.
Even if you don't think porn is cheating, you may wonder, What about me? Aren't I good enough? The experts I spoke with all confirmed that porn can make wives feel inadequate or unattractive. I swear to you, those things aren't related. We can find you hot as hell and still enjoy imagining having sex with other women. Being a good and faithful mate is not about denying there's a little part of your brain that thinks about having sex with other people; it's knowing that acting on it isn't going to make you happy at all. And as far as sexual fantasies go, I'd argue that porn is less problematic than my wife's fantasy about my coworker Kevin, which she has admitted to me more than once (FYI, once really would have been enough). Because porn isn't real. In fact, porn is extremely fake. "Men," Charles says, stating what I think to be one of the most obvious and in some ways sad facts about the male condition, "are more likely—and more able—than women to use sex for simple physical pleasure."
Online porn is changing (read “destroying”) relationships.
Why? Because it's a relatively healthy secret, and in marriage, secrets allow us to have separate selves. I don't mean having a secret second family in Minneapolis; I mean keeping a part of you that's just for you. The kind of secret life that can exist between you and a really good book. And yeah, I think the secret can be between a man and a clip of a cheerleader who walks in on a naked pool guy. I'm saying it's okay, and even good, to have a secret fantasy life. For the vast majority of us, it's not hard to keep the fantasies restricted to the realm of fantasy. (Plus, let's agree: People who can't keep their fantasies in check are going to be in trouble whether they spend intimate time with their computers or not.)
But wait, you're thinking. It's not okay! Pornography is a kind of cheating! Pornography is a gateway drug to orgies with strippers! Actually, it isn't. A seven-minute clip of "Bored Housewife Gets Delivery of Sausage Pizza" is not what leads you to meet your coworker at a Red Roof Inn. As a married guy, I can tell you that having another emotional relationship is not my fantasy when I watch porn. My fantasy is less relationship—and pornography is zero relationship. "As far as a correlation between people consuming a normal amount of pornography and being unfaithful," say the husband-and-wife couples counselors Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, both Ph.D.s who've spent the last 33 years interviewing thousands of couples about marital issues, "we just don't see it."
A Laptop Never Says No
If you're also like, "Ew?" Well, yeah, ew. Guilty as charged. Max and I are both happily married, monogamous men who had never talked about porn before. The fact that we felt perfectly safe joking about it anyway just proves how pervasive this stuff is. The reach and breadth and extraordinary ease of consuming pornography is so massive, it penetrates every tiny corpuscle of our media-saturated lives (last time I use the word penetrate, promise!). And I would make the argument that 1) your husband probably watches porn and 2) it doesn't mean he's a perverted freak. He's probably pretty normal.
I can just hear you now. Oh, no, you're thinking. Not my Jason! Not my Brian! My Charles doesn't watch that filthy stuff! And maybe you're right. Maybe your Charles doesn't watch pornography. Maybe your Charles doesn't like it. Maybe he doesn't indulge in the fetid pleasures of the self at all. Or maybe, if he does, all your Charles needs as an erotic aide is a photograph of you guys feeding each other cake on your wedding day. Congratulations! But don't get all superior, because various studies suggest that anywhere between 50 and 99 percent of men watch porn. And I'd bet on the higher end—who do you think lies on surveys: people who are embarrassed to say they watch porn or people who are embarrassed to say they don't? If you think about it in aggregate, men could probably be curing cancer and winning Candy Crush at the same time if we didn't spend so much time watching XXX videos. But best not to think about it. No one should contemplate the collective sound of 113 million one-hand-clappings.