I realized that with all the topics I have written about, I have not written about pornography. In the realm of modeling behavior I believe in (in this case being explicit in communication), I will say that I have heard so many stories with poor endings that involve pornography.
If you have an explicit agreement that porn is OK in your relationship, and what kind of pornography (i.e., books, magazines, movies, videos, soft- or hard-core, etc.), who partakes of it, etc., then go for it! Maybe it’s a huge turn on to both of you; in that case, enjoy.
It is not my job as a couple counselor to tell you what to do, or not to do, as the case maybe. But it is my job to help you discuss important topics in the safest environment possible.
Porn is a complex topic with many facets and related paths to consider. I’m only going to discuss a few of them here. I’m going to begin with the bottom line from what I’ve seen and heard in my office, and then veer off from there. I’m going to ask questions that I’m not going to answer. I want you to think about them from your own perspective, from your partner’s, and from the men and women you know, as well as attitudes about pornography in your family.
I am going to stay away from judgment, religion, morality, and stay focused on couples and connection.
Porn addiction is also a separate – and very important – topic that I’m not going to discuss here. If you or someone you love has a porn or sex addiction, please know that it is treatable. A person with a pornography addiction would need to see a specialist.
So here’s what I’ve heard in my office:
– Men don’t think it’s a big deal.
– Men hide it.
– Women think it’s a huge deal.
– Women find out.
– Most women take it to mean that they are not enough sexually for their partner.
– Women feel/see it as a betrayal.
– There will be no sex as a result.
Some couples are fine with porn. It’s really a matter of communication (as most things are in a relationship). Do you both agree to using/watching pornography? Do you both agree with a good heart, or does one of you feel you have to agree? If so, that’s not actually agreement (if you often agree to things you don’t want to, that’s a separate topic worth exploring).
Remember that porn is fake. It’s scripted, the people are actors and they are acting. It is not intimate. It is not love or connection.
With the Internet, one can find pornography of every flavor: straight, gay, by ethnicity, by body size, multiple partners, and so on. There is soft porn, hard-core porn, and more. If you can imagine it, it’s likely there to be found (and paid for).
If you do want to experiment with pornography, be clear with each other about your boundaries. If one says, “Stop,” then stop immediately. Explore and discuss what the “stop” reaction was about.
If you don’t want to experiment with pornography, say so. “No thanks,” is a good enough answer.
Bottom line: If you don’t have an explicit agreement to use porn, it’s not worth it, guys. And I’m saying guys on purpose because that’s what I’ve seen and heard in my office. (I know women use porn, too – steamy romance novels and all the rest).
She will find out, it will be a huge betrayal to her, and it will mean she’s not enough. She won’t want to have sex with you for an unknown amount of time, you’ll be in the doghouse, and it will likely take a long time for her to trust you again.
(If one of you is already in the doghouse, and you don’t trust each other, and that’s a normal state in your relationship, pick up the phone now and get into counseling!)
While porn may be titillating to some men, it’s a turn off to many women. It also can be demeaning to women and men alike.
Maybe this column will open a useful conversation between you about porn, sex, intimacy and connection. That’s my hope, anyway. Please don’t set your partner up by asking him if he’s watching porn and then blow up! Ask what you each think about porn – is it of interest to you both? How do you feel about it? Does it turn you on or off? Do you have any fantasy about it? Would you watch a video together? Would reading erotica to one another at bedtime be of interest? And so on.
See if you have any speck of interest in any form of pornography. There is no right answer to this question. Stand by your boundaries, though.