What Women Tell Me They Hate About Porn

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Whenever I write about pornography without claiming that it’s the downfall of Western Civilization, I get dozens of angry emails (along with a bunch of appreciative ones).

These emails are written almost exclusively by women. They are eager to tell me two things: first, how porn has made their lives miserable. And second, these angry and suffering women are eager to tell me about me: how I have obviously never met a porn addict; have never seen a betrayed woman weep; don’t care about the sexual violence (supposedly) caused by porn; have no clue what healthy sexuality is like; and how I clearly hate women.

None of these is true, of course. I see more people and couples with porn-related difficulties than about 99% of the therapists in America. Both my decades of political work supporting healthy sexual expression and my personal life speak for themselves.

So enough about me.

But it’s fascinating what people blame on porn. You might as well blame food for obesity, or cars for dangerous driving, or kids for bad parenting. Of course, obesity involves food, dangerous driving involves cars, and bad parenting involves kids. But if you want to understand problematic behavior, you have to look past the surface.

And so women who say “porn stole my boyfriend” or “my husband was too weak to resist porn” or “men always push you to do kinky stuff until you just give in” aren’t really talking about porn. They’re talking about relationships, character, power, integrity, communication, and sexuality.

Which is what I keep pointing out. And which some people keep resenting. Because they’d rather argue about porn.

So here are some of the things women regularly tell me they hate about porn. I both sympathize about the pain they’re obviously in, and I encourage them to think about their situation differently—so that maybe they can resolve it. Because if you think any of the following is a porn problem, you won’t solve it. And if you think any of the following will be solved by banishing porn, you’re wrong.

“He’s lost interest in me sexually.”
This isn’t a porn issue, it’s a couples/marital issue.

This is one of the most predictable things in life: most long-term monogamous people notice their sexual desire and frequency decline over time. There are many reasons, from the psychological to the practical to the biological. And despite a jillion advice givers, no one really knows how to reliably change this. All we really know for sure is that not talking about it never makes things better.

Unfortunately, that’s the intervention couples try most often.

So when a heartbroken woman says she’s sexually abandoned in favor of porn, she’s definitely right about being heartbroken; probably right about being sexually abandoned; and almost certainly wrong about the explanation: “in favor of porn.”

“He compares me to porn actresses and activities.”
This isn’t a porn issue, it’s a hostility issue.

Polite. Considerate. Friendly. Sympathetic. We all want our mates to be like this. Unfortunately, people find a million ways to be jerks. They can involve money, dirty socks, sarcasm, chronic lateness, Three Stooges routines—and unfairly comparing someone to someone else. And then acting surprised when the person doesn’t like it.

Don’t blame porn for the jerky way a guy responds to porn. And ladies, don’t you respond to the porn you don’t watch by comparing yourself to the actresses he’s watching.

“He leaves evidence of masturbating or porn watching around the house.”
This isn’t a porn issue, it’s a selfishness issue.

Um, see the point above. Selfish people do selfish things. Don’t blame the smoked salmon when he eats the last piece, or the money he spent on himself rather than on you, or the birthday that he didn’t remember. Like his used tissues or porn DVDs, they’re innocent—just tools in the hands of a selfish person.

“He makes fun of me or our sex life in a nasty way.”
This isn’t a porn issue, it’s a bullying issue.

Bullying, sarcasm, meanness, bad timing, aiming for someone’s weakness—that’s no way to run a relationship. But anyone who’s that way now was also that way then. Maybe you thought it was charming then. Or you weren’t grown up enough to see it clearly. Or you thought you were partly to blame.

No one’s responsible for being bullied. But if you hate that he grabs your butt in public, don’t blame your butt; if you hate that he tells your friends what you confide in secret, don’t blame your friends; and if he bullies you about sex, don’t blame sex—or porn. Only one thing should be blamed for bullying, and that’s the bully.

“He blames his porn-watching on me.”
This isn’t a porn issue, it’s an adolescent-style lack of responsibility issue.

I know some people are sexually frustrated, and they respond in a wide range of ways: from suffering silently to infidelity to sulking to drinking to getting over-involved in golf or church. Another way some people respond is by blaming: “If you’d have more or better sex with me, I wouldn’t watch porn” (or be unfaithful or keep buying new cars).

There’s a difference between explaining one’s choice (“It’s my best option”) and seeing oneself as a victim of another’s behavior (“You gave me no choice”). Additionally, describing one’s own choices in a way that makes it sound like someone else is getting a well-deserved punishment is highly manipulative–and never productive.

We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can almost always control how we respond to circumstances. “Your inadequacies as a partner drive me to watch porn” is a statement not about porn, but about a dysfunctional relationship.

“He says he’ll stop watching, and then I catch him doing it.”
This isn’t a porn issue, it’s an integrity issue.

People should keep their agreements. The hard part is telling someone “no, I don’t want to promise what you want me to promise.”

Many men report being pushed to give up porn, and they know that if they resist, conflict will continue. Rather than participate in the conflict and try to resolve it, they just agree. Later on when they’re found breaking the agreement, their partner has a legitimate complaint.

But instead of saying “hm, you’ve broken your promise, can we please discuss why?” many women will double down on, “you know I hate it, you said you’d stop, you obviously haven’t, now I don’t trust you. And damn it, stop watching porn!”

He could reply, “Honey, I didn’t want to agree to stop watching, but I just couldn’t face more anger and hurt about this, so I said OK. But I don’t want to stop, and I don’t want to lie about not watching. So I’d like to keep watching while we negotiate what we’re going to do about this.” But more typically, men will mumble “I’m sorry,” promise once again to stop, and either stop for a while and resume, or not even stop. And then wonder why their partner is so upset.


Please note that this is not some old white guy (that’s me) telling women how to feel.

No, I’m saying the opposite: if you’re unhappy with your mate, talk about how you feel, not about what he’s doing wrong, or how he’s causing your unhappiness. Say “I feel unimportant” or “pushed away,” or “unattractive,” or “like I don’t matter to you.” These feelings are important, and I’d never want to take them away from someone. No, they’re so important that I encourage people who feel this way to share that experience with their mate.

Then instead of arguing about porn—and disagreeing until the cows come home—there’s a chance two people could actually talk about something real—how one of them feels, and doesn’t want to feel that way. There’s nothing to disagree about there, and plenty to explore and learn about each other. The closeness that typically results can make talking about a complex issue like pornography less contentious, more productive, and even more intimate.

Which is, ultimately, way more important than porn—right?


If you liked this article, you’re going to love my piece www.martyklein.com/parents-talk-kids-porn/

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