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October 4, 2004 8:05 PM   Subscribe

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Attention all men: I need your expert advice. How do I get my longtime SO to have a conversation about "our relationship" without frightening him and driving him into a clamlike silence?

In the course of fixing my longtime (10 years +) live-in boyfriend's computer, I discovered a gigantic (22,000 images plus) cache of porn. This in and of itself is not a problem. What is a problem is the fact that he is clearly embarassed about it, lied to me several times about it, and now refuses to have any sort of conversation about it (or the lies) at all. At all. He just sits there in stony silence until I give up trying. This clearly isn't healthy, but I have no idea what to do about it. He's never been big on the whole "talking about things" anyway .... how do I get him to at least engage in some kind of conversation about this?
posted by anastasiav to Human Relations (64 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have an answer, but if it's really "not a problem in and of itself"... what's the problem if he wants to keep his porn fantasy life private? Not everything in a relationship needs to be out in the open. People need their own space. Why do you think he needs to talk about it?
posted by dobbs at 8:11 PM on October 4, 2004


Short answer: if he really doesn't want to talk about it, you can't make him. If you leave him alone, he may eventually crack and raise the subject himself.

Slightly longer answer: what exactly do you want to talk about? Maybe saying "It freaks me out to think of you wanking to pictures of other (women/horses/stuffed toys) and I need you to reassure me that you still find me attractive" (or whatever specific thing it is that's on your mind. The more narrowly bounded, less open-ended you can make your enquiry, the more likely you are to get something out of him.

Flippant answer: wait till jessamyn sees this, she'll know what to do.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:30 PM on October 4, 2004


Kind of what dobbs said. Take a look at this thread too, anastasiav.
posted by vacapinta at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2004


By way of background, if the purpose of the conversation about "[y]our relationship" is to discuss his response to your attempt to discuss the porn, what was the purpose of your attempt to discuss the porn in the first place? Maybe it's hard for him to discuss his response until you first discuss how and why you found the porn and why you confronted him about it?

Other than that, I'd suggest emphasizing your feelings for him, your confidence in the relationship (assuming none of this is a deal-breaker), and possibly taking some pressure off of him by talking about your own quirks. If he doesn't want to discuss this because he's embarrassed, you should try to convince him he has no reason to feel embarrassed -- unless you believe he should be ashamed, and then we're back at step one.
posted by subgenius at 8:32 PM on October 4, 2004


What do you mean, it isn't healthy? Some people are brought up to believe that masturbation is a private affair. He's embarrassed about it and he's lied about it because he knows you'd flip out about it if you found out about his porn; apparently, he's right.

What I don't get at all is that you don't mind the porn, but you mind the embarrassment? Huh? If you don't want him to get embarrassed and lie about it, don't ask him about his porn stash or about his masturbation habits! Pretty straightforward.

Aren't there some things you don't feel comfortable discussing with your boyfriend? Give him the same courtesy.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:32 PM on October 4, 2004


Its not the porn, its the extravagant steps taken to hide the porn, followed by the lying about the porn, that I want to discuss. Does that help?
posted by anastasiav at 8:35 PM on October 4, 2004


Somewhat applicable Savage Love column.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:35 PM on October 4, 2004


What does his porn colletion (or on preview the hiding or even lying about said collection) have to do with "[your] relationship"? As others have said, it's a private and likely embarassing topic.

Other than encouraging him to resent you for constantly nagging and prying into something about which he seems to have a certain level of shame, what do you hope to accomplish by forcing him to talk about it?
posted by willnot at 8:39 PM on October 4, 2004


Would you rather he looked at porn in the open and left it lying around the house? Maybe he just doesn't feel comfortable doing that, so he hides his habit from you so as not to upset you. Again, for some people, masturbation is private, and so's porn by extension.

What you're doing, as far as I'm concerned, is forcing your way into a very private part of his life that he'd rather remain private. Just to use an analogy, I am uptight, and I will not allow my girlfriend in the bathroom while I'm using the toilet. What you are doing is the equivalent of walking in on me while I'm taking a big noisy dump, and then yelling at me because I get embarrassed and don't want you in the bathroom watching me wipe my ass.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:41 PM on October 4, 2004


anastasiav, I don't agree with the general sentiment that you're somehow at fault here. Whatever the subject matter may be, your SO lied to you, and is refusing to communicate with you about it.

I'm not sure how I'd deal with this if it were my SO that lied to me and then wouldn't talk to me about it -- for me, that'd be a very big deal. I don't know how I'd be able to live day-to-day without having resolved (or at least discussed) the trust issues that raises.

I think you should let him know that you understand his embarrasment, and that you don't really care about the pr0n, you care about the fact that the issue of pr0n is causing him to treat you in a way that is counter to what he should provide, as your partner. That's a scary thing, and something as trivial (IMHO) as porn shouldn't drive a wedge between two people who've been together for ten years.

If he's really ashamed of it, you're not going to make any headway talking about the images, so try talking about your relationship.
posted by Jairus at 9:03 PM on October 4, 2004


Whoa. Easy there guys. I think anastasiav is trying to get at the bubble surrounding the porn and the reaction therein, not try to ban it, include herself in the fantasies, or make it somehow less fun by making it more open [although I recognize that for some this will be the effect].

anastsiav was *fixing* the computer, not hacking into it. She was confronted with a large selection of information that she didn't know was part of her boyfriend's life/fantasies. As a result of this surprise, she wanted to talk about it with him instead of ignoring it. That's what couples do sometimes, you know, *talk* about new things that emerge as the situations emerge. anastsiav, I had a similar situation: it wasn't porn, but I did see something that I wasn't expecting. I made the mistake of just keeping silent about it, even though I knew *intellectually* that I shouldn't be worried about it or concerned, I was. It seeped into other areas of our relationship. When I finally brought it up, I started with the preface of, "I think I saw something that both of us wish I hadn't. But, I did, and it's been bothering me in [these] ways because of [these reasons]." That let him know that of course he would wish I hadn't seen that document, but that I had, and now it was necessary to talk about it on some level in order for me to understand what was going on. This requires you to be totally forthright about exactly what you want to talk about here - is it the nature of the porn? Is it just that you didn't know he had a stash? That he had an x-number of downloaded files? That he wouldn't talk about it?

Unlike MegoSteve and willnot, I don't think you're nagging or forcing this 'shameful' conversation. But, he might *feel* like he's being attacked or forced to talk about it without having thought about what he'd like to say. Sometimes in those situations it can be useful to say something like, "I would like to talk about this sometime in the next week or so. I understand it's not a comfortable topic for either of us, but there are a few things I'd like to get across, and I'm sure you'd like to say a few things as well. I'll let you pick the time/place to have this conversation." That way, he can gather his thoughts and be in the right frame of mind for what he might consider to be a complicated conversation. Sorry this is long, but I felt the need to offer an alternative view than those above me.
posted by fionab at 9:04 PM on October 4, 2004


Phrasing it in terms of "talking about the relationship" is equivalent to taking it to DEFCON 2; talk about the issue on its own terms, without escalating it into a crisis. Escalation is the worst way to punch through someone's embarrassment and reticence.

I don't know enough about the situation to be sure about this, but since you asked, here's my take. It sounds like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop. If, as you say, you want to probe into the "lies", then it's no wonder he wants to avoid the subject, because there's nothing for him to look forward to, no way for him to win, and no way for him to give an answer that will be satisfactory to you.

The short, obvious answer is that he probably lied because he was embarrassed and feared the consequences of being found out. Fucking duh: men have been hiding their porn collections since puberty; after a while it becomes second nature. Don't make too much of that, or you risk putting yourself in the position of Kenneth Starr. What else do you need to know beyond that? What do you need to hear from him?

The best thing you could do is simply let him know that you're cool with it, that he doesn't need to hide it, and he can go about his dirty little business. If you don't want to do that . . . it's not really about the lying, then, is it?
posted by mcwetboy at 9:14 PM on October 4, 2004


fionab, it's a rotten thing for anastasiav to have her attempts to talk labelled as nagging.

*nonetheless* wearing my truculent male hat, the phrase "sits in silence until I give up trying" tells me that nagging is the perception at the boyfriend end.

I'm not sure what "lied to me several times about it" actually means. ("The cleaner must have been using our computer! It's research for my thesis! I needed to colour calibrate fleshtones on our printer!") That might provide a few clues if you're willing to elaborate, anastasiav.

The simplest explanation is, as other people have said, that he is too ashamed to talk about this. In which case the tactic is to talk about you and your needs (for security, respect, whatever), rather than trying to probe his motivation.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:17 PM on October 4, 2004


Show him your porn stash, such as it is. If you don't have one, make one real quick. He'll know you're cool with it, since you've led by example and open up and discuss things more freely.

Then he'll want to get it on. Fiercely.
posted by waldo at 9:23 PM on October 4, 2004


If "the whole talking about things thing" isn't a strength of your relationship, I don't think his hidden porn collection is the best subject with which to break through that. Maybe there's something more important that needs to be talked about, and this is just standing in for that.
posted by inksyndicate at 9:51 PM on October 4, 2004


Most guys don't understand that porn (or ejaculation on daily or about 5 times a week) is actually very healthy both physically and psychologically. Your BF probably can't internalize nor defend his want for porn and self-stimulation and your offense to it, especially if you are nagging him (he's lied to me several times?) isn't helping.

No offense, but perhaps the problem here is you and your demands. Geez, I bet the poor guy feels guilty as sin for lying to you about porn and now the issue probably isn't porn its the lies. And why did he have to lie? Because he was embarrased. I think if you get him to talk about it you should start with a whole mess of apologies.

In some ways this is your business and in many ways its not. What exactly are you trying to uncover here? Sounds like you did a lot of damage to the poor kid.

Perhaps your best solution is to drop it for a while. Your "interest" in it doesnt sound healthy nor does his shame. Putting both these elements together isn't going to bring out some magical solution.
posted by skallas at 9:54 PM on October 4, 2004


What do you hope to achieve by talking about it? What do you want him to say/change? What is he lying about?

I guess I don't really see what the issue is here. It's one thing to say "hey, I stumbled across your porn collection earlier and I noticed you seem to have a thing for chicks in garter belts, how about I get one and we have some fun?" or even just "hey, I stumbled across your porn collection, no biggie, just thought you'd notice anyway, so I'd better mention it", it's another to use this as a way to trick him into discussing something likely unrelated to the porn at all. If you need reassurance about how he feels about you, then discuss that, not his porn. If you need him to open up to you emotionally more often, then discuss that, not his porn. If the issue is lying, then discuss that, not his porn. I guess I don't really see why he can't have his porn as a private thing, and I don't think the issue here is actually about the porn anyway, so why make it about the porn? It's dishonest and disrespectful to make the issue about porn if the issue is actually something else, and you are unlikely to get anywhere by doing so.

If he's sitting there in stony silence, it seems likely that he either feels attacked or embarrassed, or like you're trespassing. I suggest you change your approach, make it personal ("I feel like this when you won't talk to me"), and try to discuss what the actual issue is. Be honest with yourself, and be honest with him, you might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by biscotti at 10:04 PM on October 4, 2004


its the extravagant steps taken to hide the porn

You mean that he had it on his machine some way such that a casual user browsing directories wouldn't find it?

Duh. A porn collection is embarrassing; of course it's going to be hidden. Only an exhibitionist wouldn't hide it.

That he is embarrassed about it shouldn't be a problem. Being embarrassed about a porn collection is a normal response to its discovery.

"Why did you hide it?" and "Why are you embarrassed about it?" aren't real questions. The answers are self-evident: "because it's embarrassing," and "because it's a porn collection, fer fucksakes." I would avoid asking then, since if you're asking me questions the answers to which are clear and obvious (to me), you're going to look like you're playing some sort of unpleasant game at me -- even if you're not.

followed by the lying about the porn, that I want to discuss

If what you want is just to make it clear that lying isn't acceptable, that's not a discussion. That's a commandment. Issue it, and note to him that it applies to you too.

If you want to know why he's lied, I would start by noting several understandable -- but still unacceptable -- reasons, so that it's not a discussion about his manifold and various flaws, or to help place the lies into a realm where they're understandable fuckups, not glaring faults:

(1) Simple habituation. Porn stashes and masturbation will have been furtive, don't-want-to-be-caught activities from puberty -- and for men, most of the time, activities where the danger of being caught is nontrivial. Habits of denial and lies about these things -- "I'm just washing my hands, mom!" -- can build into mighty edifices.

(2) He might be just too viscerally embarrassed by it to be truthful, and took the quick way out.

(3) He might think that it's none of your business, and that he's therefore somewhat justified in / allowed to lie about it.

No doubt there are more.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:13 PM on October 4, 2004


Seems to me that someone who would behave so immaturely would be very hard to ever have a lasting, satsifying relationship with. Pay attention to the cues.
posted by rushmc at 10:15 PM on October 4, 2004


If I had to guess, I'd say he's thinking that either there's nothing wrong with looking at porn, hiding it, and lying about it or else he feels guilty about it. Either way, he's embarrassed to have been caught, and is mortified at the thought of having to talk about it.

Your reasons for wanting to talk about it seem unclear or suspect. You say porn isn't the problem, but that doesn't ring true. (You wouldn't have mentioned the amount of porn if it didn't bother you, for example.) If all you are worried about is the lying, than a simple, "I just wanted you to know that you can be open about this kind of stuff with me if you want" would have sufficed.

Figure out exactly what it is you are trying to get out of this conversation, and frame it precisely. Is it something you can just tell him without him responding? Is there something you really want to know from him? What is it? Why do you want to know? He's obviously not up for a general "let's discuss this gigantic cache of porn on your computer" conversation, so you need to narrow the focus.

My guess is that you already need all you need to know.
posted by callmejay at 10:21 PM on October 4, 2004


What rushmc said.

I personally could not have a relationship (again) with someone who wasn't completely honest with me, as I would be with him. Nor could I even attempt to be in a relationship with someone who wasn't big on talking to me about everything or anything.

I feel if there's 'something to hide' then there's a problem and if there's a problem, it's not going to work out, regardless of how many weeks, months or years you've been together.

That's my personal feeling on the matter, not my advice for what you should 'do about it'.
posted by kamylyon at 10:46 PM on October 4, 2004


Sorry, that sounded so preachy, and I didn't mean for it to.
posted by kamylyon at 10:47 PM on October 4, 2004


I'm going to throw my 2 cents in here, even though these sorts of things are not where my talents lie.

I've noticed that USAn people are generally on the same wavelength about a lot of things. Rock and roll is played with distorted guitars; Saturday night is for going out and having a good time; boys wear pants, girls wear skirts. Even Jewish Scotsmen who wear kilts and keep the Sabbath holy are *aware* of these tropes, even if they don't practice them.

There are very few places where the norming forces of society haven't completely established themselves in everyone's head, but one of them seems to be masturbation. Recall that Joycelyn Elders, an extremely accomplished physician who was appointed to what is arguably the most prestigious position of leadership in her field, promptly lost her job for teaching that masturbation is healthy. This is just one of zillions of chilling messages addressed to young men and women, the gist of which is: the pleasure button in your pants can get you into BIG TROUBLE.

And in fact it has - you've posted to a public forum about your boyfriend's masturbation. Heck, I jerk off with wild abandon, and even I'd be a little embarrassed if my girlfriend did this.

That's what we know. What we don't know are what *his* attitudes are towards masturbation and porn, and what *your* attitudes are towards same. And until we do know both of those very personal things, it's going to be hard to give very good or helpful advice.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:54 PM on October 4, 2004


I feel if there's 'something to hide' then there's a problem and if there's a problem, it's not going to work out, regardless of how many weeks, months or years you've been together.

Humbug. You don't have to have an encyclopediac knowledge of your partner to be certain you're right for each other. That's just silly. Sometimes people in relationships like to keep a little part of their identity for themselves. It's not selfishness, it's human nature.

And as it has been asked again and again, I'll ask once more in boldface. What were the "lies"? Was it along the lines of "Do you have porn?"

Lemme explain how this will work out: "Do you have porn?" Answer: No. (Then later find porn) "Ah ha! You LIED to me, you filthy LIAR."

Or how about this one: "Do you have porn?" Yes, of course I do, I'm a guy. "Oh, well what kind of porn?" Well the garden-variety: cum-swapping, double-penetration, some light flogging, Asians with enormous feet... that kind of thing. "But, I don't do any of that stuff! You must not really like me at all!" Which is followed by an eight hour conversation about the differences between masturbation and the sexes, masturbation and sex in general, and how you can be turned on by more than one "thing".

See, here's some truth for you: The reason guys are secretive about porn is because women, in general, completely overreact to it. This is a perfect case in point.

And I realize this will be followed with a dozen MeFemales explaining that they all love porn, that they have bigger and better porn collections than some video store chains, etc., etc. To you I say, thank you. You are, however, a minority.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:29 AM on October 5, 2004


Gawd, some days I am SO THANKFUL that I'm queer! No females to get in a tizzy over lies about masturbation.

Sweetie, just chill. It ain't your business! Its as personal as a thing can be. More than wiping your ass! IMO its even a form of meditation.

As for the lies, what, you got a fetish for truth? Grow up! Little lies are needed at times to make people get along. Do those pants make your ass look big?

10 years with an SO and a porn collection. Can you understand the concept of 'contentment'? Do you want to disturb that? What's your real problem, life too comfy? Are you unhappy with an abscence of conflict?

If you feel loved and he's content, give some thanks to whatever diety you might recognize. Repent your sins and be happy.
posted by Goofyy at 12:59 AM on October 5, 2004


I'd like to address each of you in turn:

anastasiav: if your SO is anything like me (and every other male I know), 'have a conversation about "our relationship"' is a synonym for "have your fingernails pulled out and dip the wounds in iodine". Regardless of what you and your girlfriends tell each other, we know that the point of this is punishment. Nothing wrong with that; after all, he's hurt your feelings. But there's no way he's going to see this conversation as a good thing.

anastasiav's SO: if there's one thing I've learned in thirty years of cohabiting with females it's that sometimes you've got to grovel. You're going to do it eventually and you'll just make it worse trying to put it off. You got caught; now you have to pay the price. Be a man about it.
posted by timeistight at 1:55 AM on October 5, 2004


So what kind of porn was it? Stuff you would be down with? Is it a possibilty that you and your SO get a few drinks and talk about your fantasies?
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:20 AM on October 5, 2004


The first thing you absolutely must do is make his collection available online so we can review it in detail. We'll be able to give much better advice once we can view the porn in question. If you are serious, you must do this now.
posted by Meridian at 3:57 AM on October 5, 2004


I discovered a gigantic (22,000 images plus) cache of porn.

See, this clearly demonstrates that men and women really are from different worlds. A guy would be thinking... "damn, I've won the lottery", while females are thinking "oh no, what does it mean, maybe he doesn't love me anymore, we have to talk about our relationship, aren't I good enough for him?" etc.

Just don't worry about it. Guys like looking at pron. And guys are embarresed about it. End of story.

/I'm impressed you went through his entire massive stash and counted every single porn image. That takes dedication.
posted by Meridian at 4:52 AM on October 5, 2004


I think the next time you're fixing your SO's computer you should *accidently* delete it all. I bet he'd start talking about it then.

Or, depending on how open minded you are about the whole porn thing, you could find some porn that turns you on, and show it to him (or email, if you think he might respond to it better) and mention that he should try that with you sometime. Then ask him to show you something that he wants to try. That way he won't be on the defensive, and you will open the door to the porn discussion.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:56 AM on October 5, 2004


I personally could not have a relationship (again) with someone who wasn't completely honest with me, as I would be with him. Nor could I even attempt to be in a relationship with someone who wasn't big on talking to me about everything or anything.

I used to think this way when I was idealistic and in my early teens.

Now being thirtysomething, it sounds extremely tedious, very claustrophobic and my idea of hell.
posted by SpaceCadet at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2004


If this happened to me, I would ignore it. But this is me, and my relationship. Our setup is like this: we live in a pretty small apartment, and always have lived in small spaces. We share everything - there's no accounting going on of money, chores, fuckups, whatever. Everything we are and own and all our behaviors are just thrown together in one big happy mess - no passworded computers or secret email accounts or private stashes, or anything.

BUT (everybody I know has a big "but"), in spite of, or perhaps because of being like this, we just don't question each other about all sorts of personal details. We don't talk about former lovers, we don't do any of the jealousy stuff, we don't accuse each other of meaning "this", but really saying "that", or demand that the other account for their time, or thoughts. I think that the only way we could be as close as were are, both emotionally, and in proximity, is this reluctance to try to strip mine each other's private emotional space. Thus, if I stumbled upon something like this, I would just totally let it slide, knowing that, for whatever reason, it wasn't something he wanted tossed into the big happy pile. I wouldn't even say I had seen it - but I would do that knowing that he probably figured out I had seen it, and at some point three years later he would probably say something like "... of course, I lost X, along with 22,000 porn images when the hard drive died." You did see that porn collection when you fixed the computer, didn't you?"
posted by taz at 6:58 AM on October 5, 2004


sorry, A. - I'm not a man, and I didn't answer your original question, so I really shouldn't have commented. But for others interested in these sorts of situations generally, just consider that unhelpful response as something thrown onto the big happy pile.
posted by taz at 7:02 AM on October 5, 2004


General comment. Porn and masturbation, while related, are separate issues. You can masturbate without porn. Nowhere did anastasiav mention masturbation.

As to the original question, If he doesn't want to discuss it I'd cut to the chase and state your objections clearly. (ex. You lying about a pornography collection makes me wonder what else you're lying about. This, combined with (other trust incidents, etc. etc.) makes me unsure I want to be in this relationship).

If you still get the stone wall of silence, you have three choices.

1. Learn to live in a relationship where your partner won't talk to you about this, and likely other things

2. Enter couples therapy to work through whatever underlying issues there are

3. Redefine or end the relationship

I know that sounds harsh, but that's really all these is.

My personal opinion; you've been together 10 years so I'm going to assume he's *at least* 25. If you're 25 years old and can't discuss pornography *AT ALL* with your significant other, you're fucked up. A simple "Yes, I look at and collect porn. I thought if you knew I looked at and collected porn you'd ____________" is the bare minimum any significant other (gay, straight, queer, whatever) deserves.
posted by alan at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2004


See folks, this is why god invented encryption. Every single one of you guys in this thread with a pr0n collection on a computer that someone else might use, needs to go encrypt your stash right now.

...it will save everyone oh-so-much trouble if you do, and you can all thank me later.
posted by aramaic at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2004


You haven't encrypted yet, have you?

Get to it; you'll be sorry if you don't.
posted by aramaic at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2004


alan, do you subscribe to the idea that a healthy individual keeps some of his or her life private? Must everything in someone's life be scrutinised by their SO?
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:35 AM on October 5, 2004


When I dealt with my bf and the whole pr0n thing, I basically figured out what I needed to do for me [not walk into our joint bedroom/office to a quietly moaning laptop, feel free to walk around my house without walking in on him in a way he'd probably not like me to see him, not feel that dinner was late because he'd been looking at pr0n since he'd gotten home, &c] and then worked on those things specifically, trying to actually sidestep the porn issue except to mention that I knew it was a factor and that it's easier to deal with a partner's porn fascination if it's not interfering with dinner.

My take on the male/female divide here is that women are often sharers and men tend not to be, even if they can be habituated to, say, bring you a beer when they get one. As a result, reluctance to share can be seen by the ladies to be symptomatic of a problem instead of just a need for privacy and/or personal non-relationship space. I had an nearly impossible time getting my head around my bf having hobbies and interests that existed fully outside the relationship [we're joined at the hip types like taz] but I've been learning.

I've also noticed that in this guy who I adore and who I am quite certain adores me will lie a blue streak to me to keep some of these boundaries for himself. Even though lying is against the rules. Since at some level we both know he's lying in a "save face" sort of way, I leave it alone, I just do. We don't fight about it, I just say "that's not true" and move on. If for some reason he persists on proclaiming innocence over whatever it is, I can just go into hypervigilant mode for a week or so, lower the privacy level in the house, demand more accountability for missing time and mysterious computer activity, use his computer to check my email instead of my own, get in the way. No one likes that, it's not sporting, and I don't think it's a good way to behave. To me, part of being an adult in an adult relationship is realizing that you and your partner both have little unfixable parts that will never work the exact way you want them. The next question becomes "can you live with this?" So, your laundry list seems to look like

- can you live with the porn thing? [probably]
- can you live with lying about porn if it's only porn? [maybe]
- can you live with this not-talking thing? [maybe]
- can you never talk about this again with him? [probably not]

I think that MegoSteve's point about dump-taking is a good analogy, actually, because it's more obvious. Is it your boyfriend's right to have you never come into the bathroom when he's taking a dump? Could you see how he might feel that way about porn? I think it's your right to get to talk to him about things, but you may need to find a way to take it outside relationship-danger arenas and into something more pleasant [sex, togetherness, intimacy, whatever]. For me, I'm just a pest now about dropping pr0n into every other conversation as a way of letting my bf know that I know, it's okay, but it's also not going to be a subject forever swept under the rug which I know is how he might want it "So, we've got to make a budget, that means accounting for everything, food, gas, movies, porn..." [boyfriend looks horrified, I smile] "... magazine subscriptions, music, vacations, etc." He may never feel comfortable talking about it, but in the ways that it becomes an issue that ekes into our larger life together [like in a money sense, in a time-for-dinner sense] it's going to be something we talk about just like anything else.

I think sometimes people feel that they get a free-pass with their secret porn lives because it's a big hidden thing they have going on and there's some tawdry appeal to that. However, once it's out in the open, it's a thing you [the partner] knows about just like anything else and they can't expect you to just be shamed into silence about it if it's leaking into the rest of your lives. For your part, you can try to realistically assess how much this is a Relationship Issue and how much is just the standard "girlfriend finds porn, boyfriend won't discuss it" scenario that many of us have been through, and made it through just fine.
posted by jessamyn at 8:41 AM on October 5, 2004


I have to agree with others in that you invaded your so's private space. He likes porn. Good for him, he's healthy. Why did he hide his collection? Maybe the secretness of it is part of his turn-on? Maybe you've indicated that you would be offended by porn? Maybe his mother f'd him up about sex? Maybe he just wants to keep this part of his life to himself? Whatever the reason, you're pushing him farther away by making an issue out of it.

You've said that this isn't about the porn, but about the lies. But to him and I believe to you too, it is about the porn. Come on, would you be so freaked if you had found all of his taxes on his harddrive?

Options:

- go out and get a porno, put it in the dvd, put on something skimpy and sexy, wait for him to walk in the door. Believe me, he will start sharing at least some of his porn with you and won't try to hide it so much.

- tell him you're sorry for invading his space and drop the subject forever.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:05 AM on October 5, 2004


"I'm impressed you went through his entire massive stash and counted every single porn image. That takes dedication. - posted by Meridian"

No, it takes looking at how many files are in the damn folder, which my computer neatly tells you.
posted by agregoli at 10:19 AM on October 5, 2004


The point is he lied about it when confronted. To her face. Repeatedly. If he does that about something as unimportant as pr0n, what else is he lying about? It doesn't sound like she's freaking out on him...and yet he still lied about it. People, she doesn't seem to care that it's pr0n, she cares that he LIED. That's the issue here.

I would certainly talk with him one more time...and only one more time. I would address that you:
1. Don't care about the Pr0n, you were just interested in it.
2. But now that you've asked and he's lied about it, you are concerned that he feels it's okay to lie and THAT's the problem. Repeat it a lot, it's the lying that's not okay, not the pr0n.

Don't let him wriggle out of it. Ask point blank questions if he won't talk...things that allow him to grunt yes or no...
1. Do you understnad that I'm worried about they lying not the pr0n?
2. Do you understand why I would be worried about you lying?
3. etc.

Be forwarned that you may not get reconciliation about this. He may never say "sorry" or tell you why he lied. Just let him know where you stand. Lying=not OK. Pr0n=Ok. Hiding things=not okay, etc. Then move on. But if he lies about something again, pull out all the stops.
posted by aacheson at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2004


Yeah, but so far I don't think we've heard what kind of lies have been told, so I'm imaging it went something like

Her: What's with all that porn I found the your computer?

Him (surprised): I dunno

Her: Well is it yours?

Him (I just said I don't know what she'd talking about, I'm on this path now): No

Her: Well is it yours?

Him: I don't want to talk about his

Her: Look, I don't care, but I don't understand why you were hiding it from me, and why you're lying about it now. I mean Is that what you're into? Do you want to see me blowing goats (or equally vile porn like imagery)?


Him: I said I don't want to talk about it. Why can't you just let it drop?

*Icy Silence*

Did he lie in that situation (and again, I can only guess at the conversation)? Yes, I guess. The lie of a child getting caught doing something he doesn't think he should be doing. But, if somebody's going to get all up in your private life with repetative questions unil your accuser gives up and stops trying, well, what do you expect?
posted by willnot at 11:02 AM on October 5, 2004


I'm pretty sure most guys learned a long time ago, that the one thing to never ever talk about EVER when courting a woman is your porn stash.

"So how about this weather we're having? Pretty rough ain't it? Kinda like how Jenna Jameson likes it rough with the strap-on in 'Cukoo for Cocoa Cocks 4 : Revenge of the Cum-swappers.'"

To be pleasantly surprised at this habit further on in the relationship is ridiculous.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:14 AM on October 5, 2004


If he is embarrassed discussing this subject with you. Just wait until he sees this thread - he'll will be talking - explosion style.

Which may answer your question, why he doesn’t want to discuss it. Because you may blab it to the world. He may know you better than you think.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:47 AM on October 5, 2004


'have a conversation about "our relationship"' is a synonym for "have your fingernails pulled out and dip the wounds in iodine"

Yeah, it's pretty much the equivalent of the boss saying "Could you stop by my office?... Oh, and close the door behind you." Women never seem to grasp how appalling the average male finds the phrase "talk about our relationship." You want to talk about the porn stash, talk about the porn stash -- and if you have any sense (and are basically fond of your SO and want to cause him as little agita as possible) you'll talk about it in as nonthreatening a way as possible. Introduce a little humor. Don't talk about "lying" or synonyms thereof; say "Hey, I know you guys like your porn, that's cool with me," and mean it. If you don't mean it, you need to work on your own attitudes. (Not saying you shouldn't be upset about the situation, just saying you should try to master that factor before you confront him further about this; otherwise it becomes a downward spiral of resentment, and pretty soon you're not talking to each other. You don't want that.)
posted by languagehat at 12:22 PM on October 5, 2004


If he does that about something as unimportant as pr0n, what else is he lying about?

Pardon my sexism for a moment, but this is precisely the kind of irritating, faulty female logic that makes rational conversation between the sexes so difficult.

Did it ever cross you mind that some people might be more inclined to lie if it was a minor thing, but less inclined if it was a really important issue? It's called a "white lie." See also: "Do these jeans make me look fat?" "No, but the cellulite on your ass does." White lies protect us from stepping into conversational minefields littered with insecurity.

Compare this with, "Have you been cheating on me?" "No, of course not!" Do you see the very subtle differences in intent and consequence? Yes, Virginia, some lies are worse than others.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2004


Let us know how it goes, if you'd like, anastasiav. You've clearly got an audience of interested folks here which means that many of the factors in this thread are resonant with us. It was good to see how things at jessamyn's household turned out.
posted by fionab at 2:50 PM on October 5, 2004


I didn't mean to infer that I would have a *need* to know every last thought in his head or deed he had ever done or ever would do.
posted by kamylyon at 3:40 PM on October 5, 2004


For me, I'm just a pest now about dropping pr0n into every other conversation as a way of letting my bf know that I know, it's okay, but it's also not going to be a subject forever swept under the rug which I know is how he might want it "So, we've got to make a budget, that means accounting for everything, food, gas, movies, porn..." [boyfriend looks horrified, I smile] "... magazine subscriptions, music, vacations, etc."

jessamyn, sounds like passive-aggressive behaviour used to moderate your SO's behaviour - very very sad and controlling indeed - the kind of purgatory I honestly don't know how or why other guys bother to put up with.

This thread reminds me of the Godley & Creme classic:-

"Don't wanna be under your thumb forever
Don't wanna be under your thumb forever
Don't wanna be under your thumb
it's over and done
I'll never be under your thumb forever"
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:34 PM on October 5, 2004


sounds like passive-aggressive behaviour used to moderate your SO's behaviour

My take is more like using humor to diffuse a tense situation. Our bargain is that I don't sit him down and say "we need to talk about this" and he doesn't get to pretend that he never spends money on porn. Plus, he still gets to spend money on porn if he wants. Budget talk nonwithstanding, it's clearly a joke with us. Part of the problem with couples that like porn but don't like porn together is that there's this very unspoken agreement to never ever talk about it, even if it occasionally gets in the way. I think it's important to find ways to subtly and amusingly bring it up without having A Talk so that it becomes something that can be talked about, not some relationship weirdness that makes people feel bad.
posted by jessamyn at 5:06 PM on October 5, 2004


jessamyn, I reacted to your "boyfriend looks horrified, I smile" quote which seems to take advantage of your SO's obvious embarrassment.

Having read your follow-up post, I understand you more now.....as you say, porn isn't really that big a deal; men have a direct and rather incessant sexual appetite; porn is one way to feed it - fact of life, without female judgement required (not referring to anyone in particular here). You cannot moderate or condition all nature; let it be. Nature is nature. Men and women have biological differences. That's OK. That's good in fact. Giving your SO some mental space/freedom is almost certainly a good thing given those differences. Anyway, we all need some privacy anyway, even if we're just reading a book. The last thing I want is an SO who I have to report every thing I do to.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:48 PM on October 5, 2004


SpaceCadet, privacy is fine. Not communicating about your need for privacy in a 10+ year de-facto marriage isn't.
posted by alan at 7:41 PM on October 5, 2004


Alan, (post-graduate) people need not communicate with their partners about every aspect of their lives. As SpaceCadet points out, privacy is a natural thing and a right; and jessamyn demonstrates, depriving one's partner of privacy is not love but aggression:

I think sometimes people feel that they get a free-pass with their secret porn lives because it's a big hidden thing they have going on and there's some tawdry appeal to that. However, once it's out in the open, it's a thing you [the partner] knows about just like anything else and they can't expect you to just be shamed into silence about it if it's leaking into the rest of your lives.

See, that's just a creepy, hostile attitude. Why not just dress up as his mother and barge in on him screaming, "FILTHY!" and snapping polaroids, jess? For fuck's sake, give your man some room to breathe.

Also, that claptrap about women being natural sharers and men not is sexist and wrong. Men share. The issue isn't about sharing, anyway, it's about privacy. People need different amounts of it regardless of their gender.

Finally, it's important to make a disticntion between privacy and secrecy. I'm in an LTR where privacy is expected, but secrecy is not tolerated. We expect to have areas of our individuals lives that are our own and private, but there's nothing that we wouldn't talk about if the other person thought it really important to talk about. Deciding which areas to not talk about is a matter of mutual trust.

I would say trust is where you need to start, anastasiav.

And BTW, where are you? Lots of helpful folks have asked you many good and useful questions.
posted by squirrel at 1:09 AM on October 6, 2004


SpaceCadet, privacy is fine. Not communicating about your need for privacy in a 10+ year de-facto marriage isn't.

alan, In the same way couples don't reveal all of their private moments to other people they are close to, why do you expect individuals to share their own private moments to their partner?
posted by SpaceCadet at 10:55 AM on October 6, 2004


I'm not sure I see where you're coming from with this:

that's just a creepy, hostile attitude. Why not just dress up as his mother and barge in on him screaming, "FILTHY!" and snapping polaroids, jess? For fuck's sake, give your man some room to breathe.

I supposed I opened the door talking about how we realistically deal with this stuff, but I must be coming across wrong, or I'm creepier than I think. I feel that if you need privacy in a relationship, that's your right. However, when the things you want to keep private are becoming increasingly un-private somehow [as in the question I had asked a ways back, and also in this question] then it's not good relationship strategy for everyone to pretend there's no problem just because the thing that's in the way is supposed to be private. anastasiav found something that was supposed to be private. She does no one any favors just keeping totally quiet, because now she feels uncomfortable and weird. I don't feel that completely avoiding embarassing topics just to spare your partner's feelings is always the best tack if you also ignore your own feelings. It takes trust, as you say, and some tact.

In my case, if my boyfriend wants to look at porn [or do whatever it is he wants to do, paint his toenails? watch soap operas? pilates?] in private then he needs to not be doing it in the living room when I get home from work. Otherwise it's not private and I might say something about it. There's a difference between saying to your partner "I don't want to talk about this" [setting boundaries] and refusing to say anything at all which is what anastasiav seems to say her partner is doing.
posted by jessamyn at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2004


In my case, if my boyfriend wants to look at porn [or do whatever it is he wants to do, paint his toenails? watch soap operas? pilates?] in private then he needs to not be doing it in the living room when I get home from work. Otherwise it's not private and I might say something about it. There's a difference between saying to your partner "I don't want to talk about this" [setting boundaries] and refusing to say anything at all which is what anastasiav seems to say her partner is doing.

Well I would say that storing pornographic material on your own computer is private stuff, just as your email inbox is private to you.
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:13 PM on October 6, 2004


Thanks for responding, jessamyn. I'm sorry I was so snarky toward you in my first post; I read this whole thread and by the time I cane to your post, I was beginning to see a polarized division within people's responses: a person needs space versus a partner needs to communicate about everything.

I can see now that what you're talking about is different. You and your partner are still negotiating the boudaries of privacy, and it doesn't sound like he is respecting your right to be involved with behavior that he is putting under your nose. As I said in that thread, I think you need to work out a privacy code that protects and respects both parties, not just gives a shield to one and a gag to the other. I think that's what you were getting at. Again, sorry for the snark.

I wonder what happened to anastasiav.
posted by squirrel at 6:49 PM on October 6, 2004


alan, In the same way couples don't reveal all of their private moments to other people they are close to, why do you expect individuals to share their own private moments to their partner?

Because, by placing the label "partner" on this person, you've placed them in a different category than just "person you are close to".

If you (long term) share your finances with someone, you get to know enough about their assets and debts to make yourself comfortable and safe. If they won't talk about it, that's a Bad Thing™

If you (long term) share you bed with someone, you get to know enough about their sexual desires to make yourself comfortable and safe.

You can't embrace one aspect of sex positive philosophy (porn is fine and fun; be kind, rewind) without embracing the rest (Open channels of communication and everyone is comfortable with what's going on).
posted by alan at 11:25 PM on October 6, 2004


alan, your relationship rules are valid if both people agree to them. Conversely, two people may agree to give each other some privacy. Someone who craves a kind of privacy that isn't accountable and reportable to their partner doesn't make them any less committed to the relationship - they are not doing a "Bad Thing™" just because you think it is bad - moral relativsm and all that.

If you love someone, do you want them to be miserable?

As I say, it's up to each relationship: if people want to set certain conditions, fine. If not, fine. I just don't see the point of being in a relationship when the rules make you miserable, when one person is all-imposing and the other secretly craves privacy but doesn't want to hurt the other because they misread privacy as secrecy.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:46 AM on October 7, 2004


Hafta disagree with you on that, alan. Good communication (about anything) is possible without total transparency. What's wrong with having aspects of your life that, while not secret, are just private?
posted by squirrel at 3:20 AM on October 7, 2004


Conversely, two people may agree to give each other some privacy. [emphasis mine]

Right, that's it exactly. It's pretty obvious from the posting that anastasiav and her significant other don't have any such agreement. In 10 years they've never come to an understanding about it. From the sounds of it her SOs porn life was completely secret (which is different from private).

Now, anastasiav tries to bring up the topic (a little late) and gets stonewalled to the point where she turns to mostly strangers for help. That points to a problem in the relationship that needs to be resolved. anastasiav deserves to know what's going on just as much as SO deserves to hoard their porn.
posted by alan at 7:26 AM on October 7, 2004


women are often sharers and men tend not to be, even if they can be habituated to, say, bring you a beer when they get one

Wow, some of you sure seem to set the bar low when choosing a partner. It boggles my mind, truly it does.

Honesty and privacy need not be mutually exclusive—that's a false dichotomy. Sneaking and hiding and lying and acting like a shameful juvenile are not positive traits, no matter what light you try to paint them in. IMO, any relationship should involve a commitment to communicate; your partner will not always like what you communicate to them, but they have the right to expect that you will make the effort. Walking around the block to avoid a little conflict now only guarantees a greater conflict later.
posted by rushmc at 8:59 AM on October 7, 2004


Well, alan, it looks like it's just me and you. I think you probably are right. In fact, my first post to this thread addressed the need to get the trust-based understandings about privacy sorted out. Unfortunatley, anastasiav seems to have abandoned this thread, so we may never have answers to the questions that would help us understand if you're right in your assumption that it was really secret. As far as we know, she may have gone totally psycho on him. His stonewalling might have been appropriate given her behavior, about which we know next to nothing.

It just burns my biscuits when AskMe posters walk off on their contributors. Anyway, see you 'round the 'filter, alan.
posted by squirrel at 9:22 AM on October 7, 2004


It just burns my biscuits when AskMe posters walk off on their contributors.

Hello, all.

Well, this has turned out to be a very interesting answer to a difficult question and I thank everyone for their imput.

Squirrel, I'm sorry I haven't replied. Partly I needed to take some time to absorb the heat of many of these replies, and partly I've been quite ill with strep for over a week. Having a high fever isn't really condusive to thoughtful discourse.

I'm not going to say anything more to him at the moment. Part of the reason I asked this question (and mentioned the size of the data file I found) was that I do think that perhaps there is a larger problem going on, and I'm very grateful for the advice from several private emails that picked up on that and sent along some words of wisdom about the difference between recreational viewing and an actual compulsion. So, for right now, I'm keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut.

Jessamyn is, as always, a goddess.
posted by anastasiav at 10:14 PM on October 16, 2004


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