Skip

After marriage, what is the custom regarding porn use?
October 11, 2010 2:55 AM   Subscribe

Most every man I know uses porn, but in a heterosexual couple, what is customary after marriage regarding porn use?

In a "traditional" marriage, the woman takes the man's last name, and if they aren't already living together, after marriage, they move in together. This is "customary". But there doesn't seem to be any readily identifiable customs about porn use. My suspicion is that the man gets rid of his porn collection, and vows not to visit porn sites ever again. That his wife is supposed to be his porn now. But I also suspect that this is not true for all couples. Some couples probably enjoy porn together. But I can't seem to find much on the web about this that is divorced from a very disparaging religious viewpoint. Religion hates porn. I guess what I am asking is - how do non-religious couples in general deal with porn after marriage? What is customary?
posted by Sully to Human Relations (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
there are no rules, there are only every individual couple's comfort level.

for my marriage the idea that i'm supposed to be his porn or he's supposed to forsake porn because he's a husband is absurd. that in no way would work for us. we're very open about our sexuality and desires and fantasies. sometimes this includes porn. why would we cut ourselves off to that?

i find it interesting that this is only about the husband. what is the wife supposed to do about her porn collection or dirty stories or bodice rippers?
posted by nadawi at 3:01 AM on October 11, 2010 [18 favorites]


I can't speak to any data, but when I was a video store clerk, let me tell you that the majority of porn (circa 70%) was hired by couples, not single men in overcoats or embarrassed teens.
posted by smoke at 3:19 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I assume Sully is asking about expectations of husbands because he's a man and finds that information most relevant to him.

I agree that there are no hard and fast rules. I know several people who think looking at porn is "cheating". On the other hand, my husband and I each have our own porn collections. Neither of us feels threatened by that fact. I am sometimes curious about my husbands porn and we engage in a little good natured ribbing about it from time to time but I still feel pretty private about my porn so though it's acknowledged that it exists I'm a little private and shy about my collection. My husband feels similarly about his.

I think what's actually customary is in fact for the couple to talk about it and agree about what's acceptable in their marriage. Or, barring that don't tell each other about their secret masturbatory habits and simply think of porn as something private that isn't up for discussion.
posted by Saminal at 3:21 AM on October 11, 2010


Not married myself, or heterosexual, but the best advice on this that I've heard comes from Dan Savage - if one member of the couple disapproves of porn, then the best solution is a willing suspension of disbelief. The porn-using spouse (and it's not always men) pretends that he or she doesn't use the porn anymore, and makes sure it (or the use of it) can't be accidentally "discovered;" the porn-disapproving spouse (not always women), in turn, pretends the porn has been done away with and doesn't go looking for it.

Thus is a harmonious relationship maintained - with a delicate web of white lies and willing self-delusion.

My personal porn situation is similar to Saminal's - The Boyfriend and I both have porn, we know we have it and we joke about it from time to time, but we don't go out of our way to compare collections or seek out what we are not meant to see.
posted by MShades at 3:36 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It depends on the attitudes adopted within the marriage. Getting married did not, in the boundaries of my relationship, mean the demise of our individual, private sexualities. I am also an enormous believer that people within relationships still have a right to privacy, so what my spouse does on his individual time with regard to 2-dimensional naked people is absolutely none of my business.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:56 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


going from what DarlingBri mentioned, privacy/private time is the key. My wife and I occasionally watch porn together, and it's fun. Other than that, I don't watch porn when she's home. In my private time, sure, and she's okay with that. She has her own porn, and she uses that when I'm not around. When we're both home, solo-porn is kind of a no-no, though this is largley an unsaid rule. If we're both home, sexy time should be shared, rather than kept to one person.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:57 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Attitudes vary from couple to couple, from what I've seen. In my travels around the 'net I've seen quite a few questions/comments/what-have-you from women who are distraught and offended over their spouse's continued use of porn, either because they object to porn on principle (moral or otherwise) or because they feel it is insulting to them personally ("I must not be enough for him...")

But I also see plenty of women who are cool or even enthusiastic about porn, to the extent that I don't think it is possible to generalize that any particular mindset is customary.

When my ex and I first got together, I had a stash of dirty magazines that I was very open about, and I assured him I was entirely cool with his porn as well. But for some reason he was secretive about it and hid his magazines, which used to piss me off because I'd have liked to look at them too!

In my current relationship we are pretty open about it. We have different tastes so we don't spend a lot of time looking at each other's stash. I stay signed in at my favorite video clips site and he'll occasionally go on it to find stuff, and he can see what I've favorited. Occasionally he'll mention something he thought was hot, or he'll favorite something he found for me to look at later.

I know he looks at porn when he's home alone, but I'm not sure what exactly these days. The times he's showed me stuff it's usually things that don't blow my particular skirt up, so I'm not all that interested in being kept in the loop about what he looks at.

We do sometimes rent movies together. There is just enough overlap in our tastes that we can usually find a few titles to watch together.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:07 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


A wifey always comes in to a marriage with a maiden name and a previous residence, but not every wifey enters marriage with a anti-porn mindset. Asking what the porn rules for marriage are is akin to asking what the rules are if your spouse isn't interested in kids, or doesn't like fish, or has a fear of failure. There's no "trump" of declaring tradition wins out at all costs -- couples need to learn to work out their differences themselves. Hell, that is how it works if the wifey doesn't want to give up her maiden name, or wants to keep her own apartment after the marriage. Non-religious people talk about the differences and decide for themselves what they should do about things.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:36 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no scenario so common as to be safely regarded as custom, at least not in the US. This is like asking "What do redheads think about Nabokov?"
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:12 AM on October 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


This is like asking "What do redheads think about Nabokov?"

I agree, but I also think that -- based on what friends tell me and what I've read -- more women are disapproving of their spouse using porn than are cool with it. It really is a problem for a lot of women. But having said that, most of the guys I work with claim that their wives are ok with them looking at a bit of porn online now and then, so there's nothing universal about this, at all.

So maybe it gets into what you mean by "use" porn. Does that mean spending a bunch of money? Jerking off in the basement instead of (rather than in addition to) having sex with her?

Even the most porn-loving spouse is going to have a problem with some kinds of porn consumption habits -- it's not a binary between porn-good/porn-bad, but a complex continuum with lots of room for error.
posted by Forktine at 6:35 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Agree with everyone who says "it depends on the couple; talk about it and work something out". What's even more bemusing about the question is the inference that something should "change" upon marriage rather than upon commencement of the relationship.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:55 AM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ladypants here!

I'm totally cool with porn. I watch it. Without my soon-to-be hubby. He watches porn without me, too. I'm amused/interested/pleased by his porn choices. It's nice to know that we both have some "me time". It's important. I don't see how marriage factors into the consumption of porn at all. Obviously, moderation is important. Obsession/addiction isn't healthy. But if one/both partners are enjoying responsibly, it should be a non-issue.

YMMV, obviously. Some women wouldn't touch porn with a ten foot pole, and would be horrified to learn that their spouse occasionally indulges.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:42 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Private time is private time. I have my private time collection and I assume he has his.
Marriage isn't a magical transformation, I don't see why porn has to stop because of it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:46 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me personally (a woman married to a man) I think a big factor in this isn't just the mere fact of porn, but what KIND of porn.

I know that Mr. Narrative occasionally pokes around the internet looking at naked people, and whatever. That's fine. I don't really want to think about it very much, and prefer that he keeps the specifics of his browsing to himself, but I'm certainly not going to tell him not to do it. I know that what he's looking at is innocuous, and he doesn't bring it into the bedroom (ie I'm not expected to act out ridiculous/unpleasant porn-inspired fantasies with him) so it's not a big deal.

However, if he was looking at the kind of misogynistic, abusive, "hardcore" porn that's becoming increasingly mainstream these days, we would have a problem. Because that kind of thing can be really destructive, and I would be upset to find out that my husband was getting off on watching women be treated that way.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:47 AM on October 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


For most of the non-religious people I know, marriage is done mostly as a legal convenience immediately prior to having children. These people have usually already been in a committed relationship and living together for a number of years.

This means that getting married functions mainly as an acknowledgement of the status quo. It doesn't produce any difference in the behaviour of the people involved.

Therefore I would expect the rules around porn usage to be ones that have been around, explicitly or implicitly, since the relationship first became serious.

(In my case, there aren't any rules, because neither of us cares whether the other is watching porn or not).
posted by emilyw at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well as others have pointed out above, there are no set rules and every person and couple is differnet. I am not married but am in a long term relationship and don't see my approach to porn changing if I were to get married. I basically use Dan Savage's suspension of belief, or a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. I don't disapprove of my boy watching porn, but I don't want to know / see the details of someone elses pussy that he's getting off on. Likewise, he's probably not interested in me reading aloud erotica.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:53 AM on October 11, 2010


This varies widely according to beliefs and culture of the couple about marriage.

I think the default American culture would say that marriage is a contract and it is up to the couple to negotiate the details of that contract. Is using a sexual image of a woman acceptable as long as there is no exchange of sexual touch? Is being present in the room (e.g. Strip Club) with a naked woman okay as long as you am not naked too? Can a naked woman rub herself on you as long as you don't rub back (Lap Dance)? I guess these things need to be decided by each couple.

For me, that's focusing on the wrong question. Marriage to my culture is more than a contract. It is a covenant where husbands dedicate themselves freely, totally, and faithfully to their wives. A faithful husband does not ask how far he can go before he strays. A faithful husband, on his best day, asks how he can best give himself to his wife and family.

So, which question do you want to define your sexual realtionships:
How far can I go and still keep my wife? Or..
How far can I go to love my wife?

I try to stay focused on the second question. I find that pictures of nekkid women are rarely helpful in doing so.
posted by cross_impact at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's really about communication, isn't it? If your wife doesn't like porn, don't tell her about it. If she doesn't like you looking at porn, then don't do it. If your wife likes porn, try to find something you can watch or enjoy together.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow I find the dishonesty stuff creepy and wrong. I guess this all comes down to how you define marriage. For me: I would be troubled more by "she doesn't like it so I don't tell her" than the porn itself.

(I'm religious, and for the last few years my church has been very much on the porn-is-bad-don't-touch-it train.)
posted by SMPA at 8:16 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Porn as a culturally construct is in a strange place. It's widely acknowledged that it's widely created, bought, downloaded, watched. It's not personally acknowledged widely at all -- even among 20-somethings single men.

In every long term relationship I've been in, the gentleman has had a collection of videos, magazines or other than we've discussed in passing that are his personally. In some of those relationships, the gentleman brought different videos or images that he thought we would enjoy together but were more catered towards what he thought might be more appealing for me, rather than his personal stash.

There doesn't seem to be a very solid Emily Post "here's how porn should/could work in a marriage". Which is awesome because you can do what works for the two of you.
posted by Gucky at 8:29 AM on October 11, 2010


I'm guessing you're uncomfortable asking straight up? So my suggestion would be to try conversational gambits to get a bead on the subject. Get "lost" at a video store & see what her reaction is. Or say, thus and such person had thus and such & his wife did X, what do you think? That sort of thing. Yeah, asking straight out gets you a better answer, but if you're looking for work-arounds, that's how I'd work around it.

And for your anectdata collection: In my house it's, you can invite me to watch it with you (I'll probably say no, but I might surprise you), and you can watch it while I'm not there/asleep, but please don't watch it in front of me, as I find it offensive. It's kind of like ogling: I might enjoy looking at people with you from time to time, and I don't see any harm in you eyeballing women on your own time, but having you seem *seriously* interested in other bodies while I'm around...it makes me uncomfortable. And usually means I'm getting ignored/sidelined to boot.
posted by Ys at 8:34 AM on October 11, 2010


The way the stereotype goes, the man keeps using porn because his wife doesn't want sex. The wife will. I think the stereotype is that the wife is generally disapproving, if only for the fact that she thinks he should just somehow not want to have sex, just as she doesn't.

It would seem to me that this unhappy scenario is the best of several bad alternatives, particularly for couples with children and other reasons that they may not simply divorce. Compared with infidelity or coercion, it's the only option outside of abstinence, which to me seems unrealistic (though I'm sure many others will disagree).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:13 AM on October 11, 2010


Not married myself, or heterosexual, but the best advice on this that I've heard comes from Dan Savage

True, but I think if you're already taking advice from Dan Savage, you probably have a pretty open minded approach to sexuality. The "traditional" attitude may not fully correlate with what Dan Savage suggests, as reasonable as his advice can seem to someone used to a sexually liberal mindset.

There doesn't seem to be a very solid Emily Post "here's how porn should/could work in a marriage".

Kind of hard to imagine... Though porn is only getting more and more mainstream, so what at one time would be fully hidden and not discussed, now at least could be discussed and perhaps accepted, depending on the individuals and their needs/ expectations.

I do think that while many people are happy to embrace porn, there are also plenty of women who do expect or believe their partner won't need it/ want it if they have each other (and there are some men who don't). Whether they will just be a little disappointed or consider it a major issue to work through is a separate question.
posted by mdn at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2010


Well, I can tell you what used to be customary, when most porn was still in print:

1) The couple forsook all others, which included pictures of naked women.
2) The wife was in charge of the household, and therefore had access to any and every nook and cranny of the household.
3) The exception to 2) was the husband's mancave, whether that was a space out in the garage, in the basement, or for middle-or-upper-middle class households, a "den".
4) That's where dad hid his porn, which was probably not that extensive a collection, and usually limited in type to nothing more extreme than Hustler (Maybe a few films or videos, as well).

Aside from the changing of stereotyped sex roles, the advent of the internet, and with it porn of an astonishing variety and quantity, has knocked the above into a cocked hat, for a couple of reasons: first, there's no real reason to keep a physical stash of porn when you can go online to get it (and if you do want to store some of your favorite pictures or films, you can get detachable drives that are incredibly capacious), and second, women are admitting to liking porn, as well. The new tradition should be (although I'm not sure how widespread this is) that it's one of those sexual compatibility issues that should be addressed before marriage, including the question of whether or not you're expected to share.
posted by Deja Stu at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2010


My suspicion is that the man gets rid of his porn collection, and vows not to visit porn sites ever again

I couldn't have a more opposing suspicion if I tried. In the several instances I'm aware of, this has most certainly not been the case, nor is it in mine. Different strokes though. Amongst the religious, conservative, or generally "porn is icky" brigade, I suspect this stuff is covered up a lot more. But I'd sooner get divorced than cut porn out of my life.
posted by wackybrit at 11:06 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it weird to even think about asking someone about their porn collection. Sure, I'll tease my husband about the presumed existence of such, but I really don't think its contents are any of my business, just as the contents of mine are none of his business. When I say "private time" I really mean private - I think everyone needs a space for the truly, individually personal, which is not just porn but all the little nooks and crannies of the self that are for ourselves alone.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:16 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


From my investigations as a kid (circa 1974) ...the husband usually keeps the latest few issues of Playboy in his bedside table and a collection of ruder stuff hidden somewhere near his basement workbench and beer fridge.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:22 AM on October 11, 2010


I'm fairly certain that the Emily Post Institute has yet to establish proper etiquette guidelines about the uses, storage, sharing, and disposal of porn before and after marriage. For you this means that there is no custom you can defer to.

You must rely on your own judgement, your knowledge of yourself and of your beloved to answer this question. If you're not comfortable with porn you must say so and not try to hide behind a tradition that does not exist. Similarly, if you dig porn you don't have to justify it by pointing to a custom that does not exist.
posted by space_cookie at 11:28 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Forsaking porn did not show up in my wedding vows, and that's a good thing for both of us.
posted by medea42 at 11:44 AM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


In a previously committed relationship, there came a time when I was feeling sexually unsatisfied, and I developed a keen resentment of the kleenex box (and the font on the box, and the colour of the box) for its sinister participation in porn-related sexual activity in which I wished I could be a part. Not a good sign, and I moved on. I think a key factor in the use of porn in a long term relationship is making sure that your partner continues to be sexually significant. What I have learned about myself in this context is that I could care less how much porn my partner is using as long as I am being sexually satisfied.
posted by analog at 12:28 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Based on your "traditional" definition of marriage, I'm going to suggest the "what would Hollywood do?" approach to the porn question. And in my experience, mainstream American media suggest that in a traditional hetero marriage, women don't look at porn for their own pleasure and look indulgently-but-forgivingly on the presence of their man's porn, which is usually a collection (not comprehensive, maybe a box?) of relatively soft-core porn like Playboy or Hustler (but usually the former) that is hidden someplace where it can be entertainingly "discovered" by the teenage boy who they have, traditionally, had together. Traditionally, at the moment of discovery a charmingly awkward conversation happens about porn and why Dad keeps it hidden. The traditional implication is that he's more sexually-focused and has a higher libido than Mom, and he's secretly not-a-little proud that Son feels the same way.

As someone upthread hints, Mom's romance novels are treated kind of the same way, although I've never in my whole life seen a movie or tv scene where Mom and Daughter bond over the discovery that the latter has been "borrowing" Mom's books.

In my real-life, non-traditional experience, I scared the crap out of an academic reading group once by acknowledging incidentally that of course I use porn routinely, even in a committed relationship, and don't we all? Apparently the answer was, "er, not in a way that we're willing to admit the way you just did, thanks..." (So unfair, really, because we were reading Hard Core, by Linda Williams.)

In any case, this discovery reminded me that society is usually not at its healthiest when what we pretend we do (i.e., Hollywood) doesn't actually line up with what we really do. So I would point you to the field of sexuality studies, for example (starting with Kinsey, since you're interested in traditional/historical perspectives on this question) in order to get a proper sense of the diversity of people's experiences, and then I'd recommend you follow analog's advice above: the "key factor in the use of porn in a long term relationship is making sure that your partner continues to be sexually significant."
posted by obliquicity at 1:30 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My husband sometimes watches porn on his own, sometimes I watch/read (mostly read) it on my own, sometimes we watch it together, sometimes we send each other things we particularly enjoyed or think that the other person would enjoy, etc. In our marriage it's not much different than how we consume other forms of at-home entertainment (TV shows, video games, etc.), with the exception that we would never include other people.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:47 PM on October 11, 2010


Well, I can tell you what used to be customary, when most porn was still in print:

1) The couple forsook all others, which included pictures of naked women.
2) The wife was in charge of the household, and therefore had access to any and every nook and cranny of the household.
3) The exception to 2) was the husband's mancave, whether that was a space out in the garage, in the basement, or for middle-or-upper-middle class households, a "den".
4) That's where dad hid his porn, which was probably not that extensive a collection, and usually limited in type to nothing more extreme than Hustler (Maybe a few films or videos, as well).


I will second that this is the "traditional" view.

I think that the more modern general common sense view among couples is that the rule is discretion -- clear your browser history and store your bookmarks someplace private. And opportunities for real-life sex with your spouse should trump the opportunity to look at porn.
posted by desuetude at 7:31 PM on October 11, 2010


I'm a little surprised by the responses to this question; I teach an ethics class with a unit on pornography. More than 50% of my students are conservative Christians; only around 5% of students expect that porn becomes forbidden after marriage. Their comfort levels with it vary, from "a few magazines" to "internet pornstravaganza" and from "do it when you're alone and I don't want to know about it" to "let's visit the porn store together!"

But my experience is that most of my students, even the conservative Christians, DO expect porn use to continue in marriage. The problem, they mostly agree, is when porn becomes a replacement for the relationship.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:38 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nearly all men look at porn and a great deal of women look at it too. Watching porn together as a couple can be a great way to share sexual intimacy and discover what you both like. Although I've met some men who swear they don't like porn, the vast majority do and watch it (and sometimes hide it from their wives).

A study had to be stopped because they couldn't find a single man who'd never viewed porn.
posted by avagoyle at 10:46 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older My recently-widowed father wou...   |  Looking for books written by s... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post