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why aren't porn stars enough?
July 3, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I need some intelligent perspectives on why I am so sensitive to my husband looking at women on facebook, and whether this is an issue that can't be solved.

Background: We do porn, sometimes together, sometimes alone. I don't mind it at all. But, I have in the past found him obsessively checking out the profile of this one girl, and other distant acquaintances, including both locals and people who live in his former city. This was a problem for me and after talking he agreed that obsessing over another woman's pictures isn't OK, and he said doing porn instead of checking out people we actually know made sense.

The situation: He is still looking at women on facebook. Some he knows, some he doesn't.

I would like to hear your opinions on why you think this happens, is it unavoidable? Is this a men thing? Why does it bother me so much? Our relationship is awesome otherwise...is it unrealistic to ask him to stop? Should it even bother me?

Should I also then modify our rules to do things I would like to do but he does not approve of, like keep in touch with an ex boyfriend in a totally platonic way? I feel I have limited myself to make him happy, but he does not, and even though I trust him with everything else, I think that he will never stop looking at these women even though I hate it. Should I just get used to it? Learn to live with it? To be fair, he really tried not to do it for a while, I just think he can't.

* we share a computer. We don't snoop.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
How do you know he's "looking at women" in a strictly sexual way? Facebook's an odd place; it makes people do things that aren't strictly rational (including learning about the lives of people you barely know or don't know at all).
posted by downing street memo at 6:31 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work with a bunch of dudes. Every few days, a handful of them gather around a computer and check out hot chicks on Facebook. Some they know and some they don't. All of them are either married or are in serious, long-term relationships. Some guys just do this. Some guys don't. I don't think it necessarily means anything, but if it bothers you, it bothers you.

That said, the fact that he won't let you be friends with your ex but still proceeds with behavior you told him you're uncomfortable with is pretty lame, especially if you feel he's limiting your life in other ways. Maybe couples counseling would be a good idea.
posted by phunniemee at 6:36 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any behaviour that can't be stopped, is a problem. I think this is a problem that needs professional help. And I agree that it's not ok, based on your mutually agreed upon rules.
posted by taff at 6:38 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Should I also then modify our rules to do things I would like to do but he does not approve of, like keep in touch with an ex boyfriend in a totally platonic way?

This would be unlikely to end well.
posted by pdq at 6:39 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why does it bother me so much?

Because actual interaction with these women belongs to the realm of possibilities, whereas contact with porn stars is not, usually. You say he doesn't like you having a friendship with an ex. It's in the same general arena: possibilities.

And so it boils down to trust. Do you trust him? Does he trust you? A revenge contact with your ex is a bit harsh, though totally understandable if the reneging hurt you. The thing is, you need to let him know just how much this bothers you, trust or no. Maybe he can explain it in a way to ease your worry. Maybe you can make him see that ex contact is kinda comparable. Or maybe it's not, and you won't have to surrender this friendship to his happiness. Might help with the resentment... Sounds like you two need to revisit the discussion.
posted by likeso at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


As to the why, it could be the fact that pornstars have consented for dudes get off on them, while women on facebook haven't.
posted by Tarumba at 6:44 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Should I also then modify our rules to do things I would like to do but he does not approve of, like keep in touch with an ex boyfriend in a totally platonic way?

2 "wrongs" ...? Not a good idea.

I feel I have limited myself to make him happy,

If this is the dominant emotion in your thinking about this situation, perhaps this relationship is at its natural end.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2012


I need some intelligent perspectives on why I am so sensitive to my husband looking at women on facebook

I'm not sure that I could say why it bothers you. But I can tell you why this sort of thing bothers me, and maybe you will relate.

I have a variety of reasons, but the biggest thing for me is that I want to be with someone who is present in the relationship. I don't want to feel like I am starving for attention, sexual or otherwise. That is a big part of the point for me to even get in a relationship at all.

We all only have so much time in the day. This sort of behavior cuts into the time, attention, and presence that people give to their partners, and if both people are working full-time, and have platonic friends and other interests, you're already not starting from an unlimited amount.

What your husband is doing is different from a quick glance at someone on the street, in part, because of how much more time and mental space he's devoting to it. The mental space is another thing. If someone is spending all this time in this mental world fixating on and developing fantasies about other women, that cuts into the headspace devoted to his actual relationship and actual sex partner. It can turn into neglect of the sex life that the two of you have.

To me, in that situation, I wouldn't want to to be monogamous because the point of being monogamous is directing those energies towards each other.
posted by cairdeas at 6:50 PM on July 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


You're sensitive because you're sensitive. You can't logic your way out of feeling the way you do. You need to tell your husband that what he's doing isn't acceptable to you, and the two of you need to figure out whose happiness is more important.
posted by Etrigan at 6:52 PM on July 3, 2012


Men look at women. That is the way it is. I don't think it really means much, it is more of a distraction to them and then they get right back to you. Don't try to police it. Observing my ex boyfriends, i have discovered it is like..watching maybe flowers. If you appreciate beautiful flowers you will look but that is about it. It But if your husband is getting obsessive about it, hiding things then it is an issue.
posted by pakora1 at 6:57 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


He agreed to stop looking at the FB women, but continued to do so. That is him showing his basic character to you; he will lie to you, continue actions you have agreed to stop and not deal with the issue in an adult way. It doesn't matter if the original issue had been eating ice cream instead of FB creeping, the issue NOW is that he has shown himself to be someone that can't be held to his word and trusted.
posted by saucysault at 6:57 PM on July 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


I feel I have limited myself to make him happy,

I agree with Inspector.Gadget: if you feel this way in a more general way about your relationship, that that's the real issue here. Limiting ourselves to make a partner happy is never really a recipe for a healthy, happy relationship.
posted by scody at 6:59 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter if the original issue had been eating ice cream instead of FB creeping, the issue NOW is that he has shown himself to be someone that can't be held to his word and trusted.

Sorry, I come down on the MeFi-unpopular opposite side of this argument. Don't turn a molehill into a mountain by pretending that this is a symbol of how much your husband loves you or representative of his moral character. Your feelings are your feelings and I'm not saying you're to blame for them, but you can make a choice to see your husband's behavior for what it is (men look at women; he's not cheating; people get sucked into weird behavior patterns on Facebook) instead of as a symbol of a disproportionate problem.
posted by telegraph at 7:02 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here is another reason why your husband's FB activities would worry me.

If you are experiencing problems in your life, or in general you have low problem-solving ability or avoidance, you can turn to escapism rather than dealing with your problems. (Example)

And if you are in a relationship, you can develop the habit of using the escapism of fantasizing/obsessing about other people rather than confronting and dealing with the problems in your own relationship or life.

When you start doing this, it's almost inescapable that you form an idealized view of the people you are obsessing about. You don't see these people every day, in their home life. It's very easy to form a fantasy that this is the perfect person who will be perfect for you and will save you from all your problems, your boredom, ennui, and whatever.

If these fantasies are about porn stars, even if the escapism is damaging to the relationship in and of itself, it stops there. There's just nowhere else it can go. But when the fantasies are about people in your real life, that often leads to cheating and affairs. When you get really obsessed, it's very, very tempting to take it as far as you can with that person, if you have the opportunity.
posted by cairdeas at 7:09 PM on July 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


As this article makes clear, the majority of Facebook usage is accounted for by men looking at pictures of women. So I'd say it's probably best to just consider this normal, and don't worry about it, if you can manage that.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:11 PM on July 3, 2012


There really are men who are in control of their bodies and their actions. I know -- I've met some. If your husband cannot stop doing something that actively hurts you, then he's not one of those men. There's nothing wrong with wanting one of them, though, and I don't think it's wrong to say, "This hurts me; please stop."
posted by Houstonian at 7:17 PM on July 3, 2012 [16 favorites]


Because his looking at other women that aren't commercial means he's thinking he could trade up, and that's insulting to your relationship.
posted by discopolo at 7:29 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]



Should I also then modify our rules to do things I would like to do but he does not approve of, like keep in touch with an ex boyfriend in a totally platonic way?

Well, no. It wouldn't resolve the problem and it would likely escalate things. If it makes you uncomfortable, and he's admitted it's a problem, and he keeps doing it, the answer is not to modify the rules further in way that make both of you uncomfortable.

I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, I understand why it would make you uncomfortable if your husband is essentially adding people you know (and don't know, but not people who work in porn) to his spank bank. I think if he knows it bothers you and he continues to do it, that's problematic.

On the other hand, I don't think that this make him an evil person or that your marriage is doomed. What exactly is your trust issue with him on this? I think that's where you need to start when you speak with your husband.

And...your statement about limiting yourself to make him happy concerns me more than his Facebook habits.
posted by sm1tten at 7:32 PM on July 3, 2012


I am confused about your reading of this looking at women. How were the two linked? Did he link them, or did you? Does he look at them to masturbate? What do you mean when you say "obsessively looking at profiles"?

That said, I think part of the problem is in fact the idea that sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Why does he object to you platonically contacting your ex?
posted by corb at 7:33 PM on July 3, 2012


Might you think he's "obsessively looking at profiles" because you look at the internet history and see he's clicked on one woman's profile like 100 times in a row?

That will show up if you're looking at someone's photos. He probably clicked a profile name, saw they had some public pictures, then clicked through them all til he was bored. I do this on occasion, and my internet history looks like I've spent the entire morning rummaging through someone's profile, when it was really probably 5 minutes of just hastily scrolling through pictures just because they were there. I probably did it within the past 3 days, and I probably cannot remember the name of the person whose profile I did that with. I will probably never look at her again.

I do the same thing with flickr albums also. I don't really see that much of a difference.

I'm not trying to discount your feelings or anything, but I would say to step back and look at it more from this perspective. Also, you can always ask what he does on facebook. It's probably something like this. It's mindless, something I do in the morning while I'm still waking up before I get ready for the day.
posted by King Bee at 7:42 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife and I have similar attitudes towards porn as you two, however, while I have never tested this hypothesis, I doubt my wife would appreciate it if I checked out women ("obsessively", as you say) on Facebook. It seems to be crossing some sort of line. It's a little complicated, but I would say that a boundary is transgressed when it becomes more personal (it's pretty easy to figure out a lot about someone on Facebook).

I don't think staying in touch with your ex has any bearing on this situation.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:42 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you feel confident that it's basically just a porn substitute and everything else is going well, I would leave it alone. Men like to browse and masturbate. If that's what he's doing and you feel he's not hiding anything, then conflating that with cheating behavior is a good way to ruin the relationship. If it's really obsessive or it's impacting the quality of your relationship, then it's obviously an issue that needs to be resolved, but it would be naive to think that men (single or married) are not using it as basically a porn browser.
posted by FeralHat at 7:43 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is not unavoidable, and it is not any gender thing so much as it's a generally dishonest and skeevy thing. It should bother you because he agreed that the behavior was wrong and hurtful, yet he continues to do it. I, too, would be pretty concerned about this, especially if he's using this activity for masturbation, which it sounds like he is. Are you sure he hasn't contacted any of these women? I agree with Cairdeas that there may be some sort of escapism/ idealizing going on here, and that would make me feel pretty unsafe in the relationship. I couldn't help wondering, with my spouse putting so much energy and attention toward these other women, just what his intention is here.

Your instinct in wanting to change other ground rules of the relationship, I suspect, are partly motivated by wanting him to understand the kind of stress his FB trolling puts on you, but, honestly, he's not likely to see any connection between his habit and your spending time with an Ex. You're feeling justifiably resentful, but that never really solves anything. Resentment is a tough emotion to handle in a relationship. Let it grow too big, and nothing will stop it from engulfing all the positive feelings you have for your partner.

He already lied to you about this habit, so it's not like he doesn't know what your feelings are on this issue. He has plenty of acceptable masturbation fodder available to him. Time for a come-to-Jesus talk where you tell him his behavior is threatening your marriage and couples counseling is non-negotiable.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:21 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


But, I have in the past found him obsessively checking out the profile of this one girl, and other distant acquaintances, including both locals and people who live in his former city. This was a problem for me and after talking he agreed that obsessing over another woman's pictures isn't OK, and he said doing porn instead of checking out people we actually know made sense.

Maybe I don't understand what he's doing, because I'm a little flummoxed at what the issue is. He looks at FB profiles of strangers and acquaintances a lot. Um? So?
posted by desuetude at 10:26 PM on July 3, 2012


It's because you've asked him to stop doing something for you and he hasn't and that's hurtful.

It's really hard to know whether he's doing it because it's a fantasy compulsion or because it's a bit of a f-u to you - in the first instance, he needs to be gently reminded that he can porn to his heart's content but that you'd prefer it if he didn't surf FB for spank bank material whereas in the second instance you guys need therapy.

As there are many different flavours of porn nowadays, I think he should be able to find something suitable without having to transgress that line that winds up hurting you. If he's deliberately doing this for control reasons, then couples counselling will help unpack any resentment you both may have.
posted by heyjude at 12:59 AM on July 4, 2012


There is nothing wrong with this upsetting you. Please don't buy into the "men like to look and will look and you need to get over it" line. Men who look will look because they can. There is nothing inherent about a man that means you need to expect that other women will interrupt your relationship because he just can't control himself. You really think your husband "can't" keep himself from looking at women on Facebook? That is very sad. Lots of men and women are completely capable of this. Lots of men and women respect their partner enough to reserve sexual and emotional energy for them. Lots of men and women respect their partner enough to stop doing something inane that very reasonably upsets their partner.

I think that what your husband is doing is very disrespectful and potentially damaging to your relationship. You asked him to stop. Looking at the pictures was more important to him than making you feel good. He could stop looking if he wanted to. Really.
posted by Polychrome at 3:28 AM on July 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Your discomfort seems totally legitimate, but I think you need to be careful not to let it be the focus of every discussion you have with your husband about this. Whatever need he's satisfying with this behavior is rooted in perfectly real and legitimate feelings, even if the behavior itself is problematic. Getting to the bottom of, "Why aren't porn stars enough?" might be more helpful than the conversation that gets framed as, "You broke your promise to not do this."

I don't mean for a moment to say that you need to repress your own feelings; you absolutely shouldn't. It's legitimate for this to be a dealbreaker for you. But it does seem that the porn strategy hasn't worked out for him, and he's falling back on old solutions because he doesn't have a satisfactory alternative. Some non-judgemental conversation with someone, whether that's you or a therapist, might help him find one.
posted by jon1270 at 4:08 AM on July 4, 2012


like keep in touch with an ex boyfriend in a totally platonic way?
There's a real difference here:

Voyeuristically investigating a random facebook page is one thing; that person's not a real person, he's not seeking a connection with her.

On the other hand, resuming communication with a real person that you used to have sex with ... yes, I'm sure he'd be very happy if you went on a date with your old boyfriend. Or rather, started having friendly or perhaps intimate discussions with him again. This would be a wonderful thing to propose in the course of an argument.

Why does it bother me so much?
Because this behavior inadvertently pushes a huge "He's being emotionally unfaithful to me" button in your brain. Even though they're not real people.

If he were messaging these people, or friending them, that would be different. Because in your shoes I would think he engaging in behavior which could be flirting with them, or could transition into flirting with them.

But I would tag this "voyeurism", not "infidelity" if he is not flirting with them. If he's not communicating with them, he's not engaging in emotionally or sexually infidelity. It is pushing the "he's cheating on me" button in your brain evolutionary psychology wired in there, but he's not actually cheating on you.

Basically, say he was reading a fictional book or comic about a quirky, perky-titted person going through her day. Or perhaps a tv show. We all do that because it's fun to see how other people live. That's what he's doing except instead it's a facebook profile with probably less orcs/car chases/etc. Or gossip. It's a bit like that.

I don't see this behavior as intrinsically bad, as long as he doesn't cross a bright line and start flirting with them.

I do think that since it makes you bit unhappy and stressed, he should be considerate and try to stop. He might find it hard to stop, web-voyeurism is kind of fun. It would be like trying to get someone to give up trashy scifi, celebrity magazines or cigarettes. Good luck.

Is this the hill you want your relationship to die on?

I would tell him "Honey, when you look at facebook profiles of pretty girls online, it makes my hindbrain scream 'he's be emotionally unfaithful!!! He's cheating on me!' It's completely irrational, but I don't think this reaction is going to go away. Could you find a different hobby? If you're still doing this a lot a month from now I think we should try couples therapy. I love you and I don't want to lose you and I don't know think I can tell myself to stop being jealous when you're checking out random facebook profiles."

If he is flirting with folk online, that's a different kettle of fish.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:30 AM on July 4, 2012


I can't speak for the emotional angle, but in answer to the question "Why aren't porn stars enough?" that should be pretty obvious - I mean, just look at them and you'll notice a very generic "sameness" to most porn stars. Some guys go for that, others don't.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:24 PM on July 4, 2012


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