Bad Relationship Anxiety--And I'm Utterly Single Right Now
October 7, 2012 6:18 PM   Subscribe

How reasonable is it to expect my future/potential boyfriend or husband to NOT fantasize / masturbate to other women? Is it off-my-rocker to expect this from a man I'm in love with?

This is going to be random, but...How do I deal with the idea that a potential boyfriend may be masturbating/fantasizing to other ladies...who are not me? And is it reasonable to expect a boyfriend to think I am the sexiest lady of all time? =P

As I even write that, I know it's not reasonable. While I have been told often that I am very attractive, and know that all kinds of guys find me to be pretty darn sexually titillating, I know there are plenty of other women who are probably more so. Like celebrities, or porn stars, or even the chick in my finance class with the great ass (though that's debatable). But is it totally unreasonable to expect my future boyfriend to avoid having these thoughts and fantasies of other women? Or at least, to have me as the forefront of all his sexual fantasies?

I feel perturbed by the news from one of my guy friends that all men apparently masturbate and fantasize about women they're not technically with. I realize this is probably true considering how many married men stare at me up and down, but I fooled myself with the notion that it couldn't possibly be true for ME, considering I'm so bloody special....

I don't even have a boyfriend, mind you. I haven't had one in years. I just heard from a guy friend of mine about how sometimes, a photo is just sexier than your girlfriend to jerk off to and if anyone says they don't jerk off to other people, they're lying. That kind of sickens me and makes me sick with anxiety and jealousy. Part of the reason is probably that it's taken me so long to feel comfortable in my body and my sexuality--and some internet naked lady is going to take that away from me? Or even some other girl in class with a nice ass?

I guess it hurts but it hurts more not knowing if I'm being unreasonable. Is it unreasonable to expect that a guy not jerk off to other women? I really don't think so, but...at the same time, I'm not a guy, you know?

I know part of it is that I'm just not experienced in relationships--sexual or otherwise. If I were in my ideal relationship, I feel as though my man would want me and solely think of me--I'm no cookie cutter, sexually, and I have a lot of potential to be fantasy material!--and vice versa. I feel as though our intimacy would depend on complete, total, physical and mental monogamy.

But this leads me to my other relationship anxiety: I read EVERYWHERE that men are not wired for monogamy, that their minds and eyes naturally stray, and that it's completely normal to do so. Is it really that unnatural, monogamy? I haven't had a serious relationship in a VERY long time, but I've seen a lot of great monogamous couples. Is it really true that men are not wired for monogamy? It makes me sick when married men check me out because this means that my future husband will be checking out other beautiful women, too! Is this normal: both my feelings, as well as the reality that guys check out pretty ladies?

Also, I do realize that my future boyfriend or husband could possibly find other women more beautiful than me. I can't control that! I do want to control how sexually stimulating I am to my man, though--and if another woman does it for him more, would it be a good reason to break up?

I have been ruminating on this for far too long!

Please help my anxiety out! What has helped me so far is realizing that everyone's relationships will unfold uniquely, that my friend's words are not All Men Of Everywhere's law, and that people have been having successful relationships forever. Knowing this helps me feel better, no matter if I am being reasonable or not.

Thank you so much for reading this!
posted by rhythm_queen to Human Relations (73 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Monogamy and fantasy are not the same thing. Everyone fantasizes about people who are not their partner when they masturbate; it's normal and healthy and has nothing to do with wanting to cheat or not being attracted to their partner.
posted by tetralix at 6:20 PM on October 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Sorry, I'm just responding to this because I didn't say this in the post: While I understand that my boyfriend could be attracted to another woman, is it unreasonable to expect he don't ACT on that by fantasizing or chronically masturbating to her?

And is it also unreasonable to expect that he be attracted to me THE MOST, more than ANY other lady? Also if he did not feel this way, to want to end the relationship?

This may all just be vanity, and if it is, I understand--but I am wondering about the reasonableness because to me, it is exceedingly important in a relationship to be mutually HIGHLY physically attracted to one another.
posted by rhythm_queen at 6:25 PM on October 7, 2012


Look, there are questions you should not concern yourself with. This is one of them. Just don't bother wasting brain space on it.

Should he worry about you fantasizing about George Clooney? Jon Hamm? Hugh Jackman? No, right?

Don't waste your time or energy on wondering.
posted by discopolo at 6:25 PM on October 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


It's not reasonable, and the thing is, you can't know if someone is mentally monogamous. You can snoop for their porn, or nag them about their fantasy life, or try to catch them checking out other women, but you still don't know what they're thinking about when they get off. That's their business. I totally understand the jealousy aspect - I feel that way too, even though I certainly don't have monogamous thoughts - but you can only worry about how your partner treats you, not how he thinks of you.
posted by chaiminda at 6:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Monogamy is a totally reasonable expectation and you should never feel bad abut demanding that. Plenty of men are wired for monogamy (and plenty of women aren't, if I may say).

But as for the rest of this... yes, asking a partner never to even fantasize about others is outside the norm. I'm not saying you couldn't find it, but you'd probably need to look in a church.

Part of the reason is probably that it's taken me so long to feel comfortable in my body and my sexuality--and some internet naked lady is going to take that away from me?

This stands out to me, because... what is being taken away, specifically? This sentence doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. It sounds like you are still very deeply uncomfortable with some aspects of sexuality, if the notion of a guy even thinking of another girl when he's masturbating is causing you this much anxiety. It sounds like you are so fearful of rejection that even a momentary fantasy of another woman counts as a rejection of you. But it just isn't so. A man can love you completely and be 100% faithful to you, and also sometimes think about other women's bodies, and that doesn't negate any of the other stuff.

Do you honestly believe that as soon as you fall in love, you will cease to find other men attractive in any capacity?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


I wouldn't expect someone I was involved with not to fantasize about other women. I would expect, pretty much to the point of it being a requirement, that he not tell me anything about doing so.
posted by lemniskate at 6:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


is it unreasonable to expect he don't ACT on that by fantasizing or chronically masturbating to her?

This is not what most people consider "acting" on attraction. Yes, it is completely unreasonable to expect to be able to control his mind. You can expect him not to ACT on it by including anyone else (including you, if you desire -- that is he shouldn't tell you about his fantasies of other people) in a real-world version of his fantasies, but what you're asking for is not even sort of reasonable.
posted by brainmouse at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


as a female myself who aslo thinks she is very special i really don't see the problem with it.
I have met alot of women who consider it cheating...
but then again i don't think of my virginity as a " GIFT " or think of sex as a super sacred act of love.
idk, I personally do fantasize about other guys. perhaps that's what you should do as well because only then you will see that it doesn't mean anything. it doesn't mean you don't love your guy or that he is not enough.
posted by Isun at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2012


You can feel whatever you like. But if you hold this up as your standard of whether to break up or not, you may find yourself quite lonely, particularly if you badger your partner about it. Find a guy who keeps his fantasies to himself, don't pry about this particular thing, go forth and be happy.
posted by sageleaf at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, some men are not wired for monogamy because they don't want to be. But men are also not wired to pee in toilets or pay bills or wear clothes or use the Internet or eat nachos. So there's that too.
posted by discopolo at 6:28 PM on October 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


If you try to lay out this sort of expectation in a relationship, you're setting yourself up to be lied to. Everyone fantasizes about people who aren't their partner. You'll probably do it yourself. You need to learn to be okay with your partner doing it too. It doesn't mean he won't like you best.
posted by something something at 6:29 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Infidelity is an action, not a thought.
posted by nickrussell at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


You seem to have a lot of anxiety in general about your looks, sex, and dating. You are very young and you should not set yourself to worry like this for the rest of your life. It is not healthy for you. You might want to talk to someone (perhaps in your college counseling center?) about how to deal with your anxiety. I think you'll find that once you've learned to handle it, questions like this won't grow roots in your brain.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


Your expectation/hope is not reasonable. However, if you're willing to accept that most relationships include a few white lies in order to "keep the peace," then when your future boyfriend tells you that of course he's only thinking about you when he masturbates, choose to believe him. He'll be lying, of course, but it's one of those polite fictions that will keep you both happy. Just make sure that you never check his browser history.

Either that or realize that fantasizing is not the same as acting. I may fantasize about getting with Christina Hendricks, but I am not cheating on my wife by doing so. If, by some bizarre and unlikely circumstance, I actually had the chance to sleep with Christina Hendricks--and chose to do so--then I'd have acted upon the fantasy; then and only then would I have cheated on my wife and broke our trust.
posted by asnider at 6:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fantasy is a good thing. You don't want to spend your life with someone who has no imagination in the bedroom, trust me on this.
posted by headnsouth at 6:35 PM on October 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


If this is something that is very important to you, then you may find that your dating pool is very, very small.

And I feel like your question is jumping around a bit, because you say stuff like "chronically masturbating to" but then talking about random internet ladies. By which I mean, which is it that would bother you? I personally don't have a problem if my husband wants to masturbate thinking about random people, but if I somehow found out (how I would ever find out I do not know) that he was exclusively fantasizing about our friend X, then yes, I would have a problem with that.

Also, I fantasize about other people all the time. Nobody in particular, just nameless person X who is imaginary, but *different*. Some long-term relationships need a bit of strange (to channel Al Swearingen) in the fantasy life to keep the actual sex life hot. I think it's completely normal.
posted by gaspode at 6:35 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I should point out something: YOU are not YOUR BODY. If a guy loves you, he loves YOU, your heart and soul and personality and, yes, your body too, but that's only a tiny, tiny part of it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:36 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is ridiculous!

Fantasy is fantasy. It should be safe from judgement. If my wife is fantasizing about Tom Cruise or whatever, I don't need to hear the details of the thing, but it certainly isn't a deal. It happens. Fantasy is where the mind explores and plays and it is largely free from constraint and you certainly cannot police it and I think it's a hugely unreasonable expectation.

There will be lots of actual things to work yourself up about in a relationship, and this ain't one of the things by a longshot.
posted by kbanas at 6:37 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Porn is kind of different--I understand. I guess I'm talking more about real-life people, like a classmate or a friend's sister. Those are more personal and intense fantasies, aren't they? Different than fantasies of porn stars or of celebrities, right?


Honestly, THANK YOU, metafites. You guys are fantastic. I really love being ridiculed into stopping my anxieties, seriously--It makes me feel like my anxiety is rooted in stupidity, which helps to eradicate them :) I am giggling reading these because it does make me realize how silly and vain I'm being.
posted by rhythm_queen at 6:37 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And is it also unreasonable to expect that he be attracted to me THE MOST, more than ANY other lady?

This part, I think, is not unreasonable. But it doesn't mean that he won't fantasize about other women from time to time.

I think my wife is the hottest woman on the planet. She appeals to me more than any other woman. But I still find other women attractive and may occasionally fantasize about them.

I think that you're conflating two separate ideas. Fantasizing about other women doesn't mean that a guy thinks you're unattractive. It doesn't even mean that he doesn't think you're the most attractive. He can think you're the hottest women alive and still fantasize about other women. The two are not mutually exclusive.
posted by asnider at 6:38 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


And is it also unreasonable to expect that he be attracted to me THE MOST, more than ANY other lady?

It's a cultural norm that we regard our partners as THE MOST ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. Simple statistics, combined with the fact that no-one has ever gone out an met the several billion potential replacement partners and assessed them, reveals this as a useful conceit. You are the most attractive woman to him in his life. If you also start worrying about what's going on in his head, you'll be going down a strange road.
posted by Jimbob at 6:42 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do want to control how sexually stimulating I am to my man, though

Unfortunately, this is something you have no control over. You have every right to expect your partner to behave in certain ways - to tell you and show you that they think you're hot, and to not cheat on you. However, once you start to try and control someone's thoughts and fantasies then that will not only make you feel crazy and anxious but could well destroy otherwise potentially healthy relationships.

I think if you start to accept this and try to let go of your pretty rigid rules regarding what's going on in your potential partner's head then you'll end up happier and less anxious than if you continue to ruminate about it and think that it's something you might be able to control.

I have been guilty of this is relationships before, and my therapist would remind me to 'stay in my own world'. I find this pretty helpful, and would advise you to try and do the same.
posted by amerrydance at 6:42 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a spectrum. Out at one end is the way-not-ok shit, like the boyfriend in that AskMe a while back who got caught looking at porn on his phone while humping his girlfriend. That's big-time crappy behavior, unless your partner told you ahead of time that it was awesome and please do it more.

Out at the other end in such totally ok territory that even Jimmy Carter fessed up to it is being human and noticing attractive people that you meet, and maybe having lascivious thoughts about them. I guess maybe somewhere there's someone who doesn't do that, but good luck finding them.

And in between is the huge spectrum that you need to solve with negotiation and tact. Some people find it hot to have their lover tell them details about fantasies or past sexual experiences; other people find that repugnant. Some people talk about their solo masturbation habits with their partner; other people have relationships where if solo masturbation happens at all, it happens in secret and isn't discussed. And on and on and on -- there's no way to run through all the permutations of this, and there's nothing helpful in worrying about it before it becomes real.

And is it also unreasonable to expect that he be attracted to me THE MOST, more than ANY other lady?

In total, yes. But in detail, maybe it's more complicated. There's no one I want to have sex with more than my partner, but I am sure I could look online and find photos of some random woman with a hotter ass or whatever. But in reality, that's totally unimportant, because she is the only one who brings the total package that works for me.
posted by Forktine at 6:46 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I read EVERYWHERE that men are not wired for monogamy, that their minds and eyes naturally stray, and that it's completely normal to do so.

I am a guy and am I wired for monogamy and knew that when I was teenager. Some people enjoy the chase, I like being with someone and sharing things with them. Some guys enjoy that, others don't. Often this preference changes as one gets order, i.e. no more running around, want to stick with one person.

Otherwise, I don't see anything productive coming of wanting to police a partner's thoughts or solitary masturbation habits.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


If you manage to find a man who will tell you he doesn't fantasize about other women, that means you've found someone who's either gay, or asexual, or a liar. Want to find a man who's both straight and honest? OK, then he's going to fantasize about other women. The choice is up to you.
posted by John Cohen at 6:49 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would also recommend some kind of therapy/counselling to help you deal with your anxieties in general. I know what it's like to feel overwhelmed with trying to work these things out, and life can be so much better when you learn how to deal with this anxiety yourself rather than letting it control you. Good luck!
posted by amerrydance at 6:50 PM on October 7, 2012


You cannot control another person in this way, and as soon as you realize this, and come to terms with it, you will be much happier. Honestly, you don't want it.

Also, this comment of yours...

I am giggling reading these because it does make me realize how silly and vain I'm being.

Isn't indicative of progress -- it shows you're still self-loathing to a certain extent. That's not going to help you either. If you're really anxious and vain and insecure about yourself, you're not going to have a good relationship with anybody, and the problems you're projecting now will be many times worse. CBT may help. I wish you well.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:53 PM on October 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


I usually get these questions in my mind when I'm feeling severely anxious, then I ruminate, obsess and cry over them =/

Usually, I'm fine. I'm anxious at handle-able levels everyday. But when things are un-handle-able, these are the things that pop up, absolutely ridiculous questions that only serve to self-harm.

It sucks.
posted by rhythm_queen at 6:59 PM on October 7, 2012


Well, you know, you really don't have to live like this. Get some therapy, you'll thank yourself.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:01 PM on October 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


You need to seek therapy. I've read your other posts. This is not the way to live. You deserve to be free of self-sabotaging thoughts, and wallowing here isn't the way to accomplish it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:07 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find it interesting that this thought bothers you so much and you aren't even in a relationship. Obsessive thoughts which generate free-floating anxiety of this sort are treatable and it's really no way to live.

On your specific question — I think there's a don't ask, don't tell kind of thing in play. If I asked my husband who he thinks about during alone-time and he said Jane in accounting...well, that would be way weird. But, I wouldn't ask that. And if that is who he thinks about, he would be wise not to say so.

Really, though, it's none of your concern. And you should also have the freedom to let your own fantasy world be a wild place with almost no basis in reality. It's one of the cool things about being a human.
posted by amanda at 7:18 PM on October 7, 2012


As long as your boyfriend is treating you well and respecting your boundaries, you shouldn't worry about this stuff. Examples from my own life:

- Me and boyfriend have a healthy, enthusiastic sex life and he always talks about about how sexy/beautiful I am. He also watches porn about 4/5 times a week for about half an hour at a time. This is OK
- Boyfriend never initiates sex, it is almost like living with a gay man, when rarely do he can't keep it up or it takes ages, he watches 3 hours of porn a day and any minute that I leave the room. So every time I go for a piss, take the bin out, answer the landline he's obssessively checking out barelylegal.com. Not OK.

- Boyfriend tells coworkers and friends about me, talks about our relationship, generally signals to others he is 'taken'. We acknowledge that plenty of other attractive people are around all the time, but we are happy together. This is OK.
- Boyfriend aggressively flirts with coworkers when I'm not around, either doesn't mention me or plays down my part in his life to people he's interested in, constantly checking out people when we walk down the road holding hands, will flirt openly with girls right in front of me. When I take him to task it is just 'human nature' and he is 'hard wired that way' and I 'can never expect better'. Over the not OK line directly into WTF Loserville.

Everyone has a fantasy life, and that's totally OK. When his fantasy life becomes an obstacle in your relationship or is something he casually flaunts whenever he feels like it regardless of your feelings or how it affects your relationship (or worse, to inflict pain or manipulate you), then you've got problems. There's a reason why in-private browsing was invented, and it's not so we can buy surprise gifts for our mums.

If you're with someone who treats you respectfully and are still worrying about this stuff, I would definitely say see a counsellor or therapist, because life is hard enough as it is and this is not something you should be having to spend brain-time on.
posted by everydayanewday at 7:18 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I will agree that I need help and this is no way to live, but watching up to half an hour of porn almost everyday while in a healthy, sexual, monogamous relationship? To me, that's not okay at all. =/

I don't think that particular stance stems from my vanity. Seriously, I just think that's a lot of time watching other people doin' it naked, and to me it's pretty weird. We're not teenagers anymore, you've got me to have sex with, and besides all that--use your imagination, yo!

I'm gettin what you guys are saying. But I disagree on some things. I think that's okay, though.
posted by rhythm_queen at 7:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're talking about someone who needs to watch porn every day and/or before he can have sex with you, then that's a completely different question.
posted by Linnee at 7:29 PM on October 7, 2012


You seem to be working from the idea that attraction is a zero-sum game -- that is, if your partner finds you attractive, then it means no one else is attractive in his eyes; by the same token, if your partner finds anyone else attractive, then it means you are not attractive. In other words, you have an idea that your attractiveness is on some level cancelled out by the existence of another woman's attractiveness.

One thing you may want to ruminate on is how to find a way to let attractiveness coexist -- that is, to understand that the many factors that make you attractive are not diminished even one little bit by the attractiveness of anyone else. I know it's hard to believe this in a culture that pits women against each other so relentlessly on so many levels. But try to consciously go against the grain of the messages you're being sent -- they are designed to make you feel insecure. Resist them.
posted by scody at 7:29 PM on October 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


Please please please get therapy - this is not 'normal' anxiety, this is severely impacting your life for nothing. So literally nothing. I speak from one year into mindfulness therapy - there is a better way to live.

To answer the question: you cannot expect to control someone's thoughts. That is a truly obnoxious thing to want, and impossible without serious serious abuse. Attraction is just attraction, there is no action associated. Masturbating while fantasising is an action, and if it were 'chronic' or in some way actually harming the relationship* then that's an issue. The fact that X saw Y and got aroused is not an issue (outside paraphilias and things like that).

Control is the bane of the anxious life. You can't control your thoughts, but you can control your actions. You can't control other people and that is the root of this question - how to control someone's sexuality from the inside out and it creeps me out. A friend is in a relationship like this and I really worry for them, and for their family, because a partner who will not let you masturbate (porn or no porn) because your thoughts might stray is edging into dangerous territory. Because it isn't about the relationship, it's about control, it's about your issues and it denies them bodily autonomy.

The thing is, I get changing shit around to deal with anxieties. I really do. Our entire social life is different now we're actually dealing with my anxiety on the table instead of doing the same thing over and over and hoping it will change. So my partner does have to change things to deal with that. But I do not try and change his thoughts, I do not impinge on his bodily autonomy. That shit is not on. It really isn't. I don't get to tell him what to do with his body - I can state my preferences, I can have an argument over health issues, I can say "this does affect our relationship now" but I do not get to say "you cannot ever masturbate again because you might not be thinking of me the whole time and because I don't know who or what you're thinking of, you can't" and expect that to actually be a healthy relationship, a healthy way of life for either of this. Because once you give in to the anxiety, once you say "it is okay for me to control someone because I am anxious" you don't have a finite end point. You don't have a mechanism to control yourself. You put the onus on them, on their actions, and take no responsibility yourself. You start living this life where "if you just did X, life you be perfect so you are standing in the way of perfection" and you treat people in a borderline abusive fashion.

Living with anxiety is hard. It is. But controlling your partner's thoughts and body is not the way to deal with it.

*Masturbation at the expense of your sex life? Harmful. Masturbation in an unhygenic manner? Harmful. Masturbation in a creepy fashion? Harmful. Simply masturbating? Not actually harmful - what is harmful is the attempt to control your partner's actions towards their own body. If you would not feel comfortable controlling the food they eat, or the sleep they get, how would masturbation be different? Porn is different - I have ethical objections to porn and prefer not to have it in the house but it's something we differ on. The majority of the porn my partner watches is inoffensive (as far as porn goes) and he's savvy enough that there is no way our kid is going to get an eyeful. I think 'no porn' is a line you can draw because it's an action, it's a concrete thing. Controlling someone's thoughts? That is futile and damaging to everyone concerned.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that you're drawing conclusions about sexual activity from masturbatory habits. And then forming a highly gendered argument around it. And while, okay, maybe you might feel it's not okay for someone to watch porn for half an hour a day, that has absolutely nothing to do with whether that individual is monogamous, much less whether men generally are "wired" for monogamy.

I'm a woman and based on what you've said here, it seems like you'd assume that I'm some kind of trollop based on my solitary sexual habits. Because I think all sorts of men and ladies are hot--some (gasp!) hotter than my husband--you could easily extrapolate that I'd have some sort of tendency to stray; because I consume large amounts of slash fiction and am good friends with my shower massager, you might assume that I--and other women--aren't to be trusted in a monogamous relationship. But I've only had one partner, am absolutely "wired for monogamy," have never and likely will never cheat. I don't even flirt that much.

There are a lot of weird, broken assumptions about gender and relationships in your post. I think reading about sex positive feminism might be good for you, in addition to the very good suggestion of therapy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:36 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was just asking a question about the reasonableness of the feelings I'm getting. I don't *really* want to control my partner--nor do I have a partner to control in the first place--but these are thoughts I'm having that I wanted clarification on. I'd rather my partner not have fantasies about other women (actually, I'm starting to realize that maybe this isn't even what I want...) but either way, I don't want to FORCE anything on him! No, I want all of our relationship to be organic and cool :)

I realize it's creepy to some, but I don't want you to think I'd be cool with actually harming others by controlling them to deal with my anxiety.

No. That's not what my question is about, on the whole.
posted by rhythm_queen at 7:37 PM on October 7, 2012


I know if you're already feeling bad about this stuff that seems like a lot. But I'm just taking into account my own 'alone-time', and actually mine would be more frequently than that, and having that outlet just for me doesn't detract from my sex-life with my partner (in fact, it pretty much revvs me up for more sexytime with him). If I allow this for myself, I should allow it for him too. I said half an hour as a guess, but I don't know if it's 15 minutes or even 5. Everybody's different.

People that know what they like and have an active imagination are better in bed, honestly. On the other hand, we've all slept with The Guy That Watches Too Much Porn, which makes for hilarious anecdotes later on, but can be the most excrutiatingly awful sex you will ever have. You will know if it's detrimental.

As said above, it is OK to come to terms with the fact that you have ethical problems with porn. but you cannot control what other people think. Think about how this would feel is a boyfriend was trying to control your mastubatory habits or thoughts (assuming they are not damaging/harmful to him or the relationship). Futile, and not cool.
posted by everydayanewday at 7:38 PM on October 7, 2012


Blah--agreed. Sorry about my continuous comments--I do get what you're saying, but actually for me, imagination > porn, please...

I'm all over the place, I know, but it's so much more attractive when someone masturbates using their mind and imagination than over the overly made up and objectified women in porn =/ I don't really understand how half an hour of watching overly objectified women could make someone a lot better in bed or add to the quality of your sex life--maybe I am being ignorant, totally open to that, but it doesn't ring well with me.

"We've all slept with The Guy That Watches Too Much Porn" haha, I don't think I'll ever sleep with a guy like that =P I'm way too cautious.

And otherwise, I do get what y'all are saying. I'm takin it in. And I do have a counsellor, however I am very busy with school and whatnot, and quite like the feedback I'm getting here for now. Hopefully I'll be able to see my counsellor more as she is absolutely FANTASTIC, and maybe get my mind to be a lot more streamlined with its worries.
posted by rhythm_queen at 7:44 PM on October 7, 2012


[OP, you're being pretty hyperresponsive here. Please dial it back and let people answer as they will - you don't need to (and shouldn't) respond to everything. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:48 PM on October 7, 2012


I'm all over the place, I know, but it's so much more attractive when someone masturbates using their mind and imagination than over the overly made up and objectified women in porn =/ I don't really understand how half an hour of watching overly objectified women could make someone a lot better in bed or add to the quality of your sex life--maybe I am being ignorant, totally open to that, but it doesn't ring well with me.

But it's not just women in porn. You also are uncomfortable with the idea that a man might masturbate to a woman he encounters casually in real life, for example. In fact, you specifically say "If I were in my ideal relationship, I feel as though my man would want me and solely think of me."

You're looking for a reality check, so I'll just come out and say: this is completely unreasonable and unrealistic. 100%

You're likely building these expectations based on damaging narratives about relationships--that your true love will have no private sexual life (even in their own head) outside of you, that good relationships are based on whether you think your partner is the most attractive person ever rather than believing your partner is best for you based on a variety of factors, of which attraction is only a small and really fairly minor component. These narratives are everywhere in movies and books and fairy tales. They're also not particularly healthy for women.

Frankly, these expectations are far more likely to lead your future partners to lie and hide their completely reasonable masturbatory habits (whether or not they include porn), and that kind of lying is pretty toxic for relationships. It's much healthier and more comfortable to be able to casually acknowledge one's private sexual life with your partner.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:52 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I really love being ridiculed into stopping my anxieties...

You might enjoy Dan Savage's work. He has a weekly sex advice column and a great podcast, and he's very good at helping people gauge both what's reasonable to ask of a partner and what's reasonable to ask of themselves.

I bet if you listened to just a handful of shows at random, you'd find him talking directly to you at some point. Here's a representative column: SL Letter of the Day: Two "What Do You Consider Cheating" Questions.
posted by sudama at 7:53 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


For those too lazy to click, Dan says:
Even if we make and manage to keep a monogamous commitment for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years, we will still be attracted to other people. We will still fantasize about other people and most of us have particular fantasies that our partners—for whatever reason—simply can't help us realize. Two mature adults in a healthy marriage should at the very least be able to acknowledge these facts—and, no, acknowledging these facts doesn't mean you have to give your partner the okay to fuck around on you. It just requires you to accept that your partner is human. Like you.
posted by sudama at 7:56 PM on October 7, 2012


I am in the minority, but I have known several men to not be liars, asexual, or religious, and to have eyes only for the love of their life. Which includes thinking, "wow, no one else compares" and does not include sexual thoughts about other women. It's just how they are.

I really don't think that it is reasonable to be shamed for wanting this, which is what often happens, and which is happening a bit in this thread.

For some people, fantasizing is okay. Which makes it okay. But to tell someone else that not being okay with it is not reasonable, is not fair. Because it does exist. Maybe not frequently, but it does. I promise it is not 100% unrealistic.
posted by DeltaForce at 8:03 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, in truth you and your partner will both fantasize about other people, or even about each other doing things in bed they wouldn't normally do or perhaps explicitly refuse to do. But I intuit that what you really want is a partner who will make you feel like you are the most attractive woman in the world, and the only one he ever wants to sleep with again. You CAN have this, it is not unreasonable to look for this in a partner. But it's not a quality everyone has, and you may want to trade it for something else like intellectual compatibility or similar parenting values or something. I had this once, it was great! However, this quality was attached to someone with deep and serious issues, and I suspect it correlates highly with being a good liar. There's nothing like a little harmless deception to grease the wheels of human behavior, eh?
posted by katya.lysander at 8:10 PM on October 7, 2012


You seem way too invested in your looks. I think this is 90% vanity, and I'm saying that because I have similar tendencies. If you're one of the more attractive people you know, you start to feel like maybe you could be the most attractive person, and you fixate on your relative lack of attractiveness to this one person or idea (the girl in your finance class, porn) because part of your identity is that you're the prettiest girl in the room.

I don't care what anyone I'm dating is masturbating to, as long as it's legal (no child porn, no bestiality). I don't care.

Do you like porn? I think part of the reason I'm not bothered by men watching porn is that I really like porn. I would consider myself a high-libido, sexually adventurous kind of gal, and I realize that not everyone rolls that way, but I think it helps me stop focussing on my looks re: sex. Become a sexual agent and not a sexual object.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:13 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


but actually for me, imagination > porn, please...

I'm all over the place, I know, but it's so much more attractive when someone masturbates using their mind and imagination than over the overly made up and objectified women in porn =/ I don't really understand how half an hour of watching overly objectified women could make someone a lot better in bed or add to the quality of your sex life--maybe I am being ignorant, totally open to that, but it doesn't ring well with me.


Yeah, I get this. Maybe being sexually appealing to other people includes having your own desires that preceed browsing through tons of porn, so you don't just end up liking overly made-up orange women with botched boob jobs who pretend to orgasm over facials because that's what's trending on Pornhub right now. But for people with imagination, masturbation and fantasy can be a way to stoke their desires generally, which means you as their partner benefit. More sex! Hotter sex! Win for you.

I fantasize about people/sitautions but would never, ever cheat on my partner and I am totally uninterested in being with anyone else. If I never go on another date in my life it will be too soon. I'm sure I can't be the only person like this.
posted by everydayanewday at 8:13 PM on October 7, 2012


Think about it this way: if he didn't want anyone but you, how would you know that he was faithful? It's only because men want to have sex with everyone they find attractive, but don't, that they're faithful.
posted by luke1249 at 8:14 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Color me naive but I don't think there's a finite amount of love - or attraction - in the world. Some for someone else doesn't necessarily mean less for you.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:27 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does it matter where he gets his motor running, as long as he parks it in the right garage?
posted by Soliloquy at 8:29 PM on October 7, 2012


How would you react if you knew the man you were dating WAS fantasizing? Would you have a serious conversation with him about your needs and potentially end the relationship, thus continuing to search for someone who suits you while allowing them to find someone who suits them? Or would you collapse in a ball of sickening emotion, mentally ripping yourself to shreds for not somehow being enough that he would even consider it?

If it's the first, I think you're fine. You will have a harder time finding that person, but you know what you want. If it's the second, you need to sign yourself up for some long term therapy and work through what's going on.

(Also, I think you should spend some time reading through this thread, in particular Flex's comment. There is some really good conversation about how men and women are raised to relate to sexuality and relationships, and how it effects some individuals.)
posted by Dynex at 8:52 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone fantasizes about people who are not their partner when they masturbate

This is not true. No one here (or anywhere, for that matter) can speak for anyone but themselves. Personally, when I'm in love, I flat out don't notice anyone as being sexually attractive except my partner. And I know men who feel the same way - I have friends who are totally in love with their girlfriend and don't even notice other women. I've had discussions with these friends, during which they have mentioned how disgusted they are with the way other guys talk about women in spite of being in a relationship. These guys are not gay, nor especially religious. They are just in love.

Don't let anyone else tell you what you should think. You have every right to want what you want, and you don't need to lower your standards just to fit in with the norm.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:58 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a want, it's reasonable. You can always want what you want.

As an expectation, you can still carry it and consider yourself reasonable; but it might not go so well in practice. There are men who can meet that expectation. They definitely exist. There are also men who will reject you for it, and (in my estimate) far more men than in either group who will lie to you about their ability to meet it. They may not even know they're lying; they're telling you what you want to hear and hoping it all goes well and you never notice the difference.

Sex is extremely complicated. Far, far more than I thought when I was 20. This complication has good and bad sides. A major bad side is that people are a lot more likely to lapse into self-delusion and sneaking than we'd like; so matters of moral and intellectual honesty and integrity become central concerns as we carry on in life.

The only general advice I can give is to give a lot of thought to whether a person is good, compatible-with-you and honest, and less thought to expectations that you can control what they do, especially what they think.
posted by ead at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing is, you're not even in a relationship right now. Your anxieties are making you acutely miserable for literally nothing. This is not a sex, masturbation or monogamy issue, it's an anxiety issue and you're the only one (with the help of a therapist) who can fix it.

I hope you choose to get help, nobody deserves to live with the kind of anxiety you're suffering.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:06 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So on the one hand I feel like you are displaying some anxiety and self-esteem issues here (and you acknowledge this in your follow-up, and that you are trying to work on those issues - which is good because ruminating and getting yourself so upset over this stuff is an awful feeling). On the other hand I don't feel like what you're anxious about is ridiculous or silly at all. I feel like coping with the idea that men view women as sexual objects - or that society expects men to view women as sexual objects - and many men treat women in certain ways because of this - and that women are expected to be okay with this or understanding of this... It can fuck with you, it really can.

I think sometimes (even more so for some people who are acutely sensitive to these issues) that is a very hard thing to get your head around. It feels unfair if you can't imagine yourself behaving or thinking this way (which more often not since we're not conditioned as women to treat men this way). When women have feelings like this, we are so often dismissed or put down or shamed for feeling this way. I deal with anxiety and depression myself, and this is absolutely something that affects me so when I read your questions I can empathize. When I read your questions I honestly think "well, no wonder it happens a woman could feel this way, in a society that has surrounded us with these ideas of what determines a woman's worth to a man and what women should accept in men's behavior towards them".

To start I do think it isn't unreasonable to want to be IT for someone else if they are IT for you - that you are the whole package for them & they're the whole package for you. And I don't think it's unreasonable to expect monogamy in a relationship, or to expect your partner not use other women's bodies for sexual stimulation (porn, strip clubs, etc.) - if you have clearly communicated that is what you expect. Will this affect the size of your potential dating pool? Sure. But do you care? To me it would be more important to find the right person for me, who understood me and made me feel secure in the relationship. If that's what makes you feel secure in a relationship, good on you for knowing it - you can make it a dealbreaker - plenty of people do.

As for fantasy (or thoughts while masturbating), though? I think you can't control what goes on in another person's mind - nor should you - nor should you expect to. I think if your partner values you to the extent you are IT for them, it doesn't mean they will never think about other people, or find other people attractive, never ever ever - I think though they would do their utmost not to ever make you feel that you're not good enough for them, that you don't satisfy them enough. I think men who are sensitive to what women are told their worth is based on (your sexiness, your looks, your ability to attract) are careful not to compare you or make comments to you that make you feel torn down in these areas. Despite the stereotypes, not all men think the way you are assuming - that they aren't truly monogamous, or can never focus (almost) all their sexual energy on their partner, etc. I think you can find another person (that's not your partner) beautiful or sexually attractive without using it as a way to find your partner wanting or lesser somehow. I think people think a lot of things, that sexuality is complicated - but ultimately that if you are worried a man cannot be monogamously dedicated to and wrapped up in and pretty much only have eyes for his chosen partner - you shouldn't worry that this is unrealistic - it's not.

Can you find a man like this? Sure. I did. I think you can go a long way with open and honest communication. If it's something you can't accept, don't let anyone tell you it's silly or you're vain. I would not feel secure in my relationship if I felt my partner was hiding this sort of behavior from me or expected me to tolerate it. To me, anything that didn't meet that mark would be settling - I don't want to settle. I want my most important relationship to be as satisfying as it possibly can be, to meet as much of my needs as it can. I want to know my partner has my back as much as I have his, and part of his having my back is (to me) that he doesn't contribute to - that he isn't complicit in (as much as he consciously can) - tearing me down with this shit the way society tears me down with it.
posted by flex at 9:27 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also keep in mind that walking around being disgusted with most other people is itself a choice, one not likely to help with being happy.
posted by ead at 9:32 PM on October 7, 2012


but actually for me, imagination > porn, please...

I'm all over the place, I know, but it's so much more attractive when someone masturbates using their mind and imagination than over the overly made up and objectified women in porn =/ I don't really understand how half an hour of watching overly objectified women could make someone a lot better in bed or add to the quality of your sex life--maybe I am being ignorant, totally open to that, but it doesn't ring well with me.


Imaginations need to be nurtured and fed, however - how else can they grow? And what better way to nurture and feed a sexual imagination than with - hey, sex!

There is a *lot* of other porn out there besides the overly made up, professional porn star stuff. I don't think I've ever even watched any "real" porn - and I've been watching porn for years! The amateur stuff is great - it not only gives me new ideas to try with my guy, it also surprises me sometimes and makes me realize I'm 'into' stuff that I wouldn't have otherwise thought I'd be turned on by. ((if it's important to note, I'm female, btw)) You might want to consider broadening your pornographic horizons a bit - you might find something you like!
posted by Squee at 9:38 PM on October 7, 2012


Everyone finds other people attractive and desirable. But I think part of what you might be getting is gender bias in media creation and consumption. Perfectly valid! Difficult stuff. It isn't fair, and no amount of Jon Hamm on Pinterest can possibly make it fair. I don't like porn either, and unlike some comments above I wouldn't suggest someone needs therapy for not accepting its ubiquity.

But...your man is entitled to his fantasy life. Someone he saw on the street, a friend, a photo, whatever. Sometimes men just like to imagine they have options, no harm done. It's normal and healthy, you're not in competition.
posted by inkypinky at 10:23 PM on October 7, 2012


I'd rather my partner not have fantasies about other women (actually, I'm starting to realize that maybe this isn't even what I want...) but either way, I don't want to FORCE anything on him!

Let's reverse gender roles. "I'd rather my wife not read romances (or enjoy any narrative stories with a romance theme) because she'd be putting herself in the role of the female protagonist and imagining herself in love with the male protagonist. And that's emotional infidelity; she'd be cheating on me."

That's a bit controlling, eh?

Now consider: "It's might be ok if my hubby faps to videos of random girls going at it as long as he's not imagining himself in a emotional relationship with them."
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:36 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am in the minority, but I have known several men to not be liars, asexual, or religious, and to have eyes only for the love of their life. Which includes thinking, "wow, no one else compares" and does not include sexual thoughts about other women. It's just how they are.

There is no possible way of ascertaining the truth of statements like this, which would have to be diplomatic at the best of times. Even if I questioned a very close friend about this (in the world's weirdest and most-boundary-ignoring conversation), I would expect platitudes rather than truth.

You can't own other people, you cannot expect them to be in thrall to you forever. You can (and should) expect them to uphold whatever commitments you've both agreed on, or call off the relationship. If this fantasy thing really important to you, be sure you share this early in your courtship so that the other party can agree or get out of dodge.

(I surely don't need to note that fantasy is a way to escape reality and imagine ourselves as someone we're not? Boinking you might be the greatest thing ever, but what if it's not--and they love and want to remain with you anyway? Maybe fantasy would provide them an outlet that would be all they need to have a completely satisfactory sex life.)

Your expectations are fairly unrealistic for the vast majority of men and women out there, I feel, and you're just going to set yourself up for misery if you either don't (a) get help to recognize what goes on in other people's heads while they're fantasizing reflects very little if at all upon your worth as a partner or (b) make an effort to explicitly outline this requirement to potential partners and how serious you are about it.
posted by maxwelton at 11:07 PM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just heard from a guy friend of mine about how sometimes, a photo is just sexier than your girlfriend to jerk off to and if anyone says they don't jerk off to other people, they're lying.

What makes your guy friend stupid is that he deals in absolutes and expects that just because he thinks in a particular way, that other people do as well. From everything that I have seen, sexuality is a spectrum. A lot of people on Metafilter say dumb things like "Well, you're just monogamous" or "You sound poly and you need to accept that" but the truth is that sexuality is more of a bell curve. A person might be 75% monogamous/25% poly, for example, meaning that they prefer monogamous relationships but would be willing to consider a poly relationship if they got a good enough deal negotiated. Likewise, there are people who might be 80% poly/20% mono - they prefer to engage in poly relationships, but if they meet the right monogamous person, they're willing to be exclusive. So anybody who tells you "guys are always wired this way" or "women always think like this" is an idiot and should be ignored. It sounds to me like you are looking for somebody on the far end of the monogamy curve, probably in the area of 95% monogamous. That will limit your potential boyfriend choices considerably, but it is theoretically possible.

And is it also unreasonable to expect that he be attracted to me THE MOST, more than ANY other lady? Also if he did not feel this way, to want to end the relationship?

It's... mildly unreasonable to expect this. If you find somebody who's exceptionally monogamous and you satisfy his needs whenever he has them, then possibly you may achieve this unusual relationship. However, this will almost certainly involve some hardship on your part. Are you willing to let him come over whenever he wants for a late-night booty call? Will you let him take naked pictures of you so he can masturbate to your pictures while you're on vacation? If you're prepared to fulfill his sexual needs whenever he has them, I think you may stand a chance. However, I think you're underestimating how arduous this is, not to mention that it may make you feel somewhat objectified. If your boyfriend is aroused at 3 AM in the morning, is it really worth letting him come over and sex you up just so you can be maintain your status as the only woman he ever thinks about?

Furthermore, even if you find this hypothetical guy who's on the far end of the monogamy scale, and somehow take such good care of him that you are all he thinks about, how will you ever be 100% sure that he never ever fantasizes about somebody else? How will you know that he's not lying to you to spare your feelings? The only way you could be absolutely confident of this would be if you possessed telepathy. Since that's unlikely to happen, you may want to find a way to treat the real problem; namely your anxiety regarding this matter.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:21 PM on October 7, 2012


Two things make me concerned about you. Specifically, the fact that you are having these anxieties when you are not even in a relationship, and the fact that you are young and beautiful but have not been in a relationship for a long time.

Clearly something is not right because that is not typical or "normal". So I agree that you should talk to a therapist and really totally open up about your upbringing, your concerns, your desires, etc.

Men's brains are wired very differently from women's. In general, men are very visually stimulated by female physical beauty and have strong sex drives. The reason is obvious and you can see it in most of the animal world: procreation requires men to be this way, and if they weren't this way, we would all not even be here having this discussion. The male sex drive is the spark of reproduction (but of course women are the engine who do all the work). My point in stating all this is that if you don't understand and accept those realities, you are in for life-long confusion, frustration, anger, etc.

Now excuse me while I go masterbate to some porn.
posted by Dansaman at 11:29 PM on October 7, 2012


Men's brains are wired very differently from women's. In general, men are very visually stimulated by female physical beauty and have strong sex drives. The reason is obvious and you can see it in most of the animal world: procreation requires men to be this way, and if they weren't this way, we would all not even be here having this discussion. The male sex drive is the spark of reproduction (but of course women are the engine who do all the work). My point in stating all this is that if you don't understand and accept those realities, you are in for life-long confusion, frustration, anger, etc.

Sort of? You're presenting one very popular view. But one that bugs the tits off of sex-positive feminists who actually like looking at guys (and gals) and sometimes, indeed, have strong sex drives.

You'd be presenting a much different theory of female sexuality if we were talking about this in the we-just-invented-the-Pill-and-discovered-pot Summer of Love era, as opposed to the "kiddies! Don't get AIDS and die!" era. Or if we were in a country that wasn't partially run by Abrahamic religions that police sexuality in order to control folk.

This is going to be random, but...How do I deal with the idea that a potential boyfriend may be masturbating/fantasizing to other ladies...who are not me?


Read some of Dan Savage's advice column on the subject.
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=15810
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=15715
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:51 PM on October 7, 2012


I didn't say anything about some women being highly visually stimulated and having strong sex drives because it wasn't relevant to the general point I was making about men.
posted by Dansaman at 12:01 AM on October 8, 2012


[Please don't debate each other; please don't armchair psychoanalyze the OP; please don't assert that all men are anything in particular because SCIENCE, and if it needs to be said, and apparently it does, please don't tell us that you are masturbating. Please keep heads attached to bodies and be helpful, thanks.]
posted by taz at 12:58 AM on October 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Look, the immediate answer is we don't have thought police, but you have every right to expect a man who doesn't cheat and who doesn't do all this stuff in front of you [!] and, in general, doesn't act on or let you know about any thoughts he might be having about other women. It is completely attainable and reasonable to want that in a man.

I do think that flex elucidated the larger point about why this is probably bothering you. It's a societal issue which is systematically used to make you, as an individual woman, feel that you must be good enough to hold a man's full attention, and also that you will never be good enough to achieve that. I've seen men deliberately act this out on an individual level, it definitely happens, and these are men you absolutely want to avoid by boarding up your house and nailing up "Gone to Siberia" signs and changing your name and donning a fake nose and glasses.

There are also men whose outward behaviour will be closer to what you want; any thoughts they might have about other women, you will never know about; they will not cheat; and they will make it clear to you that you are the hotness. However, an individual man can't solve a larger social problem by treating you right, and you are out there every day in a society that bombards you with such messages as never before. Almost all women feel demeaned by this, though they express it in different ways. I think you have just uttered a truth about the way society works and you are trying to adjust to a society that is maladjusted in this regard. I do think it's fair for coupledom to be "you and me against the world" though.

Tl;dr an individual guy can give you the behaviour you want, but you can't police his thoughts, and he can't change the society that programmed you to think and feel this way.
posted by tel3path at 1:31 AM on October 8, 2012


I think a lot of people are responding to you unfairly, though you do probably have some issues to work through. Not really gonna comment towards that but please try to realise that you're more than your body. If you are with someone and you don't want anyone else, it is not unreasonable to expect that he also will not want anyone else. When I'm in a relationship with someone, I do not want anyone else, and I expect the same. Not everyone is the same, obviously, and some people can think about screwing other people all day long and still have a great relationship with one person, but if I start fantisizing about other people, it means there are problems. It usually means I'm thinking about leaving my current partner. I think that, if this is also true for you, and especially if you've seen lots of men leave their partners for other women (or perhaps not leave them but cheat on them or resent them while they go off looking at porn or chatting up other women) it can make you a little sensitive to the idea of your partner wanting other women.

If you are very attractive, and it sounds like you probably are, lots of men will want you for that reason alone. And you can find yourself in situations where you're with a man who wanted you because you're hot, but of course he still notices lots of other hot women. And it can make you anxious because it's precarious. You don't want to be with the guy who is settling or is with you because he can't get anyone hotter but is still thinking about hot women all the time. I totally get the squicked out feeling you experience when married men check you out. Very few people in this thread seem to agree with me but I think that behaviour is disrespectful to their wife and to you. It's not the same as just being attracted to someone else or noticing an attractive person, which happens and is normal. Men really don't need to leer or ogle every attractive woman. It is a choice.

I don't date men like this anymore. I did when I was 20 and it really fucked with my self-esteem. Worse, if I ever felt badly about any of it they would bully me about how I needed to accept it and it's just how men are. I won't accept it anymore, and you don't have to if you don't want to. I really believe that men can adhere to the same standards I can. It will significantly narrow your options but that's what standards do.

Porn is something I am generally not okay with for various other reasons that I won't go into here, but when men express interest in a relationship with me I make it very clear that I'm not interested in being in a relationship with someone who uses porn. Since realising this, every man who has had the relationship talk with me (three) have not only stopped looking at porn, but also agree with my reasons for being opposed to it. Obviously I cannot monitor every move someone else makes (nor do I want to) but you have to trust your partner and I trusted these men. Also, I am sure this has a lot to do with the type of men I am attracted to in general; they are not representative of your typical blokey bloke.

Some men will get very defensive about being challenged about these things, will cite things about brain differences, non-monagamy, etc. that, really, they are pulling out of their asses. I think researching these issues (rather than polling internet strangers and relying on statement with no evidence) might help you feel better about this, or at least better about what you think and be more clear on why you feel the way you do. I can see you are having some trouble articulating why it is that you feel this way. I have two book recommendations that I really do think will help.

Living Dolls-this I've lent to several people and every one of them has said it changed their life. It will help you understand why this whole thing is even an issue for you.

Delusions of Gender-this one is more basic but disputes that there are scientific differences in how men and women are "wired" regarding gender differences.
posted by Polychrome at 2:48 AM on October 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I won't go into too much detail, OP, but when I was about your age I had very similar control issues around partners' masturbation (as well as strangers/friends potentially "using me" in their private fantasies).

What originally helped me to feel less anxious was the philosophy than men are inherently different from women, more animalistic, and that I could never fully understand their sexuality, so I should just accept it. But I have to tell you, I now believe that this philosophy was in the end damaging to me, because it led me to accept behaviors from partners which made me feel frightened, unsafe, and insecure in myself. So I'm piping up to say, please do work toward minimizing your anxiety around this. And don't try to box them up as "unreasonable" - that's what I did, and I wish I hadn't.

As it is now, I am comfortable with a partner using visual stimulus for his own gratification, but I don't want to know what it is or when he's using it. (See other posters' comments about Dan Savage, whose podcast and column have both been very helpful to me over the years.) Provided he treats me with love and respect, and behaves privately and publicly as if I'm the only gal for him, I'm happy. You may or may not come to a sort of peace with this - you may find a man who isn't interested in visual stimulus or masturbation. But that's the peace I've made with my fears. YMMV.

To my fellow posters concerned that the OP is spending so much time thinking about this when she is not "even" in a relationship, please consider that this may be related to her conflicted feelings about having a sexual partner, which may be weighing heavily on her mind. I know I spent a lot of time thinking about hypothetical sex (and sex partners) while I was working through my own fears about it (and them). Not just fears, but fantasies. In retrospect, I should have talked to someone about it. OP, I'm glad you decided to have this "conversation".
posted by pammeke at 4:54 AM on October 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think that it might be helpful to remove this question from its narrow, sexual confines, and instead phrase it more generally. The larger question here is this:

In a relationship, do I get a say in what goes on in my partner's head?

The answer is no. You don't get a say, and even if you can extract an agreement you could never enforce it, because you have no way of knowing what's going on in another person's head. This is not an easy, simple thing to accept. There is, in fact, an entire branch of philosophy that's dedicated to one of the basic problems of being human: that we have no access to anyone else's consciousness, and, in fact, cannot really prove that another person has a consciousness at all. Check out this article on philosophical zombies.

Why is this relevant? Because you will drive yourself crazy in life if you try to control what goes on in other people's heads. This is not confined to sex, or even to people with whom you're in a relationship. You will be much happier if you decide that the contents of other people's heads are outside of your control. Since you seem to have a lot of anxiety about other people's thoughts, I suggest therapy as a way to do this, specifically CBT. Good luck!
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:37 PM on October 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Meh. I've been in relationships where I didn't jerk off to anyone else's phantasm. It was when we were fucking like the ship was sinking, and making our own porn. So, while it's possible, it came from having pretty much every sexual impulse immediately gratified, and that's not something that I'd hold any new relationship to so much as recognize it as a happy aberration.
posted by klangklangston at 3:27 PM on October 8, 2012


I just wanted to add that I don't think that the issue is controlling another person's thoughts. If I am correct, it seems that you are asking if it is reasonable to find someone who doesn't have those thoughts and not if it is reasonable to find someone who does have those thoughts and then expect them to change.

In the second case, it's not reasonable because it's not possible to limit or change someone's thoughts. However, it is reasonable and realistic to find someone who doesn't have those thoughts. Again, I have very personal experience with men who don't do what everyone says "all men do." The whole "men are visual, blah, blah, blah" thing holds true for many men, but it's a cliche. There really are men out there who are just very, very sensitive and in love. Who don't need every sexual impulse to be fulfilled multiple times a day just to avoid looking at another woman.

This really is a perfect example of how people, even intelligent, thoughtful people can be very dismissive of something they don't understand or don't want to understand. People really only can speak for themselves.

Seriously, if this is what you want, it exists. It won't be easy to find, but it does. I know this because, like I said, I have had very long conversations multiple times with men who were not speaking in platitudes, but being truthful and honest.
posted by DeltaForce at 7:13 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I understand that my boyfriend could be attracted to another woman, is it unreasonable to expect he don't ACT on that by fantasizing or chronically masturbating to her?

Fantasizing about something, merely thinking about it without performing any acts such as masturbation or even leering at someone, is not an action.

As others have pointed out, you might find someone whose thinking naturally tends towards what you are looking for. You might consider if it would be acceptable for the man to occasionally remember women he's previously dated, or the little red-haired girl back in elementary school -- if remembering things in the past is an issue, revise your expectations or date only amnesiacs.
posted by yohko at 3:44 PM on October 9, 2012


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