Should I tell him?
February 10, 2009 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I found out about his daily porn habit. It didn't bother me at first, but now it's beggining to hurt.

He doesn't know I found out and I didn't tell him I know. When I first found out (unintentionally), I didn't think much of it. And then I realized he does it every day. And hides it from me, and pretends that he is doing something else when I enter the room.
He isn't that much into computers, and I think he found out only recently how accessible porn videos are, and now he is obsessed. And he isn't just a curious teenager, we are both grown-ups.

I understand that watching porn has little to do with the other partner or relationship. I watch porn too, when I'm too stressed, or when I procrastinate, or when I'm horny and he is not around. It doesn't mean much to me, and I do it maybe once a month. He does it every day. He has a secret world he enjoys, and hides it from me, every day. I cheated on my last boyfriend (not him) and I know that's the way cheating feels like.

Although we cuddle a lot, our sex life is virtually non-existant. I thought that he just isnt that into sex, and now I see that he is very into sex, but quick porn is probably easier? I've tried to include more sex - it didn't change his habit.

What hurts me the most, I think, is that I can feel that he wants me to leave the room so he can watch porn. And the second I'm out, he goes online. It hurts me so much to see that.
That's the guy I'm supposed to marry.

I'm not sure if I should tell him how he makes me feel. I'm sure he will be embarassed, and possibly defensive. And I'm sure, since he is a nice and shy guy, that he will be too embarrased to watch porn at home again, or when I'm around (and I don't leave house very often). And I'm afraid that he will resent me for taking something from him that he obviously enjoys. But I'm so sad when I leave the room and I know what is he going to do next... it is so sad that someone you love doesn't want you to be around. Will this pass? should I tell him? Or should I just wait a bit?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not sure if I should tell him how he makes me feel.

If you won't tell him, this is is not going to change. For however embarrassed he'd be if you ask him about his habits, is it really worth continuing what you've been feeling by not asking him?

You've already framed how to talk with him - you're not opposed to the porn, just the lack of sex and company.

You may very well find out he has a perspective on this you entirely didn't expect.
posted by saeculorum at 7:05 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, first off...

(1) It doesn't hurt you unless you decide it does, and he's not "making" you feel anything.
(2) He's probably hiding it from you because he's ashamed of it, not because he wants to hurt you. From the fact you even posted his question, it seems likely you wouldn't approve. He seems to know you well.

So change the whole context. Instead of worrying about it or tacitly encouraging him to keep hiding it (and for god's sake without forcing him to talk about it -- no confrontations please), just try this the next time you're using his computer.

"Is there really a (celebrity sex scandal of the month) sex tape? Is it online? Can you help me find it? I'm sickly curious!" or...

"Okay I am embarrassed but... can you help me find, um, some sex thing one of the girls at the gym told me about?" or even....

"Hey, can you get porn on this thing? I'm horny as hell."

And let the rest play itself out. If that situation doesn't arise, ask him if you can try some porn together the next time you walk past an adult video store. Show interest, even if it's just curiosity. Make it a topic about your own sex life and things you do together. Leave this current thing you're worried about out of it.

Be patient, take your time, and do actually try watching some porn together sometime, some kind you think you might not hate too much. Don't ever confront him or force him to "admit" to anything he's doing alone, which isn't really yours to judge anyway. Let him have his personal indulgences.

Even if you try it together and you tell him after "Meh, that was boring".... you've now reduced the pressure valve for him about 1000 percent, and that's a very kind thing for you to do. Now if he wants to watch porn alone, he won't feel so crushingly guilty anymore.
posted by rokusan at 7:15 AM on February 10, 2009 [8 favorites]

I guess what I'm saying is: you probably watch (regular) movies alone sometimes, and also together, right? I bet you go shopping alone sometimes, and sometimes together. Maybe you smoke or drink or eat cheeseburgers, alone or together.

You can choose to make it no big deal.
posted by rokusan at 7:17 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

The pron isn't the issue you should be worried about here:
"Although we cuddle a lot, our sex life is virtually non-existant."

This sounds dire, and needs to get explored either with therapy or a broadening of both of your minds. Try new stuff, talk about your fantasies, all that good stuff.

Do tell him your issue, but try not to make him ashamed. He is probably keeping it secret from you out of shyness and politeness, and if you watch porn too you can bring it up in a non-accusatory and even positive way ("Honey I see you like ropeplay and interracial videos, lets get a black strap on and some bunjee cord and see what develops!") But whether or not you have a "right" to be bothered by it, you are, so just suppressing your feelings is only going to make it worse. Like I said, focus on the sex, not the net+monkeyabuse he's been sneaking when you're not around. The chances are he's not going to stop that--but you do need to feel better about it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:19 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Repeat: do not confront him first. Show that you're accepting first. Whether you tell him you knew about his private habit later or not is inconsequential. As long as it's later.
posted by rokusan at 7:24 AM on February 10, 2009

I don't think you need anything more then what saeculorum suggested (good advice). Ask him about it, but don't be confrontational. Tell him you have no problem with watching porn. Offer to watch porn with him. Tell him you understand that even in a relationship it is normal for people to look at porn alone and masturbate but that would really like to have more sex together.

Just keep calm, use phrases like "I feel" instead of "you make me feel" and I but this won't be as bad of a conversation as you think.
posted by Silvertree at 7:26 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I beg to differ that porn doesn't have to do with other people and the relation of you significant other to them. It does. If it didn't he'd be looking at you and not at them. I don't care for all the *studies* and whatever is out there indicating otherwise. I think the media will contort the truth to reflect whatever they want to lead you to believe for whatever reason that would justify that - usually financial gain. *It doesn't hurt* *Nobody gets hurt* *It's harmless* - whatever. I think it's all bullshit. Capital B - capital S. If you're already involved with this person, consider leaving the relationship. I think once they're hooked it's an addiction. Unless you want to go the long haul and get him into some kind of sexual addiction treatment and IF he'd even go for that. It feels weird because it is weird - regardless of what the *consensus* is tell you. You, as a woman, as the significant love in this person's life - need to be enough. And if you're not - you need to figure out if you're willing to be with someone who finds sexual gratification by looking at other women.
posted by watercarrier at 7:28 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sure, he's not "making" you feel anything, but you or anyone is reasonable in feeling less than enthused about a virtually non-existent sex life, among other things. Some discomfort that people, especially with these realms, can do so well with a mindset of "This will not make me feel bad. This will not upset me."

I s'pose an absolutist view is that there are no secrets in a marriage or long-term relationship. Dunno if I agree with that or think it's realistic to the Nth degree, but this comes across as an unhealthy secret.

Wouldn't be something anyone would look forward to and enjoy be they in your shoes or his, but if there's any serious thought of a prospect of marriage, this is a conversation that needs to be had at some point. You would be more than reasonable in addressing it and more than reasonable in an expectation of a candid conversation.

It's possible that the non-existent sex life is not connected to the porn, but feels more possible that it is. Whatever it is, hard to see a happy, healthy outcome that doesn't involve resolution of that question.

Are there things going on that might make him not feel good about himself, distracted by major stress, questioning his self-worth, self-esteem, etc.? Not unprecedented for people to lose interest in sex (with another person) when they are stressed, in a rut, down on themselves.

Operationally, conceivable that because it is new to him, he's to some extent like a kid with a new toy? Not clear how long this has been going on.

Perhaps suggest watching some of it with him, lending a, er, helping hand and vice versa?
posted by ambient2 at 7:37 AM on February 10, 2009

I disagree with watercarrier that this means that your SO is some kind of sex fiend, and that it's an addiction that needs to be cured. I think, as other posters have said, that this is hidden from you out of shame or a fear of disapproval. Especially considering your comment that you think he's only recently discovered the ease of access when it comes to online porn. For a lot of people, porn is something that, for a long time, was very inaccessible, either due to age or social stigma. It very well may be something that will wear off, or at least become less frequent. At the very least, you need to talk about it one way or another.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:44 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

What hurts me the most, I think, is that I can feel that he wants me to leave the room so he can watch porn.

This is paranoia. You cannot read his mind.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:49 AM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've tried to include more sex - it didn't change his habit.

There's no particular reason why it should. The porn and the actual sex with you can be two different things. You may not see it that way, but he might and that's ok.

The problem here is that you two aren't talking about this and seem to have different standards for the use of porn. Until you two get on the same page or at least in the same book, this uncomfortable silence will continue. If you're acting on the idea that you two will be married at some point, then you two need to be able to talk in some form or fashion.

You say he may be defensive or embarrassed. Try writing a letter or sending him an email. He sounds introverted and be a little too used to being in his head all the time, to the point where physical conversations are difficult. Having an "internal" talk with him might go better at first.

Otherwise, try acting out why of the porn fantasies he's watched. If he responds, that enable him to open up, over time. Yes, that's ignoring the fact he's keeping stuff from you, but if your goal is continue the relationship, a sideways approach might work better than a direct one. Just a thought.

On preview:
Don't become a statistic and later have children with this person. Addiction can be passed down in genetics as well.

Calling him a sex fiend who can pass his evil onto children is over the top.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:51 AM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

[comment removed - dtfma isn't a good answer to a question that is not asking that]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:52 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does he know that you cheated on your last ex?

Perhaps it would be best to frame this in terms of what you both need sexually in your relationship. He may need more self-love than other-loving, and you know what? That's okay. And you can accept this! (Promise.)

But you? You might need more other-lovin, and you might want it to be with him.

So here's the tricky part. How do the two get reconciled? As everyone has suggested, you talk about them. And you talk about them like adults. The same way you would talk about how you cook a dinner together given your divergent food interests, allergies and aversions. With exactly that passion - which is to say, none.

It isn't a fault thing, because each of you has different needs. You wouldn't be angry or hurt if he were allergic to peanuts.
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:55 AM on February 10, 2009

[seriously, if you're not being constructive go right ot metatalk, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:58 AM on February 10, 2009

There is a huge difference between occasional and daily porn.

This is not a porn issue, this is a communication issue. Lots of people watch occasional porn and it doesn't affect their relationship. This is not one of those cases. He's attempting to keep a fairly large secret, she is unhappy and feels hurt, and their sex life is "virtually non-existent." If you're going to marry someone, you need to be on the same page about how much porn is ok.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:02 AM on February 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

Okay, woah, hang on here. You should be hurt by this, and this is a problem, whether you "decide" it is or not. Your fiancee is devoting energy which you rightly believe is due to you to random strangers on the internet. Exactly how is this not supposed to be a problem?! Don't, don't, don't listen to the people who are telling you it's only a problem if you want it to be.

Read this. Sexuality is perhaps the most intimate, personal activity in which two people can engage, and like it or not, you don't get to define for yourself what that means. It is what it is whether or not you want it to be that way. And even if you don't want to call it outright cheating--which I think it is--again, your fiancee is devoting his sexual attention to people other than you. If that doesn't constitute a problem I don't know what does.

Advice? Well, there's the hard part. You're already having sex with someone to whom you aren't married, so it seems a bit late to insist upon fidelity, no? Having sex binds the two of you together personally, emotionally, and even spiritually, but if he decided to walk away this afternoon there'd be nothing you could do about it. So from the get go, you've put yourself in a rather untenable position.

Start by talking to him. If he is unwilling to work with you on this, or even to discuss the issue, you've got a real problem, as he's essentially saying that getting his rocks off is more important to him than his relationship with you. Any way you slice it, this is a very bad thing. Unfortunately, the only card you have to play at the moment is leaving. Don't just threaten either. If you do that once and don't actually leave, he'll know it's an empty threat. So make it an issue, and if he isn't willing to change and you aren't willing to live with this kind of infidelity and ill-treatment, you need to leave.
posted by valkyryn at 8:02 AM on February 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

What awful advice above. Anyway, just talk to him about it. You have every reason and right to be worried about him.
posted by xammerboy at 8:05 AM on February 10, 2009 [7 favorites]

Several things here.

1. The fact that your sex life is "virtually non-existant" should be a red flag. Men who have addiction/compulsion problems with porn often get into situations where sex with a partner is difficult or impossible because their habit has trained their sexual responses to a certain stimuli. It's not permanent, but it won't get better without a change in his behavior.

2. If you haven't already done so, you need to decide whether or not his use of porn is something that you're willing to accept. If it's not, you need to tell him so and then youneed to enforce this boundary (i.e., if you say it's unacceptable and he continues to use it, you leave the relationship). Don't be bullied by anyone who calls you a prude for not being comfortable with porn; this is a personal matter.

3. This is absolutely an issue that the both of you need to deal with -before- you get married, regardless of the outcome. Don't get married assuming that you can deal with this issue later; that is a surefire recipe for heartbreak. You really need to address this sooner than later.

There's a forum for partners of men who are suffering with addictive/compulsive use of pornography. Head to and visit the "Partners Forum". You can read anonymously and get an insight as to what it's like for women who are in situations just like your own. You can also get advice on how to approach your finacee' for the most effective results. It's a forum, of course, so there's the usual drama caveats, but all in all it's a great resource for a woman in your position.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:05 AM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

watercarrier, the OP said, "I'm not sure if I should tell him how he makes me feel." So how is he "disregarding her needs" if she hasn't even communicated them to him yet?

All of the advice above, btw, isn't going to mean a thing if you can't talk to your partner.
posted by HopperFan at 8:05 AM on February 10, 2009

He has a secret world he enjoys, and hides it from me, every day. I cheated on my last boyfriend (not him) and I know that's the way cheating feels like.

This stuck out like a sore thumb when I read your post. Here are the facts: You don't know what is going on with him when he looks at it. You don't know if he enjoys hiding it. I suspect he is ashamed, which is common.

Since you very, very clearly mentioned that you watch porn yourself and think it is ok to look at porn as a woman, obviously, the mere fact of looking at porn isn't the problem, other people's issues with it aside. You feel ok with having your own sexual release and looking at others sexually alone without him and you don't feel that it is a problem. You don't feel, as was suggested above, that he is "enough for you" as was said. I think that's a pretty realistic way of looking at things. Nobody goes through life thinking that their partner, man or woman, never thinks of or looks at another person sexually.

It is your fear that he is doing to you what you did to someone else. I think you haven't worked out your feelings regarding what happened back there. I think that you very naturally feel guilty about what happened and having known what happened are on the lookout for anyone doing anything like that to you. You feel it is a form of cheating because it involves sexual pleasure hidden from you--especially when you guys aren't having enough sex for your tastes now.

This is highlighted by the fact that you do the same thing (look at porn with others in it, alone), that he does, yet you do not feel you are doing anything wrong. That leads me to believe that it is your fear that he is victimizing you the way you did to another. In other words, you feel like you are getting punished for the past. If you thought that your porn watching was cheating the way you feel his is, you would stop yours too. Because it sounds like on some level, you enjoyed getting away with hurting your old bf, which is only human. We're built to scheme and do bad things too, and learning how to distinguish friend from foe in those areas is hard. You need to forgive yourself for that.

I'd work on finding a way to get some closure on the old cheating. Assuming that the old bf found out, you need to only work on forgiving yourself. This google search may provide some answers along that line.

Even after looking at that issue, you do still have problems.

What hurts me the most, I think, is that I can feel that he wants me to leave the room so he can watch porn. And the second I'm out, he goes online. It hurts me so much to see that.

But I'm so sad when I leave the room and I know what is he going to do next... it is so sad that someone you love doesn't want you to be around.

You have zero evidence he doesn't want you around. I think he probably very much does want you around. This says to me that you might have a self-esteem issue. Therapy may help with this, along with the cheating/forgiveness thing.

Also, you need to learn to communicate better. It is obvious that the sex thing is a problem with you. You need to speak up and say that you want more sex, and I think you want him to initiate more, to make you feel desired. That's fine to ask for that and it says nothing about him desiring you or not desiring you for you to ask for that. It sounds like he is shy and that this is an issue for him. Once he's aware of it, I would bet money that he would be willing to do the work to get it done.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:23 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

How can she talk to her *partner* when he's busy whacking off to porn? Seems he's got a problem and all the talking in the world isn't going to help him. He needs a reality check and for her to simply walk away while she can.
posted by watercarrier at 8:23 AM on February 10, 2009

The OP says *now he is obsessed*. That is a compulsion. A compulsion can't be reasoned with or talked to rationally. He is in his own fantasy world and there's no room for a relationship to flourish in real life when he's clearly in a world of his own.
posted by watercarrier at 8:27 AM on February 10, 2009

I'm a big fan of porn. I'm also a big fan of happy, sexy, non-objectifying sex with my lovely wife. Porn can absolutely be harmless.

That said, porn that replaces real-life sex isn't good. Not because porn's evil, but because your needs aren't getting fulfilled. You were ok with it when you thought he just wasn't into sex, but now you feel like he wants sex, just not with you. That doesn't feel good, and if it's not just a temporary new-toy thing, you're going to end up resenting him.

Don't confront him angrily, don't tell him "cut out the porn or get out", that will just make him more careful about getting caught. Tell him how you feel. Maybe he has issues that are driving him away from real sex. Maybe you will need counseling. But please, the two of you need to figure this problem out before you marry him.
posted by Turbo-B at 8:28 AM on February 10, 2009 [16 favorites]

You can choose to make it no big deal.

Questions about porn here always remind me that Askme can be a bit of a Boyzone= 0% empathy for women having issues about porn. Porn is a problem in so many relationships not because of porn itself, but because of the way it's treated by 99% of couples. Porn is something they can't talk about, usually because of shame, but men enjoy it, so they still do it. In the some men compartmentalize this part of their sexuality to not include their partner. And they won't talk about it at all. Porn, like anything else, can affect relationships.

I agree with Turbo-B that porn (or any other miniature cars for that matter) at the expense of having a real sex life is bad.

It's also bad if he hides it from you and won't talk about it. I've had many boyfriends who used it (all of them, actually), but it's only been a problem when we weren't open about it. This can only work out if you address the issue of the role of porn in your relationship together, not on askmi. Tell him you want sex and you think that porn taking away from that need. I know talking about this topic is scary, but you need to do it.
posted by idle at 8:47 AM on February 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

Also, I'd suggest watching a movie about porn to bring the topic up. I first discussed it with my boyfriend after watching Boogie Nights and it was a lot easier because he didn't assume I was bringing it up to him because I was angry, but because we had just watched a movie on the topic. A more recent one is Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Even if it's not a problem in a relationship, it's a good thing to discuss because it often doesn't come up unless there is a problem and you can prevent many be discussing it from the beginning so you don't have to worry so much that your new SO likes hot donkey/pig/dog/lady action.
posted by idle at 8:53 AM on February 10, 2009

I've tried to include more sex - it didn't change his habit.

Perhaps try to include more 'quickies'. Real, nice, mutual sex can be somewhat of a production - one thing about porn is it's pretty quick and to the point - no foreplay and stuff ... it can be hard for a guy to ask his lady for a quick snack - in fact she might get mad about it, and i imagine it's easy enough to sneak off to porn land for that thing if he's too lazy to want to spend a half hour or hour or so on a full meal. Demonstrated willingness to take one for the team and so forth might at least get you guys more together in the kitchen working on some recipes.

I dunno if that's the problem, just something to consider. different brain chemistries and all that.
posted by [@I][:+:][@I] at 9:07 AM on February 10, 2009

Well, to watercarrier's comment - the OP hasn't even tried yet. According to the post, there have not been any incidences of:

OP: "Hey, can we talk about this thing that's bothering me?"

SO: "No. I'm busy now with this other thing that's more important to me."

As for the "obsessed" comment : "He isn't that much into computers, and I think he found out only recently how accessible porn videos are, and now he is obsessed."

Well, sure, he found a new toy. This is not exactly a long-term pattern of addiction yet.

All I'm saying is that she should sit her loved one down and talk. Her post is full of a lot of assumptions, like "he doesn't want me around" and "sure he'll be hurt/defensive." This is silly and self-defeating.

As for your suggestions, I suspect you've had a problem with someone in your life having to do with computers/online activity/addiction, and it's skewing your responses.
posted by HopperFan at 9:13 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

In this case, porn is about having secrets and wanting power. People get involved with porn when external reality is difficult or painful in some way. Porn is not about having power over women (assuming you are a hetero man, which is hard to ascertain from the way the OP frames the post), it about having power over externals. So the first thing I would look at is, is he employed? Is he happy in his job?

Having secrets is a way of extending power into a relationship. I am not saying it's healthy; it isn't. But I do have some understanding of this issue. Once everyone understands that this is not about the imagery of porn (or even sex, so much) but about powerlessness, wider issues can be addressed.

My two cents.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:22 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seems he's got a problem and all the talking in the world isn't going to help him.

This reminds me of the time I said to someone "I'm really impressed that you can know that it's not going to work when you haven't tried it in any way, shape or form."

I don't know what "That's the guy I'm supposed to marry" means - you're engaged? You've discussed it? You're just sure that's where this is going? But I'd say that if you don't think you can have a relationship where you can feel like it's possible to have a difficult conversation and be confident in the results... maybe you need to rethink marriage with this person.

Seriously, consider what you've described. This is something that is causing you a huge amount of unhappiness. You believe that if you bring it up he will (a) be defensive and not talk about it and (b) will simply hide the offending behavior and (c) resent you for addressing something that upsets you.

That doesn't describe a good situation, because I can assure you that even if you could snap your fingers and solve this problem.... there's going to be other awkward and difficult situations to deal with in the future.

Sit him down and talk. And don't talk just about the porn; it seems to me you have another issue you're suppressing about the lack of physical intimacy in your relationship. Perhaps you should just address that and say nothing about the porn. Who knows, he could be using the porn as a release because he's having anxiety/performance issues when he's with you. That's about him, not you, but it's something you can deal with together.
posted by phearlez at 9:34 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I watch porn too, when I'm too stressed, or when I procrastinate, or when I'm horny and he is not around.

I suspect that for him this is actually about stress, procrastination and escapism more than to do with him having any special love for porn. Unfortunately the fact that he is using porn to try to make himself feel better is probably actually making him feel worse, so there's a vicious cycle.

I would suggest two parallel courses of action - one is to incorporate healthier sources of escapism into your life (like movies, or especially videogames which offer the kick of getting high scores, completing levels etc - just stay away from the crack-like MMORPGs). The second course is obviously to address the problems that are driving him into escapism. If you can find a way to make your shared activities more relaxed and fun he'll feel less need to get away from everything. Which brings me to:

That's the guy I'm supposed to marry.

Are you planning a wedding right now? Because that can be a really tough time for guys. It can feel like the best you're going to be able to do is an adequate job, there are a million ways to screw up and disappoint your sweetheart/alienate family members etc, and you feel guilty that you don't really give a crap about things like flower arrangements and place cards. Maintaining a sense of humor and trying to see the funny side when things go wrong will go a long way to making the process less stressful.
posted by tomcooke at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2009

I watch porn too, when I'm too stressed, or when I procrastinate, or when I'm horny and he is not around. It doesn't mean much to me, and I do it maybe once a month.

Okay, woah, hang on here. You should be hurt by this, and this is a problem, whether you "decide" it is or not. Your fiancee is devoting energy which you rightly believe is due to you to random strangers on the internet.

You, as a woman, as the significant love in this person's life - need to be enough. And if you're not - you need to figure out if you're willing to be with someone who finds sexual gratification by looking at other women.

OP, since it is clear by your own porn use that you think that use of porn is OK, and that you are not cheating on your partner by looking at it or devoting energy rightly believe due him by looking at it, you need to look at what it is about his use and his looking at porn which is bothering you. I've made a few suggestions above, but I think it is important that you think about what the difference between your use of porn and his use of porn is, and not just in terms of frequency. Looking at what each of you are doing with porn is going to highlight what it is that is bothering you. When you have figured that out, you will be able to communicate what it is that you want from him. You need to have a long talk with him. Be honest with him. Explain that although you do use porn too, you think his use is hurting you in a way that your use does not hurt him. You may find that he is doing something wrong that you are detecting. You may also find that he is not doing anything you would be considering wrong and that you can breathe easy. It sounds like you think you know what he is thinking and I don't think that is possible. Asking him will help.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2009

As many others have said, you really need to bring this up with him. You're only going to feel more and more miserable if you don't. Perhaps you should start by just letting him know that you know what he's doing, without forcing any further conversation. See how he reacts to a casual comment about the porn video he just minimized when you walked into the room. ("Wow, no way those are natural!" or something similarly lighthearted and non-judgemental.) Once he knows you know, you may find that he wants to talk more about it.

Some other things to consider:

You say he may have only recently discovered how easy porn is to find. It's possible that he's just immersing himself in a new interest, as many shy guys tend to do, and his interest in porn will fade.

You kind of sound like you're making a few assumptions based on limited data. Are you sure he's doing this every day? Just as an example from my own life, I used to notice my husband hastily minimizing windows on his computer when I walked in the room, and I assumed, like you, that he was looking at porn or something similarly embarrassing. When I brought this up with him, it turned out that he just tends to keep a lot of windows open at once and lose track of what he's doing. The sound of me entering the room snaps him out of his trance and reminds him that he was doing something else in another window, so he switches back to it. (And I've learned since then that when I walk in on him actually watching porn, he's a lot more startled. And blushes more.)

The lack of sex between you is definitely a red flag. Coupled with frequent watching of porn, it's possible that he has some sexual need that he's too embarrassed to ask you to fulfill. Do you know what kind of porn he's watching? If there's a common theme or fetish in the videos, maybe that's something you could incorporate into your sex life. Or, as someone else already mentioned, maybe he just wants more quickies. Talk to him about what he likes and dislikes about the porn he's watching, and you may be able to rekindle your sex life.

Of course, it's entirely possible he does have some kind of addiction that requires more extensive intervention (and therapy). But don't go into this assuming that's the case, because that will make him defensive and unreceptive to your support. Start a gentle, open-minded dialogue, and see where it takes you.
posted by tomatofruit at 10:07 AM on February 10, 2009

watercarrier's emotional, unreasoning tirade is summed up best in this quote:
I don't care for all the *studies* and whatever is out there indicating otherwise.

If she refuses to be swayed by any evidence at all, her position isn't based on anything approaching sense.

Porn, like drugs, sweets, and sleep, can be enticing, and can be overdone. There are good & bad relationships with [any of those things]. Porn can spice up a relationship, or give a comfortable outlet to private fantasies. Personally, I rarely ever compare my lovers to the women in the porn I view, except in a positive sense (heh, my baby looks better than that!), or in a replacement sense (imagining my sweetie in that position...).

Generalities about porn, like generalities about anything, are inherently wrong.

Your lover's daily porn browsing isn't necessarily that far out of the norm, it may not be a threat to your relationship, and most men are fairly private about their porn viewing. Even if there is a problem (if), a hostile or worrisome attitude will close down any possibility of real communication between you two.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:10 AM on February 10, 2009

If his porn viewing habits are more regular and lively than your own sex life as a couple, then your boyfriend needs to do more to satisfy you. It's only fair, right? You have to explain what you want (more sex) in plain terms. I would ignore the porn viewing habits, though.

And if your boyfriend doesn't give you what you want, find another boyfriend.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I absolutely disagree about avoidance of confrontation. Playing make-believe is not the only way to communicate approval of porn-as-practice, and really is no kind of communication at all.

I think the nucleus of your confrontation of him should be: "I think you're using porn a lot more often than you want me to know, and I don't want you to do things that make you ashamed of yourself or unwilling to be open about yourself with me. I want to share a lot, most of, our sex life, and I feel like you're excluding me from it, actively. Are you afraid I'll reject you? Can we start talking about this? I'm willing to compromise, I just need to know what you're feeling."

And then make good on that. Be willing to compromise.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:19 AM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you treat this like the kind of thing that he needs to be "confronted" over, I'm sorry, but you sound pretty incompatible to start with, which is why I suggested a more sideways approach if you really cared about being with him, rather than just judging him and attempting to control him. Confrontation is a heartless and judgmental approach. You need to communicate, obviously, and this is the one thing most people above seem to agree on even if they're on wildly different sides of porn is good/evil.

But if you try to force a confrontation before you have clearly shown that you're accepting and open to this, then I think this is going to end your relationship, either immediately or years later after he builds up enough simmering resentment over you placing bounds on him before even attempting to understand or share.

You should be hurt by this, and this is a problem, whether you "decide" it is or not. Your fiancee is devoting energy which you rightly believe is due to you.

No, it is not "due" to you. Nobody owes you sex, ever, and you have zero right to demand it from anyone, relationship or not. If he is not making you happy, you may leave. You may not demand that he make you happy.

If you can really equate he is looking at other people naked with actually having sex with you (or not having sex) then you have bigger issues than your boyfriend's new internet porn toy.
posted by rokusan at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Generalities about porn, like generalities about anything, are inherently wrong.

Aren't you yourself making a generalization here? ;)

Sorry...sorry. Can't resist that.

Anyway, OP - my SO is as open about this as anyone can be. We do this together all the time. But when I do it alone, I am typically deathly afraid of her walking in. Nothing to do with her disapproval, or that I feel I'm cheating or something. It's just that I grew up with a social structure that frowns upon this sort of thing. He's probably in the same boat.

And I cannot stress enough what other people have said: if something is bothering you, go talk to him.
posted by 7life at 10:34 AM on February 10, 2009

Ambrosia Voyeur is exactly right. You can't keep this inside. You need to discuss it with him. I'd also look to her language as a good model--having a set piece at the beginning helps. But you must also know yourself--what it is that is making you feel hurt by his use of porn. That allows you to talk to him clearly and allows him to react to your real feelings, and avoids a similar situation 5 months down the line.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:34 AM on February 10, 2009

Whew. Okay, first things first, let's ignore the posters saying things like "You're already having sex with someone to whom you aren't married, so it seems a bit late to insist upon fidelity" and "sex addict" and other shaming things. Seriously. Take a deep breath and let's start over.

There's so many separate issues here, and they're mixing and feeding each other.

It's not clear how you found out about his porn habit. Reading your post, I wondered if you were logging his internet access, especially when you say that he logs on the second you leave the room. If that's what you're doing, you need to stop that. That's not the path to trust. It's making you crazy, and it's not cool. If you're not doing that, you can't assume that that's what he's doing. If you're not tracking him, you don't know for sure, and you are assuming the worst. You're also assuming that porn feels the way for him that cheating felt for you, but you don't know that either. You say that you thought before that he wasn't that into sex, but realise now that he is, so you know that your assumptions have been wrong in the past. You need to talk to him.

You say this is the guy you're supposed to marry. If that is true, you need to start working on communication. Marriage is hard work, and this is the start of it. You need to get to the point where you are able to say to him "I'm really afraid that you just want me to leave so you can jerk off to porn, and it feels terrible," and be able to have a safe honest conversation about that. You both need to have the trust and the communication skills for that conversation if you're going to be married.

And your sex life is virtually non-existent. Are you guys talking about that? How do you feel about it? Were you okay with it before the porn thing? Were you upset about it before? Does he feel like you (or women in general) are not interested in sex so this is his way of not bothering you? Maybe he's doing this to help you, not to hurt you! If you weren't in the mood for sex tonight, would he be in the clear to go watch porn instead? Would that sort of arrangement work for you guys?

Does he know that you're aching to get laid? (Are you?) Does he know that you watch porn? Have you ever talked about it? If this is the guy you're going to marry, this is probably the guy you're going to share your sex life with for a long long time, so share it with him.

And yes, he's probably embarrassed about watching porn and doesn't want to get caught just because it's kind of a weird thing to get caught doing. I usually don't let on that I'm watching it either, and my husband and I are totally open and cool with the fact that we both watch porn on our own time. We just watch it privately.

Mostly what comes through in your post is that you're not talking, and you're assuming lots of things and getting nervous about the situation. You talk about being afraid he'll be resentful or defensive, of feeling sad and hurt, of feeling he can't wait for you to leave the room. The longer you keep this all in your head instead of having that difficult conversation, the bigger these fears and insecurities are going to get. Brains are very good at making up elaborate stories that feed on themselves, and I fear that you've spun yourself into a feedback loop. If you actually sit down with him and hear from him that he DOES love you, that he DOES want to fuck your brains out, that he DOES want you around, THEN you can start moving forward and building trust together, and go on to have one hell of a sexy marriage.
posted by heatherann at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

He's getting something from the porn that he's not getting from you. It may be a certain kink, or practice, or even attitude.

Find out what it is. Embrace it.

He loves you. You love him. Be his porn.
posted by dinger at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

The pron isn't the issue you should be worried about here:
"Although we cuddle a lot, our sex life is virtually non-existant."

Repeated for truth.

The porn usage may very well be a consequence of the above, not the other way around.

If you are not even married yet and the sex life is in the toilet, then you have larger problems right now.

Also, you should obviously talk with him about it, as I suspect he may be literally shocked at your open approach towards porn and your own utilization of it.

Good luck.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm with AV and tomatofruit. There's a lot of speculation going on with almost no real data.

OP: You have a right to your feelings of hurt that your sex life is non-existent and that he seems to be spending a lot of time online. The secrecy more than anything else seems to be bothering you the most.

You will not find answers here. Only your boyfriend can tell you what's going on in his head. Stop yourself from making assumptions and open up a conversation with him to really understand what's driving the behavior.

It's not clear to me if your sex life together has always been nearly non-existent or if this happened over time, but this should be brought up explicitly. Maybe there's a link or maybe not, but until you ask him in a non-confrontational way, treating the secrecy and lack of sex as a problem you both want to solve, you just can't know.
posted by canine epigram at 10:44 AM on February 10, 2009

Seconding that:

1. He's hiding it because he's ashamed, not because he doesn't want you.

2. This shame is probably somehow getting in the way of your sex life together. If not directly then indirectly.

3. Project your acceptance of porn before confronting him on this specific issue. Try to do whatever you can to let him know watching porn is ok. And it's pretty normal to hide it too, even if you both know about each other's habits it's still generally considered polite to do it discreetly (unless watching porn together is one of your sex activities). I think it's a good idea too to try watching some with him or something, and seeing if that gets the juices flowing. ;)

I bet once he knows it's ok and gets over the new thrill of discovering porn online his habits will wane and everything will be back to normal.

Don't project sadness or disapproval if you feel he's trying to get you out of the room to watch porn. This will add emotional weight to the situation that will make things worse not better. If he feels you disapprove of his new hobby this will drive a wedge in your intimacy, which will make your sex life worse. Just let him do it and trust that this will wane with time after he knows you're ok with it. Also sometimes the fun in porn is the secretiveness and tabooness, so letting him know you think it's fine can help rub some of that appeal off.

I do agree that it becomes a problem when one partner feels the other is choosing porn over sex with them. But usually this is not the case. Usually the guy is just ashamed or maybe has some specific fantasies he's afraid to ask you about.
posted by thejrae at 10:47 AM on February 10, 2009

If it didn't he'd be looking at you and not at them.

Okay, no. That is a half-baked view of human nature. What your boyfriend looks at does not determine his feelings for you and should not factor into your own self-worth.

Men will look at other women. Always. I realize there is an entire bazillion dollar industry built around convincing women they can somehow be "perfect enough" so that their men will never look at anyone else... and I realize this seductively attractive idea infects millions of women and does unmeasurable damage to egos and psyches worldwide... but this is a Giant Advertising Lie.

There is no level of perfect, aerobicized plastic-surgery fake perfection you can ever reach that will make men stop looking at other women. Ever. And it doesn't even mean the other women are more attractive -- it just means they're other: we are all attracted to at lesst some degree by novelty. Consider those who date supermodels... and then leave them for others. Nothing ever turns off the basic desire to look at other women.

Men will look at other women. Learn to accept this. Even a man who loves you and is committed to you with his entire heart, a man who would lay waste to entire nations and walk across the ocean for you... that man will still look at other women.

But that man will look at you differently.
posted by rokusan at 10:50 AM on February 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

This post is useless without an explanation of why there's a nonexistent sex life. Is the OP denying sex? Is the boyfriend not interested in it? If so, why? Was it always this way? Did something change? When?

Without context, the remaining information that we're being provided with is noise.
posted by mullingitover at 11:26 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with those who say that the problem is lack of sex, not porn. Fortunately, since both of you like porn, you have a built-in segue to sex. Does he know you watch porn? Do your interests in porn have any overlap? Actually I don't think it much matters, unless his tastes are so far out of the mainstream that he does not enjoy any "normal" porn (which presents a whole 'nother issue). He'll likely be thrilled if you tell him "Hey, I found this hot video online and iI want to show it to you."

I know how tempting it is to confront (believe me, I know), but I grudgingly must agree with rokusan that it's not the right approach if you want to maintain a relationship. It might make you feel better in the short run, but it will ultimately be destructive. I think the real real problem is your insecurity. You cheated, you're afraid he'll cheat (or is already, if only with porn). You're afraid you don't measure up to the porn stars. You're afraid you're not desirable. Whatever. Know this - NOTHING he says or does will cure the insecurity in any lasting sense. He can say all the right things and make you feel better for a night or a week, but it will come back next time he sneaks off to watch porn. Hell, he can QUIT porn altogether, throw the PC out the window, and
posted by desjardins at 11:34 AM on February 10, 2009

not sure what happened there.

Anyway, he can stop watching porn altogether and I doubt you'll feel better in the long run. You have internal work to do. This: "it is so sad that someone you love doesn't want you to be around" was a dead giveaway.
posted by desjardins at 11:35 AM on February 10, 2009

I've tried to include more sex - it didn't change his habit.

I think this is the issue here. When you tried this, were you getting enough sex, feeling satisfied sexually? What if it turned out that your boyfriend was an insatiable sex freak, and that no matter how often you have sex he can still fit in 3 or 4 jerkoffs to porn every day?

So to me, the idea that more sex will "cure him" of his porn, or be enough for him, that's telling. I see a number of issues that all need to be successfully worked out:
  • you getting enough sex to feel satisified
  • you and BF having a level of intimacy in your lives that makes you both feel loved and happy
  • the two of you breaking the barrier of "hiding the porn", but that can become less of an issue if more intimacy brings more honesty and love to the relationship
  • you not seeing porn as a competitor or object of jealousy in your relationship - but again, this probably becomes less of a problem once the issues above are worked through
Just as a data point, I am a voracious porn consumer, who used to have an active porn/masturbation sex life in parallel with a sex life with my partner. Unusually from my own previous life experience, I have found in my current relationship that when we are together and having good sex the porn usage falls away dramatically. I think it is because in our relationship we are meeting all of the points in my list above, which wasn't the case in earlier relationships.

So, take that list in order - the first problem isn't his porn use, or your jealousy about his porn. The first problem is a mutually satisfying sex life and intimacy. Work on that first.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't often reply to ask metafilter questions, esp not questions of a personal nature like this. I am shocked at the boyzone attitude of some of these responses, but thats for another time and place.

There is no reason that your feelings are somehow invalid, or irrational. Sometimes the way we come to have an emotional response can be based on factual errors, projected fears, hormones playing with our brain chemestry, etc. However the simple fact that you feel rejected in, what should be the most intimate of relationships, speaks volumes. This is the way you feel, and it's OK. Its not wrong, or your fault.

If you want to cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship with him, that means you both need to share how you feel. Start the conversation based on that. It sounds like he's a nice guy that cares about you, and will want to make everything right between you. Reassure him that there's no reason for embarrassment. You love him, support him, and don't think porn or masturbation is wrong or shameful. If you convey that porn=your unhappiness, I'm pretty certain that alone will spur him to give up the porn, or at least start.

If you get him to turn off the sexual white-noise buzz porn is making in his brain, and he wakes up into the real world, into a real loving sexual relationship with a real woman, what choice is that vs Palmala Handerson and some videos?

Why porn turns men off the real thing
posted by fontophilic at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

He's getting something from the porn that he's not getting from you. It may be a certain kink, or practice, or even attitude.

Find out what it is. Embrace it.

He loves you. You love him. Be his porn.

Hahahahaha. Well, on one hand, this is relevant advice. Perhaps the OP is a frigid, barely sexual creature who is not currently adequate as a sexual partner. Perhaps she should be striving to be more like a pornographic image to please this man.

I doubt it. I dare say, what is most appealing about porn is not in the content, but the structure. Porn works easily, effortlessly, requiring less emotional work (and yielding less emotional payoff, of course) than sex with a real partner. To be like porn is to be depersonalized, designed for maximum sexual stimulation, constantly available, and, frighteningly, probably of a certain look. It's too much to ask a real woman to be, and so much less than she really can be. Porn is, in my opinion, an easy form of sex. Which is fine, in the right times and places. The only easier form of sex is none sex, and that drives many people too crazy to really be sustainable. So, we have two people here who are not making very much effort to have sex, it sounds like. And that fact seems to have led one or the both of them to disappointment. Perhaps they thought this would never happen, that their sex life would be healthy without any discussion, intervention, or deliberate action. It sounds to me like lack of maintenance and communication has finally shown that not to be the case.

There has to be a talk. A talk is a confrontation. I figure, there are basically two ways to get what you need in this world: asking, and acting. Acting upon someone you love to try to get them to think things, or do things, without being honest and verbal about what your needs and wants and impressions are, is a minor sort of manipulation, and I personally do not approve of any such manipulation. What you feel is okay to be spoken, and I do think you have a right to be heard. In loving relationships, defensiveness has to be set aside for real compassionate work to take place, for bonds to be built and reinforced. Keeping a sex life together, in joint partnership and maintenance is a wonderful way to bond. Some relationships are not connected in a deep way in this arena. The partners get off alone, together, whatever, without sharing everything. That's certainly okay too, but you have to decide for yourselves what you want out of the relationship. Neither mode is "normal." So, please, talk it out with kindness, humility, and effort. It's a fearsome thing to be that open about yourself, but it's pretty much the definition of intimacy, and it will quite certainly improve your relationship to cultivate trust, demonstrate commitment to work, and communicate honestly. You may find that you want much more from each other than you've had, and that feeling so wanted makes you happy. You may find other new freedoms. You may find just what you're looking for, if you're not too afraid to look for it together.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:13 PM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

If it makes you feel bad, it's a problem. Secrecy is almost always bad in a relationship. Take a look at this and see if it's helpful in clarifying things in your mind.

Good luck.
posted by Argyle at 1:02 PM on February 10, 2009

If his porn viewing habits are more regular and lively than your own sex life as a couple, then your boyfriend needs to do more to satisfy you. It's only fair, right? You have to explain what you want (more sex) in plain terms.

The OP never said anything about wanting more sex from BF... The way the question is written, OP is ok with a low ebb sex life, but not ok with not being desired, or with BF desiring others and that being the reason for the low level of sex between them.

It sounds like being rejected is the big issue: if BF had been uninterested in, say, drinking together, but then OP had discovered he secretly liked to go out for a beer by himself, it would seem like a rejection, even if OP doesn't feel that strongly about whether they go out drinking together.

So, to the OP, while I agree that figuring out the level of sex that is satisfying to you, and making sure you communicate that, is important, it's possible that you are flexible about it and the thing you're more upset about is that he likes to do something alone that he doesn't care to do with you. And in this case it's the most intimate thing of all.

If that's what's hurting you, you either hide what you know and open up a discussion about porn and your sex life generally through other outlets (Zach & Miri etc wasn't a bad idea), or be honest about what you discovered, which is a bigger risk but possibly will lead to a more frank and useful discussion more quickly. You know your BF and have to make the call there.
posted by mdn at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2009


Your advice sounds reasonable but the Wolf piece you link to attempts to provide answers and has no real data. I really hope that no one, not the least of which the OP, is making any judgments (or decisions) on the merits of that article.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 1:18 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

And then I realized he does it every day. And hides it from me, and pretends that he is doing something else when I enter the room... Will this pass? should I tell him?

It's a private activity. It's cool that some couples can go to the bathroom in front of each other, but not everybody is cool with that. Personal privacy boundaries should be respected. (Those who subscribe to the 'no privacy in relationships' cult are free to stick to their own kind)

Although we cuddle a lot, our sex life is virtually non-existant. I thought that he just isnt that into sex, and now I see that he is very into sex, but quick porn is probably easier? I've tried to include more sex - it didn't change his habit... That's the guy I'm supposed to marry.

The porn viewing is probably neither a cause nor a correlate of the real problem. But it does indicate your (valid to consider) low sex drive theory is wrong. The sex thing is a canary in the coal mine. It would seem he's just not that into you, I'm sorry.

What happens when a married person with long-standing sexual disinterest in their partner finally meets someone that sexually interests them? For some people the economic (e.g. home ownership), social (e.g. religious/family/community/career pressure), or reproductive (e.g. "for the sake of the kids") utility of marriage is enough to keep the bond together. Fear is another form of inertia. Psychosocial attachment is one of the weaker, more fragile forces that keeps people together long-term, so without heavy doses of the former kinds of entanglements, I would reconsider the long-term viability of this particular relationship. YMMV.
posted by dgaicun at 2:09 PM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

nthing the boyzone attitude expressed here.

OP, you are entitled to feel however you want to feel about your boyfriend's porn use. It doesn't matter what anyone tells you what porn is and isn't, you feel a certain way about it. You're allowed to feel that way.

I will argue against confrontation. I will, however, advocate a discussion, along the lines that has been reasonably suggested, such as, "I think that this might be happening, and this is how it makes me feel to think this." focus on how it makes you feel. See what he says, and take the discussion from there.

There is such a thing as porn addiction. I had a friend who had an issue with this. It really impacted his relationship with women. This isn't about you not being ready, willing, and able, or requiring some onerous foreplay each and every time (as is being implied by some folks). It's like guys who masturbate ALL THE TIME. There is such a thing as doing it so much that it impacts your actual sex life. (And, conversely, there are people whose sex life it won't impact.)

The big red flag for me is that he's doing this, but not sleeping with you. This isn't about your perceived insufficiencies (or the perception of the boyzone here about your insufficiencies). It has nothing to do with that, most likely.

But you won't know unless you talk to him.
posted by micawber at 5:45 PM on February 10, 2009

Seems like you're pulling a double standard here.

You watch porn. It doesn't mean anything emotionally to you, by your own admission. You just happen to watch it less than he watches it.

Is that some how shocking that a woman's usual consumption of porn is less than a male's usual consumption of porn?

You're assuming all sorts of emotional angles and issues with your boyfriend that you aren't applying to yourself and your own porn watching habits.

You should chill out and watch some porn with the guy so he doesn't worry about having to feel guilty... and while you're at it ditch weird double standard where you can watch porn and not be a bad person but your boyfriend can't. Almost your entire post was one enormous emotional projection.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:26 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please don't attempt to understand what men looking at porn every day means by talking to (or reading) women. I don't think it's a big deal. I do think the lack of sex is a big deal, by contrast. I bet if you had a great sex life, you wouldn't mind his porn habit. And I doubt it's the porn that's causing the lack of sex. Deal with THAT issue and you'll get this problem solved.
posted by callmejay at 7:36 PM on February 10, 2009

Repeat after me, while standing over this fellow's shoulder: "Oh, hey, porn! Have you got something you really like to see, or is there something we should do in bed that we haven't tried, or do you just really like porn in general? I'm down with liking porn, you know, and it'd be awesome if you'd let me in on anything cool you find."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:26 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

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