Me, Porn and the Web
August 30, 2009 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I am a guy who would like to stop watching porn (watch on the internet). I don't judge others who watch it but it bothers me that I do. I don't do it often but porn has in some way been in my life since high school and now that I am married and in my late 30s, I still drift over to sites. (Frequency, I would say is once every few weeks)...I need to use my computer so getting rid of it is not currently available as an option. I finally admitted it to my wife because I wanted to stop and to my surprise, she has loved me and wants to support me anyway. Any tricks on stopping this habit, or book/web site recommendations are appreciated. I figure dropping ice cubes down my shorts would be a start!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would suggest looking at tools like LeechBlock for Firefox, which allow you to black or whitelist sites during defined times. You can set it up so only an admin can modify the permissions - make your wife that admin.
posted by rodgerd at 5:58 PM on August 30, 2009


You have a very low frequency compared to some people I know. The thing is even if you block it, you'll buy a magazine, find another computer, or even start using your imagination in the shower. There is no set method. And the chance of relapse is always high, especially if you find yourself alone in the house one day. It's something you've been doing for 20 years. You just need to find something to replace porn for the subsequent decade of your life. Create your own schedule. Find the times you're most likely to masturbate, put them on the calendar, and do something else. Go to the gym. Go to the movies. Have sex.

But remember, it's something you've been doing for quite a long time. Just accept that you're going to slip up. You are. Don't expect to cure your problem in a few weeks. Just make a little progress every year. It's not a drug addiction, you're not going to die. Just slowly teach your brain to like something else.
posted by fairykarma at 6:14 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know there's some sort of program that will send your viewed sites list to someone else's email address to keep you accountable. I do not remember what it is called at the moment.
posted by moonroof at 6:16 PM on August 30, 2009


I agree with fairykarma that a technical 'solution' won't really be a solution at all - you can try blocking a bunch of sites, but there'll always be more out there, or a way to circumvent the block.

musofire: I'm not sure what the big deal is? Does it bother your wife?

It bothers the OP. That's the big deal. You might've noticed that in the second sentence of the question.
posted by Dysk at 6:21 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are you religious? There are lots of books/websites/teachings in the Evangelical Protestant world on breaking an addiction* to pornography. Even if you're not a practicing Christian, that type of literature might be the most relevant to your goals. It doesn't sound as if you have a life-disrupting, job-endangering, compulsive relationship with pornography, just that you use it occasionally but want to stop using it entirely, so the much stricter stance of religious self-help materials would probably be more applicable to your situation.

Practically speaking, as a first step you can move your computer to a public area of the house.

*"Addiction" to pornography in that context is defined much more along the lines of "regular use" than the mainstream definition of "addiction."
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:26 PM on August 30, 2009


I don't really understand why you feel bad about looking at porn, but if it makes you feel unfaithful or something, perhaps you could take some sexy pictures or videos of your wife and masturbate to those instead?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:27 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just go completely cold turkey. It's the easiest way, and you have to try to trust yourself not to watch porn, not just having your wife help you.
posted by Michael Leung at 6:28 PM on August 30, 2009


But why does it bother you? Is it a religious thing? Is it getting in the way of your relationship with your wife? Is it causing other problems? If it's not a religious thing and it's not getting in the way of anything why is it a problem?

Most people masturbate-- whether they are single or in relationships. Often, this involves porn. If it's every few weeks, it's hard to see how this would be a big problem unless it is a religious thing and in that case, I would turn to sources related to your particular religion for advice.

The idea that you thought your wife would stop loving you because you watch porn every few weeks suggests that the issue might not be porn-- but rather an outsized sense of shame and guilt. Trust me, there are millions of women who would be absolutely delighted to have a husband whose guiltiest secret was that he masturbates to porn every few weeks!

What was her actual response?
posted by Maias at 6:30 PM on August 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Seconding going completely cold turkey. It's just a habit, like any other habit. It has no power over you apart from the energy you give it.

Every day that you go without, the habit will get weaker and weaker, until it's only a memory. It's just a matter of not breaking the chain.
posted by Theloupgarou at 6:36 PM on August 30, 2009


Once every few weeks? I would say, given a lot of people I know, that's actually pretty commendable. I know you're trying to stop completely, but I think that the first step is to stop feeling guilt about looking at porn. Porn is as old as bread (probably older). Wanting to look at naked people is pretty much hard-wired into your brain. In other words, while it's fine that this is something you want to give up, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.

I have a family member - very religious - who was a really incredible youth pastor. He quit the position to take a minimum wage job because he felt so guilty about looking at porn. The computer was moved into the kitchen and the house became a sort of intervention site. I don't think this is a very healthy way of addressing one's desire to look at porn.

I'm nthing that I don't think simply installing a firewall for the sites you frequent is going to be a very good solution, especially long term. I'm also nthing that I think what probably needs to be addressed - and obviously IANYT - is why do you feel so guilty about it? Do you feel pornography is inherently a bad thing? Do you feel like your sinning every time you look at porn? If so - and if you are religious - then that's one thing. But if you're not religious and you just feel like you're 'cheating' on your wife, I think the issue is probably more deeply rooted and complex than simply looking at porn every few weeks.

All of that said, if you are really committed, go with the aforementioned advice - get a firewall, sign-up for a site that forwards your browsing history to your wife, move the computer into a public area, etc.

But don't get too down on yourself. In the scheme of life and morality, looking at porn on the internet is pretty trivial.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:47 PM on August 30, 2009


Every day that you go without, the habit will get weaker and weaker, until it's only a memory.

If this were true, then no one who ever quit smoking/drinking/masturbating/gambling etc. would ever go back to it after a certain point. Seriously, behavior -- especially behavior that is tied to hard-wired desires and pleasure -- is just more complex than that.

As for the question, I feel like there's too much that Anon leaves out -- i.e., why it bothers him (religious feelings? feelings of being unfaithful to his wife? feeling that it's inappropriate to look at porn after a certain age?), how it's affecting his marriage (emotionally and sexually), and whether he wants to give up just porn in particular or give up masturbating entirely -- to offer a really constructive answer. Anon, would you consider emailing a mod to clarify some of this? I think that might generate better answers that may be more well-suited to your concerns.

My personal feeling about looking at porn (and about masturbation in general), which may or may not be helpful to you, is that as long as it doesn't diminish the physical/emotional connections with one's partner, then it's pretty much no harm, no foul territory.
posted by scody at 6:54 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


scody, there are arguments about the disgusting nature of virtually all of the porn industry, and the degradation of women they both practice and preach. I can fully understand not wanting to support that (and free sites benefit from extra traffic through ads. I suppose you could rationalise using AdBlock to absolve your conscience, though).
posted by Dysk at 7:03 PM on August 30, 2009


I'm going to assume that your issue is with porn and not masturbation. What about using a substitute like reading erotica? It might satisfy natural, sexual urges without exploiting anyone or making you feel disloyal to your wife.
posted by katemcd at 7:25 PM on August 30, 2009


Brother Dysk: What you say is true, but we don't know what the OP means by porn nor what kind of porn he is referring to if he does mean the hardcore kind. So we really don't have a lot of info to go on. We don't know why he wants to stop, we don't know how it is affecting his relationship (if it is), and we don't know what he means by porn.

Which is problematic. Because the answer is quite different depending on the circumstances. It's one thing if he means he looks at topless women every few weeks but wants to stop because his religion tells him not to do that even though it isn't affecting his marriage at all. It's quite another thing if he wants to stop because he can't help going back to creepy violent degrading rapey porn or icky animal stuff (and so on) and he feels shamed and it is hurting his marriage.

"I look at something sex-related every few weeks and I want to stop" is so broad that it is hard to come up with a helpful answer.
posted by Justinian at 7:38 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Justinian, I know it may not be relevant in this instance, it was more a response to people saying "well if it doesn't bother your wife what's the problem?". He may have a problem with supporting the porn industry (which arguably is very problematic even when it's just topless photographs, in its objecitifacation of women, and so on. I'm not saying that's what the OP thinks, just saying that there are reasons why he may find it problematic other than being a conservative Christian or it disrupting his marriage).
posted by Dysk at 7:54 PM on August 30, 2009


Despite its foolish name, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits has a lot of very specific, detailed strategies for changing your habits and avoiding behaviors you are trying to refrain from.

I don't think there's anything wrong with porn. I also don't think there's anything wrong with biting your nails. But if either is a habit you'd like to break, the book above can help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:12 PM on August 30, 2009


Try reading the book Cupid's Poisoned Arrow. Treat this as a matter of brain chemistry, and learn about that.
posted by swlabr at 8:25 PM on August 30, 2009


scody, there are arguments about the disgusting nature of virtually all of the porn industry, and the degradation of women they both practice and preach.

Trust me, as a woman and feminist who's been aware of porn for more than a couple of decades, I'm aware of most of the pro and con arguments regarding porn. I've held a lot of different opinions abour porn over the years. I've had partners who've used it to varying degrees, and who have been varying degrees of truthful with me about it. My feelings about it have run the gamut of wildly uncomfortable to (moderately) comfortable. So I stand by my assertions that A) behavior (particularly that attached to physical pleasure) is complex, and B) porn doesn't have to be harmful in a relationship as long as it doesn't diminish that relationshop in terms of emotional and sexual closeness (aka "as long as I'm getting all the affection and sex I need, I don't really care what my boyfriend looks at in his own private time"). I would further assert -- after living in the heart of the porn industry (seriously, I drive past the Vivid Video headquarters every day to work) and having met a few people in the industry that C) the argument that all women are exploited and degraded in the same way in all aspects of the industry is a narrow, simplistic rendering of a far, far more complex economic, social, and cultural issue.
posted by scody at 10:22 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps when your intermittent urge to watch porn strikes, you could announce to your wife, "I feel like watching porn!" and maybe, just maybe she might have some ideas on how to scratch that itch.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:02 PM on August 30, 2009


I know there's some sort of program that will send your viewed sites list to someone else's email address to keep you accountable.

One is called X3watch. Every two weeks it will send your browsing history to two people, i.e. "accountability partners." There are other options as well, if you want to go down the filtering/accountability route.

Best of luck.
posted by Ljubljana at 2:19 AM on August 31, 2009


I've been here, still am here, and I can identify with this struggle and know plenty of other people who have had a similar desire to stop watching pornography. Now I am a woman and don't know what it's like from the male perspective, but I do have men close to me who have been able to "quit porn". Each of us has had varying degrees of success. Here are some things we have found useful:

Let someone else in on it. Your wife, religious advisors, sympathetic friends, therapist, prayer etc. I agree with BitterOldPunk about telling your wife when you feel the desire, and sharing your journey with her. This is about a lot more than watching videos, as I'm sure you know. Undoubtedly, other issues will come up and it's important to have people you can talk to. Several of my acquaintances who have quit porn habits said that attending sexual addiction anonymous meetings helped them. NOT necessarily because they were addicted (some were, some weren't), but because this kind of group support from sympathetic individuals can help work out the other issues surrounding the habit, while offering some level of accountability.

Related to the above point, prayer helps. I dont know if this applies to you, but for me it helped to pray when feeling the temptation, or after succumbing to it. I feel peace afterward, and feel like I have more power.

It's not all or nothing. I would recommend going cold turkey, but at the same time, if you relapse it is not a failure and it doesn't mean you're doomed. This is very important for breaking any bad habit, and I know it has helped me with this one. I liked this advice from an article about stopping undesired sexual habits:

How easy it is to think: ‘I failed, so I may as well give up.’ Fight that mood. Refuse to let a temporary setback, or even several setbacks, spell defeat for you.

Consider an illustration: If you were walking up a flight of stairs and slipped back one or two steps because of stumbling, would you reason, ‘I’ll just have to walk back to the foot of the stairs and start over’? Of course not! Why, then, should you apply this false reasoning to the fight against bad habits?

Feelings of guilt often follow a setback. You might carry these feelings to an extreme by concluding that you are no good, that you are of weak character and do not deserve anything good. Do not allow yourself to indulge in such exaggerated guilt. It saps you of the strength that you need to resume the battle. And remember this: The greatest man ever to walk this earth, Jesus Christ, came to redeem sinners, not perfect people. So none of us will do things perfectly at this time.


I have read similar advice with other issues, whether it is changing one's eating habits or exercising more or getting better at handling conflict. I think this is critically important. The feelings of guilt and failure over "giving into temptation" can cause not only setbacks, but make the problem worse than it was before.

While accepting that relapses are likely to happen no matter what habit you're trying to break, with this habit in particular I have found that there are still so many pornographic images everywhere (whether you seek them or not). A lot of things can set it off, and you can't just avoid sexual thoughts (nor should a married man want to). Just like if you have bad eating habits you still have to eat. So here's what has helped me: occupying my time with as many useful, productive, engaging, and truly joyful (as opposed to simply pleasurable) activities as possible. I don't know if you're like me, but time on the internet can easily replace a lot of more useful and potentially more joyful activities. It's not enough to say "No!" to porn, you have to say "Yes!" to other things. I have truly found that with time and leading a more productive, engaging life, the urge to look at pornography lessens to as to seem ridiculous.

It's actually a lot harder to break this habit if you constantly think about "how to stop watching porn". The focus makes the temptation grow.

It really helps to have reminders as to why you want to stop. A lot of my own reasons are summed up in this article. What are your reasons? Really meditate on it, and try to be specific when you think about it. Again, it's better to then replace your porn habits with better ones, but there needs to be a clear driving force at the same time.

Finally, there are some basic things like using your computer in a public place and using software like X3watch or site blockers. I have found that if you wanna do it, you'll find a way around these things HOWEVER, they can be helpful when you are already doing some of the other things I've mentioned. For example, sometimes I would relapse after visiting "innocent" websites that had sexual imagery. Site blockers can help with that. You know that there are all kinds of websites that are borderline or may be harmful to you but not to others.

I hope something in this answer is helpful to you.
posted by Danila at 4:10 AM on August 31, 2009


Anonymous OP, I'm more concerned about the parts of your post that are worded in self-loathing language:

I finally admitted it to my wife because I wanted to stop and to my surprise, she has loved me and wants to support me anyway. ... I figure dropping ice cubes down my shorts would be a start!


Wow. You are surprised that your wife "loved you" (presumably, "even" after discovering you look at porn, just like 95% of all males with access to it), then suggest a form of self-abuse as a first step. Yeah, the latter was "just a joke", but jokes aren't random statements.

Perhaps a solution would include therapy, where you might investigate why you feel so guilty/loathsome/unlovable when you look at porn, and come to a better place, where you don't feel the need to do things that make you dislike yourself.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:21 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed - comments not directed at the OP should go to email or MetsTalk, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:24 AM on August 31, 2009


People, people -- our friend says he wants to stop doing something. Who cares why he wants to stop doing this, he wants to stop doing this.

Everyone has their own personal moral code and levels of things that make them feel hinky, even though there is no clear reason why they should feel hinky about it; hell, there is no clear reason why I feel weird about drinking soda before noon, but there it is, I feel weird if I drink soda before noon. Twisting my arm to examine why I feel weird about it isn't going to stop me from feeling weird about it. I'm just wired that way and that's that. Similarly, our friend here is just wired to feel weird about looking at porn now that he's married and that's that.

Now then. I think the suggestion to block porn sites using Leechblock is a good one; as for what others have said about "oh but maybe you'll by a magazine or something", well, it's possible. But I have a hunch that won't happen quite as often -- web porn is as instantaneous as you get, and you've still shown enough will power to only avail yourself once every few weeks. I'd say that actually having to spend money will be another thing that reinforces your will power to resist, so this may not happen quite as often. If you still buy a Playboy once in a blue moon, and feel weird about it, maybe doing something like: start a piggy bank, and every time you purchase something pornographic, place an equal amount of money in the piggy bank, and then use that money to buy something nice for your wife.

Finally, if your big issue with porn is "these ladies are not my wife", maybe writing your own porn starring your wife would be a fun distraction. You'd get the titillation of the porn, but without the "this isn't my wife" hinkiness. There's even a few web sites that will do this for you -- feed them a couple names and a couple of "special references" and it'll plug them into a porn story and email you a copy of it, so there you are with your very own customized porn starring you and your wife. (Yes, I know this sounds like a naughty version of Mad Libs.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ahh what the the hell with anonnymity.....it's me snap_dragon (unmaksed!!) who posted. The porn I have watched has not been hardcore...just sex, bjs and such. I am Christian (but very liberal at that). And I **think** I see it as sin. But in some way I don't really see it that way if others do it...that is their choice. I don't have a problem with masturbating but for some reason that by itself wasn't working. And it bothered me that I had to think of others (ex-girlfriends, imaginary women, etc) instead of my cute and pretty wife (she actually is cute and pretty...and yes I know I am prejudice in saying this). I think I have found a lot of meat in the comments made by virtually Everyone who has posted here. It might take some time. I may have slips. I may actually go cold turkey (Hell, I did on buying comic books and that shit was tough, man). I do think blocking sites might help. I am very very sure I won't buy mags.

I could have remained anon but felt that I had nothing ultimately to be ashamed about here (though I probably won't post my pic anytime soon)...I really really appreciate everyone's input. Not to sound too fuzzy, but I felt love and true concern which is metafilter at it's most excellent.

Unless this question gets buried by other AskMefi questions keep on posting anybody. I will be checking in....and hey, I may actually do the icecubes down the pants! Plus running. (Variation on the cold shower.)

Jer
posted by snap_dragon at 8:55 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


...and I think since I originally posted as "anon" I cannot mark "favorites" when signed in as snap_dragon. So for the moment, all answers shall be considered "favorite" and welcome. Thank you. I am on my way to Barnes and Noble now to check out those books recommended.
posted by snap_dragon at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2009


Who cares why he wants to stop doing this, he wants to stop doing this.

Because (as his follow up comment indicates) context is relevant, and may generate comments and answers that will be more useful to him than others.
posted by scody at 10:05 AM on August 31, 2009


To a point, scody; however, it was looking like most such responses were taking the tone of "why do you feel that way because I think that's lame of you to feel that way" instead of "why do you feel that way because I'd like to target my answers better". (Tangent: Hey, we finally have an example of the phenomenon from that MeTa thread!)

Snap_dragon: I've actually seen a couple sites that deal with sexuality and even marital aids from a Christian perspective. You may find them interesting to check out. The one I saw most recently is targeted to women (I believe the site is "Christian Nymphos"), but it looked like men were looking at the site as well, and that's the site where I actually learned about the customize-your-own-erotica site I mentioned earlier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on August 31, 2009


snap_dragon, would you still think that looking at porn was a sin if it was videos of married couples who love each other getting it on, instead of pros doing it for money? Because there are a lot of married couples who make amateur porn. So maybe you just need to switch to more wholesome porn depicting God-approved sex?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:46 AM on September 4, 2009


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