I've discovered my boyfriend looks at girls on webcams.. How do I deal with it?
April 18, 2010 4:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm not usually paranoid but recently I have been - not because I've thought my boyfriend has been cheating, maybe it's been low self-esteem, but whatever, I've checked his phone messages a couple of times and it's all innocent. Today I looked on his laptop and I got my fingers burned.

There were a few links in the history for a website called cam4.com. At first I thought it was probably pop-ups but I realised he has been looking at girls on there - a few in a day, every few days or about 20 in a week (I'm not suggesting he goes there 20 times, presumably he's browsing!). I realised that my boyfriend signed up to this website 2 days after buying his laptop! I found his profile, which has no picture, has a fairly sexual name, but no messages or anything so it doesn't look like he's interacting with people, although he has a dozen 'favourites' listed. He signed up 6 months ago - we've been together about 18 months.

I'm not completely innocent, I have looked at porn occasionally, for kicks, but I feel like looking at videos is different from a webcam, plus he seems to be doing it regularly for the past 6 months. And he's looking for girls he likes whereas if I'm looking at porn I'm not looking specifically for attractive men. I don't know if he's using his webcam or just looking at girls. Our sex life isn't brilliant. It was amazing for the 1st 3-6 months and it's great when we still do it, but it's less than once a week now. We moved in together after 3 months, so perhaps we got too serious too quickly. We've had our fair share of stress, especially over the last 6 months, and he works unsociable hours, so it's not easy to find time when we're both home and horny! I think I've probably stopped making enough effort to turn him on, he's obviously not getting satisfied by me (although I know he finds me sexy), but how worried should I be about this? I don't know whether to admit I've looked, which could break all trust between us, or try to fix it by trying harder to turn him on, or whether to just let it go (if I can) as something that's not so unusual. Help!

One more thing.. I have a webcam, I used to talk to people online, but he has always said that people only use webcams for sex and he would jokingly accuse me of showing my tits on it. He is fairly paranoid and insecure, but I never thought he would be watching girls on their webcams, so I'm quite shocked and a little worried. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a relationship with someone that needs to supplement their sex life with webcam girls.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

If it's ok for you to look at porn, why is it not ok for him? I am confused. I don't see a big difference, if he's not chatting with other girls, between what you are doing.

But really, the big issue is; you went snooping; you have doubts about the relationship.

Are you looking for an excuse to break up? If so, don't make this the reason. Break up because it's not working for you, not because you found something while snooping that isn't even that incriminating.

The snooping does not make you look like the good guy in this scenario.
posted by emjaybee at 4:06 PM on April 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

I feel like looking at videos is different from a webcam, plus he seems to be doing it regularly for the past 6 months.

If it's not interactive, I don't see that such a distinction exists. What you seem to be saying is that he spends too much time and energy on it - a separate, though valid, concern.

And he's looking for girls he likes whereas if I'm looking at porn I'm not looking specifically for attractive men.

I don't mean to be snarky, but looking for attractive people fucking is the point of porn. I don't see that this is a problem separate from your discomfort with his looking at porn generally.

Our sex life isn't brilliant. It was amazing for the 1st 3-6 months and it's great when we still do it, but it's less than once a week now.

Another valid reason for complaint, but separate and apart from his porn browsing habits.

I think I've probably stopped making enough effort to turn him on

...and a probable factor for the above emerges. You both need to work on this, starting by talking honestly like adults about it.

he's obviously not getting satisfied by me

This is not how masturbation works.

I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a relationship with someone that needs to supplement their sex life with webcam girls.

I'm not sure how you get from "does" to "needs": maybe it's something that's totally or negotiable, or maybe he's just bored, etc .

You need to bring this up with him: if you had a legitimate reason for being on his laptop, do so directly. If you were just snooping (as your line about the phone messages suggests), then you need to drop the webcam angle with the time being and just talk about your sex life. The surest way to prevent this from ever getting resolved is wallowing in your own resentment. Stop snooping, and have a frank conversation with him.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:13 PM on April 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

Guys look at porn on their computers. Almost universally, I would guess. If you do it too, why do you care?

And he's looking for girls he likes whereas if I'm looking at porn I'm not looking specifically for attractive men.

This is bizarre. Of course he is looking at girls he finds attractive. I find it hard to believe that a guy's level of attractiveness to you does not factor in at all when you are looking at porn.
posted by amro at 4:14 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I never thought he would be watching girls on their webcams, so I'm quite shocked and a little worried. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a relationship with someone that needs to supplement their sex life with webcam girls.

He could just as easily say that he does not want to be in a relationship with someone that needs to supplement her sex life with porn. And masturbation.

Webcam girls are an offshoot of porn. Are you looking for permission to break up with him? Granted.

But if you want to make this work, you need to figure out why you are making this (artificial, to me) distinction between the two. And talk to him.
posted by amicamentis at 4:22 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what the problem is. As I understand it, it is common for men (esp. wealthier college educated white men) to look at porn. The male gender is visually oriented. This is normal, although I have to agree with emjaybee that your snooping isn't.
posted by bearwife at 4:24 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not completely innocent, I have looked at porn occasionally

This triggers the real disconnect, for me. Because the thing is...looking at porn IS innocent. At least, it's not a transgression against the general bounds of a monogamous relationship nor is it an indictment of a failing sex life. However, it sounds like you need a no-porn boundary and a way to communicate that without telling him you snooped. I can't offer any advice there. But I can say that if you think your sex life is lacking, express that to him and ask him how you can both work to fix it. But please consider that just because someone seeks out particular kinks online doesn't mean they "obviously" are not satisfied in their actual sex life. Masturbation is part of a person's sex life. It is often accompanied by some type of porn; be it erotic fiction, random hardcore videos, photos of you together, or a voyeuristic webcam site. So to answer your question about how worried you should be, I would say 0 - "working on getting over it".
posted by Juicy Avenger at 4:25 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

he's looking for girls he likes whereas if I'm looking at porn I'm not looking specifically for attractive men

And why the hell not? Part of the reason I don't look at a lot of porn is because the men are ugly beasts who turn me off completely. Just because he seeks out porn that actually features attractive women is not a sin nor a sign that he's overly invested in them. One of the few true male/female mental distinctions is that men are more visual whereas women are more visceral. That's why we get ladyboners from bonobos. But you deserve attractive porn just as much as he does.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 4:38 PM on April 18, 2010

he's obviously not getting satisfied by me

This may or may not be the case, but his looking at porn doesn't mean he's unsatisfied.

You are, however - you describe your sex life as 'not brilliant' and believe you don't make the effort any more. So talk to him about that. The webcam thing isn't a huge issue.

(Unless of course the issue is that you think it's wrong, in which case he could quite justifiably wonder why it's alright for you to look at porn, but not him)
posted by twirlypen at 5:42 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're all really jumping judgementally onto the OP today. She is worried about the relationship and has found evidence that her partner is amusing himself elsewhere. Men do this anyway, but in the circumstances finding it is not exactly going to reassure her is it? Don't talk about what you've found, but do talk, that's only advice I see worth giving.
posted by A189Nut at 6:18 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mod note: few comments removed - enough with the judgeme stuff. please offer useful answers to the OP or feel free to not answer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:55 PM on April 18, 2010

I would agree with A189Nut - this is all coming down fairly harshly on the OP, and the OP herself has already been somewhat hard on herself. Don't be so hard on yourself, OP.

On the one hand, you did go snooping, and that's not on the up-and-up. People should be allowed their privacy and even their secrets within the reasonable bounds of trust. '

However, I don't think the responses thus far have acknowledged that you make a clear distinction between porn and webcam girls. It does seem a stretch different - more personal, perhaps? - to seek out a webcam girl than to go the porn route. I don't know how these things work, but I always thought that webcam sites provide chatting back and forth, or at least in some cases.

That all may be an arbitrary distinction between webcams and porn, but it remains a distinction that you yourself make, and so that's got to have some legitimacy within your relationship. That said, it seems to me you need to create that legitimacy by bringing it up and having an honest conversation about it.

And that, in turn, means you have to cop to snooping. I've been email-snooped by a significant other before, and it doesn't feel good. But it's probably not unforgivable either, especially in the context of what seem like a lack of trust - i.e. checking his phone history as well.

There's a lot of blaming you on this thread, and I myself am inclined to come down on your side instead of his. But those things seem beyond the point. It appears that you have more fundamental issues in your relationship, and this may be an opportunity to discuss them and try to work through them.
posted by kensington314 at 7:00 PM on April 18, 2010

Webcams are the red herring.

He is fairly paranoid and insecure

Think about this and ask yourself why you are still with him.
posted by MsMolly at 8:10 PM on April 18, 2010

Porn these days aint what it used to be. While the porn most people consume and consider 'porn' is still pictures/videos of naked folks or people having sex, technology has allowed for a number of intermediate steps that link what most consider 'porn' and what most consider 'cheating' on a spectrum. Now there's user-generated amateur stuff, and if you keep going eventually you wind up in the murky territory of cam sites and dating sites used to swap pics and show off on camera person-to-person.

While the latter can be used to form relationships that would constitute cheating, I think it's still possible for people to use them in a purely selfish, detached way. Much like a strip show, the consumers don't necessarily have an emotional bond with the person they're seeing naked, it's just the way they choose to get their desired dose of mindless nakedness so they can get off and move on. You could argue that used this way it's no worse than looking at amateur videos on youporn.com or buying a copy of hustler, but I can see how emotionally it'd feel more personal and therefore more threatening.

Everyone has the right to say what they're comfortable with in relationships (just as everyone has the right to say "well I can't do that for you" and leave), so if you're not comfortable with the cams then you've gotta tell him. It's unreasonable to expect a guy to stop looking at porn altogether, but with this type of porn you might have a shot. Remember though that it might be completely harmless nudity consumption and perhaps something you could live to accept.

The real threat to your relationship though seems to be the fact that life stress, work, etc have allowed you two to disconnect. Trust me when I tell you that this kind of disconnection can lead to apathy about the relationship that might eventually end it. If you want to stay with him, it would help to confront this, and that means getting everything out in the open including your snooping. It shouldn't be a blame game of who wronged the other worst -- while you both seem to have violated each others' trust those sins aren't the core problem. And for what its worth, as far as trust-violations go I think these are both easy to get over. Just apologise, admit you snooped out of insecurity, and then address the bigger issue of why you feel insecure in the relationship as it stands. And don't snoop again -- if you've decided you're going to trust him then you have to just trust with the faith that you'll never be proven foolish.

P.S. From his own habits plus his teasing you about showing off on your cam, I can guarantee that a part of him is turned on by the thought of you showing off on cam and that he would be down for chatting on cam with you.
posted by teem at 8:24 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, everyone has told you not to snoop. I agree with that much. The simple fact that you feel a need to indicates an issue.

Now that I've jumped on that bandwagon and slapped your wrist.... it seems to me that what bothers you about this webcam thing is that it is not static the way that pornography usually is. It's real live women that you imagine he could email and talk to and interact with. As an example, I had an ex who went from watching porn, which I didn't care about, to talking women into sending him naked photos. He said it was more exciting for it to be a "real" person, not a porn person. He never had sex with any of these women, most of whom lived across the country, but it made me HUGELY uncomfortable. So I think I see where you are going with this feeling, provided it is indeed normal women who just like being exhibitionists. (I'm unfamiliar with the site and worry about the dark alleys of the internet too much to go look.) This would irk me too, because it takes away the commerce of porn and makes it about desire for a particular individual. In which case, I think you need to come clean to him and ask him about it. He can't read your mind and in his estimation, it may be no different than porn. All you can do is tell him it bothers you and try to come up with a middle ground that satisfies you both. Maybe he can hit professional webcam girls but not amateurs or something. If he refuses, ball is in your court-can you live with this?

One last thing, I don't think this has anything to do with your mutual sex life. Viewing porn and masturbation are absolutely compatible with a happy, satisfying sex life. Having one doesn't mean you don't need the other. Not to say that you couldn't try a little harder, but just that I don't think having sex four times a week will make him stop looking at porn.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:31 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a relationship with someone that needs to supplement their sex life with webcam girls.

You either need to part ways or communicate. There are very few options that wouldn't otherwise involve bitter hatred of each other for years on end.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:47 AM on April 19, 2010

Also please realize that people change. For better or worse.
You won't necessarily spend the rest of your life with someone that needs webcam girls.
The discovery you made is an indicator.
I am not being harsh to the point of saying DTMFA, but that is a future possibility.
The communication key that people here are talking about is the route to take. Communicate your fears and needs to him.
Do not make it confrontational if possible because that will likely lead to miscommunication.
posted by Drasher at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2010

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you for all your responses, I really appreciate them and I do take the criticism, it is completely justified. My initial shock made me feel quite sick and I really just wanted other's perspectives on it, which is what I have got. I feel much better about the situation now and I acknowledge that I have a lot of work to do myself as I feel really paranoid although I know I have no real reason to. The initial phone snooping was down to a specific incident. I have always trusted him completely but I think his paranoia and insecurity have off on me! I think I do need to make more effort in our sex life but I also need to accept that this is normal, so thank you all for reassuring me of that. As for me watching porn, I guess I don't feel that it's too comparable because I'll go through a 'horny' phase for a few days but then I won't do it again for a few months, whereas he's doing this on a very regular basis. He was actually doing it while I was pretending to be asleep list night, although I didn't turn around quick enough to catch him at it! So I don't feel too comfortable with him doing it while I'm lying right there!

As for communicating, it's something he's not good at at all, he doesn't ever talk about his feelings as it makes him too uncomfortable, and he 'protects me' from his troubles when he's feeling stressed. And he's incredibly defensive, so will cause an argument when I just want to talk. This also means I can't talk about my issues, as he doesn't share his! I have tried to talk about our (lack of) sex life before and he's said it's down to stress. If I ever try to bring it up again he complains that I'm going over and over the same things and he gets stressed with me! I actually promised I wouldn't bring it up again, to make the peace! Yes I know this is all very unhealthy and if I were to break up with him communication would be the reason. However, I am not looking for an excuse to break up with him at all. There are reasons why I love this guy but if things don't improve when our situation becomes less stressful I'll re-evaluate my reasons for being with him. I think I need to work on my own issues of insecurity, plus do more to please him in bed, as well as accepting that webcam porn isn't a threat. I'm not going to talk to him about this unless I get an opportunity down the line somewhere and it is relevant, or I'll try to bring it up another way, but for now I'm going to try to accept it. And I'm going to stop snooping!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:37 AM on April 19, 2010

Hi OP, glad to see you back. I think you are analyzing this situation very well. The snooping and web cam daily uses are symptoms, not causes, of your problems and anxieties. I understand your frustrations and I know how you feel. Believe me, I know how you feel.

But by the way, if you do more to please him in bed do it because you genuinely want to, not because you feel guilty or because you are using it as a replacement for communication.

Hopefully at some point in the near future you tell him flat out, "Listen. I need to be able to discuss things without you shutting down or stressing out. This is not okay. Can we work on this together?". Reiterate that you love him and want to be able to talk about problems rather than keeping them hidden and fretting over them. This may or may not be a deal breaker for you if he still gets upset and won't talk to you.
posted by amicamentis at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

You say that the reason for your lack of sex life is because of stress. Often, when people are stressed, there might be more pressure to perform. Expectations build up, so that when you finally get together again, the sex can be stressful rather than a release.

I think one of the biggest things you can do is work on your attitudes and behaviors towards him. You can't change how anyone else behaves, only how you act.

Try to amp up not just the sex part of your sex life, but the kissing, flirting, groping, etc. Also, maybe offer him less pressure sex like blow jobs. Usually, when someone feels wanted they will reciprocate. You said yourself you don't think you're giving him quite what he needs anymore, so he is turning to porn for this outlet. If you were his outlet, my bet is he would look at a lot less porn.
posted by too bad you're not me at 12:15 PM on April 19, 2010

Can't say too much as I'm at work (email in profile etc) and I don't know whether this is relevant at all, but I have some ...familiarity with the site in question.

Yes it primarily does what it says on the tin and yes it's really easy to find something pretty to look at. That said, I have met some really cool people through there (I'm talking dozens), many of which I have never seen naked (nor do I want to). Think of it as a chat room with video...it's nice to see who you're chatting with.

To address a couple of points in your post; the no picture thing is very common and you can delete or hide comments on your profile page.

Some of us go there to talk to people, not to get off. I'm certainly not defending anyone and I'm not saying that is what's going on here but it might be something to consider.
posted by geckoinpdx at 5:40 PM on April 19, 2010

I'm going to go against most people and say that I think there is a difference between porn and webcam porn. I think it falls into the same category as phone sex, massages with release, hiring a prostitute, and having an on-line affair.

The difference to me is that healthy porn doesn't involve interaction with another live person, and unhealthy porn does. I'm fully okay with my husband watching porn, but not with him showing other women his privates over a webcam.

I don't think any good will come of you tiptoeing around him and trying extra-hard to please him. I don't buy the "protecting you" part, that sounds like he is keeping secrets. If you are going to be a happy couple you'll need to learn to deal with things together.
posted by meepmeow at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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