The internet is for porn, and it's driving me nuts!
July 17, 2010 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Porn. Guys love it. It drives some girlfriends nuts. I am apparently one of them in my current relationship, but not in the past. I know this is a subject that has been discussed over and over again. Somehow I feel like I'm losing my mind and need advice on where to go next with this.

Me (early 30s) and the fiancee (early 20s) have been together going on 2 years, some of which were long distance in the beginning. We have a pretty active sex life, usually going at it every day or every other day. I am VERY open to new things in bed and out. For whatever reason, the fiancee just HAS to watch porn when I am not around for even 10 minutes, then hides it. I had no problems in past relationships with it and even sometimes watch it myself when he isn't available, but in this one its tearing me down everytime I catch him doing it. Whether it's walking in on him while hes enjoying it -- when I am readily available and very willing to offer the real deal or him leaving some pop ups open on the computer but his history is clear.

Some solutions I have offered to him was watching it together, or if hes embarassed he can create a folder on his computer and put it in there so I can watch it later or favorite it so I can watch when he's not around. Just to make me feel sort of involved in this instead of this awful being cheated on feeling.

Last night, as always when I think we are making progress with it, he is going to bed and I suggestively say that if he feels in the mood to do anything feel free to let me know. (Mostly I am in the mood and he is not and so I leave it open on his end without making him feel bad for not being in the mood.) So, he tells me he would keep that in mind, gets in bed, watches porn. I walk in the bedroom, of course he tries to hide it, I see it and am angry. He said he had opened it and felt bad so closed it and that was all. All I want is to be honest about it and get through it whichever way we need to, but he's lying to me about it and if I never caught him in the act, he said he wouldn't have told me because in this words, it was stupid and I don't need to know every detail. I feel I need to know because I got turned down for this!

He feels bad he does it, he doesn't know why he does it, he doesn't want to do it. I want to help him get through it but this is killing my self esteem, not to mention our relationship. After offering myself and getting turned down for porn, I feel grossly unwanted and unattractive. Sometimes when he watches it, he's not in the mood again for days sometimes which of course, is also an issue. What can we do to mend this? Is my relationship doomed because of such a silly little thing?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Your boyfriend could help by displaying a little more tact. For example, my wife has no problems with porn, but she is in no way interested in what I'm watching, when I'm watching. It's not that she doesn't want to know, it's just that it's a little TMI, from her point of view.

So I don't leave things porn open in browser windows for her to find.

At the same time, if she encounters me watching porn, it's no big deal. Obviously, if I'm supposed to be working or doing something else, it would be worrying for her. But, generally speaking, it's no big deal. And I certainly do not try to hide my browsing history or bookmarks or whatever (although, once again, I try to use discretion in order to avoid the TMI issue).

Most men (I'm talking obviously about straight guys) don't look at porn because they are bored or dissatisfied or whatever. Men are visual, and they like variety. Porn can even help recharge the batteries.

So give your fiancee some slack. This should not affect your self-esteem. I am married to the most beautiful and sexy woman I have ever met, yet I peruse porn.

On his end, he needs to stop leaving browser windows open for you to find. I kind of wonder what that's all about. Or continuing to watch porn after you have asked him not to (and have suggested getting into bed instead). Early 20s guys are not really known to be all that emotionally mature.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:55 AM on July 17, 2010


Counseling. I have a friend who had a similar problem, and having a neutral third party help them talk about it worked out well for them. They'd already been married a few years.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:56 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not a silly little thing if it's causing you distress.

I personally feel that pornography is destructive to relationships, but setting that aside, this is like any other area of conflict. You have to decide if you can live with what you can't change.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:56 AM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think you are losing your mind. I see three issues that may be making the sneaky porn habit a problem for you in a new way here. First, you say that "mostly [you] are in the mood and he is not" which sets you in an exhausting and demoralizing role. Second, you said explicitly yourself that is hurting your self esteem. Thirdly, it is damaging your sex life, which seems to be healthy in the first paragraph when you say you go at it every day or every other day, but in the final paragraph you admit it is slipping.

To what extent have you explained your feelings to your fiance? It is possible that he simply feels defensive about the porn issue, given that you two have bumped heads about it before. Perhaps if you explained to him your feelings (underscoring that you have no problem with pornography in general, or with him being entitled to enjoy porn as he likes) of insecurity and concerns for the health of your sex life, he would be responsive and proactive about turning around this emergent and destructive new dynamic.

Your fiance clearly has more invested in his porn habit than he's come clean about, and I think you need to make it as clear to him as possible that you're open and supportive of that WHERE IT DOES NOT COMPROMISE YOUR SELF ESTEEM INDIVIDUALLY OR SEX LIFE AS A COUPLE. Think clearly about your demands: you do not expect him to give up his right to enjoying pornography as he likes, but do expect him to meet YOUR equally important sexual and emotional needs. This seems pretty basic to me, and I would hope it would be his first priority.
posted by Lisitasan at 9:57 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that problems with pornography can happen when you think of it as competition. It's not - it's a hobby. Something he does that doesn't have to require your participation and heck, we grow up with porn as a guilty secret and having it as a secret becomes part of the game.
I enjoy my porn stash, my husband enjoys his. It's our private time and wholly unrelated to whatever happens when we're in the same space.
We both know that both of us watch porn and yet still we both hide it when the other walks in. Why? Because it's our private thing. We share lots of things, and lots of hobbies - porn doesn't have to be one of them.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:59 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unlike St. Alia, I think porn can be a neutral or even a positive factor in a relationship, but to me, it sounds like your boyfriend is suffering from a type of addiction. From your description, it sounds like he is watching it compulsively - nearly every time he has a free half hour or every time he uses the computer? If this is the case, I would be more worried with the compulsive aspect of it (and the attendant feelings of shame, displayed when he tries to hide it).

He feels bad he does it, he doesn't know why he does it, he doesn't want to do it

This is not "a silly little thing". I think you should encourage him to seek help.
posted by muddgirl at 10:04 AM on July 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


This isn't a silly little thing if it is making you feel unwanted and unattractive. Have you suggested bringing a referee into the situation in order to ascertain exactly what is going on, eg. a therapist? My ex was wholly opposed to therapy so that didn't go anywhere.

From your description (albeit one side of the story!) it sounds like he could have a problem with porn. If he is looking at it even though he doesn't want to, it sounds like he has some kind of poor impulse control with regard to seeking it out. You might suggest that he look into counseling for himself, rather than couples counseling so that he can get to the root of the problem for himself and then you two can handle it in the context of your relationship going forward.

It sounds like you've done all of the right things expressing your need to be prioritized above porn, putting his libido ahead of yours, and facilitating open and honest dialogue on the subject that isn't shaming. At this point, I would say that his receptiveness to solutions going forward is going to be key to understanding if this relationship is going to last.

We humans do a lot of nasty things in relationships; arousing jealousy in our partners just to confirm their commitment to us is hardly a new trick. I'm very sorry that this is hurting you so much.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:11 AM on July 17, 2010


Sorry that you are having troubles. I recently read an article that talks about the science of sexual addiction. An interesting read with several good points, one of which is the seriousness of tackling the issue. If he has been "hooked" on porn for a long time, he might need some professional help. The article talks about adjusted dopamine levels and similar shrinking cortex issues as with drug use and over eating.

http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php
posted by peripatew at 10:14 AM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's acting like he's addicted to porn. He's ashamed of it, can't stop, does it even though it hurts you, does it even when he's not horny.

Counseling.
posted by goblinbox at 10:15 AM on July 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, there 's a difference between watching porn and enjoying it vs feeling shame and bewilderment. You both need to talk about this outside the bedroom and certainly not right before or after sexytimes. He may have a mindset that "all girls hate their guys watching porn" and may very well be getting advice elsewhere that it's better to hide it than admit it. (not to mention he's lousy at hiding it, geez)

Put it to him just as you did in your question; it kills your self-esteem, you feel like he's not sexually attracted to you, etc. Porn can be a neutral or positive factor in a relationship, but watching it compulsively and in the manner you mention sounds vaguely addictive to me too. Good luck with this.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 10:16 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm only really down on porn when it's used to the detriment of your actual sex life, and it sounds like that's the case here. Thus, it's a problem.
posted by gaspode at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with St. Alia and with muddgirl - porn can be destructive, and it can be neutral or even positive. In your situation, it certainly seems destructive. Is/are your anger/frustration/hurt feelings misdirected, thought? It seems to be his actions, rather than porn per se, causing the problems here. IANAD/psychologist, but I agree with muddgirl that this behavior seems compulsive and may possibly be evidence of a porn addiction. As muddgirl points out, the fact that he can't understand or explain his own motivation and desire to watch porn, and the fact that he apparently does it unwillingly are big red flags.

Would he be open to couples counseling? Based on your description of his behavior, this is likely not something that's going to just go away or get better on it's own. What's more likely is that his compulsion/addiction, if he has one, may grow even worse with time. If he truly does not want to watch porn behind your back, as he says, counseling could help him overcome this compulsion. Counseling could also help you understand that his behavior does NOT mean that you are unattractive, undesirable, or unworthy of love or affection. Above all, please make a promise to yourself that you will work on this issue together BEFORE getting married. Good luck to you.

(Also:
Fiancee = vag
Fiance = peen)
posted by pecanpies at 10:19 AM on July 17, 2010


He *might* have a porn addiction - he might also be watching it whenever he can grab a moment alone because you're being intrusive about wanting to make it a group activity and he's trying to have it as a solo activity without you around to make him feel bad about it. I'd be acting all shamed and flustered too.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:20 AM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maybe he just has a fetish or kink or interest he doesn't feel like sharing with you or is scared to admit to himself? When I was in this place I was sure not into fucking my partner very much and I had lots of secretive web browsing.
posted by By The Grace of God at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2010


Your fiancée is a decade younger than you, and may still sorting out how to say things like "I need my special time alone now." And as the two of you are engaged, it may (may!) be harder for you to see that each of you can maintain separate identities and interests and still be a close couple.

Your fiancée may be addicted, or this may be a habit plus poor communication of needs and recognition on both sides of boundaries.
posted by zippy at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2010


I think L'Estrange Fruit is right on the money. You have an issue with him watching porn on his own; you need to come to terms with that.
posted by zemblamatic at 10:29 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What does he want to do? You say that you feel like the two of you are making progress toward something (something you both agreed on?), and then something happens that makes you feel like he's backsliding... and I'm left wondering how much autonomy your guy feels like he has in this matter. He's young — maybe he can't figure out how to express his desires, and ends up saying what he feels like you want him to say.

You say that you feel like you're being cheated on when he watches porn privately, and then hides it from you. It's possible that
  • You feel like you need to be involved in every part of your partner's sexuality
  • But also, he feels like it's important to have parts of his sexuality that are entirely, completely private.
If that's the case, having discussions with a couples counselor is so important.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:38 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This watching porn ... is he also wanking off when you're not around? Because that would explain why he's less interested in you than you are interested in him sexually.
posted by musofire at 10:47 AM on July 17, 2010


He's behaving like a sneaky kid. That would make anyone uneasy.
posted by amtho at 11:21 AM on July 17, 2010


The age difference could be a factor. He may still be sorting himself, what he likes and don't doesn't like and just may need some alone to help figure it out and become comfortable in asking for it. Him feeling as though he has to hide it is an issue though, along with you flipping out on him for hiding it. I suspect that you talking about it isn't going to help much 'cause you're already feeling hurt and he's already feeling embarrassed by it, so you two are on this negative cycle of watch, hide, and get embarrassed/angry etc, rinse and repeat.

Whether it's walking in on him while hes enjoying it -- when I am readily available and very willing to offer the real deal..

This part completely wigs me out in turns of your thought processes. You sound, IMO, very demanding and wanting to structure his sexual time. Logically this isn't the case of course, but as an introvert, ANYONE for ANY REASON attempting to make me feel bad for how I use my alone time is just emotionally and mentally draining and drives me further away from them. I get that you may not be that way, but when I was in my early '20s if someone corned me about how I spent my time and wanted, in my introverted mind, to invade that alone time, I would have shut down and not wanted them there, just because they're insisting that they should be there. Yes, this could of extended to sexual activity. A potential solution to this is #2 below.

That said, you don't sound like you're being insane about it, just understandably human, particularly when you're usually the one wanting sex and he isn't, but he's looking porn. Something sounds off there, he may MAY be finding something in porn that he isn't in you. As a young guy he may be getting hung up on that one thing, even though you still bring pretty to the table. I don't know, but that definitely needs to be sorted out before ya'll get married.

Potential solutions:

1. Do you know what he likes porn wise? Perhaps there is something in what he likes that you can model off (and feel comfortable in doing so) and can then offer that to him, to see if he responds more readily to you.

2. Watch porn in such as way that he walks in on YOU and you invite him to watch it with you. That may help him feel more comfortable with sharing it with you and/or opening up.

3. When you catch him, don't get upset. Just calmly ask to see it, and if he says yes comment on some aspect of it that you like and if it's something that you like, ask him if he'd be interested in doing that.

4. Send him an email letter, see if he responds better. He may be so caught up in feeling awful and overwhelmed that having a bit of alone time to sort out stuff may help.

Yes, the solutions I offered are based on you doing or not doing something. That sucks and may not seem fair, but I suspect you're dealing with a younger guy who may not know exactly how to proceed with this, so you taking the lead and helping him through it might be the most useful thing.
posted by new brand day at 11:34 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The way you're describing it sounds like a compulsive behavior. And it may have little to nothing to do with sex or the porn itself, per se, if he's watching it compulsively it may just happen to be the thing he's hit on that relieves some sort of anxiety.

Think through it and replace porn with something less loaded: food, video games, making model airplanes. Would that behavior concern you as well? If I couldn't leave the room for 10 minutes without my husband grabbing his model airplane supplies (and then hiding it when I returned to the room), I would be concerned and would want to have a talk about the underlying reason - is it his way of feeling like he's having some alone time, is it anxiety, is he just really super into model airplanes right now and I'm not giving him enough time to satisfy his interest in it?

You don't say for sure that you're living together or for how long you've done so if you do, but close quarters can be really stressful on people with high personal space/alone time requirements, which can result in acting out in strange ways. That might be something to put up fairly high on the "to discuss" list.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:43 AM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


How good are you guys together with frank and sometimes embarrassingly honest communication? I'm talking the real nitty gritty. Because I've felt just like you, right down to the "it didn't bug me in other relationships why now" distress and the having the generally higher sex drive and mentioning having it out in the open to share or acknowledge would've solved some of the emotional issues, etc.--and the only thing that works is talking about it, and not just once, but any time something changes for either one of you re: your feelings about it, etc. It means being able to say to him "this is why it hurts me--because I'm right in the other room and telling you I'd like to make out and then you go over there...I feel unsexy, unwanted, and also like you can't let me into your sexual life." You can try to compromise with something like what's routinely mentioned in these threads--holding him to being more responsible about not having it in your face (super tact), sharing it as you mentioned, whatever. If sharing isn't possible--some guys are really obsessed with the idea porn is the last refuge of man privacy--then talk about that so you can understand where he's coming from better. But also clarify what happens when it leads to you not being able to be intimate with him when you wish you could be--how to deal with that, minimize it, etc. Being calm and respectful but explicit and specific about it, and not weeks or months after something bothers you, but as soon as possible while it's still fresh. Asking questions that nag at you point blank, like "is there something in porn that really does it for you that you don't want me to know about, or don't think I'd do" or whatever, etc. and trusting his answers are truthful. This might be a rare dynamic to achieve; I don't have a ton of relationships under my belt so I don't really know. But I do know in one relationship the guy absolutely refused to in any way discuss it and believed even talking about it or acknowledging at all was a violation of his privacy, and whoa boy, that did not work for me at all. The relationships I've felt sexually fulfilled and wanted and happy and loved while the guy clearly still used porn sometimes were all about being able to talk openly about it, and regularly at times depending on how either one of us felt. I learn a lot about my partner that way and it also humanizes the whole issue and makes it less of a bogeyman to begin with. And I feel closer too when I understand him better. That's a vague non-answer but it's the only thing that's worked for me.
posted by ifjuly at 11:52 AM on July 17, 2010


I don't read this as the your trying to control every aspect of your fiance's sexuality, or trying to stop him from having any privacy, necessarily. It sounds like the two of you haven't figured out how to talk about sex. His sex drive is apparently lower than yours, and he's investing much of that already-limited energy into private porn viewing, and he's deflecting your efforts to find a way to include both of you. You feel left out, and I think that's pretty understandable. No one can prescribe a solution for you--the solution isn't a single action (he stops watching porn or you stop asking him to include you), it's for the two of you to talk, and talk some more, and then keep talking. It's up to you and him to determine what works in your relationship in terms of sex. There's a lot going on here besides just whether or not he secretly watches porn, and whether or not the porn thing is an addiction. You may have mismatched sex drives, different expectations of privacy, different levels of experience, etc. You should be figuring out how to effectively talk about these things now--it's not those factors that will mean your relationship is doomed or not, it'll be whether or not you can communicate about them.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:12 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whether it's walking in on him while hes enjoying it -- when I am readily available and very willing to offer the real deal

Just wanted to comment on this bit. I agree with some other posters that you at least have some communication issues about sex, etc. But sex and porn are _not_ the same thing. One can substitute for the other, of course, but they're not 100% interchangable. A lot of guys want to watch porn even if they're getting laid regularly. It's not that the girl isn't "enough", porn is just different (it's more of a fantasy than sex, like wanting to read a novel about sailing instead of actually sailing --- you wouldn't say "why don't you just go rent a boat and sail instead of reading about it?", because they're not the same thing).

Obviously if it's causing other problems these should be addressed. But I think a lot of women think guys use porn entirely as a substitute for sex, so if the woman is available they feel insulted if the guy still watches porn. But it's not the same thing.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


There are a bunch of separate issues that you are getting mixed together.

First, you don't want to catch him watching porn. That's fine and porn can be a very personal thing. I know I don't want to know about the porn habits of many people, even some of my ex-partners. Tell him to be more careful about his porn viewing habits and maybe uh, tell him to lock the door or do it when he knows you're going to be away.

Second, you think it's affecting his sex drive. We don't know if this is true and most guys don't use porn as a replacement for "the real deal." It's a totally different activity and occupies a different space in our lives. That said, you need to talk to him and work through this. I would approach this like "well, our sex drives are mismatched, how can we fix this?" and not "why are you watching porn instead of having sex with me?"

From reading your post, I get the sense that you think he needs to watch less porn and you seem to be getting angry at him when you catch him. This may or may not be the solution but you need to approach this as a problem to fix in your relationship rather than something he's done and he needs to change about himself.

This is pretty loaded and I agree with folks who say you might have to find a better way to talk about this, so counseling might be helpful.
posted by anonymuk at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2010


Some solutions I have offered to him was watching it together, or if hes embarassed he can create a folder on his computer and put it in there so I can watch it later or favorite it so I can watch when he's not around. Just to make me feel sort of involved in this instead of this awful being cheated on feeling.

If my partner stipulated I could watch porn, but only with them or only if I downloaded it to a folder so they could watch it later, I would be pretty put-off. Some people don't want to share watching porn, not because it's something they find shameful, but because they view it as a private experience, like masturbating. Some couples would be OK with filming themselves for their partner every time they jacked off, and others would be pretty horrified by the idea that they would never be allowed to have their own private sex lives.

I'm wondering if this is that your fiance is having a problem with porn, or with the power/control issue. He feels embarrassed when you catch him watching, because he promised he wouldn't, but he still does it because maybe he resents what he feels is you trying to control his porn-watching (and demanding that you be allowed to monitor all the porn he watches is definitely a method of control).

Note too that porn-watching is an addition to sex life, not a substitution. It's not a zero-sum game, like, the more porn you watch the less sex you want to have.

It sounds like maybe the difference in your libidos is leaving you feeling a bit insecure, and you're projecting this on the porn-watching. So you try to exert a bit of control over it, in hopes of feeling less insecure, but he's not understanding that it's not that you want control, it's that you want reassurance that he still loves you and is sexually interested in you.

Whatever the case is, clearly there is some massive miscommunication going on. Having a third-party help, like through couples counseling, would probably be of benefit.
posted by schroedinger at 12:51 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


anonymous: “He feels bad he does it, he doesn't know why he does it, he doesn't want to do it.”

All I want to say is this:

Shame is the most potent and most addictive drug known to humankind. That's the drug he's addicted to. He tells himself that it's porn he's addicted to, that it's bad and wrong; he doesn't realize that he's telling himself that in order to feed his true addiction: shame.

Please don't cease relentlessly accepting him for who he is – and demanding that he repay that with true intimacy. There's nothing wrong with porn, but there's a hell of a lot of pain and suffering in being ashamed of it and hiding it. Remember: this has nothing to do with you; he's refusing to accept himself.
posted by koeselitz at 1:07 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


He is immature and rude. If he must watch porn, tell him to do so when he is home alone. If he can't do that, it's time you rethink your relationship.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2010


This is super-messy. Couples therapy would be the best next step.

I feel for you but am concerned that he may still be finding his voice and not able to stand up for himself about what he really wants. He doesn't owe you sex and can say no for any reason (I know you know this) and even after saying no, he can still do sexy things with himself. If you do want to define porn as "cheating" and "not allowed," you can't push that opinion on him as The One Right Way; it needs to be a consensual negotiation where he is encouraged to voice disagreement. None of these solve your discomfort, but separating out his behaviors and your feelings, then having conversations from a perspective that's more respectful of his right to choose (and your right to opt yourself out if necessary), will help nonetheless.

It seems like what causes you discomfort is a sense of being rejected? Have you ever had self-esteem issues around sex before? If so, one book recommendation: Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power (good even if you're not a "sex addict").

Either way, I think talking to him about your fears there would help. Because what's going on now is
porn --> self-esteem fear --> "don't watch porn!" --> [him feeling shame and defensiveness, continued porn viewing] --> continued frustration for you

Instead, strive for
porn --> self-esteem fear --> "I worry you don't think I'm sexy!" --> "oh baby yes I do" --> reassurance and comfort for you.

I don't mean to put all of this on you. If he were here, i'd suggest he get clearer about whether the porn-viewing works for him and if so, to stand up to your attempts to get him to stop, and if not, to get help changing his behavior. I think this is one of those situations that couples counseling was made for. But since you're the one here asking advice, and your behavior is the only thing you can control, I'd suggest being more respectful of who he is and why he does what he does, deciding whether that works for you, and trying to solve the problems it creates for you by being more disclosing about what those problems are for you and maybe by doing some work on it on your own, rather than trying to control his behavior to ease your discomfort.
posted by salvia at 1:32 PM on July 17, 2010


When your'e not around for even 10 minutes?! Seconding those who said this sounds like addictive/compulsive behavior, and suggested counselling. But I'd be asking about more than the sexual issues, too. If this is your fiance, I'd make sure you cover issues in counselling like "can he hold down a job?" and if you want children, "can he be a responsible father?" 'Cause I think switching to porn every 10 minutes might interfere with those things.
posted by rossmik at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2010


Porn differs from sex in one very important aspect: It is totally under the control of the viewer. He doesn't need to worry about someone else's needs (especially someone else with a reported higher sex drive) when he watches porn. As such, it's not a replacement for "the real deal." I imagine he feels your disapproval of porn as a disapproval of his selfishness. I suspect he would be more available to you if he didn't perceive a conflict between his needs and yours.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:39 PM on July 17, 2010


I believe many posters here are missing the crucial point here: your boyfriend prefers porn to intimacy, and acknowledges this as a problem. If indeed he wishes to change, let him demonstrate that by going into therapy or in some other way that would be acceptable to you. If he isn't making purposeful moves towards change, consider moving on. While he has every right to porn, you have every right to intimacy with your partner. By all means, accept his interest in porn, and accept him for who he is. That doesn't mean that you need to stay with him.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:49 PM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


OK and I've got to say it: I am really creeped out by the people who are suggesting that you are the one with the problem. Hello? Her boyfriend won't have sex with her and cannot go 10 minutes without viewing porn -- thus she must be a controlling person with low self-esteem?
posted by Wordwoman at 2:00 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wordwoman, they are likely each contributing to an uncomfortable situation, though I certainly haven't cast her as harshly as you seem to think I/we have.
I'm speaking for the porn-comfortable point of view in this thread, and from that side of the equation there are things she is doing that could be aggravating the issue: creating shame around a normal activity, seemingly to imply that she must have access to all his porn, which implies vetting, which implies that he is both not trusted and not allowed to have this as a private activity. Putting activities that revolve around his sexuality in in the "bad dog" corner could very well be impacting his ability to relate to his partner in a sexual way.
That he does not have sex with her for a while after watching porn could indeed mean that the porn is satisfying a low drive; it could *also* mean that whenever she finds that he's been watching porn, she makes such a big deal out of it that it turns him right off.
Take this:
Last night, as always when I think we are making progress with it, he is going to bed and I suggestively say that if he feels in the mood to do anything feel free to let me know. (Mostly I am in the mood and he is not and so I leave it open on his end without making him feel bad for not being in the mood.) So, he tells me he would keep that in mind, gets in bed, watches porn. I walk in the bedroom, of course he tries to hide it, I see it and am angry.
What if he was watching porn as a warmup? She comes in and it becomes an angry situation instead of a sexy situation, voila no sex that night.

He's aggravating the issue by being almost childish or passive-aggressive about it, trying to stick his hand in the forbidden cookie jar at every opportunity. This could be because he is addicted, or because he is used to using it as a stimulant before live sex, or because he's feeling harassed and backed into a corner and it's the big forbidden fruit of his world right now.

Everything he's saying is a kid's reaction to being caught with porn - dunno, embarrassed, stupid, dunno. This is not helpful in an adult relationship, but there are two sides - she might be doing something to cast him as the child.

Either way, they BOTH have work to do, and intimacy issues to work out - imo he needs his private time and she needs to be made to feel like his special lady again. This can happen, but they both need to talk, open up AND give each other room for the little secrets that every adult has.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:30 PM on July 17, 2010


Are the "accidentally" left pop-ups meant as hints to you about a fetish that he doesn't feel comfortable communicating another way? Perhaps his fetish is getting caught masturbating or his hoped for "consequences" for getting caught, if you follow me?
posted by ob1quixote at 2:36 PM on July 17, 2010


Wordwoman, I didn't say she was the ONLY one contributing. Also, we only have her side of the story. I took that 10 minutes sentence as an exaggeration or figure of speech. Since it seems unlikely to be literally true, and due to its wording, it struck me as a disrespectful, blame-throwing statement and made me wonder if there wasn't more here than we were hearing.

Even if it's as you say, the fact remains that she IS taking his addiction personally. Would you do that with an alcoholic? (They must drink because I'm not interesting!) So I stand by my self-esteem question.

She's viewing sex every other day as not often enough? To each her own, but might there be sex addiction issues on both sides? We don't know.

Even if he's a bonafide sex-addict, people still suggest partners of addicts go to counseling, co-anon, etc. There's a gulf between "he's an addict," and "I can now walk away or otherwise be emotionally and physically unimpacted by his addiction," a gulf that people can need help to cross. The advice I gave: stop trying to control it, make explicit what your expectations and dealbreakers are, opt out if necessary, all apply to dating an addict.

I do think she's bringing her own stuff to the table, and since she's the only one whose side we've heard, and the only one who wants help from us, I think it's better to say "look at this, this, and this in your own behavior" rather than diagnosing her boyfriend for her. Giving up on her attempts to control him by getting mad at him is a good idea whether he's an addict or whether he's not.
posted by salvia at 2:37 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you've done everything right in terms of your attitude and your approach and your communication. This situation is not a small thing. You are fortunate to have learned about this before getting married. I would put the marriage on hold until this is resolved to your satisfaction. Maybe some women would accept and tolerate his behavior, but clearly you can not and will not. You could be incompatible.
posted by conrad53 at 3:10 PM on July 17, 2010


Sometimes when he watches it, he's not in the mood again for days sometimes which of course, is also an issue.

Except if he's watching porn when you leave him alone for ten minutes, do you really think he isn't watching it almost every day? And someone who gets sloppy about cleaning up after, which includes closing pop-ups? He's watching it a lot. So I'll fix that for you:

Sometimes when I catch him watching it, he's not in the mood again for days sometimes which of course, is also an issue.

I doubt he's draining his reserves of interest in sex. He's a male in his early twenties, if you'll pardon me for generalizing. The problem is his reaction at being caught.
posted by RobotHero at 3:47 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


A common reason for constant porn viewing (and/or masturbating) is to escape from problems, worries, stress, etc. Could this be the case with your boyfriend? If you think that might be, address the stress or depression, and assume the porn-love is a symptom.

By the same token, if two aren't having sex together as often as you would like, discuss that -- between yourselves or with a counselor.
posted by wryly at 3:55 PM on July 17, 2010


Masturbation to porn and sex with another person are not perfect substitutes. He's not turning you down to watch porn instead, he's just not in the mood for sex. That doesn't mean he's not in the mood for porn/masturbation. You shouldn't take it personally.

The sneakiness/dishonesty is another issue, although if you're being unreasonable about porn I can see why he'd feel he needed to hide it from you.

If you're not having enough sex, that's another issue too, that should be discussed separately.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:52 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's going to be a lot of attempting here to blame you for what is your boyfriend's problem. I hate to say it, but this is a good example of why it's impossible to change men unless they want to change. They will get very defensive (especially regarding the porn issue, which is still somehow justifiable as not an issue in today's culture, even though it does cause a lot of relationship problems) and I almost guarantee that if you confront your boyfriend about it, he won't change. Even framing it as a "I'm not getting enough sex to be happy" issue is unlikely to get him to change. I do think it's worth a try, of course, but from personal experience, either he's just that into you or he's...not. Maybe it's the porn, maybe it's not...the point is, you're unhappy and he's unable or unwilling to change. I think it's probably safe to blame the age difference too, at least partially. In the end, if it comes to the worst, I think this is enough of an issue to walk out over. Unless he is unhappy with his sex life, there's not much that will motivate him to change. And yes, there are some men who honestly would prefer to have a relationship with a woman for the emotional support, but still turn to porn for sexual gratification...because it's easy, quick, and doesn't ask for anything in return. I realize my opinion is very likely unpopular, but hey, for what it's worth, that's my 0.02.
posted by Nixy at 4:57 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, as I said in a previous porn thread, you should not feel pressured to just accept that porn is standard behavior for your mate and that you're some kind of controlling harpy if you do not approve.

From your account, you have misgivings about several of his behaviors. Lying about porn. Being secretive about porn. Porn interfering with real-life. Continuing porn in spite of your feelings. These are symptoms of porn addiction. In fact, take out the word "porn" and put in any other intoxicant -- "alcohol", "gambling", etc. -- and you'd have addiction.

Not saying you need to leave him, but do you both a favor and don't marry him until this issue is addressed and he's gotten some help. Just move the date back and seek come counseling and support together.
posted by cross_impact at 11:14 AM on July 18, 2010


No matter what the cause is, you don't have to put up with the behavior. It's his responsibility to deal with any mental health issue or compulsion or "I need more privacy" or "I need help figuring out how to look at porn without leaving a history".

I think sometimes we get overly involved in empathizing with partners when we should be setting firm boundaries and expectations. That's not to say you can't empathize, but first your needs have to be met. It is a loving impulse to help your partner, and that is good, but when you're helping them or trying to figure them out at the expense of getting your needs met, it's a recipie for resentment.

I've lived with men (usually in one-room apartments!) for the last 8 years and I've stumbled upon them looking at porn maybe...8 times? About once a year. I don't ban porn from my relationships, either. It's simply not that hard to hide normal porn viewing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:12 AM on July 19, 2010


I have to disagree with most people here and say it sounds like it's your problem. If you're having sex every day or every other day, it seems to me like it's not negatively affecting his desire for you.

It seems to me like you're just threatened by his use of porn if it doesn't involve you. He wants to use porn in his own way without necessarily sharing it or saving it for you or involving you. I don't see why that's such a big deal. You're acting like he's cheating on you or something by looking at it. Obviously if you get mad at him for watching, and it's not something he genuinely wants to stop, he's going to start hiding it and being ashamed when he's caught.

I'd recommend backing off, letting him know it's fine to do his own thing, and stop policing the porn. Hell, get him a room with a door and knock before entering. If he wants to involve you, he will.

I think as long as your sex life is good, it's not really any of your business. Just let it go.
posted by callmejay at 11:37 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK and I've got to say it: I am really creeped out by the people who are suggesting that you are the one with the problem. Hello? Her boyfriend won't have sex with her and cannot go 10 minutes without viewing porn

The OP stated that they're "usually going at it every day or every other day". That doesn't sound like her boyfriend won't have sex with her. Also, 10 minutes is obviously an exaggeration.

I'm really uncomfortable with the number of people in this thread jumping to vilify this guy's behaviour. Maybe he's being unreasonable, maybe the OP is being unreasonable - we just don't know.
posted by ripley_ at 5:57 PM on July 19, 2010


To me, this doesn't seem to be very much about porn, but about doing something over and over again. If he was eating in bed after you asked him to stop, and he did it after showing general disinterest in you or in doing something generally, you'd dbe right to be concerned.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:13 PM on July 20, 2010


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