Ashamed of my thoughts during sex
August 12, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I keep thinking about porn when I have sex with my wife. NSFW.

All those years of jerking off to porn are coming back to haunt me. Even though I love my wife and I love sex with her, I can't climax unless I focus on the women in the videos that are burned in my memory. Those women are hyper-sexualized, objectified fantasies; my imperfect but human wife is infinitely more desirable to me in real life. It's just that in the bedroom, my libido expects the fantasy. I've trained it that way.

I feel guilty for replaying the porn videos in my mind when I should be wholly focused on my wife. I'm ashamed that sometimes I pretend I'm having sex with porn people instead of her. How can I shut off that part of my brain and learn to orgasm without it? How can I look at my wife and consider her as smoking hot as these women whose entire lives careers revolve around sexuality? She's the love of my life but I feel that, physically, I have to compare her to the impossibly high standards I've conditioned myself to. It's not fair to her and it's leaving me frustrated when I try to think only about her, and then can't get off.

My wife is very attractive too, inside and out. But in the real world everybody falls short of airbrushing and studio lighting and toned model/pornstar bodies. I feel like a jerk for thinking my wife's not beautiful, even for a moment. I just can't stop that voice in my mind from saying "eh, she's okay but nothing like [insert name here]." It's driving me crazy.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

*Shrug* I can't say that I don't think about Harry/Snape while I'm having sex...

Would your wife be really mad if you "confessed" this to her? Would she be willing to work with you on centering exercises during sex? Like "He will stay focused on the here-and-now, even if that means he won't or can't orgasm." Eventually, you will re-train yourself.
posted by muddgirl at 9:56 AM on August 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

A lot of people have fantasies that they're ashamed of, and part of getting over it is letting go of the shame and realizing that it's pretty normal.

Try focusing on the moment, the sensations, what you want to do for her next for as long as you can. If you need to think of the porn to orgasm, let yourself do that eventually. But by spending more and more time focused on your wife, her and your pleasure, and the moment, you might begin to get away from the comparisons that are interfering with your pleasure.
posted by ldthomps at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your thoughts do not harm anybody in any way, they are just thoughts. What you do and what you say will affect people; what you think doesn't have to (unless you tell people what you are thinking). Thinking lustfully is not an act of infidelity (although according to some religious interpretations it is; Jimmy Carter has admitted to sinning in his heart). Sex is a very idiosyncratic process; we all have out own (frequently peculiar) thoughts. I honestly don't think you should worry about this.
posted by grizzled at 10:01 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just as P-in-V intercourse is not the be-all, end-all of sexual relations and intimacy, so too should your wife be absolved of the responsibility for fulfilling your every sexual need, particularly in your fantasies. Whew! That would be tiring! And you spend a whole lot of your time catering to each other in other nonsexual ways, too (right?), so it's not like you're some callous freak. She's a whole person with different needs and loves at different times, just like you.

Besides, fantasies are just that: FANTASIES. If we found out the realities behind them, they'd be a whole lot less fun. The anticipation and the imagination are what make things interesting.

If it makes you feel any better, I can guarantee that your wife isn't thinking about you in every moment, either. If that sounds a little harsh, think about this, too: when people fantasize about their loved one, they are still imagining things about an idealized version of their partner that can never be matched by reality. Maybe your wife is focusing on that one thing you did on vacation three years ago, or the way you looked when you first met. And that's fine! Better than fine!

We can't control what we think about. Why should we? We overthink sex enough. Go have fun.
posted by Madamina at 10:02 AM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Other people can correct me if this is bad advice, but maybe you could seek out the real amateur porn - not the so-called amateur porn, but the stuff where the people look like real people, you and me, imperfections and all.
posted by little_c at 10:04 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you still look at porn? If so, stop, or try to find not-so-airbrushed porn. Written material might help, too.

It seems that the problem isn't that you're doing this, but that you're doing it at the expense of intimacy and sexual connection with your wife. Why not try to add more of that apart from your sexual arousal/pleasure?

Try having some sex where you do wholly focus on her and her pleasure--keep your pants on, masturbate beforehand if that helps, don't expect to orgasm, stay in the moment without the pressure of maintaining an erection or having an orgasm. I know intercourse can be great, but I'm sure that there are other things that she loves, as well as sex toys (and your fingers!).

That will help balance things so that sometimes it's all about her, and you can feel less guilt when you aren't completely focused on her. If you get crazy turned on while you're being intimately focused on her, awesome! But keep focusing on her and her pleasure, or put it away.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:09 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look for some books or webpages that explain using Sensate Focus. It's a neat way to understand yourself as a sexual person and your partner. It will start you at square one. I think you will find yourself forgetting about porn and voraciously craving your wife. I have used this a lot in couple therapy and many clients, young and old, report feeling like it added the energy and youthfulness of sex while still keeping the aged emotional bond. It's really worth looking into.
posted by WhiteWhale at 10:19 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you really imagining yourself having sex with porn people, or are you imagining having sex with your wife as if she were a porn person?
posted by rhizome at 10:26 AM on August 12, 2010

I'm not a dude and haven't had this particular problem, so I'll leave that to other people to advise you on how best to take care of things on your end.

But unless your wife is exceptionally laid back about this kind of thing (and 110% secure in her own attractiveness and desirability) DO NOT TELL HER that you're thinking about porn during sex. Specifically, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING even remotely along the lines of "I pretend I'm having sex with porn people instead of her" or how you don't think of her as being "as smoking hot as these women."

Mr. Narrative has never said anything like that to me, thankfully, but once upon a time a boyfriend of mine did. And it still makes me feel insecure and gross seven years later. She will never be able to unhear those words and it could mess her up really, really badly.

Many women spend a lot of time feeling like they aren't meeting the "standards" of attractiveness that's expected of them. This kind of conversation might just confirm for her, in her head, that those deep dark fears of insufficiency are true.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:32 AM on August 12, 2010 [25 favorites]

My goodness, I don't know anyone who *doesn't* sometimes fantasize about other people while fucking their significant others. I certainly do. My husband does. (I'm certainly happier knowing that my husband might be fantasizing about RandomPornStar than NeighborAcrossHall, however.)

But this is obviously bothering you, so yeah, maybe for a bit follow the advice above and focus solely on her without any expectation of your own orgasm. That way you maybe won't feel compelled to fantasize.
posted by gaspode at 10:45 AM on August 12, 2010

I realize that this is a problem for you, and that is all that matters in the context of this question. But I think this is perfectly normal, and not something to be any more ashamed about than nodding and saying "Yes dear" while your wife is telling you about her day. You're not a bad person, and in all likelihood, your wife's thoughts drift to other people or scenarios while she's making love with you, too.

You acknowledge that porn stars are professional sex workers--so cut yourself some slack. Porn stars are created to be distillations of some fundamental hard wiring in the male brain--they're caricatures of a sexualized female. You, OP the person, love and desire your wife. The sexual Id in your brain gravitates to the sexual "ideal" (even though that's not what you want in real life).

This is not license to go around sleeping with girls because that's what your libido compels you to do--but I would not give yourself grief over it. If you're still raking yourself over the coals for it, definitely cut porn out of your diet, and maybe talk to a therapist. But seriously--the fact that you're coming to AskMe about this suggests that you're a good guy trying to be a good husband to your wife. Don't beat yourself up over this.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:46 AM on August 12, 2010

I don't find this such a big deal. She is probably thinking about George Clooney.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:48 AM on August 12, 2010

As a woman I've always assumed that everyone does this sometimes, especially in the context of a long term relationship. Try not to make it obvious though, that's the turn off.
posted by fshgrl at 10:51 AM on August 12, 2010

You're faithful,......... right? Done deal.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:52 AM on August 12, 2010

1. You are absolutely normal. Many people fantasize about something besides what they are doing in order to come.

2. Although I can't guarantee your wife won't be hurt, I think this will eventually be a problem if you don't tell her.

3. I suggest bringing it up gently, telling her you want to be honest and you want some compassion about this, but also don't present it as if you've done something bad. You haven't. Instead, be matter of fact but gentle.

Who knows, maybe she'll acknowledge similar habits! Maybe this will lead to new sexual adventures!

Good luck.
posted by serazin at 11:11 AM on August 12, 2010

Some would argue that being faithful is not only in touch but in the mind as well.
posted by WhiteWhale at 11:12 AM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Hypnosis might be the way to go.
posted by watercarrier at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2010

WhiteWhale, I don't disagree, but there is a chasmic difference between fleeting thoughts of other during intercourse and the emotional (i.e., unconsummated) affair. The former strikes me as entirely normal and not a big deal; the latter is a grave problem that is really no different than a sexual affair.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:25 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not always, but frequently, my "go-to" fantasy, if I am having trouble getting over the top, is a scene I read in a Penthouse Letters more than 25 years ago.

I have never attached a good or bad value to this fact. It just is.

Don't beat yourself up about this.
posted by Danf at 11:28 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's really interesting to read your perspective. I haven't seen anyone else recommend this strategy: seek out some spoken interviews with your favorite porn fantasy stars. You may find that listening to their opinions kills your desire for them.

A few of the various people I have admired over the years have been diminished significantly by discovering how much my projection diverged from the human behind the image.
posted by effluvia at 11:30 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why don't you make some homemade porn with your wife?
posted by werkzeuger at 11:44 AM on August 12, 2010

It's not uncommon to fantasize during sex, and not just for men, either; Nancy Friday talked about that in 1973, in My Secret Garden, and published letters from women who did the same. (She also said that, when her lover asked her just after sex what she thought about during the act, and she told him, he was out the door within a few minutes, so keep that in mind.)
posted by Deja Stu at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2010

If it will help to talk about this with your wife, do not talk about porn, talk instead of wanting to learn how to focus on her arousal and orgasm rather than just on your own. That has the advantage of being honest and meant to advance the intimacy in your relationship while leaving your "porn training" remain your own responsibility. If you discover that you can==for real==bring her to have orgasms like porn stars couldn't even fake, it might do quite a lot for your libido.
posted by Anitanola at 6:04 PM on August 12, 2010

I think the point that some are missing here is that you seem to be saying you can't climax with your wife unless you are allowing the porn memories to roll. That's a lot different than occasionally fantasising about someone else. In fact, it means he's not paying attention to what she's experiencing, how good it is/isn't feeling for her, how beautiful/sexy/desirable she is when they're together...that's what I'm getting out of what was written.

And that's a problem. And it's not normal. And it should be addressed in some way.

OP, thank you a hundred times for wanting to learn something else so you can be present for your wife during sex/lovemaking. Thank you for not just going ahead as you have been, and for seeing that it matters that you're there. Because it matters so much.

The advice package from above that seems to make the most sense to me is:
• Don't tell her about this porn thing, please.
• Chill on looking at porn for a bit or at least bring the level down a bit.
• Spend some time focusing on your wife during sexual interaction (man, if that's not the best homework ever, I don't know what is...) and having it be all about being into her moment.
• Make some porn together (if she's amenable, of course). If you need to explain, I'm sure she'll understand a desire to see how how the two of you look together.

posted by batmonkey at 6:10 PM on August 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

Some women enjoy porn, though it's often a different subset of the genre than the airbrushed hairless women-pleasing-men that's the mainstream these days. I tend to go for golden age and some of the older European stuff (e.g. Brigitte Lahaie) myself.

If you can find a way to come round to the topic that won't trigger a negative reaction for your wife (a fairly direct approach works for me, but I am way off the end of society's curve in that respect), there is a small but non-zero chance she likes some porn and would consider watching some (or reading some erotica aloud) with you. If you aren't sure how to broach the subject in a safe, positive way for her, don't until you figure it out.
posted by thatdawnperson at 6:46 PM on August 12, 2010

I tend to agree with everyone that this isn’t really a problem and is normal. The question then is why you’re making it a problem for yourself and/or your wife. From a psychological perspective, it is worth considering that you may actually be profiting in some way from your own feelings of shame. It is possible that you subconsciously enjoy beating yourself up over this, feeling a sense of drama over the problem, and making yourself into the "bad, dirty husband" and your wife into the "poor innocent wife." My advice would be to de-emotionalize this as much as possible; IE, just stop feeling guilty and ashamed and treat it as a clinical fact. If you find yourself missing the sense of drama, and the fact that you no longer feel ashamed actually makes your fantasies less exciting for you, then I would say you have hit psychological pay dirt and it may be worth doing some introspecting or even therapy.
posted by Nixy at 9:18 PM on August 12, 2010

Make your own home porn movies with your wife.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:02 PM on August 12, 2010

I've recommended it before here on the green, but The Erotic Mind is a great (and very non-judgemental) book to help anyone explore and understand their erotic and sexual quirks and/or to work on changing problematic behavior.

(I agree with the posters who say that what you describe isn't necessarily a big deal, but it sounds like it's a problem to you and causes anxiety and guilt. The role of those in your erotic and emotional landscape is worth looking into.)
posted by sively at 12:26 AM on August 13, 2010

I think you're missing out on opportunities for connection with your wife. Sharing one's fantasies is an important part of building a sexual rapport. It might take some careful negotiation of any number of minefields, but getting to the point of being able to share similar fantasies with her might be your own gateway to leaving this particular one behind.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:04 PM on August 13, 2010

Stop looking at porn, for shit's sake! You'll live. You don't need instant satisfaction when you're aroused; be a man, which is to say, use your imagination and deal with the unbelievably complex and rich universe you're actually living in. That's item one.

Item two: learn the tango. By which I mean, take up erotically-charged activities with your wife...actions, environments, and situations that reveal to you (again) how exciting and interesting and sexy she is, and not just physically! Most erotic thing I've done in a long time: breathing exercises with my wife during her (soon-to-be-over) pregnancy. Unbelievably powerful connection, no strictly 'sexual' content, and it's helped me to Be Here Now whenever we're together.

Sex with your wife is sex with your wife, not just on-her-while-thinking-about-Sasha-Grey. That means bringing your imagination to bear on what the two of you are doing. Quit porn cold turkey - yes, you're able; yes, it's absolutely worth it - and just start hanging out with her. Y'know? Rub her shoulders. Cook her dinner. Get tipsy and talk about your fantasies, or just your favourite books. Or: instead of pretending to have porn sex, actually have porn sex (ask first). You like the power trip of most mainstream porn? Well there are plenty of ways of taking that trip with a lover, dig?

Sex isn't a medium for recreating mental images. It isn't theatre. You're there, and she's there, and you want to be with each other. It's just one kind of closeness. The act is nothing more than itself. Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes it isn't what you want it to be. But what it is, is always amazing, one way or the other. Even when it's 'mundane.'

I'm serious about the tango, by the way. It's inexpressibly complex, and hot.
posted by waxbanks at 9:23 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

She's the love of my life but I feel that, physically, I have to compare her to the impossibly high standards I've conditioned myself to.

You DO NOT have 'high standards.' That's complete bullshit. You just have an arbitrary (but common) preference. The women in your porn movies are not better looking than your wife, nor do they have 'prettier faces' or whatever. They're just different.

You want your wife to look like them but she doesn't and won't. Why in the world would you want that...or think it possible?

The trick is to want your wife to look like your wife. Turns out that mainly consists of treating her like a person, nothing more or less, and letting her own energy fill you up. Less porn will, of course, help a lot.
posted by waxbanks at 9:27 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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