In most relationships where porn has contributed to an erupted crisis, the male partner (yes, most of the time, it is the male partner) has been discovered secretly looking at porn. The greatest amount of hurt is generated not as much by the porn, but by the trust-damaging secretive nature of his self-pleasuring. Good relationships are good due to openness and sharing by strong partners. Secrets and deception harm relationships. Porn can only truly be a problem if partners are not open with each other about their sexuality and freely talk about it.
So what’s gone wrong? Most of the time, porn has filled a void already created by some kind of disconnection between partners. This is not porn’s fault; porn use is just a symptom of an emotional and sexual disconnect. Female partners may feel betrayed by the male partner looking sexually at other women and fear that he will be more attracted to them. In actuality, if the male partner is in some way sexually dissatisfied or emotionally disconnected, pornographic material and masturbation function as a substitute which help him not to seek other real women...so in a way it may protect a disconnected relationship from dissolution and betrayal.
Studies have revealed that men who look at sexual images of women generally do not have feelings of disrespect for them, but on the contrary, tend to have positive, respectful feelings about women. I am not defending men who look at porn. If a relationship becomes disconnected, rather than turning to porn for sexual satisfaction, it is a better, stronger choice for men to openly discuss the problems with their female partner, who, hopefully, is responsive and receptive.
There are varied scenarios which tend to lead to porn usage. A man is likely to hide it for the same reasons most couples have difficulty talking about sex; it is the source of shame, embarrassment and discomfort. After all, as an activity, masturbation is more taboo than sex itself. So unless a relationship contains openness about sex, such sexual behaviors will commonly be hidden. Some men have looked at porn habitually since their teen years and have not broken the habit. Some use it as erotic fantasy material to heighten their excitement so as to reduce stress; some of these men become compulsive in their need for sexual stimulation. Others use porn as a substitute when the sexual relationship is not satisfying, insufficiently active or inactive. Anxiety-ridden men who are not strong enough to risk intimacy use porn to aid to achieve sexual satisfaction while avoiding closeness with their female partner.
When sex cannot be talked about openly cloudiness is cast over the sunshine of potential sexual satisfaction. When men look at sexual images of women, they deliberately choose images containing women who appear to them sexually enthusiastic. Part of the fantasy is the imagined acceptance by the fantasy woman of the male viewer and his eroticism. The following factors are some of which prevent sex lives from being relaxing, playful and fun: low sexual frequency, unenthusiastic partners, inhibited partners, unfulfilled eroticism and poor communication during sex.
The greatest protection from porn-related threats is provided by those successful efforts at making sex satisfying, open and enthusiastic. For women who are challenged with beauty or body-insecurities, while you may feel threatened by the fantasy women with porn bodies, your ability to give or receive love and be a great sexual partner does not depend upon the shape of your body. Use your strength to put aside your insecurities and make the discovery of his porn usage an opportunity to learn about his eroticism. It may function as a step towards building a stronger, more intimate and more erotic love relationship.
Neither good nor bad, porn is a reality of our internet age. It is unlikely to disappear any time soon. Depending upon porn for arousal does not represent the healthiest sexuality; though porn can play a healthy role in singles’ and couple’s sex life. Protecting a relationship from the destructive effects of porn use requires building a strong, active erotic sex life through openness and emotional connection. The same elements contribute to emotional security. Andrew Aaron is a sex and marriage therapist who practices in the New Bedford Seaport.