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The problem of pornography


Mark
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This is intended to be a general forum about sexuality issues. However, by far the most pressing sexuality-related topic that has been discussed on Mental Help Net in recent months is the problem of pornography. People should feel free to post here about any variety of sexual concern, but I was thinking, for purposes of getting things started here that it would be a good idea to focus this first post on porn.

Thanks largely to the Internet, pornography has never been easier to access. In the old days, you had to consume porn by way of magazines and movies, all of which required a purchase which could be regulated to make it difficult for minors to gain access. Today, porn is literally all over the web, much of it free. Most any search engine will return porn links. Really, there are no controls anymore to keep it difficult for minors (or adults) to consume. It is instantly there when you want it.

Because porn is so graphically sexual and frequently extreme in nature, people tend to get "addicted" to it. This was true in the past, but with the internet, it is much more the case today. This creates disasterous problems for many relationships, with men secretively and compulsively using porn and women finding out about this use and feeling extremely hurt and harmed. Women hate the lying that goes on to cover up porn use. They feel they can't compete and feel worthless and degraded. And they feel terribly angry about it all. Men with a compulsive porn problem typically feel very guilty and ashamed, feelings which make them feel degraded and worthless too.

There is also the problem of the way that frequent porn consumption degrades actual one-on-one sex. Men who consume porn start wanting relatively extreme sexual practices that their partners may find degrading, such as anal sex. They may enter into a sexual relationship thinking that it is okay to ejaculate on a woman's face without asking her first (becuase that is what they are accustomed to seeing), etc. Perhaps the most frequent casualty of porn is the frequency of sex, which tends to become far less frequent. If men are spending their desire on porn images, they don't have much or any left for their partners. The entire wonderful lustful bonding enterprise of sex gets lost and all parties are poorer for it.

Hopefully, someone reading this first post has a story to tell about their own porn experience and will take the plunge and share it. By sharing it here, other people struggling with the issue (men and women alike) will know they are not alone and contribute and we'll get some useful dialog going here.

What sort of sexual issues are you struggling with these days? Is porn a problem in your relationships? How so?

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Thanks for providing a place to discuss this complicated topic. I have been married for ten years, and in that time have seen the up and downs of porn. Porn itself is the symptom of a larger problem in our world which is the shame we grow to feel about sex. Large segments of our society believe sex is shameful in God's eyes and thus push it into the dark corners where it does indeed become unhealthy and shameful. A healthy understanding of sex and a proper learning environment would change the face of porn. In order to create this environment, we must first believe in a God who does not condemn us for our sexual desires and interactions, but loves us enough to give us this sacred experience between people. I do not mean to create a new church here, the world has enough of them, but any individual desiring a healthy sex life, must first find the source of shame and turn it to a source of strength.

I have not done this, yet. I am just beginning to understand the shameful environment that shaped my sexual attitudes. Dark rooms filled with young boys and stolen Hustler magazines. Unspoken condemnations of teens with raging hormones and no healthy place to address them. Parents, churches and schools that barely can mention the word sex, much less discuss it with children who are filled with curiosity and yearning to understand and be accepted. No good has come of this sterile environment and as a result, we have allowed the porn industry to become the classroom for sex.

With the internet explosion, you have seen the effect of repressed sexuality. Porn is the internet's biggest industry and money-maker, by far, because it gives us a place to go in private to satisfy our sexual desires. Men are visually stimulated. Women are emotionally stimulated. To say that men are cheating when they look at visual images is to misunderstand their reality. Men need visual stimulation for sexual enjoyment. I remember the first time my wife showed me her vibrator. I felt extremely incompetent and like less of a man because of how fast that thing worked on her. The fact is, for her, orgasm requires some effort and the vibrator helps things along. Over time, I have come to understand and appreciate why she would want to use a vibrator. I don't think she has done the same for my porn images, but porn is much more complex. Porn images are largely negative images of women being demeaned, and this is not how we should feed our sexual minds. The problem is, there are few healthy alternatives, so we revert to what is available when the need arises. Who will begin the healthy porn/healthy sex revolution? You? Me? It would require some bold people.

When I first got married, I was not sure that I could be with one person for the rest of my life. That is what scared me the most. Ten years later, I can say it was the best decision of my life, and the rewards that come with the trust and intimacy between two lifelong friends far outweigh the loss perceived by not having multiple sex partners. The difference is who and what is in your life when the orgasm is over. New sex may be exciting and spontaneous, and it certainly has a place in the world, but as you grow older, the benefits of a long-term relationship far outweigh the excitement of new relationships.

In our marriage, we have seen many ups and downs and through it all, sex was not the priority, our love for each other was. Our mothers passed away nearly simultaneously. I have been through 7 jobs in the past 8 years. We have moved houses 5 times in 8 years and have been remodeling for 8 years. We had a baby who is now two years old. These are the kinds of events which have served as the backdrop to our relationship. My point is, all of these things take a serious toll on sex life to the point where my wife was on anti-depressants, and I was on internet porn. As pitiful as this was, it helped us stay together and get back to a point where we could even begin to work out our sexual issues with each other. Sometimes sexual needs just get pushed aside while other things are being dealt with. If the alternative is divorce, then masturbation, internet porn, antidepressants and vibrators are not as big of an issue.

Ultimately, the goal is to come together in a relationship and do the best you can for each other. This takes a lot of creativity, patience, love, and a healthy environment to grow in. I know porn, as it stands now, is not a healthy environment...maybe that's why I'm here talking about it. However, visual stimulation for men is a reality that needs a solution and depending on the life factors affecting a relationship, sex isn't always an option. So, like a vibrator, I'm not happy it exists, but I understand its purpose and accept it. My wife and I are still happily married and continue to find ways to improve our imperfections and accept our differences. Thanks for reading.

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Bill

Thank you for posting this very moving and real account. Clearly, you've thought a lot about this issue as you've lived it.

It's nice to hear from men about it - that happens much less frequently than women's anger.

I'd say more but I don't want to spoil the discussion for others.

Mark

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Thanks for the reply. I understand the women's anger, and they are certainly entitled to it. However, the only way to bring about a solution is to come to the table and discuss it. I feel that women are "wired" for monogamy while men are not. I certainly understand the need for it and the stability it provides, but women must understand that men are not designed that way. I love my wife, and I have never cheated on her, nor on any ex-girlfriend, but it would be nice if beyond anger, women worked towards a mature understanding of men's sexual nature. I certainly work towards understanding and accepting their need for monogamy. Perhaps visual stimulation and fantasy provides the variety that men desire, without the inevitable emotional entanglements of multiple sex partners.

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Guest ASchwartz

I am not so sure that women are hard wired for monogamy and men are not. In fact, there is biological evidence that the female body is well adapted for sexual relations with many men and that her ovaries seem to detect the sperm from the primary male and destroy the others. Remember, it is not just men who cheat in marriage. Women also have extra marital affairs.

I agree that men and women need to come to the table and discuss the issue of pornography as well as other sexual issues. Women feel betrayed when their men are found ogling pornograpy. They also begin to fear that they are not attractive enough. Therefore, when coming to the table to discuss these issues it will be important for men to listen and try to understand the female point of view. In addition, I believe women, once at the discussion table need to be less rejecting and learn about the male issues.

This place is a good place, a type of "table" where these things can be discussed. Come on, concerned men and women, join the discussion.

Dr. Schwartz

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I used to work in a Sexuality Clinic in the VA system, and the issue of pornography came up quite frequently. One solution that worked for some couples was to adapt a different approach- rather than one person rejecting pornography and becoming angry about it (therefore forcing the other person to be secretive), some people actually incorporated pornography use into their sex play together as a couple.

So, for example, some couples watched a video (or looked at erotic books) together as part of foreplay. Several clients I worked with were turned off by more traditional pornographic films that portrayed the degradation (or harming) of women, but found that "erotic" films (often found in the foreign films section of the video store or library) or books met both people's needs and could be quite stimulating.

I am wondering if any couples out there have tried this approach?

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I agree that this site is as good a table as any. Who knows, maybe I'll send the link to my wife to see if she would like to participate. I am all for listening to the female perspective and how it makes them feel, but there should be a time & place for venting emotions and a time & place for realistic problem solving. I understand that many women feel hurt that men look at sex images without involving them, but I also feel that this is their own issue of self esteem. I would not feel hurt if my wife looked at these images, whether I knew about it or not...in fact, it would make me think she was more human and less "Madonna." And I am certainly not looking at these images because she is not good enough, or beautiful enough. I am happy to talk with her about it, but she doesn't like it and seems to look at me as a cheater for looking at it. So we have essentially arrived at a stalemate. I don't think it does our relationship any good, but I don't think it is harming it, either. My goal, though, is to improve our understanding and arrive at a better solution than a stalemate.

We experimented with erotica together earlier in our relationship and were not able to find anything that she could take seriously. Whereas, I am stimulated by images of sex, she is turned off by the situations that are presented. Also, she is turned off by the fact that I use it, alone, for stimulation which makes it awkward for us to try to use it together. Now that we have a two year old, we are both too tired to saunter off to the video store and try to get turned on together. We have trouble barely functioning together at the end of the day, much less lighting our sex life on fire. Our focus has shifted largely to our son's needs and we are rarely able to get away together and rekindle. Our love is very much alive underneath it all, and I look forward to days when we have more alone time, together, but in the meantime, porn is a quick way to satisfy what is essentially an appetite. Perhaps not the healthiest way, but like McDonald's, it does the job.

Added to our issues, she likes sex right before bedtime when I am the least interested and I like it in the morning. What's a couple to do?

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she doesn't like it and seems to look at me as a cheater for looking at it

Please pardon the complete overgeneralizations I'm about to write :rolleyes:

This is one of the core issues, isn't it. Men don't read a relationship into their consumption of porn images. They are a tool used to create an effect. Women tend to see things differently; they do read a relationship into the porn images. "If I was turned on I would have feelings for this person because I am turned on by the person, not just the body".

If there isn't a relationship there (at some level), that is even worse, becuase then you (man) are just relating to an empty image. Is that how you see me (woman)? Either you're cheating, or you are seeing me and other women as nothing more than an object to be consumed and thrown away. Either way, the man doesn't look good.

There is a sex difference (or role difference) in how acceptable it is to objectify and "use" a desired sex partner for one's own pleasure. For many men it seems to be okay in practice (even if you end up feeling ashamed later on). For many women, that is never okay. Sex is about bonding, not about lust. Sex that is just about satisfying a lust seems to be shameful for such women. Do these "ashamed" women ever masturbate, I wonder? Of those who do, would they be less resistant to the idea of porn as an aide to masturbation (which is how most men seem to use it)?

I wonder without expecting anyone in particular to have an answer, is that something biological, or is that a judeo-christian-islam "sex is dirty" cultural artifact. I've certainly known a few women who were very "masculine" in their outlook towards sex, so if it is biological, it certainly is heavily influenced by culture.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have read the messages in this post and would like to make a couple of comments:

First, I have a lot of problems in life right now so I have temporarily suspended the idea of trying to get into any new relationships with people. I feel like I have enough to try to deal with, with all the past relationships I have been in, and I am not really looking for any new relationships at the moment.

So for me the only problems sex wise lie with pornography and masturbation, and the problem specifically is, if God would approve.

For my part I don't feel I am so addicted to pornography. There are a couple of sites I go too if I want to but I haven't been there in a while and I do not feel like I have to visit them. Most of the times I can just use my imagination but my imagination relies heavily, sometimes, on the explicit images I picked up in my mind, during my visit.

Sometimes I feel guilty, mostly about what would God would think, or would he think I was a sinner, or would He condemn me, and that's the main issue I try to work out, in my relation with sex, and pornography and God. On top of it, I am gay, so that's another issue too.

I don't know what to do about most of the times. :confused:

LiQuidDreamer

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You have brought up a very common issue that plagues many parents- how to balance all of life's demands (particularly when you are parenting very young children) while still finding time to cultivate your relationship as a couple. Unfortunately, sleep often wins over sex. Syncing up schedules (when each person has different levels of desire at different times of the day) can also be very frustrating.

Any creative ideas from people reading this post?

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  • 2 months later...

Withdrawal, properly thought of, is a term from chemical dependency. It refers to symptoms that occur when someone has become physically dependent upon a drug and comes off it. What happens is that the body gets used to compensating for the fact that the drug is there, and sets off countermeasure to try to restore homeostasis. Then, when the drug is suddenly not there anymore, the countermeasures still are. The countermeasures, now unopposed, produce themselves a drug effect, which is generally the opposite of the sort of effect that was sought in the first place.

The countermeasures are also why drug users develop tolerance and need to take more of their drug to get high.

Porn doesn't involve taking drugs, but it does involve exposing yourself to exciting images which function kinda like a drug. Or more properly, the stimulus of the porn kicks off the standard body program for arousal which is itself a biochemical process. And over time the same images lose their ability to arouse so that there is habituation and something similar to tolerance that occurs. You need more explicit more taboo stuff to keep the arousal going. I really don't know if there is any analog to how the body produces countermeasures to compensate for drugs with regard to porn. I think the tolerance process that happens can be explained by simple habituation (which is to say, what you are familiar with is no longer new and therefore no longer commands your attention). While this level of behavior is also chemically mediated, it's not to the same extreme as when you have a drug that the body is compensating for.

When you stop using porn, you can expect craving, (thoughts about desiring to use porn), which are bundled up with the habit of using porn.

There are lots of behavioral kinds of withdrawal like this that you can expect. I'm just not sure if the body has compensated for exposure to porn in such a way as to set up a real physiological dependence. I would tend to think not.

Hope that helps.

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Thanks! the reason why I ask that is because i have noticed my husband in different type of moods. I should expect this as days go on. We talk about this all the time. I want to move on from the talking aspect; were beginning a new stage in our lives. He has acknowledge the damage it has done to this marriage. I dont hold that against him; I need to learn new behaviours too. There is going to be alot of new feelings which we have to get used to. This is a long haul for us and I hope we continue on as husband and wife. People really need to understand, realize, what have you, this is a serious thing. Thank you Mark.

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'ello:)

I think pornography is like a drug. It can be responsible (used) or irresponsible (abused). I've noticed a lot of assignments and values being ascribed to producers, users and abusers of this subculture(?) over the years.

Internet and pornography? ... DEFINATLY a problem! I think that pornography should inherently be more difficult to obtain. The potential for abuse is sky high and is (IMHO).

I am a regular user (abuser?) of pornography and use it to aid physical arousal so my fantasy will be more enjoyable, kinda like eating popcorn at the movies. I have a few magazines in my sock drawer and whip one out now and then if I feel like masturbating but feel a little tired or down.

I don't think that woman are offended by pornography either, after all, most of the people I see in it are female and woman have the same physiological responses as men when exposed to it. I guess when your thinking of how 3,350,000,000 people feel about something their opinions are going to be varied.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hello xaq75,

All I can say in response to what you have written is that some women are not offended by pornograpy but many, probably most, are.

As for those women who are in pornography, most of us would alert you to the fact that they are being exploited. As with prostitution, some of them have no choice because they have been abused as children, or are so poor that they have no other way to earn a living. Also, some are addicted to drugs and this is the only way to pay for their drugs. Finally, the hope for lots of money, very fast, is what drives some of these women who might not have another way of earning a decent living.

When I read your post I wondered whether or not you have a relationship with a woman or is pornography your only outlet??

Allan

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Hi AShwartz,

I've met woman who have expressed disapproval of pornography myself. I've also met woman that have admitted to using it. But woman in general? ... all 3.35 billion of them? ... I havn't a clue. The Men? ... I'm just as clueless. The Hermaphrodites? ... same again.

I'm curios as to why an organism that actively seeks potential mates using (among other things) it's eyes and also makes (particularly the female) efforts to manipulate it's own visual appearance (for multiple reasons) would object to visual representations of sexual behaviour being widely availiable. Might have something to do with power and control. Which brings me onto exploitation. I think that within pornography as with many industries, the employees are exploited, regardless of thier sex. I would say that the exploitation that exists within the porn industry is a typical example of the way we humans treat each other in general. Prositution is another example of exploitation for both client and provider, just as in the power relationship between employee and employer.

I am certainly not going to think along the lines of men this and woman that. I'm also not going to assign values of victim/perpetrator based on gender either. Thats sexist. Not to say that we all adopt 'roles' according to how we see oursleves, sex being one aspect of self-image and that they'll be patterns that we perceive in that self-image But lets not get carried away!

Fantasy/masturbation is my only sexual outlet yes, often aided by pornography. I am aware that pornography/fantasy is not real though. As far as I can tell the publications I have purchased have been well regulated. Perhaps I've been exploited, but then, I'm not on drugs or female, so, maybe not.:)

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Guest ASchwartz

In the context of a warm, close, serious and permanent relationship there are those women who, with their partner, enjoy watching pornography together. It become a way, for some couples, to stimulate excitement. There are those couples that do this and there are those who do not. My sense is that it those men who have an intimate partner but do not include them in looking at the porno who become very angry. Of course, there are those men and women who completely disapprove of porno because of the issue of exploitation. Finally, there is the issue of child porno that is completely unacceptable regardless of what anyone says.

My point to you is that it's OK for you to use porno if you are not in a relationship but that should be temporary. Porno and masturbation are not substitutes for the real thing.

What do you think and what do others think???

Allan :)

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In the context of a warm, close, serious and permanent relationship there are those women who, with their partner, enjoy watching pornography together. It become a way, for some couples, to stimulate excitement. There are those couples that do this and there are those who do not.
;)Say no more!
My sense is that it those men who have an intimate partner but do not include them in looking at the porno who become very angry.
Understandably. If I had a partner that was looking at porn perhaps secretively I would probably wonder what other sexual activity he/she were engaging in.
Of course, there are those men and women who completely disapprove of porno because of the issue of exploitation.
Like the drugs industry, both legal and illegal, it's a risky business.
Finally, there is the issue of child porno that is completely unacceptable regardless of what anyone says.
An argument for regulating the internet if ever there was one.
My point to you is that it's OK for you to use porno if you are not in a relationship but that should be temporary. Porno and masturbation are not substitutes for the real thing.
LOL, tell me about it. Masturbation is like going for a swim in a puddle.
What do you think and what do others think???

Allan :)

I wish it would rain.

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Porno and masturbation are not substitutes for the real thing.

What do you think and what do others think???

Allan :)

Allan I think you are quite right about the line I highlighted. As I becoming aware of my husbands sexual addiction I always think what is wrong with me? I cant tell you how many countless times I have cried, yelled, screamed at him because of this. He tells me its the fact he has to work at making love to me VS just sitting at the computer masturbating which to him is no work at all. What he doesnt get is he is robbing me of his thoughts, of his pleasure because I want to experience that with him and so I feel very left out.

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Guest ASchwartz

:)Wow, thank you for your reply and for reporting your husband's reaction to your complaints about his watching porno:

He tells me its the fact he has to work at making love to me VS just sitting at the computer masturbating which to him is no work at all.

It is true that sex is work. Why doesn't he want to work at the pleasure and excitement of sex?

It is common for women to convince themselves that it must be their fault that their husbands watch porno. No, that is rarely the case unless they are the kind of person who never, ever wants to make love.

I would suggest that, instead of yelling and screaming at your husband, since that does not work any way, that you suggest marriage therapy for the both of you. I am suggesting marriage therapy as a way for him to feel less criticized. Anyway, it might be worth a try.

Allan

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Hello Allan...Well I did see a marriage therapist and so has my husband. Now we will see this person together. Its not really him that is going to make our marriage work; its going to be the both of us. There are new behaviours we are learning together. He realizes he cant walk all over me with this like he did before and I wont allow him too. I hope as time goes on this becomes a distant memory.

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Guest ASchwartz

Meyoumeyou08,

Its not really him that is going to make our marriage work; its going to be the both of us. There are new behaviours we are learning together. He realizes he cant walk all over me with this like he did before and I wont allow him too.

Yes, right on target on every point. I hope things work out for both of you.

Allan :(:)

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  • 1 month later...

One of the problems I have whenever discussions of porn comes up is this idea that women don't like and the ones who do sex work somehow do not have any agency. I also question the notion that male overconsuming porn would automatically ejeculate in my face without permission. It just seems like even in a one-night stand situation a male partner, unless he was paying for sex, or was just one creepy surprise party, probably wouldn't assume that appropriate. As for anal sex; well I think men are curious about it and that doesn't seem to have much to do with their porn consumption. I have had partners express interest in doing that with me (and not I said with and not to) and me being open to considering it.

I guess for me I have a hard time pathologizing the behavior. This society seems to really hate sexuality and it forces people to go underground and get creepy about it. While I'm definitely no sex goddess, I'd like to think I'd be open to the use such materials if my partner wished to introduce such into the relationship. I don't know if I'd want to shame them for their desires and fantasies. It seems it causes more problems to do that than to just ask, "Well what is it about that you find so interesting? Is it something you want to try or talk about?"

but I'm not married and never been a relationship so maybe it's easier to have these convinctions when nothing real is at stake.

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Yup ... I find it easy to justify the use of pornography as I'm single. I feel that it is a sexual outlet and wonder what I'd do without it. But it's important to consciously remember that it's fantasy and not reality, otherwise your in for a world of misery. Also you have to be careful about what pornography you use. Internet pornography I think is ripe with exploitation.

I feel sorry for all those vulnerable photographers struggling for a living being taken advantage of by all those predatory exhibitionists :rolleyes:

I would not feel easy about using porn if I had a real sexual relationship. I think I would feel like I'm cheating on her and if she were into it that we were being unfaithful to each other if we were climaxing to it rather than to each other.

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  • 1 month later...

I think my feelings over pornography are changing. I'm beginning to realise just how using it can create a distorted view of men and woman alike. It promotes promiscuity and creates an 'on demand' mentality which would probably also increase sexual immorality.

I'm beginning to find the ideas of 'partner swapping', dogging, swinging quite offensive as they seem to becoming more accepted which is likely IMO to damage family life leading to the collapse of stable environments for kids to grow up in. also kids can pick up on all sorts of stuff that thier parants don't even realise so it's ulikely that parants practicing this stuff could keep it from the children.

I'm gonna stop buying magazines altogether. Thinking about it, I don't like the culture this stuff is coming from.

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