Dear Neil: Some time ago I read an article about Internet pornography and its effect on a relationship. Was that written by you?
Searching in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Searching: I have referred to internet porn in my column, but your letter stimulated me to address this issue in more depth.
X-rated porn sites, just like X-rated movies, can enhance a couple’s sex life by providing visual stimulation and an outlet for unacted upon sexual fantasies. Some women want their men to visit porn sites—the more the merrier—because those women don’t want sex with their men, and they hope that the porn sites will relieve them of the chore. Yet for most women, this is one of those issues that is increasingly generating strong, hurt, angry feelings—and even accusations of betrayal. In fact, this is such an emotional subject that I would advise that if you want to avoid anger and hurt, it’s best to view those sites together as a couple, rather than individually—unless your lady gives her clear and unequivocal permission for you to be there by yourself.
The issues that get triggered for most women are that of loyalty and adequacy. Can she trust him, or does she now have to wonder if he will stray if he finds someone he considers more sexually alluring? Also, does him viewing photos or videos of naked young models leave her feeling sexually unattractive, inadequate or belittled?
It crosses the line in a committed relationship when you:
- Take time away from your relationship in order to visit a porn site.
- Use a porn site as a way of avoiding sex or closeness with your intimate partner.
- Attempt to hurt, punish, manipulate or control your partner, such as “Do what I want or I’ll get my jollies by going online instead of being with you.”
- Become secretive about using sex-related chat rooms or porn sites.
- Use Internet chat rooms as a way of meeting new potential partners.
- When there are perversions involved, such as naked children or bestiality.
I would strongly advise that the two of you engage in an open and honest exploration as a couple about why you’re seeking out porn in the first place. How are you feeling about your sex life together? What’s the purpose or need in the relationship that porn will fill? Will it enhance the eroticism in your relationship? If so, how will you both feel about it?
This step is extremely important if you want to avoid accusations of betrayal and treason. The two of you must be in agreement about what is acceptable sexual behavior, even if it’s only through pictures or video clips.
You violate a woman’s feelings on this subject at your own peril. A woman must feel you’re attracted to her. If ever she feels you need images of other women in order to be aroused around her, or that you’re making love to her while thinking about someone else, she’ll feel devalued and used.
This is one relationship arena where it is astoundingly easy to violate a woman’s feelings of security, attractiveness, loyalty and trust. Most men cannot afford this loss of goodwill and trust. It costs too much.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
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