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How to Understand His Porn Habit

Wed, Oct 26, 2011

Advice, Dear Em & Lo, How To

photo via flickr

Is masturbating to porn cheating? Readers are always asking us this question, and the masturbator in question is pretty much always a man. Sometimes his female partner writes to us, asking if she’s right to feel cheated on. Other times the man himself writes to us, asking why his partner can’t understand how benign his porn masturbation habit really is.

For better or worse, we have a feeling that this problem is going to be less of an issue in coming years — because most of the women who are concerned about their partner’s porn habit didn’t come of age in an era when pornstar memoirs topped the bestseller lists and prepubescent girls wore fitted tees adorned with the Playboy Bunny logo. In other words, women who have not yet learned that porn is not a mistress, it’s just a business.

But for now, it remains a huge stumbling block for many couples. While we can sympathize with our sisters on this one, we’re afraid we can’t side with them. After all, very few sexually active women can say they’ve never entertained a sexual fantasy involving someone (or something) other than their partner — and we certainly can’t sic the thought police on those who have. What’s “appropriate” is so subjective when it comes to sexual fantasy, and lines are difficult to draw. There’s one’s imagination. And then there’s erotica. How about erotica with illustrations? Or sex manuals with photographs? What happens when you swap those photos for videos? And where does a website that offers sex toys and sex-related articles fit into the picture? We may like some of the above and abhor the rest, but who are we to say where the line gets drawn?

Now, this is not to say that every man should have carte blanche to ogle any kind of porn whenever and however he wants when he’s in a relationship with a woman with strong opinions on the matter. Each relationship is different, and each man’s relationship to porn is different. And there’s a huge difference — at least, most women would see a huge difference — between rubbing one out to a Playboy centerfold and getting off on gang-rape porn. There’s a huge difference between the occasional porn-supported wank and a true addiction that negatively affects his real sex life, his job, his ability to bathe and call his mama regularly.

But if both of the relationships — the one between the man and woman and the one between the man and his smut collection — are healthy, balanced, and mature, then we don’t see what the problem is. So long as a man is not prioritizing porn over sex with his One True Love, and so long as it’s not affecting the amount of sex he’s having with her — BFD. And most (well-balanced) men we know only indulge in porn when their partner is out of town or out on a ladies’ night, so it’s not like most women are ever going to walk in on their man wanking to a Web site.

That all said, sometimes a man’s porn habit does affect his partner, and it can really damage the way she views sex with him. We don’t think any man should have to sacrifice his masturbation habit (in the same way we don’t believe a woman should have to give up her favorite vibrator once she’s in a relationship), but we don’t want any woman’s sexual confidence to suffer, either. So here are five tips to help women understand men’s relationship to porn. Ladies, read on with an open mind — and gentlemen, feel free to quote us liberally when explaining your habit to your partner:

  1. Have you ever ogled a movie star on screen? Men’s “appreciation” of the women of porn is no different: just a fleeting fantasy. We’re not going to say that Hollywood and the porn industry don’t have underlying negative effects on collective body image issues or expectations about sex and love, but most intelligent people can differentiate between fantasy and reality. When it comes to porn, men don’t wish you looked like any of the women they wank to — part of the appeal is that they DON’T look like you do and most of the time they don’t look like anyone they’d take home to meet their mama. (Sorry, pornstars, no offense, we’re just trying to help out some ladies in distress here.)
  2. It is possible to be an ethical consumer of porn, so feel free to ask your man to be one. This means being confident that everything on screen is consensual, of-age, and safe, and that no actual women were harmed in the making of the film. Seriously, most animals in Hollywood movies are treated better than your average pornstar, so make sure he’s being a conscientious consumer (female-produced porn is often a safe bet). This may well be enough to ease your mind, you’ll find.
  3. Consider this: For most men, masturbation is basically just about scratching an itch. And most men need a little visual stimulation in order to scratch that itch.
  4. Try the whole “walk a mile in his shoes” theory: You masturbate next time you’re apart from each other, either alone or on the phone with your partner. You can practice by masturbating in front of each other first. We’re pretty sure you won’t feel like you just cheated on your partner, even if you think of Bradley Cooper while you do it.
  5. Would you perhaps feel better if you were part of your partner’s porn collection? Offer to pose for a few saucy photographs that he could peruse next time you’re out of town — or just at the supermarket. Or make your own home porno together — you could always shoot from the head down if you’re feeling shy.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: monogamy can be a long, hard slog sometimes, and if we could only cut each other a little slack in the fantasy department, we reckon there’d be a lot less infidelity in this world.

This article also appeared on EdenFantasys.com

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15 Responses to “How to Understand His Porn Habit”

  1. matbo Says:

    Men do not NEED a visual stimulation to masturbate – it just goes a lot faster with one.

    And I say this as a female who regularly views porn while masturbating. I don’t need it, and if my partner asked me to stop watching porn I could and would still masturbate without it – it would just take a bit longer.

    But really this is a case of being discreet. Not all my boyfriends have liked the thought, so when I do engage in viewing I make sure no one’s gonna accidentally find anything. ctr+shift+N people! Go incognito.

  2. Mike Lewinski Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I second the importance of ethical porn consumption and highly recommend Abby Winters, which is woman-owned and operated.

    It’s definitely better to bring up the topic of porn early on in a relationship, than to wait for it to come out when you get caught. If you hide it, it will seem like an infidelity, and the sense of deceit that results can be just as damaging as if you were cheating with another person.

    Having learned the lesson about hiding my porn the hard way (a couple times–I’m a slow learner), it’s now something that I talk about in the “getting to know you” phase of dating. I’ve got a list of reasons NOT to date me on my online dating profile, and porn makes the list because I know it (in any amount) is a problem for many women. The rationale of my list is that I’m happier being alone than in the wrong relationship, and so far it has worked out really well.

    There does come a point for me in most long-term relationships where the excitement of sex diminishes and porn becomes more desirable. It’s hard to overstate the importance of “newness” to my own excitement, and porn is generally going to be “new” to me because of how I browse it. I’m pretty sure this (need for newness) is a sort of biological imperative that I don’t have a lot of choice over. Of course, I do have choices about communicating what is going on for me, and about finding other ways to keep things interesting in the bedroom.

  3. Johnny Says:

    If cheating is your concern, you should be thanking porn. It keeps your boyfriend’s balls drained when you’re not around. It massively reduces the likelihood of actual, real cheating.

    ‘Course, that’s a double-edged sword. It also massively reduces a single man’s odds of getting laid by keeping him in a state of artificial sexual satisfaction.

  4. misspiggy Says:

    The newness thing is I think what many women have a hard time understanding. It feels like your man is sick of you. But it probably isn’t that simple. More information on why newness is so important would be really helpful, gentlemen!

  5. jrd Says:

    “When it comes to porn, men don’t wish you looked like any of the women they wank to…”

    So if the woman a man masturbates to is younger, or slimmer, or has larger breasts, etc. than his partner, he does not want his partner to look like that woman?

  6. Aaron Says:

    It’s interesting that most men and women don’t have a problem with women reading romance novels and in some instances, masturbating to them. Isn’t that even worse as it not only visualizes sex, it visualizes the romance and relationship of other people? Unfortunately the animosity towards porn is more of an issue of low self-confidence than rationale. Its a rather hypocritical and selective outlook to ignore one but be outraged by the other.

    A fact is that its sexy watching people have sex. If a women has a problem with me looking at porn, and it does not interfere with our relationship or our sex life, then we will not be a couple.

    It is also interesting, in my experience, that it is much more the women in the older generations who are in their late twenties and older that have an issue with it. I am a 35 year old man who is dating a 23 year old woman who can’t wait for me to put porn on when she comes over. Who cares?

  7. Johnny Says:

    ^ Well said, Aaron.

    One thing though. I do understand the moral objection to porn. It exploits women with drug addictions, mental and emotional disturbance, histories of sexual abuse, etc. Yes, I realize that some porn stars out there might be perfectly well-adjusted and in-control – but gimmie a freakin’ break. I bet at least 9 out of 10 are total train wrecks.

    So I do get the moral problem. I just don’t FEEL it. It doesn’t get to me, it doesn’t bother me, it’s not enough to turn me off. You can’t care about every problem in the world, and this one is just on my “don’t care” list. So many people are victims of fucked-up things that they can’t help, so I don’t let people who voluntarily create their own problems keep me up at night.

    Although it’s funny. In my personal life, I’ve literally NEVER heard a woman object to porn in moral terms. It’s always the sort of thing you’re describing, Aaron – “waaah, I don’t want you to look at other women,” or, “ewww, porn is for perverts.” But never, ever, “stop contributing to the physical, emotional, and social ruin of mentally unstable women.”

  8. Elizabeth Says:

    Johnny – I am a woman and I object to porn culture because it exploits and damages women and MEN.

    A few years ago I started dating a young man, I was a virgin and we had sex, everything was ‘normal’ at this stage but the second time we had sex he began to attempt to re-enact a porn video with me, moving me in positions that are only used in porn so the woman can be seen from the view of the camera. I was so naive and infatuated with this man I didn’t realise at the time what was happening, but now it all adds up. He had frequently commented on how much I looked like a porn star, he was obsessed and quite demanding that women should swallow and gag on his penis, in fact, I even recall him sending me some information on how to perform this act, he would frequently talk about porn and porn stars and send me videos to watch. I was so indoctrinated by this idea that women should always be willing to try anything sexually that their partner demands and if you won’t then you are a prude. Of course this is an extreme example, and I believe that the way porn damages most men is far more subtle and insidious.

    Recently, two men made comments on this site stating that they couldn’t perform sexually with a woman unless she had a ‘porn star vagina’ and openly admitted their distaste to women who were anything less than perfect. They also joined the dots between their porn consumption and their desire for women to look like porn stars in their real life relationships. I think it was quite brave of them to admit this but we are now seeing this drip, drip, drip effect of men coming forward, desperate for help because porn has, to use one of these aforementioned men’s words, ‘screwed them up’.

    However, what really makes me angry is the abuse, degradation, torture and murder of innocent young children, babies and animals in this all-consuming desire for a more extreme images. There are numerous reasons why some men are more vulnerable to this, but it has absolutely nothing to do with being a mentally or morally stronger person. Unfortunately, porn has an effect all of us, whether that effect is harmful or not is another matter.

    I have not even begun to cover the harm pornography does to women and this has not been my intention here. I just wish to open your eyes to the harm porn is doing to your gender too, not just mine. However, I would also strongly suggest that the distaste that some women feel when they watch porn or in when their partner’s watch it is for some women solely about jealousy but for many more is about the uncomfortable knowledge that these images are lies about women, i.e. that women enjoy being degraded, humiliated, raped, tortured, beaten and that they gain sexual pleasure from men ordering them to do anything they want.

    Do I believe that romance novels can be harmful to women and their relationships? Yes absolutely, but I absolutely reject Aaron’s assertion that this is worse than porn. As far as I am aware no one has ever raped a child, or felt pleasure from a kitten squealing in pain as it died because of content in romance novel.

  9. Johnny Says:

    ^ I agree with you. Porn has screwed up the collective male brain big time. I guess I was thinking about the performers, not the consumers.

  10. A.D. Says:

    You say it’s normal for your partner to masturbate while you’re away, but I think there’s a problem when they do it while you’re home even if you’re willing (my case)

  11. CJ Says:

    so when does it become a problem? am i right to be pissed off and hurt when my boyfriend looks at porn most days of the week if not all, goes on cam sites like sleazycams.com, sends naked photos of himself (that i took!) to those girls on the cams, pays for multiple porn sites/web cam sites when i’m the one paying for the mortgage? seriously considers (and probably did) send money to one of these cam girls when she asked? when is it going too far from a man’s perspective?
    my bf has crossed lines that i’ve forgiven but will never forget and still continues to do these things? when does mistrust overrides the love i feel for him?
    all you guys say porn is normal and i accept occasional porn but is he going too far from your perspective? what should i being doing?

  12. Johnny Says:

    ^ Wow. Yeah, that’s going too far. Way, way too far.

  13. Patty Says:

    Wow, I just met a guy about 3 weeks ago and things went well the first time we had sex. The next time I saw him he wanted me to watch porn and do oral on him. I felt uncomfortalbe watching the porn and pretty much disgusted, I never did try the oral. He was pretty much disatisfied with me and ended things the next week by e-mail I should say. The guy wasn’t worth it, glad I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do just to please him.
    The guy was way too into porn if you ask me.

  14. Leanna Says:

    My boyfriend and I have had many talks/arguments about his obsession with porn. My point is that I do everything he can think of,and I’m willing. I’m half black and half Korean; beautiful he says. I don’t feel like it when I look nothing like the women he watches. My self esteem goes into the shitter and I don’t even want to try any more. I’ve done research to see what what state the brain goes into during the viewing of porn, the negative effects ect… I’m just appalled. It seems like the porn is getting more and more aggressive. What if we have a child and he/she wonders onto his tablet/phone/computer and views what daddy’s been watching. Then the child is scarred thinking the worst. Their self image is destroyed. I’m still not sure about porn. If someone could post here any new research studies or articles I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  15. Mar Says:

    Men watch porn looking for there fantasy’s, my question is…if they are in a relationship with a woman they find attractive sexy…why does he not make his fantasies real? Meaning the two should work together and make them in there own bedroom??


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