Rebuild Your Marriage
Rebuild Your Marriage 8 minute read

Husbands Who Watch Porn

Last Updated: April 14, 2015

A year ago today I published what has since become our most popular post, viewed more than any other we’ve written. I’ve republished the entire post in full below. I hope it continues to bring hope and healing to wives.

. . . .

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time,
for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
– Benjamin Franklin –

My wife is pregnant, about 8 week along now, and I’m getting a front row seat on the adventures of morning sickness.

Recently, my wife was perusing the website called iVillage, a woman-oriented online community, where a number of discussion boards exist for women to converse about hot topics such as beauty, cooking, dating, gardening, money, pets, pregnancy, relationship problems, weddings, and just about everything else.

As she was looking for topics started by pregnant women, a couple of discussion topics caught her attention: “Porn problems with hubby” and “TMI porn question?

Both of these discussions were started by women who expressed some concern about their husbands viewing pornography. One woman’s husband is away from home serving in the military and uses pornography as a sexual outlet. Another woman is pregnant and feels that the bigger her belly gets, the less frequently she has sex with her husband, and yet her husband still turns to porn and masturbation for sexual gratification.

One writes: “He tells me I’m beautiful, then looks at perfect naked bodies. I am tired of feeling ashamed of my body. Does he look at them because the image of sex and desire turn him on or does he look at it because that is what he wants . . . a perfect woman?

The Responses

Some of the wives who responded to these posts had little to no problem with their own husbands viewing pornography.

For example, a couple of women believed that men do not watch pornography because they are attracted to the “perfect female body,” but rather because they just want to watch the sexual encounter. One writes rather confidently: “he is NOT looking at the chic with the perfect body, he is looking at what they are doing. Trust me, I can promise you that he is not looking at her body.” Another similarly writes, “Trust me, all men prefer the real thing over porn.”

Several wives spoke about watching pornography along with their husbands as a visual guide for sexual ideas.

Several women found consolation in the idea that their husbands said they “didn’t want to go to bed” with the women on screen. What their husbands looked at didn’t matter much to them. What mattered was that they were their husband’s only sexual partner. One conceded: “I really think its part of a guy’s nature to just look at naked women.”

However, among the women who personally had no problem with their husbands viewing of porn, many of them also acknowledged the need for openness and communication about the issue. For some the problem wasn’t the pornography but the secrecy about it.

Other wives commented about how they dislike their husbands viewing pornography. This is what they said.

One writes: “We have a no-tolerance porn rule in our house. It’s not needed and we have no desire—that’s why we got married—so we could have just each other.

Many saw the viewing of pornography as a serious issue. The major reasons for this were (1) the knowledge that pornography is highly addictive, and (2) how it opens the door for a woman’s feelings of insecurity to rise up. One confesses: “I have been there and divorced because of it.” Another says, “I believe it is harmful to healthy relationships.” Another woman comments about the insecurity issue: “It’s a feeling that gets at our very core, because as a woman we want to be captivating to our man.

And the testimonies continue to be posted on other websites and forums. It was less than a year ago The Sydney Morning Herald published a story about how porn in wrecking relationships.

The Crux of the Issue

Aside from issues regarding openness and communication in the marriage, the crux of the difference between the wives who were okay with pornography and those that were not okay with it seemed to be different understandings of how pornography affects a man’s sexuality. If pornography didn’t seem to diminish a man’s libido, make him desire his wife less, or diminish the quality or quantity of marital intimacy, then the wife was more likely to treat pornography as a non-issue. If the presence of porn was seen as a potential cause for these things, then the wife was more likely to be anti-porn.

Pornography’s Effects on Marriage

In my judgment, pornography is always harmful to true intimacy in marriage.

So what am I to make of marriages that appear not to be suffering despite a husband’s repeated use of pornography?

What am I to make of comments by famed porn actor, Ron Jeremy (see the Nightline debate between Craig Gross and Ron Jeremy), that “people can see porn responsibly” and that it can enhance the sex life of married couples?

In reply I would say it is important to distinguish between the FELT LOSS of intimacy and the POTENTIAL GROWTH of intimacy. As I stated above, the difference between the wives who accept and those who reject pornography use by their husbands seemed to be different understandings of how pornography affects a man’s sexuality. If a wife believes all men watch pornography anyway—that the norm of male sexuality is the need for a variety of female images, and that porn doesn’t really affect how men see their wives—then there was no FELT lack of intimacy. From this perspective pornography has not harmed the marriage.

However, when wives operate on different standards of sexuality and intimacy, standards that involve fidelity of the eyes and emotions, then a husband’s use of pornography contributes to a great loss of intimacy.

“Forsaking All Others”

For those who have said, “I do,” it is good to be reminded what we said we would DO. “Do you promise to love, comfort, honor and keep her, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her so long as you both shall live?

Women who feel crushed by their husband’s use of pornography usually carry a sense of being “robbed.” Didn’t the vow to forsake all others involve more than just not sleeping around?

The Centerfold Syndrome

Gary R. Brooks, Ph.D., in his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, describes what he observes as a “pervasive disorder” linked to the consumption of soft-core pornography like Playboy. He mentions five main symptoms of this:

1. VoyeurismAn obsession with looking at women rather than interacting with them. This, of course, can apply to far more than pornography, but any consumption of the “sexuality-on-tap” culture in which we live. Media glorifies and objectifies women’s bodies thus promoting unreal images of women, feeding male obsession with visual stimulation, and trivializing other mature features of a healthy sexual relationship.

To those women who feel no loss of intimacy even when their husbands are avid porn users, I wonder what might change in their marriages if their husbands decided to stop interacting with a video screen and replaced that with a dynamic emotional and intellectual interaction with their wives.

2. ObjectificationAn attitude in which women are objects rated by size, shape and harmony of body parts. Sexual fantasy leads to emotional unavailability and dissatisfaction.

Can we believe these words: “Trust me, I can promise you that he is not looking at that woman’s body on the screen?” I, for one, would have a hard time believing that. As someone who has struggled deeply with pornography addiction in the past, I used the Internet to find my “niche.” I based my desire to view a certain picture or movie on the ever-increasingly specific body-type standards that attracted me. The exact shape and size of the woman I wanted to see was only a click away. Real life couldn’t compare to the selectivity available to me in pornography.

Perhaps some porn-watching men have no preferences in body type. My suspicion, based on how porn companies market their products, is that this is a very small minority of men.

To quote Naomi Wolf:

“The whole world, post-Internet, did become pornographized. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training—and this is having a huge effect on how they interact. But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ‘porn-worthy.’ Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.”

3. ValidationThe need to validate masculinity through beautiful women. Women who meet centerfold standards only retain their power as along as they maintain “perfect” bodies and the lure of unavailability. It is very common for a man’s fantasy sexual encounter to include a feeling of manly validation. It is also common for men to feel invalidated by their wives if they have trained their minds and bodies to respond only to the fantasy advances of their dream girl.

I found this quote from Noryne Mascarella insightful :

“To the man who struggles with pornography and/or a sexual addiction, sex does not equal connecting to a real person; it means escaping into his fantasy world. Within the fantasy, a sex addict feels loved, important, and significant. Of course everyone in his fantasy world are objects who are easily manipulated to do everything he wants without requiring any commitment or intimacy in return. He always wins in his fantasy. There is never a fear of rejection or inadequacy.”

4. TrophyismThe idea that beautiful women are collectibles who show the world who a man is. Pornography reinforces the women’s-bodies-as-trophies mentality.

Even if this does not visibly affect how a man responds sexually to his wife, repeated use of porn furthers the mentality that his wife is a trophy, property of the winner, a symbol of worthiness.

The last symptom reinforces my main point:

5. Fear of True IntimacyInability to relate to women in an honest and intimate way despite deep loneliness. Pornography exalts a man’s sexual needs over his need for sensuality and intimacy. Some men develop a preoccupation with sexuality, which powerfully handicaps their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships.

Again, I wonder what would happen if husbands stopped viewing pornography and really challenged themselves to be emotionally available for their wives. How many would realize how much pornography and other forms of lust have rendered them emotionally impotent. The sad reality is that many wives have settled for only a scaled down view of male sexuality that involves little true intimacy.

Consider the following testimony:

“I fell in love with fantasy women–not the woman I married. What is really sad about all of this, now that I think about it, is that even when I was with my wife, I was doing little more than using my wife for self-gratification. Most of the time I was with her, I fantasized about the porn stars that were burned in my brain. I found it hard to feel attracted to my wife. I was only fooling myself when I thought that I could use my wife in this way and have a close relationship with her.”

Couples that say they use pornography as an “educational tool” or for “inspiration” in their sex lives, need to take a closer look to see if they are merely reducing their sex lives to mutual stimulation.

In Conclusion

My challenge to all married men is to really examine how their use of pornography affects intimacy with their wives. Does it simply desensitize you so that your wife alone is not enough? Do you need to close your eyes and imagine another scenario while you make love in order to bring yourself to orgasm? Do you choose the Internet over intimacy?

My challenge to all the single men is to consider how what you view today will affect your relationships tomorrow.

My encouragement for all the wives who struggle through their husband’s porn addiction is this: There is hope. Refuse to settle for less than true intimacy.

  1. sad

    When you say in your closing remarks about not settling for less than true intimacy, what does that mean? How do get through this difficult time? Contiplating divorce from my husband of 14 years because I just want to feel real love. He says that is just a fairy tale not reality.

    • sad,
      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. In reality neither romanticism nor pessimism is correct. Love is both a choice and an emotion. You must work at romance. He is wrong for trying to squash your desire for a tender and affectionate relationship, but he might not be reacting to your actual desires as much as he is misunderstanding you. You aren’t asking for a 24-7 emotional high. You are asking for genuine devotion, with all its ups and downs.

      True intimacy involves work: it involves two people laying down their rights and serving one another. For some men, this is difficult because pornographic fantasy has trained them to find a cheap replacement for intimacy.

      I recommend you look around our blog. We have tons of stories here from women who have been in your shoes.

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