Rebuild Your Marriage
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What’s wrong with a little porn?

Last Updated: April 10, 2015

I recently read a fairly common perspective among men. It appeared on a forum in a thread titled, “Should I divorce my sex-addict husband?”

Okay, some of the cases [of sex addiction] are pretty bad and do constitute a divorce. If they’re cheating, doing something illegal, or wasting the family’s money, then yeah, you have no choice but to get rid of them.

But (you all saw this coming), healthy guys like to look at women. If we didn’t . . . well, there wouldn’t be any humans. I’m not into dance parlors or certain websites, but I do enjoy magazines like Maxim, Playboy, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (still my favorite), and I’ll fully admit it’s not just for the articles.

I mean, if all that happened was you caught your husband looking at some nudie pictures . . . I just hate to think that families are breaking up because of something like that.

. . . .

Here is my response:

I see your point. In terms of dysfunction, the behavior you describe could be somewhat comparable to social drinking vs. alcoholism. Some men don’t seem to lose themselves in “nudie” pictures and don’t find themselves drawn deeper into more explicit material or spend hours searching for more stimulation. However, the analogy breaks down fairly quickly for a few reasons.

First, looking at “nudie” pictures isn’t as benign as drinking in moderation. The manly urge to look at women is indeed natural and healthy. We are created that way and God makes no mistakes. However, there are bad ways, good ways, and better ways to sate that innate desire.

One writer illustrated the problem of porn in a very helpful way. Imagine you were transported to another planet where groups of people gathered in a room to watch someone slowly and tantalizingly reveal a plate of food, yet none were allowed to touch it or eat it. It wouldn’t take a Ph.D. in alien psychology to determine that this society had some disturbing issues with food. And yet, that is what we do with sex!

What if, instead, that same robust desire for sexual fulfillment could be channeled into a healthy relationship with a real-life, flesh-and-blood woman? What if that lusty need to see a woman undressed could be directed toward the woman you love? Why waste all that sexual energy on something that can’t give anything in return? If that’s not possible with one’s wife, because of issues on her side, why not work together with a counselor to fix the problem? In the long run, wouldn’t the payoff be much better? I mean, really, isn’t lots of sex with your woman better than the futility of staring at a paper stranger with a staple in her bellybutton?

I challenge anyone to counter my argument without revealing at least a small amount of sexual dysfunction. The fact is that men turn to “nudie” pictures because it’s easier than cultivating a healthy relationship with a woman. Relationships are hard. Real intimacy means having to trust someone else to meet our sexual needs on terms other than our own. It means trading the easy way for a more challenging way. It means having to help our partner overcome her sexual issues in order to enjoy sexual fulfillment. Trust, unselfishness, and patience; man, those are so much trouble compared to a magazine fantasy . . . but SO worth the investment!

The second problem: Whether we like it or not, whether we understand it or not, viewing pornography (even harmless nudie pictures) feels like cheating to women. I wrote a lengthy article on the topic that is worth considering, at very least. Women do a marvelous job trying to accept their man’s looking at Maxim, Playboy, and the SI Swimsuit Edition as a mere “boys-will-be-boys” behavior, but it’s not easy. There’s a nagging voice deep within that asks, “Doesn’t he think I’m enough?” Again, like it or not, understand it or not, this is a woman’s reality.

Finally, the line between moderation and excess is almost impossible to detect. With alcohol, you get drunk, and you know it. With porn, even “harmless” nudes in mainstream magazines, subtle changes occur within a man who devotes his time to the futility of these paper fantasies. The changes are subtle and sinister. Looking at paper women conditions the mind in ways that are not easily undone. Research shows that repeated exposure and repeated physiological response to a certain stimulus imprints the mind so that thought patterns become automatic and unconscious over time. Just like Pavlov’s dog, a man’s sexual life is conditioned away from intimate lovemaking and toward futile fantasy.

For any woman who is enduring the continual insult of her man’s porn habit, I posted on my blog, “My Husband Is Having an Affair with Pornography, What Should I Do?

Is a little dysfunction still dysfunction? Yep! If you don’t believe me, try making a three-egg omelet with only one bad egg. Odds are it’ll make you just as sick.

  1. Viewing nudie pictures is NOT harmless! I was surprised to see that comment mentioned on “The second problem with a little porn” especially on covenanteyes.com.

    • Right. That’s the whole point of this post. The mentality that “a little porn is harmless” is a myth that this post is shattering.

  2. Ally

    SORRY, but if God says in the bible that lusting after a women is sin , then it is, if you are married then it’s adultery, measure it to THE WORD of GOD, stop palming men and women off with acceptable comprimising, ‘it’s ok’. it damages your soul, and is disobedience against God’s word, read your bible. Families are being destroyed through lack of self -control, get some help.

    • Barbara

      I agree 100% with Ally. Viewing porn is adultery and against the Word and will of God….period.

  3. Landria

    Reading these articals have helped me see that I’m not alone , my marriage has been plauged with porn and adultery from the start . I had no idea my husband had a issue with porn , or desires for other women when I married him , yet I found out one year into it , that he had his first affair two weeks after we got married , two years later he kicked me and our two children out to be with another woman . 13 years later I’m still here wanting this to work, but totally ready to leave. I recently found porn on his phone and I know where it leads . My heart is a solid sheet of ice ,full of anger , pain and regret … I regret ever marrying him

  4. Diane, your response to your husband’s addiction is a very clear case of what Patrick Carnes calls “the betrayal bond.” You knew this about him before you married, yet you chose him to be your mate. And the repeated “second chances” further indicate your desire to be with someone who betrays and hurts you.

    I don’t say this to condemn you, or to suggest in any way that his behavior is your fault, but to point you in a direction that will provide answers. I, too, struggled with the betrayal bond, which kept me in a cycle of destructive relationships until I broke the pattern. Based on personal experience, I highly recommend Carnes’ book, The Betrayal Bond, and that you discuss it in one-on-one therapy with a qualified Christian counselor.

    There is a reason you make these choices and there is hope for a better future.

    In the meantime, my other article “My Husband Is Having an Affair with Pornography, What Should I Do?” may be helpful. Stand firm!

  5. diane

    He wants me to move back in with him, saying men need visual stimulation, I want you to be hear with me and help me with this. I said no, the reason I was giving him yet another chance is because he said he had no porn. That was a straight lie, he was hiding it, knowing that is why I left and how it hurt me. Why would I move in with him? He clearly has not changed! All I do is give chance after chance only to be hurt again. I want to move on for my own well being. How?

  6. diane

    I met a manin 2007 and married in 2008. Before our marriage I found that he had porn magazines and was visiting sites on the computer that included adult dating sites. I confronted him and said that I am very hurt and I can not deal with this in a relationship, his response try to justify “I was taught its ok to look, my friends wives are happy if their men look at porn its better than cheating.” He said dont try to change me. I said it iether stops or i am leaving. He would stay up till 3 a.m. many times and I would get up to catch him on the computer over and over and over again. I wanted him more than anything and told him that, he refused me for porn. He blamed me for him not wanting to be with me by saying “if you would stop nagging me about it things would be fine.” When I discoved that he was on local dating sites and him continualy neglecting me and looking at women lustfully in public with me present, I told him if it doesnt stop I am moving out. On our wedding night he wanted to go to a strip club so we did, I wanted to vomit!!!!Back at the hotel while enjoying the hot tub he got out and went into the other room in our suite I thought that he must be getting a surprize ready for me, boy was I surprized! He was watching porn and wanted me to join, and his wedding band was on the table! Married in January New Years day I moved out in October. I still love him but he keeps saying he has changed and every time I give him another chance I find the same lies. I am losing myself. Is this where I should be? How many chances? How do I move on when I still love him. When is enough enough?

  7. Thanks for your honesty. While the example you offer is difficult to read, it really does show the powerful link between the limbic system and autonomic functions (which include heart/respiration, digestion, salivation, perspiration, pupil dilation, urination/waste, and sexual arousal.)

    Addictions are reinforced by behavior. Smokers trying to quit often complain that normal activities, such as eating or driving, trigger their craving. Illicit images push men toward SELF gratification, which is not restricted to masturbation. Sex with one’s partner can be reduced to SELF gratification (and nothing more), rather than MUTUAL pleasure that enhances and celebrates intimacy.

    Thanks again, Johnny, for the candid response. It really does help keep the discussion real, which is most helpful for people seeking answers.

    Mark

  8. That conditioned response part about Pavlov’s dog is so true. When I was trying to hide my addiction, I would often take the laptop into the bathroom and watch porn while I was taking a dump. That was the only way I felt that I could get some peace and quiet. Well, I had conditioned my body to associate taking a dump with sexual arousal (talk about an awkward combination). This was problematic because after I kicked the porn habit, I would still get an erection just sitting on the toilet to go to the bathroom. If that’s not a conditioned response, I don’t know what is.

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