Jilted for Porn

Friday, October 30, 2009

Question

I just caught my boyfriend looking at porn while we were fucking. Our bed has a big headboard with a bookshelf. He had X-tube running on his laptop there, and the screen angled just right so he could see it and I couldn't. I have told him in the past to keep his dirty magazines and adult websites out of my face. He can use it when he beats off. I feel he has violated my boundaries and sent me two strong messages: (a) I am not enough for him, and (b) he cannot control his addiction to porn. He says it is normal for men to fantasize about sex, and he only wanted to keep our sex life interesting. What should my next move be?

Answer

I fail to see how looking at porn while you are screwing your girlfriend makes sex more interesting for her. You might want to ask him how he would feel if you started thumbing through magazines full of hot, naked men while he was doing you. I'll bet he wouldn't even be able to get it up. So his claim to not understand why you are jealous and hurt is bull. He knows he got busted, and he isn't doing a very good job of covering his tracks, much less apologizing.

Sex addiction is a controversial topic. I've read conservative descriptions of sex addiction that include any use of porn or masturbation. I don't think this term should be used to condemn sexual diversity or stigmatize every kind of sex that's forbidden in the Old Testament and right-wing Christian churches. But it does have some validity if it is used to describe compulsive and harmful behavior that the person (male or female) is not able to stop, even if they want to and have tried to suppress.

This can take a lot of different forms. The exact behavior doesn't matter as much as the fact that it's harmful to the individual, threatening their quality of life, and highly resistant to change.

If I were you, I'd take a look at the general quality of this relationship. Fold a piece of paper in half and write his good qualities down on one side and his bad qualities on the other. Then see if you can quantify how happy or unhappy you are with him. On a scale of one to five, if one is deliriously happy and five is ready for a divorce, how do you usually feel about him? If the relationship is low quality in general, perhaps this should be your exit cue. But if you are happy with him for the most part, why not insist that he get treatment for his sex addiction? Many people with addictions do wind up getting help because loved ones draw a line.

There are therapists with special training to work with compulsive sexual behavior. Sometimes a cognitive-behavioral model works well. There are also free, twelve-step groups in every city that you can look up in the phone book or on the Internet. And if you can't find a meeting you can attend in person, there are meetings on the Internet and phone meetings. So he has a lot of resources, if he chooses to use them. You might want to consider going to Al-Anon, even though his addiction is sex rather than alcohol, because it will teach you some valuable things about how to live with an addict without enabling him.Of course, your insistence alone won't be enough to help him to change. He won't get a grip on his behavior until he hits bottom, for himself, and realizes how miserable he feels. It may be that the porn will mean more to him than you do, and he'll decide he wants a separation. You can't force him to change, only tell him what you need if you are going to continue to be with him.

Before I end this response, I want to add that I see no problem with a couple looking at porn to enhance their lovemaking if they both want to do this, and they've both got some say in what they look at. A lot of couples have fun watching X-rated videos or reading each other dirty stories to get hot or find ideas for new sex games. The problem here is that your boyfriend did not have your consent. He was not creating an experience that both of you could share.

I also want to validate the women (and some men) who don't want to look at porn during lovemaking. If it doesn't get you hard or wet, don't do it. Some women look at porn because their husbands want them to, and they secretly feel disgusted and insecure about it. This is a form of abuse that should not be tolerated. I'm sure I'll get letters about this. Everybody has an opinion about whether sex addiction exists or not, and whether a twelve-step treatment model works. Please feel free to send me your opinion; I wouldn't mind having a dialogue about this in the column.