A Tangled Web Browser

Friday, December 04, 2009


I've been seeing my boyfriend for six months, and he's gentle and loving. Yesterday, I unintentionally found a previous search for rape porn in his Internet browser. I couldn't ignore it and looked in his history, finding recent visits to many rape porn videos (among more innocuous porn that I don't have an issue with).

Although I'm open-minded, I feel emotionally disturbed knowing that he gets off watching simulated rape. I don't know how to handle this. I've trusted him a great deal in the bedroom so far, and while he's the more dominant one, he hasn't been particularly aggressive, nor asked to be.

But how can I continue to trust him with this in the back of my mind? I abhor even thinking about being physically overpowered, especially without consent. (Maybe that's part of why I enjoy lesbian sex, but I digress.) I don't know how I can be okay with him without confronting him about it.

Could this be harmless fantasy? Is it true that just because he enjoys watching rape sex, it doesn't mean he condones it or would want it in real life? What is a good way to talk to him about it that might yield more than a deflection?

Thanks so much for a response, since I'm practically

Vomiting in My Mouth


Psychiatrist Peter Kramer once said, "If the human brain were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too simple to understand it." As a sort of a psychophysiological metaphor, what is a Web browser history? It is the unexpurgated contents of a person's brain.

What I'm saying, Vomiting, is that on your, ahem, accidental expedition, you tumbled into a quagmire where there are very few simple answers, and even if they were simple (i.e., "I like rape porn because it makes me horny"), they wouldn't necessarily be satisfying or rational—even to the person offering them.

Consider asking him to explain his more innocuous browsings. Likely you'd be satisfied with a straightforward "because they make me horny," which is probably as far as he's had to go in his thinking, because they're more socially acceptable. The only reason you don't require a dissertation on them is because you "get" them, probably because they don't freak you out, not because you've had to give them a lot of thought or had to sort out any issues you may have with them.

While I do think it's important to approach—yes, approach, not confront—your boyfriend with your findings and your concern over them, do know that he himself may not be able to offer articulate and comforting responses to your questions.

This is likely not going to be a fun conversation, but it also doesn't have to get ugly. Remember that you have instincts, and so far your instincts have told you that your boyfriend is a good man who wouldn't want to see genuine harm come to anyone. Look at your history with this man, at your authentic experience with him being a loving and gentle guy, and honour that as you speak with him.

As you've noted yourself, people's private fantasies are not necessarily a barometer for their real-life desires, and even if they are, it most certainly doesn't mean that they would be interested in acting them out non-consensually. Power play is a very common sex fantasy, both as perpetrator and prey, and not to burst your lesbian-sex bubble, but I could show you some girl-on-girl porn where consent was not so scrupulously negotiated.

Still, most of us who enjoy power play will back off very quickly when someone's genuine distress becomes apparent. It is a very different thing when eager vulnerability turns to real terror and, even in the context of this fantasy as it's represented in pornography, for the greater part the actors are engaging consensually. Porn rape, even at its most persuasively acted, does not look like real rape.

I cannot guarantee that what he will tell you will assuage you, but this is where the issue of trust comes in, and where it also becomes tricky. We make trust the cornerstone of our intimate relationships, but what we often mean by this is that we need to trust that someone will be exactly what we need them to be, not that we can trust ourselves to love them when they defy our expectations.

When our expectations are compromised, we're quick to say this trust has been damaged, in some cases irrevocably. Again and again, we nudge our hearts toward people, hoping that they will hold them with the care we require, but we also need to understand, accept and trust that they can do this even if they are unpredictable and complex, and that we, too, can do the same.

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