DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My partner and I have been together for about 7 months now, and the entire time has been long-distance. We live on opposite sides of the world, so we get to talk maybe a couple hours here and there. We’ve been able to make it work so far, but recently, I asked him about his porn watching habits and I was not happy with his answer.
To put it simply: he watches porn more than I expected, and this really upset me.
He never talked about it with me before, even though I always ask about his day (out of consideration, not because I’m snooping). I understand it’s not exactly an organic topic, but he has never mentioned it once until I finally brought it up. I feel like this something any partner would bring up with their significant other, just to make sure it’s okay. However, the fact that he didn’t and he kept watching it secretly makes me really upset. I suppose I could bring it up as well, but for me I’m someone who doesn’t watch that or even really think about porn at all. The only reason I brought it up was because of a recent documentary I watched, and i thought it was a topical discussion.
His excuses were pretty abysmal. “You’re not always here” was one of them. Well, you’re right. I’m not always there. But is that an excuse to reach out to a porn video to watch some girl that isn’t really there either? I’m more there for him than a body on a screen.
Lately, he’s been extremely bogged down with work and tells me how tired and busy he is all the time. I believe him, so I don’t try to tire him out more by getting him to have Skype sex with me. I bring up my sexual frustrations pretty often, but it hasn’t gone anywhere in a month.
He also said he never thought about how it would effect me. This really struck me – why would you not think about how watching other people have sex would effect me? Couldn’t you at least talk to me about it first?
I’ve been on multiple forums trying to see what to do about this (I know, bad idea), and a lot of them are telling me it’s unrealistic to think my boyfriend could just STOP watching porn. All men watch porn, men need visuals, etc. But to me, that’s just a poor and stupid excuse. Men are not animals; men are humans with feelings. If I ask my boyfriend to stop watching porn because it makes me uncomfortable, he should stop watching it. The raging boner in his pants should not trump my feelings. It may be an adjustment, but it’s one that any person should be able to make for their sig other if they’re serious about them. This is of course assuming that my partner does not have a porn addiction, which would be a whole other can of worms.
While he did offer to stop, I can’t help but feel really betrayed. What do I do to get over this? I feel like he’s keeping secrets now, or he won’t tell me something unless I specifically ask for it. I understand this is sort of treading into “slippery slope” territory.
I am also asking myself if this is about my self-esteem. Am I jealous of these porn videos? To be honest, I really don’t feel like I am. For me, it’s much less jealousy and much more a surprise at the complete lack of consideration for my feelings. When I asked him what he thought i would say, he said he knew I would get mad. Well then why would you continue to do it if you knew it would upset me?
Any advice would be sincerely appreciated.
LDRs Are Complicated…
DEAR LDRS ARE COMPLICATED: Right, so I’m going to be up front with you LDRACL: I don’t think you’re necessarily going to like what I’m about to tell you.
Your boyfriend is going to be watching porn. That’s almost certainly not going to change. The biggest question is whether or not he tells you about it.
The fact of the matter is: most people watch porn; not just men (virtually all men do) but PEOPLE, across the gender spectrum. In fact, increasingly more women are consuming porn than ever before.
(Well, porn videos, anyway. These surveys tend to leave out things like written erotica, Tumblr pre-pornpocalypse, fan fiction archives like AO3 and so on)
If you break up with him over this issue, the odds of your finding a guy who doesn’t watch porn is going to be akin to winning the Powerball – it theoretically DOES happen, but almost always to other people. This is in no small part how humans are hard-wired. We like watching (and listening and thinking about) other people fucking. As soon as we as a species started painting on cave walls, people drew boobs, peens and stick-figure’s boning. We’ve had stone carvings of cocks, vulvas, boobs and people banging pretty much from the moment we could understand abstract representation.
So… yeah, your long-distance boyfriend watches porn. Honestly not that much of a shock.
Now, I’m not entirely surprised that your boyfriend didn’t tell you that he watches porn; after all, masturbation isn’t the sort of thing that comes up in the usual “so, how’s your day been?” conversation, any more than how many times you’ve gone to the bathroom or how many sodas you’ve had. In fact, most people don’t get into the nitty-gritty details of their masturbatory habits unless you’re specifically sharing them with your partner. And frankly, that’s exactly what his porn habits are part of: his masturbatory routine. Unless his use of porn is so all-encompassing that he has no time for you and he’s literally jerking himself raw, then I’m not entirely sure what the big deal is.
But let’s get down to the source of conflict: you don’t like the fact that he watches porn because it upsets you. So it really comes down to: WHY does it upset you?
Is it because you have ideological issues with porn? This is totally valid. While I am very much pro-porn, I’ll be the first to say that porn has a long and ignominious history of shoddy treatment of it’s performers – women in particular but men too – and it’s intensely problematic portrayals of race, consent, sexuality, etc. It may not necessarily mean that your boyfriend is going to stop watching, but it will at least mean that you both understand where you’re coming from.
If it’s because he’s watching other people having sex and by extension imagining other women having sex (possibly even with him) while he’s masturbating… well, then you’re going to have problems. Because unless you’re planning to police every thought that goes through his head, you’re going to have to deal with the fact that he’s going to imagine having sex with other people. The same, incidentally, as 99.99% of the rest of the human population. His fantasies, whether they involve other people or not, really have no bearing on the primacy or security of your relationship or how much he cares for you or not. They’re literally just part of the toolset involved in how he gets his rocks off. As I’ve said many a time before: monogamy just means that you don’t sleep with other people; it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to.
And then there’s the fact that, frankly, you’re in a long-distance relationship. Part of what makes LDRs difficult is the D… as it were. That distance means that the physical intimacy of your relationship is going to be limited; not just sex, but the little things that couples take for granted like cuddling on the couch or holding hands as you walk around on dates. Not having that intimacy can make maintaining a relationship hard and as pleasurable as hot sessions on Skype can be, it’s not going to be the same. Part of what makes an LDR last is maximizing the times that you’re together in person. The less you see of each other, the less likely your relationship is going to survive.
This is especially true if you’re trying to maintain an LDR with a monogamous commitment. Trying to maintain a monogamous relationship in person can be difficult enough. Trying to maintain one when you are likely to only see your partner once or twice a year if that? That’s basically setting yourself up for failure.
For a lot of guys, porn is how they stay monogamous; it lets them get the variety that many men crave without stepping outside the bounds of the relationship.
So what do you do? Well, you have two choices. The first is that you can demand that he doesn’t watch porn, and the other is that you resign yourself to the fact that your boyfriend masturbates and he’s probably going to watch porn while he does it. You don’t like him doing it because it hurts your feelings and feel that he should stop because of that. He, I feel fairly safe in saying, has his feelings hurt by your trying to police his fantasies and masturbatory habits. I would be willing to bet a not-insignificant amount of money that this is why he hasn’t been down for a Skype session recently – it’s hard to get it up when you’re still feeling resentful that your girlfriend is telling you that you’re not allowed to do something that ultimately doesn’t affect her.
Because let’s be honest: it doesn’t and didn’t affect you until you specifically asked him about it.
You’re certainly able to tell him not to… but the odds are, he’s just going to keep doing so and either not tell you or lie about it.
So either you can break up with him over the issue and try to find someone who doesn’t watch porn or you can find a compromise. Maybe you can find porn that you like (or that doesn’t upset you) and see he’ll give that a try – perhaps something along the lines of Cindy Gallop’s Make Love Not Porn. Or perhaps you might want to try something like C. Spike Trotman’s Smut Peddler anthology or Jess Fink’s comics and see if those open up a new avenue for you. But if his watching porn at all is too much for you to bear and you can’t find a way to accept that it’s just part of how he gets himself off, then that compromise is that he tells you he doesn’t watch porn any more and you choose to believe him. He makes sure that he’s discrete about it, he doesn’t jerk off so much he doesn’t have any energy left for you and you don’t go looking for evidence that he’s been checking out PornHub.
Straight talk time: men watch porn. So do women and non-binary folks. Men masturbate. So do… well, you get it. This has nothing to do with “being animals” or “the power of boners being stronger” and everything to do with the fact that it’s about fantasies and getting off and – critically – has nothing to do with their partners. Unless his porn is directly bleeding into your relationship – he can’t have sex with you in person without Jenna Jameson on in the background, he demands that you watch things you’re uncomfortable with, he can’t get it up because he masturbates so much, etc – then ultimately turning a blind eye to it is likely your best bet. Because trying to enforce a no-porn ban is going to end the relationship.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)