DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to "A Perplexed Reader," who twice surprised her 73-year-old husband while he was watching pornographic movies. I went through a similar experience with my ex-husband, who often stayed home from work "sick" to watch these movies.
When I first discovered he was sneaking them into our home, I wasn't concerned about it. I considered it his personal "hobby." As time progressed, however, I realized these movies were taking the place of our sex life and were undermining my trust in him because he always watched them behind my back. I later learned his "hobby" extended to visiting booths with live female performers during his lunch breaks.
Our couple counselor had given us the same advice you gave "perplexed" -- that many people enjoy watching pornographic movies and I should "not make an issue of it." The conclusion I reached was that it WAS an issue when it began to interfere with our sex life and my trust in him.
I don't think watching pornography is wrong. I watch it from time to time WITH my current partner, as part of a very satisfying sex life. I do think the fact that "Perplexed's" husband watches these movies secretively indicates there may be cause for concern. If she feels it takes away from her intimate relationship with her husband, then it's an issue they both should address -- and the sooner the better. -- EX-PERPLEXED IN FORT COLLINS, COLO.
DEAR EX-PERPLEXED: Thank you for an intelligent letter. Although "Perplexed" did not indicate that her husband used pornography in the past to arouse himself, the point you raise about his secrecy is an important one. For a woman to find she has been shut out of a portion of her spouse's sex life can be traumatic and damaging to her self-esteem. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I know where "Perplexed" is coming from. I have found my husband masturbating since his prostate surgery, and it hurts and shocks me, too. Here is why:
Prostate surgery also robs wives of a sex life. I, for one, was willing to give that up in order for him to have his health. However, for the husband to then choose an alternate sexual habit is akin to his having an affair. She is left with loneliness and misunderstanding.
Abby, this is not a casual problem. It is devastating to a man to lose his ability to perform sexually, but usually it is just as devastating to his wife, and he needs to be sensitive to her feelings and desires.
I want "Perplexed" to know that she is not alone. I, and many other women, feel a great deal of empathy for her. I don't have the answer, but it's not as simple as accepting his enjoyment of pornographic movies. This is a problem much deeper than that. Please don't make her situation seem trivial, because it isn't. -- ALSO PERPLEXED IN FORT MYERS, FLA.
DEAR ALSO PERPLEXED: If you feel that I have trivialized the problem of impotence and its impact upon the spouse, I apologize.
Prostate surgery does not have to be the death knell of a couple's sex life. Many books have been written on this subject. There are also sex therapists who can help. I urge you to consult one.