Your question:

“I just found out that my boyfriend watches Internet porn – a lot! I am a little worried, a little grossed out, and a little insecure too. Is that normal? I mean, he is a great guy and we have a great relationship and have a pretty good sex life. Should I be worried? What should I do about it?”

Bare With Me’s answer:

I think the statistic goes something like this: around 80% of men watch porn, fairly frequently. Realistically, like it or not, our guys watch porn.

It seems you are most worried that he is doing something wrong or abnormal that you haven’t known about it up until now. And that he might be having a problem with you, your relationship or your sex life that is driving him to watch porn.

Let me help you lay some of your worries to rest.

For the most part, guys are not weird or perverted for watching porn. That men watch porn is the norm, rather than the exception – although I am assuming it is your standard, garden-variety pornography and doesn’t concern children or extreme violence, of course.

But get this: the way most boys first experience and learn about sex is through porn. When I first realized this, a clear bell of understanding rang in my head. Men are “porn-fed.” Porn is usually the only option available for a boy’s initial sexual education. So, partly, guys like porn because they imprinted on it as young budding sexual beings. And partly they like it because it is so targeted toward them. Yes, there is porn made for and by women (and many women enjoy watching it as well), but for the large part porn is marketed toward men and consumed mostly by men. And porn is also rather “forbidden,” a huge part of its appeal.

Mainly, I think porn is like junk food. But before you jump to any conclusions, just because I am using “porn” and “junk food” in the same sentence doesn’t mean I am saying one shouldn’t have any! A little junk food now and then can be fun, entertaining, and a bit of a naughty treat. But if junk food becomes your main nutritional mainstay, you’re likely to become unhealthy, lethargic, desensitized to healthy food, overweight and dulled.

Too much porn can desensitize its watcher to “real-life” sex: what off-screen women (and men) look like, what turns them on, engages them and satisfies them. Porn’s emphasis on genitally-focused, orgasm-focused, male-focused sex is often superficial as well as degrading toward women. It is also often devoid of any emotional connection, which is part of what is the key for a woman to open up and enjoy sex fully. Additionally, porn focuses on sexual mechanics, which is only a tiny fraction of what can make sex incredible. Porn can make for interesting entertainment, but a poor instructional manual for real life.

Porn is like a quick junk food fix rather than a lovingly prepared meal. Lovingly prepared sex between two real, alive people makes for a great sexual diet, with a little junk food sprinkled in, here and there, as the occasional forbidden goodie.

But back to you and your boyfriend. If he is like most men, his porn habit doesn’t mean what you think it means. He is not wishing you looked more like those women. He is not thinking there is something lacking in you. He is not dissatisfied with your relationship.

The eternal pragmatist, I say you won’t find peace with your boyfriend’s porn watching by making him wrong or bad for it, forbidding it, or pretending it is not there. Bring it out in to the light, acknowledge it, and then decide what the most realistic, healthy thing is for you both to do with it.

My strong suggestion is to be up front with him and tell him how his porn watching makes you feel. And ask HIM what porn is all about for him. Your boyfriend is not most men, as you are not most women. The generalities I bring to light around men and porn are useful to a point, but you two still need to find your own way toward what feels OK to you as unique individuals in a unique pair. Ask the question, “What would it take for us both to be OK with his watching porn?” Use it as an opportunity to get to know your man, have him know you more as well, and have it bring you closer rather than polarize you.

And if you want an extreme guerilla tactic, now and again, watch it with him! I remember being in a workshop where a question very similar to yours was posed to the group of about 20 men and women. The leader asked the group of intelligent, warm, spiritually-aware men how they would feel if their girlfriend offered to watch porn with them, and I have never seen more smiles and enthusiastic nods in a room full of men. When the leader asked how they would feel if their girlfriend was sexual with them while watching porn with them, and the smiles turned to grins, relieved laughter, a chorus of “yeses” and a few arms raised to the heavens in thanks.

In relationship, love and sex, I see any upset or conflict as an opportunity to know my partner and myself more, to get closer, and to create and amend our ever-evolving ground rules. I invite you to use this as a rare chance to create some new boundaries, and to have a little fun by crossing one or two, as well.

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