Article

How To Handle Porn in a Relationship

-I’m a 70-year-old man. My wife wants sex less often than I do, so I watch porn and masturbate. She gets furious and says if I’m getting off to porn stars, it means I don’t love her or respect our intimacy. What’s a guy to do?

 – My husband and I are 60 and sexually compatible. I thought our sex life was great until I caught my husband watching porn. The performers did things I wouldn’t do, couldn’t do. He says he’s happy with me, porn is just fantasy, and there’s nothing he wants to change about our relationship. How can I believe him?

These are the types of questions you ask about porn in a relationship. I hear from women dismayed by their male partner’s porn use. I hear from men whose female partners caught them watching porn and tried to forbid it. (Yes, many women enjoy porn, too, but they don’t write to me about porn being a conflict in their relationships.)

Why the conflict about porn? 

The men who write me say that porn is a way to indulge their fantasies, enjoy visual stimulation, and get an easy, private orgasm. They tell me it has nothing to do with their partners. Some feel shamed by a partner’s anger and disgust. Others just wish their partner would stop snooping.

Their women partners may feel crushed and outraged. Women have been socialized to equate their desirability with youth. At our age, women are self-conscious about their bodies and sexual attractiveness. They may feel insecure about their sexual “performance” compared to a porn star. They may think it’s shameful that a man they trusted is indulging in a habit that they find demeaning.

What do we do?

We calm down and ask questions. A male reader commented on my 2014 column on this topic, “Why don’t you ask him why he watches porn?” Yes, ask him what he gets out of it, what it means and doesn’t mean to him. And ask her how she feels, what she needs from you. Don’t argue — listen.

Dr. David J. Ley is a clinical psychologist and author of Ethical Porn for Dicks, A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure, which I highly recommend to women as well. He writes,

When it comes to sexual behaviors, there’s a belief today that there should be absolutely no privacy between the partners in a couple. That any privacy is the equivalent of keeping secrets, and that secrets are unhealthy and destructive. But healthy sexuality and a healthy self involves some privacy. If you choose to exercise your sexual privacy and watch porn, you should be able to.

How does Dr. Ley advise a man to explain this to his partner?

You can tell her that you watch porn sometimes, and that you hope she can deal with that, because you really want to have a healthy, open, mutually accepting relationship with her. But, if you tell her that you don’t watch porn, when you do, then you’re lying, and perpetuating your shame, and her misunderstanding of porn. Lies don’t earn privacy—honesty and integrity do.

… So think strategically about your goal. What do you want her to know? Ultimately, you want her to know and accept that sometimes you watch porn, but the porn doesn’t change your feelings about her. And really, the porn is a part of your private life, which you’d like to be able to share with her and not be shamed or judged.

When is porn a problem?

If the man is watching porn a lot, does it mean the relationship is in trouble? Often not, but sometimes yes. Porn is usually not the cause of the problem, but it may reveal that a problem already exists in the relationship. Is he having sex with his screen and his hand while consistently ignoring a partner who wants sex with him and feels rejected? Does he desire sex with her, but she’s not willing? Is one of them depressed or isolated and won’t talk about it or get help? Is communication lacking?

If any of these problems exist, you’ll need a sex-positive couple’s counselor or sex therapist to help you communicate, locate the real problem, and work through it. Blaming it on porn won’t help you back to a compassionate and loving relationship.

“When porn gets raised as a problem in the marriage,” writes Dr. Ley, “It’s always a symptom of something else going on with one of the people in the marriage, or in the marriage itself.”

How did you do it?

If you and your partner experienced a similar conflict and successfully resolved it, please share in the comments. How did you open communication? What did you come to understand about your partner’s feelings and motivation? How did you find common ground? Please comment!

During this holiday season and into the New Year, give your partner the gift of understanding and communication. This is worth more than anything you could purchase.

Read these previous columns about porn conflicts:

 

Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.

COMMENTS

23 responses to “How To Handle Porn in a Relationship

  1. There is such a wide variety of sex films that can be labeled as porn.
    My husband and I watch some more current sex videos. Sometimes we watch some old VHS films he has from the ’60s and 70s. None of these movies involve violence or choking. Useful for setting a sexual mood for us. I find some of the older porn funny. We are not concerned with looking like the actors. We are monogamous. I don’t worry he is going to break our agreement over a fantasy.

  2. Isn’t watching porn or sexy movies like Black Sails just a way for a guy to do a body check…his penis can still fire.
    I heard Dan Pink on tv. He said Women regret some of the men they slept with. Men regret not sleeping with some women they could have.
    I heard Charles Kuralt interview a 93 esteemed man and ask him about his regrets. Number one was just what Dan Pink said.

  3. I notice that no-one here brings up the ethical debate about porn in that porn perpetuates a patriarchal view of sex. Women serve men and their wants and needs. It’s great to show sex that is consensual and women are also sharing as much of the pleasure as men, and have been consulted on that process. I know there are ethical sites for porn but they are still the minority. Also what about how much are the participants paid? And how that works? That’s still relevant to older people.

  4. I watch porn by Erika Lust once every three months or so, periodicaly, more when I am alone or waiting for my wife to return from jobb. It is also a way of keeping sexual desire a live like masturbating once a week. It heats me up. We have watched porn together. If the woman want to have a sexually functioning man let him watch porn as part of his privasy and also time for being himself. Porn is also fantasy and education. Its arousal that I need more of when I get elder.

  5. I think that there’s a problem worth noting with an article where all examples are about how men like porn and women just don’t understand. Do we have to have a conception of women as people who don’t masturbate and don’t look for stimulation to do so? You’re kind of endorsing the idea of women as nice, “virtuous” according to the concept that virtue = Only Ever Becoming Sexual With Their Husband — somewhat more like good children than like adult humans with assorted kinds of needs.

  6. Why is porn use blamed within the context of a relationship? Since porn is used primarily by men, then women have some culpability, according to Dr Ley: “it’s always a symptom of something else going on with one of the people in the marriage, or in the marriage itself.” Quite an easy dismissal. As porn is extremely accessible, it strictly involves a decision made by the watcher himself.

    1. That is baloney. I am 69 years old. I watch porn 1-2 times a week. My wife and I have been married 20 years. Never has the porn I watch ever influenced me to seek extramarital sex. Porn is a fill in for when my wife is not in the mood. I love physical intimacy with my wife. However my desire/drive is stronger than hers. As I said, porn is merely CC a fill in.
      For you to blame porn for men straying, is denial of the actual reason they stray. Look a little deeper . Don’t blame self love

  7. I ended a relationship because I caught my significant other watching porn, I was so upset because I wasn’t refusing to add a little excitement to our sex life. So why did he find it necessary to watch porn? Was it because I didn’t look like the women in the porn. After that I felt embarrassed and hated how I looked. Every time he said there was nothing wrong with the way I looked it made me even more upset because if that were the case then why watch porn.

    1. It’s understandable that you feel self-conscious about your body – I think many women struggle with the changes of the aging body. However, I think that is an issue for you to work on … building self confidence and accepting yourself. People watch pornography for different reasons so perhaps you could have that discussion with your partner rather than assuming you know the answer. Trust in what your partner is saying …. that’s also an important part of a healthy sexual relationship.

  8. It’s often overlooked the shame associated with watching porn. After the release men actually feel worse many times.

    The insidious nature is the porn never says no and everything is always perfect in porn, unlike real life.

    If it’s your go to escape it’s often going to be a problem. It also can cause challenges in obtaining and getting an erection if you’re always specifically masturbating to a certain visual.
    More importantly are you still connecting with your partner? Still dating?

  9. I don’t think the female viewpoint is well understood nor represented by this article – both men and women have been taught so many negative things about sex – the difference is that women suffer that fate daily, while men are able to “indulge” and ignore the larger damage to society – it is demeaning – not because it’s porn.. but, because we live in such a hyper-masculine society that doesn’t value the innate wisdom, beauty and intelligence of women – if we did, maybe porn would reflect that

      1. As a retired sexuality educator, I can confirm that most people our age got very little, if any, useful sexuality education. Porn has been the only source of sex ed for many men. Porn that depicts ‘extreme’ activities is changing people’s expectations of what sex should look like. Remember porn is actors being paid to make it look like what they’re doing is pleasurable (maybe yes, maybe no). CONSENT is a critical part of a sexual relationship. Again, something most of us didn’t learn.

  10. People need to have some private fantasies! That includes porn. I’m a woman of 53 and I don’t expect to know my husband’s fantasies or he mine. I think we’d probably all be embarrassed if others knew or fantasies. We jokingly call them our “mammary banks”. We’re very open about masturbating and it’s not a problem.

    1. I agree with you. Communication is the key. My last partner and I were very open about everything involving sex. He listened to what I liked and I he. We sometimes watched porn together and talked about it. We were honest about what we desired sexually and watching porn was just a part of the conversation. By the way I am 66 years old and a little porn every now and then is okay with me.

  11. To paraphrase Joan Price’s answer above: “Men have been socialized to equate our desirability with sexual potency. At our age, men are self-conscious about our bodies and sexual abilities. We may feel insecure about our sexual “performance” compared to other men. We may find it shameful/upsetting that a woman we love and trust criticizes a habit [watching porn] that reassures and stimulates us.”

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