I Need My Porn, or Do I?

 

‘In a partnership, no one holds the sexual trump card.’

Pornography is just a noun, like table, chair or lamp, but these nouns don’t bring up the firestorm of debate that porn does. No one is debating the use of standing lamps or recliners, so what is it about porn that gets people fired up? Does it just not go with the furniture?

The rationale for why men use porn has stumped the best thinkers, psychologists, columnists, and wisdom makers of our time.

So, why do men look at porn, and why does it piss women off so much? Isn’t that what we all really want to know? Whether we consider ourselves to be a guy with the sexual understanding of a Neanderthal or a modern, sophisticated, metrosexual feminist or some breed of average Joe, this is the question we all want answered. Even the women want to know.

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When we get into debates about porn what we are really doing is questioning and trying to untangle the motivation behind someone’s use of porn. It is this desperate need to understand the motivation that sends the women to the bar on girls’ night out to debate over Cosmopolitans. It is trying to understand the motivation that has men rationalizing themselves in circles.

It is the desperate need to understand the motivation behind porn use that sends the women to the bar on girls’ night out to debate over Cosmopolitans. It is trying to understand the motivation that has men rationalizing themselves in circles.

If we all took a moment to do a little soul searching, what we may find is that we are inspired to look at porn because it puts us in the driver’s seat of the sexual experience. We don’t have to do something for someone else. We don’t have to go too fast or too slow. We don’t have to lay still or get on our knees or roll over, stand up or sit down. We can have it our way, right away. We aren’t accountable or responsible for anyone else’s sexual enjoyment. Sounds perfect, right? It may even sound refreshing.

Here is the problem. When we look at sex from this angle we are only considering what WE want and what WE need. This is supposed to be a partnership, right? Just like picking out the couch, both people are supposed to like it. Both people have to sit on it. You both want it to be comfortable. Why wouldn’t the same be true of sex?

Most of us are OK with the partnership when picking out the couch, but it starts to get more difficult when we are between the sheets. A partnership means we are mutually accountable. It means that no one in a partnership has the right to control another person. It means living in a constant state of compromise.

It is only in this sort of compromising partnership that we can actually grow to be a better lover or a better wife or a better husband and ultimately a more mature and understanding person. Our partners are there to bring out the best in us, to help us understand more about ourselves and develop into the wise people we picture ourselves being when our grandchildren come to visit.

If two people are truly committed to this kind of partnership, then the blaming needs to end and the judgment needs to end. This isn’t anyone’s fault. This whole set-up is based on notions of ourselves we adopted when we were young (more on that in a minute). We need to trust the person sitting across from us. After all, we chose to be in a relationship with this person. Can we trust them for just a few moments?

Good.

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Now that we are no longer in the verbal boxing ring, our gloves of wrath have been put away, the sweat wiped from our angry brows and everyone is sitting at the table, here is what needs to be asked:

Ladies need to ask, What about porn makes me feel less than the object of the porn?

Men need to ask, Why am I assuming my sexual desires and needs aren’t going to be met? Why am I assuming I have to use porn to be satisfied?

Women need to begin to understand and embrace their own “wantedness” and beauty. Most women write themselves off as unwantable starting at around age seven. It’s hard to believe it starts this young, but if we hand young children makeup and fancy clothes, what do we expect them to think? They are going to believe that the way they are naturally is unwantable. They will believe they need to dress themselves up to seen, accepted and wanted, first by friends and family and then by men. If a woman can untangle this misunderstanding and her own sense of beauty, she won’t be living this self-fulfilling hell, this sexual nightmare in which she isn’t wanted and is repeatedly rejected for a cyber hussy or a cheap lap dance.

Men live in constant fear that their sexual needs are not going to be met. This false understanding is one of the biggest reasons why the pornography industry exists. If men were under the impression they were going to feel sexually satisfied within their relationships, would they ever have a reason to shop around? Many men never voice, never examine, and never talk about what it is they want from sex. Therefore, they may spend a lot of time feeling unsatisfied. Most of us are never taught to communicate our sexual needs. Who was going to teach us that, our fathers? Not mine! Our gym teacher? Our baseball coach? Our fraternity brothers? Our cousin with all the girlfriends? This isn’t even part of our “coming of age” culture. Most of us barely get enough good information to make our “thing” go into the other “thing”. It is no wonder we are wandering around, surfing the net, feeling restless. No one ever told us we needed to examine ourselves and then express what we want in order to get it.

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Both sides have to begin taking these steps in order to close the great sexual divide. First one side takes a baby step, then the other, and then the other, and so on until both have reached what we ultimately want, a union. We want to be unified, satisfied, and happy in our partnerships, but first we have to address our own misunderstandings, then we have to trust enough to share and then we can get..it..on.

Who knows, you may find out that your wife wants to look at porn with you. Maybe you both like to do it in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe one of you wants to do it in the laundry room and the other in the kitchen. You could work together to come up with a weekly schedule to satisfy both of your needs. All of it is great. It makes no difference what comes out of the union, only that the decision was made together with understanding and compromise because in a partnership, no one holds the sexual trump card. No one’s anger, frustration, insecurity, fear, or lust has the right to rule the relationship. We are in partnerships to co-create a life together, or we aren’t in a partnership at all.

Photo Stephan Rosger/Flickr

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About Michael Rosker

For the past thirteen years Michael Rosker has counseled thousands of people to help them release their negative emotions and reconcile their past experiences in order to live more full, free and successful lives. You can read more about Michael's work and his insights at http://michaelrosker.wordpress.com/. Michael is also a husband and a father to three children.

Comments

  1. Many men never voice, never examine, and never talk about what it is they want from sex. Therefore, they may spend a lot of time feeling unsatisfied. Most of us are never taught to communicate our sexual needs.
    In addition to that I think its work looking at why this happens. I think in a lot of cases I don’t think its a case of men not examining or talking about what we want from sex but rather that men examine what they want but are so bogged down in the constant reassurance that male sexuality is predatory by nature men are left thinking, “She’ll think i’m a sick freak if I express interest in _____”.

    Just as girls start feeling unwantable at an early age boys are told that we are some sort of uncontrollable beast that must be held in check if we hope to have anything resembling a normal life.

    I think men will have a much easier time speaking up if we aren’t being assumed to be sick sexual freaks just because we’re male.

    • Danny, I agree with you. It’s a problem that boys and men grow up hearing the refrain of men’s uncontrollable, primal urges.

      The only thing I want to point out is that I don’t think that assumption happens on an individual level. For example, a girlfriend probably doesn’t assume her boyfriend is a depraved, pathological sex fiend, or she wouldn’t be with him. That trope is propagated by the culture at large. TV, movies, ads, water cooler banter… Some women buy into it and some don’t. The same goes for men.

      It IS problematic, harmful, and unfair. But it doesn’t get any of us out of the responsibility of having those conversations with our partners, if we want a healthy and fulfilling sex life.

      • But it doesn’t get any of us out of the responsibility of having those conversations with our partners, if we want a healthy and fulfilling sex life.
        By no means do I mean to imply that we don’t. I’m just saying its a lot more than just acting the only reason men aren’t having these conversations is because we don’t want to and/or that there are no forces that are acting against us on that front.

  2. Anonymous Male says:

    I’m sure there are some men in relationships who would get much more sex and better sex with their partners if they would just express their desires more. No doubt.

    But, is this really the main sex problem men face in long-term relationships? Just ask and you will get all you want? Who knows, maybe she’d be into a threesome? Umm…sure. Please forgive my skepticism, but I think it’s well-founded. I think I know enough about how my wife feels to know that this would be a non-starter, to say the least.

    On this website, if you look at the ongoing discussion about porn, you will find the reaction that merely to suggest a particular preference counts as “putting pressure” on your partner to do something. To suggest something new is to suggest that you are deeply dissatisfied, brainwashed by the dominant culture, why isn’t your partner enough for you, etc.

    • I guess a question I would ask if I found out my significsnt other was using porn is why he feels “unsatisfied”. Is it because he feels regular sex is boring and wants more “extreme” stuff shown in porn, whether it’s 3-ways, anal sex, BDSM or whatever? Does he feel that my non-porn star body is lacking and prefers to imagine himself with younger sexier women? If so, that could be a tough one because most regular women (myself included) cannot compete with porn stars either inthe looks department or in the ability to enjoy extreme sexual stunts. So I think insecurity would be warranted in that situation. Perhaps fundamentally we aren’t in the right relationship; maybe he should look elsewhere for someone who can better meet his needs. There may be other reasons for porn viewing that would not be so threatening.

  3. This whole porn issue is obviously complicated and very controversial. So when I read a piece like this that claims to boil it down, I become skeptical. (Especially when the author makes a tired joke about ladies griping over Cosmos.)

    I think this article does a major disservice to men as well as to women.
    “Men need to ask, Why am I assuming my sexual desires and needs aren’t going to be met? Why am I assuming I have to use porn to be satisfied?”
    I’m not convinced this is the case for most men, and certainly not for ALL men. I’d argue that a lot of men — and a lot of women — look at porn because they enjoy it, not because they need it for a release they won’t otherwise get.

    And as for reasons some women dislike porn, there are also a great variety of reasons. I’m sure that for some women, some of it has to do with insecurities about skill or appearance. But that’s not the only factor. Some women may object on an ideological basis. Some women, like myself, love porn but find the majority of it deeply unerotic in its fakeness: clichéd visual cues for “SEXY!” that have little to do with the actual experience of hot sex. There are probably more reasons for people to dislike porn than I could possibly imaging.

    Personally, I think it’s silly, naïve, and futile to expect one’s partner not to use porn, or masturbate, or fantasize, or be turned on by other people. Jealousy can happen in a relationship, but it can also be dealt with. My concern would be about the REASON my partner was looking at porn. If it’s because the only way he can get off is to blank-eyed stares and fake orgasms from a “barely legal” starlet wearing pigtails* and kneesocks* on a computer/TV screen he’ll turn off in 5 minutes, I’d have to wonder why he was in a relationship with a living, breathing person in the first place.

    (* Note: I know we all have our fetishes, and I don’t have problem with the items I mentioned per se, but when our arousal is more a reaction to the props than to the people and the actions, I worry that the fixation with fantasy might be beginning to supplant reality.)

    I got a little off-topic there, but I think what I’m trying to say is that while I agree with the author’s call to be open to honest discussion and compromise with our partners, in my personal opinion it’s probably a bad idea to start that dialogue from a place of stereotypes and generalizations.

  4. Most pornography is very male chauvinistic and that’s why so many women hate it. I have no desire to look at porn with my partner and I do not feel obligated to be his subservient “porn star.” This article, like so many other articles in The Good Men Project, reinforces that male-dominated status quo.

  5. Agree with MB that porn is overwhelmingly about domination, humiliation, and usury, and barely even about sex. It is about doing to, rather than doing with. Almost none of it involves the slightest hint or eros, passion, or even human mutuality. That is why I think most women dislike it. It dehumanizes us as both women and partners. That said, I would have to disagree with her summation of GMP, which I love. I think the fact that men are talking about so many of these topics at all, let alone in the thoughtful and thorough manner they are, very hopeful. Great work! guys. These are difficult things to tackle, and always raise hairs. Thank you for a good and human-centered article.

  6. Both men AND women look at porn, both inside and outside of relationships.

  7. If a relationship gets to the point where the girl has settled down and she is more into nesting, rather than having sex… well I’m watching porn or bouncing down the road. ‘You could work together to come up with a weekly schedule to satisfy both of your needs”. Once a week? If I want to “make love” and all I ever get from my partner is “oh well it’s not thursday”. What’s the point?

  8. “So, why do men look at porn, and why does it piss women off so much?”
    In extreme semplification, men love porn because it makes them feeling GOOD (pleasure), and (many) women hate porn because it makes them feeling BAD.
    Since looking for pleasure and avoiding pain (feeling bad) are the strongest driving forces inside us (save for survival), it’s obvious that porn elicits strong reactions, both ways.
    Your advice is good and can be useful, but it’s far from a solution: when what I want and what my partner wants are far away, there’s not much you can do… save for using your fantasy (and here porn can help).

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