The civilized world is in the middle of a pornography epidemic, and that epidemic could well be coming to a computer or smart phone screen of someone you love. According to “Enough is Enough,” a Viriginia not-for-profit with the mission of making the Internet safer for children and their families, porn is a $100 billion worldwide business. That’s more than the GNP of many countries!
Porn is almost impossible to avoid. Benign Google search routinely lead to pornographic websites and images. Even with blocking and filtering software in place, porn slips through. When it does slip through – or if it’s searched for on purpose – it can be endlessly seductive to men (and some women). The latest neurological research seems to indicate that porn affects the same pleasure centers in the brain as crack cocaine, high-fat food, and alcohol. That makes it terribly inviting. That same research (see the online writings of Gary Wilson and Marnia Robinson if you’re interested in the details, such as www.yourbrainonporn.com) also indicates that the chemical effect of high-speed Internet porn on the brain can spur the user to more and more use, with more hard-core images and videos.
Too many people – mostly, but not exclusively women – learn about their partner’s porn use the hard way. They find an open window on a computer, see an undeleted search or web history, or find an email from a porn site. The usual emotional response is horror, betrayal, shock, and loathing. “My husband watches that?!” There’s also a sexual component. What woman in her 30s or 40s can compete with the bodies of 18 and 20 year olds? It can be humiliating.
If you have an issue with pornography, or you have a partner with this issue, the person with the issue needs to face the responsibility like an adult. He (and we’ll call the person a “he” for simplicity) made the mess; he has to clean it up. While there are allegedly women out there who have no issue with their husbands’ or partners’ porn use, I don’t know any of them personally. More often, the situation is that there’s a partner who can’t feel trustworthy until their partner has done what it takes to become trustworthy with their online and smart phone behavior. The issue becomes, who’s the priority: the partner, or the porn? If it’s the porn, then a meeting or meetings with me should be mandatory.
If unwanted porn has corrupted your relationship, the porn viewer is going to need to rebuild trust. The way to do that is by complete openness and honesty. Understood that this is not so simple in an age of “burner” phones and smart phones. But as much as possible, the person doing the unwanted viewing should agree to maintain all web histories, subject to review by his partner. One really simple thing that can help a great deal is for all screen viewing to take place in a public area in your home. Turning a monitor so that it can be seen by others is a wonderful step to take. So is the installation of screen shot monitoring software so that random screen shots are taken and emailed to the other party. All these things can help the former porn-viewer stay on the right path, and give assurance to the other partner that there’s no porn secrecy underway.
I like to see the porn viewer take the lead in all of this. Instead of being the one for whom filters are installed, he should be the one installing the filters. Then, it takes time and patience to get the overall relationship back on track, including sexually. Work with me in my office can help rebuild that crucial arena of being a couple. It’s not just enough for the porn viewing to stop. Good sex between the partners needs to be reestablished, or the temptation of pornography will be reestablished too.