More on ‘Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse?’

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2016  Nancy Virden

photo-24779815-couple-having-quarrelMy first article on this topic is the most viewed of three years of posts about depression, suicide, addiction, and abuse. Google searches landing on Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse? include: should a wife be compassionate towards a porn addicted husband; emotional suffering from bf watching porn; and husband abuses me, watches porn.

In answer to such inquiries, More on ‘Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse?’ is a deeper look into how this form of emotional abuse is perpetuated by pornography in the context of romantic relationship between a woman and a man. The reason for this specificity is simple: it is what I know.  Naming men as the porn watchers is neither a complete picture of the issues, nor meant to exclude the potential of men to be hurt in this way. I am a woman, former wife, and am coming from that perspective.

Power and control is the force behind abuse of any type. To exact acknowledgement of this power and control, an abuser has to break the spirit or coerce the will of the victim, otherwise she will leave. The most horrific forms of this take place in legal and illegal pornography to varying degrees.

What I’ve observed, heard, and read from women is that when a wife (or girlfriend) is hurt by her husband’s (or boyfriend’s) porn use and confronts him about it, several common ideas tend to guide his response. Interestingly, his line of thought is hauntingly similar to that of abusers in general, beginning with placing blame elsewhere, dismissing the woman’s feelings, and using demeaning words and actions toward her.

Pornography use is blamed on wives

Over the years I have heard all kinds of statements about porn from single men and women, spouses, partners, and teenagers. The most common of these tend to lay a man’s “need” for pornography on his wife. Wives are accused of being prudes if they don’t appreciate porn. They are too tired, too bossy, too fat, too skinny, too old, too busy, less interested, less interesting, and just don’t understand their husbands. This type of thinking affects how the issue of porn is treated in churches, families, and marriage counseling scenarios. Here are two examples:

“Porn-watching is wrong only if the wife doesn’t like it.” By automatically calling the act of watching porn innocent, the foundation has been laid for excuse-making and even lies. A husband can use sensitivity toward  a wife’s feelings as a springboard for indulging in anything she happens to not like. Her voice will not be heard.

“Watching porn together is one of the most intimate experiences spouses can have.”  A wife is apparently a party-pooper if she will not relax and join in the fun. Of course we are sexual beings, but that is not all we are. True intimacy develops within a framework of trust. A wife coerced or guilted into sex involving pornography is not acting on trust but fear. She may be afraid her refusal will be misread, she is not enough for her husband, her judgment is not to be trusted, he may leave, or any number of concerns.

Pornography use is blamed on society and powerlessness

“It’s difficult because of how women dress these days, and what’s on TV.”  Hypocrisy surrounding this issue in circles where admitting to porn use is frowned upon, is obvious. The idea of the helpless man, unable to stand against all the forces of television and the internet is a false picture of reality. 

I am a recovering food addict. What that means is that for most of my life I dreamed about, obsessed over, felt the cravings of desire for, and indulged my fantasy of overeating. It was harmless fun. i told myself, even as I watched my health deteriorate. My behaviors were as any addict’s – driving in the middle of night to find a fix, stealing money or food for the fix, lying about food, hiding food, and keeping secrets. I couldn’t wait until the family was asleep so I could have my private party. I felt the shame, guilt, and disapproval of significant people in my life.

Food is everywhere we go. Television shows and commercials, radio and internet ads, billboards, brochures, and magazines all glorify food in full color and at the best angles. My friends talk about and post luscious recipes on my Facebook news feed. Food is in my refrigerator and on my schedule.

Places considered safe for any other addict are those without many triggers, namely churches, AA,  most public events, and among healthy friends. All of these include gathering around delectable delights. People invite me to “just have one,” push my resolve with, “are you sure?”, and insist “one won’t hurt you.”  They minimize the cunning, baffling, power of food addiction by suggesting eating is always ok as long as one doesn’t indulge too much.

To remain in recovery takes all the strength I have and an avid determination to cling to my Higher Power. I have to say no to family, friends, strangers, and to my thoughts daily. Sometimes the physical urge is too much and the only power I have is to run, not walk, to God and ask for help. Human support from other recovering food addicts is important too.

So you see, the “helpless man” concept doesn’t fly with me. In contrasting popular opinions, our society either has an overemphasis or not enough emphasis on sex, and religious codes are either too strict or not strict enough. However, we are all surrounded by triggers of our weaknesses whatever they are. No one is helpless; it is just a passive excuse or one based in lack of understanding.

Pornography use is blamed on meaninglessness

“Porn sex doesn’t mean anything.” photo-24819926-couple-having-argument Wives troubled by their husbands’ use of porn are commonly written off as ignorant or silly.

Dave has produced, directed, and performed in over one hundred pornographic films. For the last ten years this has been his lifestyle and he claims credit as an expert in relationships. His premise is that men cheat, and so what? Women shouldn’t care because infidelity isn’t about them. Men love their partners, and sex outside the relationship is void of meaning.

“Join in the fun,” I heard a prominent mental health specialist say in answer to a woman’s question about how she ought to react to her husband’s porn usage. “Those [models] aren’t real.”

While Dave and the doctor are busy trying to convince women they have no reasonable cause for alarm, alarms are still going off. That’s because the theory that porn is just for fun doesn’t translate so well into real relationships.

Pornography glorifies fantasy, whatever that may mean to a viewer. In a fake world where women do everything a man desires at his whim and demand, and where ultimate power and control provides sexual release, a man’s neuropathways are transforming to react more to fantasy than to his wife. It is progressive, meaning that regardless of the fetish or titillation, the formula has to expand to include more variation to remain sexually satisfying. The pursuit of power has to move from win to win over increasingly difficult challenges. Like all addictions, pornography has to evolve for the fix to stay effective.

While a man’s wife is looking less and less satisfying to him compared to the high of pornography, he begins to resent her intrusion on his fantasy mindset. She has needs he is less inclined to want to meet. His thoughts are on the next fix instead of on their conversation. He may grow impatient with her desire for his time, attention, and affirmations. Real life doesn’t give him the instant gratification of pornography. He sees sexual release via pornography as a relief from stress. Simply put, his drug-of-choice is masturbation and sexual fantasy.

Fetishes can also be of physical and emotional concern for a wife when fantasy moves into a growing need for the real thing. In emotional abuse porn, when the victim suffers and breaks down, somehow the viewer has “won.”  In order to get those real tears, real abuse has to be going on. The viewer is happy when his conquest is begging for forgiveness, for mercy, goes from happy to sad, etc. A wife should not care about this when it happens to her?

Physical abuse porn involves rape, beatings, torture, maiming, and murder. These fuel his desire for control. I know women who have been raped by their husbands, and whose reports have been ignored. So, wives need not be wary?

Child pornography is the use of children for sexual pleasure. Incestual, emotional, and physical torture are about taking advantage of the powerless. Children are to be used, and not heard. Why shouldn’t a mother chill out and leave her husband to his meaningless habit?

Maybe she is not stupid or silly. Perhaps she senses his growing dismissal of her as a person, his increasing demands for her to do things she doesn’t want to do, and the loss of the intimacy she thought was supposed to be marriage. A sense of alarm is ringing as her maternal instincts caution her to be watchful. Her wisdom is surpassing that of “porn sex is meaningless.”

Why porn is demeaning to women and marriage

We are sexual beings of course, and sexual fulfillment is important. However, that is not all we are! We have other needs in the physical, spiritual, and mental realms deserving of just as much attention. Whether our sex lives try to deny this or not, we are also emotional beings. Dividing ourselves into separate parts as if they do not interconnect is folly and dismisses some of the most meaningful aspects of being alive.

photo-24769763-mad-coupleWomen are crying out, “Cherish me. Value me. Love me above all others and things.” Interpreted by entitled and abusive men, responses will likely be fed by thoughts like,  I cherish you – you are the body I get to use. I don’t know what I would do without you, you make me feel good. I can use you and say I love you at the same time. I love you; don’t talk to me.  I love you, but I’m not going to change my behavior or focus.

Women’s longings for relationship and security are worthy, and deserving of attention and respect. Women are not to blame when men take advantage of these desires to gain power and control. In the context of relationship advice from people immersed for profit in the superficial, emotional needs are ignored. Women are told to sacrifice who we are, what we want, our marital hopes and dreams, and ability to function within a trusting partnership on the altar of another person’s more pressing and urgent lust for instant gratification.

I believe that husbands watching porn can easily be interpreted as emotionally abusive of their wives, women in general, and others as described in my first article on the subject. Objectification of women has been a problem for millenia. What about women who objectify men? Well, two wrongs have never created a right.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*pictures from Kozzi.com

1)Signs to Look For In an Abusive Personality. From Safe Place: freedom from violence.  http://www.safeplaceolympia.org/signs-to-look-for-in-an-abusive-personality/

2)Dave, pornographer, in his advertisement as a featured expert

3)National Review: Getting Serious On Pornography. NPR  March 31, 2010.   http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361

4)How porn is re-wiring our brains. The Telegraph March 13, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10441027/How-porn-is-rewiring-our-brains.html

5)Porn Changes the Brain.  Fight the New Drug  August 8, 2014.   http://fightthenewdrug.org/porn-changes-the-brain/

6)Listen Up, Guys! Here’s What Women REALLY Want From You.  Your Tango  January 2016    http://www.yourtango.com/200925879/10-simple-things-women-want

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