Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, and abuse (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries
Google searches landing on my first post about this topic, 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.
Today’s response takes a deeper look into how this form of emotional abuse is perpetuated in a 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. An abuser has to break the spirit or coerce the will of the victim, otherwise she will leave or cease to play her part. Some of the most horrific forms of power and control take place in pornography.
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. He places blame elsewhere, dismisses the woman’s feelings, and uses 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 prudishness if they do not 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 assuming the innocence of watching porn, a foundation is laid for excuse-making and even lies. A husband can use supposed sensitivity toward his wife’s feelings as a springboard for secretly indulging in anything. 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, or that she is not enough for her husband. Perhaps she questions her judgment, worries he may leave, or she suffers any number of safety concerns.
Pornography use is blamed on society and powerlessness
“I can’t help it because of how women dress these days, and what’s on TV.” In circles where admitting to porn use is frowned upon, this hypocricy is obvious. The idea of the helpless man, unable to stand against all the forces of suggestion and whim is a false picture of reality.
I’m not stupid or blind, and understand that a culture can make living counter to it very difficult. You see, I am a recovering food addict.
What that means is that for most of my life I dreamed about, obsessed over, felt the cravings for, and indulged my fantasy of overeating. Like porn for some people, food was release and escape. It was also ego-centric. “Harmless fun”, I told myself, even as my health deteriorated.
My behaviors were as any addict’s, including denying, lying, hiding, and keeping secrets. I felt the shame, guilt, and disapproval.
Like ads built on the premise that sex sells, food is also everywhere. Television commercials and shows, radio and internet ads, social and print media, billboards, and more, all glorify food in full color and at the best angles.
Places considered safe for addicts of any other substance or behavior are those without many triggers, like church, 12-step meetings, and hanging out with healthy friends. As you know, each of these often involve food. In healthy support systems, People invite me to “just have one,” and push my resolve with, “are you sure?”
Even if I could cut off all social interaction and ignore public media, food is in my refrigerator and on my schedule.
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 or emotional urge is too much and the only power I have is to run, not walk, to God and ask for help. Human support from others in recovery is important too.
So you see, the “helpless man” concept doesn’t fly with me. We are all surrounded by triggers of our weaknesses whatever they are.
No one is helpless. That is a passive excuse or one based in lack of knowledge.
Pornography use is blamed on lack of meaning
“Porn sex doesn’t mean anything.” 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. 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. Those [models] aren’t real,” I heard a prominent TV mental health specialist say to a woman wondering how to react to her husband’s porn usage.
While Dave and the doctor are busy trying to convince women they have no reasonable cause for alarm, alarm bells are 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 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. Simply put, his drug-of-choice is masturbation and sexual fantasy. Relationships are hard work and sacrifice.
Fetishes are also of physical and emotional concern for a wife when fantasy moves into a need for the real thing. One example, emotional abuse porn, is when the victim suffers and breaks down, and somehow the viewer has “won.” In order to get those real tears, real abuse has to be going on. The viewer is most aroused when his conquest is begging for forgiveness, for mercy, goes from happy to sad, or is fearful. Yikes!
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, not heard.
A mother should 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 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 surpasses 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 as much attention.
Whether in our sex lives we try to deny this or not, we are 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.
Women are crying out, “Cherish me. Value me. Love me above all others and things.” Interpreted by entitled and abusive men, his thoughts will likely be, 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.
In the context of relationship advice from people immersed for profit in the superficial, emotional needs are ignored. Women are told to sacrifice their personal identity, values, desires, marital hopes and dreams, and ability to function within a trusting partnership. All this is sacrificed on the altar of another person’s more pressing and urgent lust for instant gratification.
Women’s longings for relationship and security are worthy and deserving of respect. Women are not to blame when men take advantage of these desires to gain power and control. It is emotional abuse.
Objectification of women has been a problem for millenia. What about women who objectify men, some may ask? Well, two wrongs have never created a right.
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 and behavioral health challenges. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
*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