03
Feb
11

the great porn debate

Reader T. C writes:

I’m a red-blooded American man who watches porn occasionally. Nothing extreme or too raunchy, just your normal run of the mill guy porn. My girlfriend thinks porn is degrading. She was actually astonished when she found out I watch porn. (Don’t all guys watch porn?) Clearly it hasn’t affected our sex life in any way, as I’m not an addict or anything. But she’s asked me to stop watching porn. I’m kind of torn about what to do. Obviously I don’t think porn is bad, but she does. Also I think I’m more miffed about the fact that she would ask something like that of me, impinging on my freedom and my rights, etc. And finally, I’m miffed that she thinks the little porn I do watch could transform me into some deviant monster. What do you think?

Dear T.C.:

I think this issue may fall slightly across gender lines, so I took one of my highly scientific IM surveys and found out.

I was sort of right.

Most of my gal friends said it wouldn’t be outrageous to ask a guy to stop watching porn entirely. Especially if your sex life is good anyway.

Most of my guy friends said OH HELL NO.

too public

This may be a bit too public, dude. Image: photofriday / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, there were spirits of compromise on both sides. Many of my girlfriends said that your girlfriend can keep her opinions and even express them to you and maybe try to educate you on why she feels that way, but that it should be okay for you to do what you want (or need) to do in your free and private time, as long as she doesn’t have to watch (or know about it).

And the guys said basically the same thing — if they loved a girl enough, they would consider giving up porn for her, again if the sex life was doing well, but that the girlfriend should probably be okay with you doing whatever you want to do in your free time.

I think this brought up a few interesting assumptions that need to be addressed.

First, not all red-blooded American men watch porn. I have personally dated several who not only didn’t have a stash, they also didn’t make use of the free porn on the interwebs. And I’m not talking about people who avoid pornography for religious or political reasons. Some men do just fine with their own imaginations. So maybe your girlfriend wasn’t totally out of line when she was astonished to learn you watch porn. (And depending on how long you’ve been together, that’s a good job of keeping it private already, buddy.) Also, some guys wouldn’t have a problem giving up porn altogether, possibly because it’s not such a big part of their lives in the first place. This is probably not you.

Next up, she may have good reason to be offended by pornography. There are lots of arguments against porn in the feminist world, the religious world, and probably several other worlds. Is it degrading to women? I can’t say. Is it degrading to your girlfriend? Yes, for whatever reason. Whether it’s because she’s experienced sexual abuse in the past or because she’s studied the arguments against it, she is offended by pornography. And you are very unlikely to change her mind, even if you can expose her to feminist porn. While most of my girlfriends were not opposed to porn in this manner, a few of them said porn has caused problems in their past relationships. So your girlfriend’s not totally out of left field in wondering if pornography is problematic.

Of course, her assumption that men who watch porn are deviants is clearly wrong, too. While I’m not up for looking up the statistics now, I’m sure more men do than don’t, and the majority of those are not lunatics. Yes, child pornography is disturbing, and so is snuff porn, and so is any number of other degrading and non consensual pornography, and I’m sure you’ll admit that as readily as she will. So there’s one thing: you can agree that certain porn is degrading. Shake hands on that and be happy.

In terms of what you should do, you can either come to a compromise about pornography, you can quit watching it, or you can break up.

The compromise would be what most of my friends agreed about above — agree to disagree about the nature of porn, and only watch it when she won’t know about it. Or maybe you could try reading erotica, which is typically hailed as being more female-friendly. In fact, maybe you could read erotica together.

From what you’ve told me about pornography being your right, I don’t think you’re going to be willing to give it up anytime soon. While it would be a very nice gesture to a woman who was seriously offended by pornography, I don’t think it’s the gesture you’re willing to make. Porn is a sticky subject (no pun intended). Most of our society preaches that it’s a huge vice to be hidden under shadow, and defending your desire or need for it can make you seem like a real pig. Is porn more important to you than a relationship with a real woman? That’s not the line this argument should draw, but it is an interesting point to think about. If you really loved her, maybe you would be willing to try and see things from her point of view somehow.

But that goes both ways. If she really loved you, she’d be willing to hear your point of view. And it’s not just “huh huh huh boobies”. You can make arguments that porn is empowering for women (some make 10 times as much as their male co-stars), or that there is pornography out there produced by women for women.

There is another side to the coin, too. As one of my friends pointed out, if she’s got serious issues with pornography that you don’t have, other sexual issues may arise later in the relationship. Is she too much of a “prude” for you? Does she have body issues? Is she “frigid”? While these are all sexual issues a woman should work through in her lifetime, it’s not your job to work through them with her. Being in a relationship is not about being a hero or saving the other person.

If the fact that she is asking you to give up your right to porn weighs more to you than your relationship, or if she won’t budge on a compromise, you two may need to consider splitting up. It may be an embarrassing-sounding reason to split (“she wouldn’t let me watch porn”), but sex is an important part of a relationship, and if you two have severely opposing views on it, you shouldn’t be together in the first place.

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2 Responses to “the great porn debate”


  1. 1 Consuelo
    February 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve never understood the “porn is degrading to women” argument. I mean most porn has men in it and they are mostly there to be the “hired big penis.” Isn’t that more degrading? At least the women in porn have some semblance of a personality. Plus what about gay porn? Lesbian porn? And how is erotica less degrading to women?

  2. 2 DÄBé
    February 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Under the heading of EEWWWWWWW, I’m tempted to say something like “They’ll pry my porn from my warm, greasy hands”. But I won’t.

    Why are some people shy about their bodies, and others not? And… isn’t it apparent that many were born that way (I mean, of course they were born nude, but also shy)?

    I wonder if this is one of those debates that will end up someday explained by DNA mapping.
    In which case, are we going to make behavioral allowances for genetic predisposition?

    In the meantime, I say download all you can. I never thought we’d run out of natural gas for heating, either.


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