Sex advice with Suzi Godson: My husband says watching porn isn’t a big deal

My husband and I have been married for five years and we have kids. I’ve just discovered that he watches porn. I asked him about it, but he doesn’t think it’s a very big deal and thinks I’m overreacting. I don’t understand why he needs to do it, as we have a healthy sex life.

Men watch porn for many reasons, but mostly they do it because they can. Porn is a quick fix. It’s escapism - a way of dealing with boring office jobs, long working hours and domesticity. It’s not a particularly imaginative way of unburdening, but for many men it is a mental reboot. It’s also incredibly easy for them to think it’s not a big deal because it is so common.

It’s difficult to establish precise figures because it is a private practice, but Dr Lisa Dawn Hamilton, the assistant professor of psychology at Mount Allison University in Canada, suggests that more than 90% of men use porn. When a behaviour is that widespread, you can’t ignore it, and yet porn is a conversation that couples conscientiously avoid.

People tend to have polarised views on porn, but knowing where you both stand from the start can prevent these issues becoming problems. Ultimately you need to work out whether you feel OK about people in a committed relationship having a private solo-sex life.

With porn, a zero-tolerance approach is probably pointless, but you can lay down a few ground rules. Without boundaries, it is easy for occasional porn usage to become more frequent, and it can then end up taking attention away from the primary relationship. As a benchmark, most visits to porn sites last approximately ten minutes because it is a quick way to relieve sexual tension.

Any man or woman who is using porn for more than an hour a day is in the danger zone and needs to go cold turkey, and potentially seek professional help. In terms of content, users should also be aware that porn sites are packed with clickbait links to much more dangerous territory. It means that all porn needs to be navigated with care.

One of the big gripes women often have about porn is that their partners stay up late to watch it. Separate bedtimes negatively affect sexual frequency, so asking your husband to come to bed at the same time as you is a good idea.

The other big issue for women is feeling unattractive when they compare themselves with the typical “porn star” look that their partners have enjoyed watching.

They are often shocked by the kinds of film that their partners have been accessing too. Looking through the browser history of the man you married can be unsettling if what he enjoys on his own is dramatically different from the intimacy you share together.

Porn isn’t exactly cheating, but because it is almost always a secret behaviour, finding out about it can be seen as a betrayal. The other women may be a digital fantasy, but they are still pleasuring your partner in a way that excludes you.

The most infuriating thing about discovering a partner’s porn habit is how difficult it is to articulate the feelings it creates without sounding neurotic. Those feelings do need to be acknowledged, though, by you and by your husband. On one hand they are positive because they show that you still care fiercely about your marriage and about your husband. But they may also be a red flag.

A study by the psychologist Dr Jennifer Schneider in 2000 found that porn use causes decreased marital satisfaction, and research by Samuel Perry in 2016 at the University of Oklahoma found that people who began using porn during the study were twice as likely to divorce. Having a difficult conversation about porn now could prevent some much more difficult and expensive conversations in the future.

  • Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com


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