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Author Topic: Relationships and pornography
blueberry
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Hi! I would like to talk about pornography in general, and also a bit about how it affects relationships.

I didn't use to have very strong feelings about porn before I was in a relationship (mostly, I think, because I just didn't watch it), or in the beginning of it, when we something watched it together.

However these days we never do that, it's just my boyfriend watching it by himself and it makes me feel awful every time I find out. I don't think there's anything wrong with masturbating when you're in a relationship but I'm finding it hard to accept that partner has to use pornography to do that.

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Heather
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Okay.

Maybe you can talk a little bit about what feels awful to you about it?

It might help to clarify those thoughts and feelings if you think about why you DON'T have issues with masturbation -- which is most often, for most people, accompanied by some kind of sexual fantasy, be it in their heads or on a screen or page -- but do when pornography (however you're defining that) is also part of it.

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Heather
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I'm also wondering about the "has to" in that. In other words, I think it's safe to say many people who masturbate with pornography don't have to: they simply want to, or like to.

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blueberry
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Well that's true; it's more that he wants to do it, really.

And I guess I would be just as upset if I knew my boyfriend was fantasizing about someone he knows in real life, so in that way I'd prefer porn, but then that would still be just in his head, so unless he told me I wouldn't have to know about it (which is not the case with porn).

I think one reason it makes me feel awful is because I start to compare myself to the women I see in porn, a little bit because of their bodies (though mostly I find it boring that they all have to look the same) but also because of how they act, because I feel like it sets unrealistic expectations on how you are supposed to behave in a sexual situation (for example, my boyfriend seems to think it's common for women to enjoy having someone ejaculate in their face, which I personally don't). And also I don't like how it's always about women having to please the men, at least in the porn I've seen.

I'm also worried about how the actors are treated and if they really do it because they enjoy it, and about how women are portrayed in media in general. I just see all these messages about what girls or women are supposed to be like, dress sexy, shave their legs, behave in a certain way, etc., and that feels awful too.

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Haleigh H
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blueberry,

From your post above I can tell that you have really thought about this and know how you feel. Have you had this conversation with you boyfriends and told him how you feel?

There are a lot of different types of porn out there, have you asked him about the porn that he likes to watch and why he likes it?

If you haven't, what do you think? Is this a conversation you feel comfortable having with him?

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Heather
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Can I also ask if perhaps YOU ever fantasize when you masturbate, and if so. if anyone but your boyfriend has made appearances?

What about finding other people attractive besides him: I assume he's not the only person you might ever have had -- or still have -- any kind of feelings of desire around?

This isn't a call-you-out-on-hypocrisy question, btw. Rather, I'm just asking to see if maybe we can find any common ground to work with here.

(Per how porn performers are treated, that may be a separate conversation. But on the whole, the realities of working conditions for porn performers are a lot like the range of working conditions for actors and actresses in all other kinds of films. It varies a whole lot, with people treated better at work than some of us will ever be, whatever our jobs, to very unethical or problematic working conditions.

I'd also add to this that I always get confused by people who say performers in porn, of any gender, all look the same. Certainly, we see commonalities when it comes to kinds of porn or genres, but when we take a look at ALL the kinds of porn out there, I'd say we tend to see a pretty diverse array of bodies and ways people look.)

[ 03-03-2013, 02:02 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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Sorry, one more thing!

Sounds like some of this is about your boyfriend maybe using porn as sex education, and assuming what he sees in porn is reflective of what people do or want in real life? If so, is that error he's making something the two of you have ever talked about?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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blueberry
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Hi Haleigh, yes we've talked about it lots of times, or at least I have tried to, however my boyfriend doesn't usually want to talk about it because he thinks it makes me upset (which is true, I am upset about it sometimes, but sometimes I just want to discuss it).

I've also tried to ask him about what he finds exciting about the kind of porn he likes to watch and what he really thinks about it, because I think it would be interesting to see it from another point of view, but it hasn't gone very well so far. And I've asked if we could watch something together, but usually he only wants to do that if he's the one who's suggested it.


Heather: I do fantasize, but not usually about anyone in particular or anyone I know (I've tried that some time but it usually just feels weird), rather about certain situations, and lately I have rarely done it at all since my sex drive has been quite low and I never have time to miss having sex with my boyfriend since I see him everyday. Which is also one reason that I feel uncomfortable with him watching porn, because it feels like he's disappointed with our sex life (which makes me feel even less like I want to have sex with him).

Usually when I've felt, and feel, attracted to someone I think more about being close to that person, say by hugging them, than actually having sex. But I've only ever had sex with (and kissed) one person in my life, so I don't tend to think of people as potential sex partners, or notice when someone is flirting with me.

(Well, I don't mean to say that people in all kinds of porn always look the same, but in the porn I've seen so far the girls are always skinny, shaved, quite fit and have big breasts. The guys tend to be more varied.)


Using porn as sex education is definately something I worry about - of course he knows that it's not real, but I still get the feeling that he thinks I should be more like the girls he sees in porn. I read an interesting topic here yesterday about enthusiastic consent - that's pretty much missing from the picture. I tried bringing it up today but I'm not sure if I got the point across (and we've talked about using porn as sex education before as well, same thing there).

[ 03-03-2013, 04:46 PM: Message edited by: blueberry ]

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Heather
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Okay, so I can certainly add some things to this with you giving some more of the information you have.

Even if it's not people, specifically, that have been part of your fantasy, you can perhaps recognize from fantasy about situations that fantasizing about those situations likely isn't about you wanting your real-life sex life to involve them or be like them.

In other words, fantasy is something different from reality, and it's a place our minds go, sexually or otherwise, to be somewhere different than our realities. Most of the time, we wouldn't actually want our real lives to be like our fantasy lives.

And we fantasize -- again, sexually or otherwise -- not usually from a place of disappointment, but from a place of creative imagination. In a word, we put our heads other places because we can: because it's fun to play with or in our imaginations, much like it was when we were kids playing pretend. Know what I mean?

Too, masturbation, for many people, is something different than a sex life with a partner. It's not just something, for many, they only do if and when a partner isn't around: it's a kind of self-care, a part of our sexualities that's only about us.

I hear you saying you're worried his interest in porn is about feeling disappointed in your real-life sex life: have you asked him if that's the case? If so, what has he said about that?

You also say you think he feels like you should be more like women in porn: is that something you have asked and talked about?

I guess I also want to check in and ask how satisfied YOU are with your sexual life and relationship. For instance, you seem to be saying even sound consent isn't part of your sexual life.

Do you think it's possible some of the hard feelings you have been having around this relationship -- jealousy, insecurity -- might be because it's just not a great relationship you actually feel great in?

Maybe that sounds like asking the obvious, but often when we feel crummy in a relationship, it can be because the relationship is crummy.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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blueberry
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Okay, I see what you mean. And I like the way you're associating it with creativity rather than disappointment, that makes sense to me.

So perhaps I don't have to worry so much about him being disappointed, but do you think it's reasonable for me to not want him to watch porn when I'm in the house? I don't actually mind it so much if he does it when we're not together.

Maybe I should explain what I said about enthusiastic consent because that's not exactly what I meant: most of the time when we have sex it's because we both want it, and if I say I don't want to he also respects that (even it if feels like he's disappointed). But I guess what's bothering me is that if I don't actually SAY no, other than with body language, it seems like he doesn't get that. So that's something we could talk about more.

I've tried to ask a few times directly if he is disappointed with our sex life, then he's usually said no or that he hasn't thought about it, but from how he behaves otherwise it seems to me that he is, at least a little bit. Not just because of the porn, but he often comes with suggestions for what we could do in bed or what underwear I could have (which, to me, seems like ideas he's got from porn). Nothing wrong with suggestions, except they are often things I feel a bit uncomfortable about or that I just don't find very exciting. When I've told him how I feel about it, he's said that he just wants me to feel more confident about myself (for example by wearing sexy underwear), or that he's just telling me what he likes but we don't have to do it.

And I guess I'm also a bit disappointed myself, because I've found it hard to get excited about anything sexual lately, not just with my boyfriend but in general as well. I don't know where my sex drive went :/ And I also think I need to start talking more about, and try to find out, what I like when it comes to sex, I know he can't read my mind.


I wouldn't say it's a crummy relationship. For sure, there are things we need to work on. But insecurity is something I've struggled with for most of my life and that's something I've experienced in all my other non-romantic/sexual relationships as well to some extent, even in the great ones and even with my family members. So unless I can work on that I think it would be just the same in any other sexual/romantic relationship.

As far as I can tell, the jealousy mostly comes from my feelings of insecurity, but after talking to Molias on the other thread it seems clearer to me that my boyfriend and I also had somewhat different ideas of what boundaries we wanted to have in a relationship, but thought we were both on the same page with that, since we did talk about it in the beginning (but not enough). Lately we've talked more about that, so I feel we are starting to understand each other better on that part. I just find it hard to trust people, in general.

I've been unhappy about a lot of things lately, not just problems in the relationship. So, I'd like to think that those are problems that can be worked out, or at least I want to try to some more.

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blueberry
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Oh, one more thing, in response to your question: I tried to ask directly if watching porn has anything to do with him feeling disappointed with our sex life, he said no but I'm not sure if he actually meant it. As I said before, I find it hard to talk about porn with him, maybe because he feels like I'm accusing him so he doesn't want to reply, or he doesn't want to make me upset. Sex is easier to talk about, though.
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Heather
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*I* think that anyone gets to have whatever limits they have around this stuff for the most part.

So, I think it's fine to seek out partners that don't utilize what you consider pornography if that's what you want, and to nix partners who do. I think it's fine to ask a partner if they would be willing to have certain limits around porn you want.

Because I also know they have the right to say no, and that either of you can decide that what you each want doesn't mesh, if it doesn't, and to each instead choose partners where the limits each want IS okay and a good fit.

Know what I mean?

And honestly, it's sounding like the two of you might well have some sexual incompatibility in more than this area. It sounds, for instance, like some things that he wants or finds exciting aren't things you want or feel excited about.

And some of the issues with lack of sexual desire you're feeling might well have something to do with this stuff and other issues in the relationship (like finding it hard to talk about big stuff with this person, for instance, and having a hard time trusting this person). What do you think?

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blueberry
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Okay, so if I were to try and find a partner who had exactly the same preferences as me when it comes to pornography, which I think is hard, wouldn't it be pretty impossible to find someone who'd be a perfect fit in every aspect of a relationship? [Frown]

I know I have only talked about the negative stuff here, but there are lots of great things too. And again, I don't think my issues with trust and jealousy has to do with this person, because he's never given me any reason not to trust him - and I DO trust him, in many ways.

We do talk about important stuff and I don't find it hard in most cases. We used to talk more about pornography as well, but since then I have brought it up so many times in a bad way, with feelings of anger, disappointment, disgust, and lack of understanding that I'm not surprised my boyfriend isn't that eager to talk about it.

I can think of a few reasons for my lack of sexual desire: I'm tired, feel like I have too much to do, I'm on the pill, I worry a lot about my coursework and what I'm going to do in the future, I feel like I don't have time just to relax, I'm constantly ill and I have had some problems with my stomach in the last few months which makes me feel nauseous and bloated most of the time (I am finally going to see a doctor for that this Friday, so hopefully they will be able to help me!) - in other words, sex hasn't been the first thing on my mind.

(I'm not saying there can't be other reasons as well, but those are just a few.)

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Heather
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For sure, we can't date ourselves. [Smile] (We probably wouldn't want to either, even if we think we're awesome.) So, there are pretty much always going to be places where we do and don't mesh in certain ways with partners and ways we're different.

But, there are going to be places where we're fine with -- or even welcome -- differences, and those differences work, and places where we're not. We all have to figure out what our dealbreakers are and aren't, and also what things we can and can't live with, or do or don't want to live with. As well, in a relationship where there are conflicts, we're always going to need to figure out if what's great about the relationship both makes that worth it, AND if those great things, and how we use them together, can get us to a place where we can resolve those conflicts.

But, just FYI? There are people who prefer not to have pornography in their sexual lives, people of all genders. Other folks who feel that way aren't unicorns, I promise.

At the same time, some of this -- per your other thread -- is also going to be about figuring out how much your insecurity is driving this car, and how much this is about jealousy. because there comes a point, obviously, where looking for certain limits -- like someone not finding others ever attractive, or having any sexual desires separate from one other person -- isn't actually healthy anymore, is more about control than harmony, and where it's not going to support a healthy sexual relationship. Where you sit with all of that bigger picture per pornography, isn't something I know about you yet. Maybe you know for yourself, or maybe it's something to think or talk more about.

You and Molias have already talked about some of this, too, but separate from the porn issues and feelings, it sounds like one big thing right now probably feeding all of this is that it sounds to me like you perhaps just need to put some real effort into finding ways to better enjoy yourself and your own life separate from sex and this relationship. I think if you can make progress with that, it'll be easier to see all of this stuff more clearly, and evaluate the relationship as a whole more clearly, and also better figure out what of these kinds of feelings are really about you -- including things that might be going on with any partner, like issues with trust or insecurity, if those really are mostly or only about you -- and what of them might (or might not) be about a sexual relationship where it might just be that sexually or otherwise, things just aren't working or might not be a good fit.

[ 03-05-2013, 06:01 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Molias
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Hi blueberry,

Just checking in on this thread as well. =)

I think people are so different that it's unlikely that you'd ever find someone you're 100% compatible with in every way, no. But I do think there are things that are easier to compromise on than others. I think everyone has different things they're just not willing to compromise on in a relationship, and that's ok. When there's a significant mismatch between partners, it can be sad, but everyone's entitled to ask a partner to respect their desired boundaries. I think that's what Heather is saying, that some issues are really hard for two people to compromise on, but it's still ok for folks to seek out a partner who's flexible on that issue, or to bring it up in a relationship even if they're worried it might be a problem. And certainly there are people who aren't particularly interested in porn at all!

It's certainly understandable that your sex drive hasn't been really high lately. I know you have a lot going on, and stress can have a huge impact on levels of sexual desire. And to be feeling ill a lot as well - it's really no surprise. I hope your visit to the doctor can be helpful.

And as this is your first sexual relationship, as you noted above it may be helpful to you, in this relationship and just for your benefit in general, to do some thinking and exploring on your own about what, sexually, really would get you excited. I think when there's an imbalance in sexual desire in relationship it can make every potential sexual encounter feel kind of fraught. And it may be helpful to take some time to really think about what would make you happy (or feel confident or sexy - it sounds like your boyfriend's ideas of what might do that for you aren't accurate, but maybe there are things you can think of that would do that?) and then, when you've identified that, lay those ideas on the table with him.
At the same time, though, it's ok to give yourself a break about this. If you're really focused on feeling better in other parts of your life and want to focus on those, it's ok if your sex drive takes a back seat for a while. It could be that once you feel more settled in other ways, you'll find that it gets stronger.

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blueberry
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Haha, they do feel a bit like unicorns right now! But I know you must be right. [Smile]

Well, I do think my jealousy has a lot to do with how I feel about pornography, I often get the same kind of feelings as if I see my boyfriend flirting with someone else. And objectively, I don't think it's such a bad thing for a person to watch porn or flirt with others (within some limits), so my reaction to that feels a bit irrational.

I hear what you're both saying on making compromises, and I've also been thinking that I'm not in the best position right now to evaluate the relationship. I'd like to do what you suggested, to keep focusing on feeling better in other parts of my life separate from the relationship (and keep talking about that in the other thread), and then see where that leads me.

I talked with my boyfriend about having a break from sex for a while and he also thought it sounded like a good idea. At the moment I think I will take a break from it myself as well, and focus on other things, and then start thinking more about it when I feel more relaxed about myself.

Right now it's a bit hard to take a break from the relationship though, for practical reasons, but I think not having sex together might make it easier for me to focus on my own problems. And I also talked with my boyfriend about wanting more time and space for myself, though I'm not sure how we will solve that yet.

Thank you both, I appreciate your input! =)

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Molias
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I think this sounds like a good plan. I'm glad your boyfriend's ok with giving you some space to sort things out, and that you felt ok asking for it. =)
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blueberry
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Okay, I think I have some new thoughts about this topic, if anyone is around who wants to discuss it! [Smile]

I mentioned earlier that my boyfriend has suggested certain kinds of underwear that he would like to see on me, which I've felt really uncomfortable and insecure about in the past. Today we went to look at that underwear together, it was a mutual choice to go there, we picked out some together that we both thought looked nice, he wanted to pay for it -- and I felt absolutely fine about it. At home, I actually did feel sexy in that underwear, and I loved seeing his reaction. I don't think it's something I'll wear everyday, but I know I can do it if I want to, and like it, too.

What any of this has to do with pornography: I'm thinking that some of my feelings about porn are about feeling left out, as in when my boyfriend is watching porn without me (which is mostly the case). With the underwear today, it was something we did together, something we shared and made us feel closer, so there wasn't any reason for me to feel insecure about it (as opposed to when he's just said "can you wear X?" or showed me a picture of a girl wearing something he liked).

I also realized, I mean really realized, that my boyfriend wanting me to wear sexy underwear isn't about him not liking what I normally wear or not thinking I'm sexy enough for him without it -- he just thinks I'm sexy, and happens to like fancy underwear, period.

And maybe the same goes for porn -- it doesn't have to be about me not being sexy or good enough, it's just something separate from that, and I don't have any reason to feel inferior to women in porn because someone thinking they're sexy doesn't mean I can't be sexy too, and that's not their real lives we see anyway. If that makes any sense.

(I'm sorry if a lot of this sounds obvious, but it hasn't been to me.)

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