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Author Topic: Porn and relationships
cjane87
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I'm in my mid-twenties and in my first ever relationship. I was a very very lonely kid/teen (gay and closeted, very very very self conscious about my body), and I found a sexual outlet in watching porn and reading erotica. I started watching porn when I was 11 or 12, so it's been about 13 years of watching pornography.

But now I feel really unsatisfied having actual sex with an actual person because it's nothing like my fantasies (which are largely based on watching someone else have sex in some sort of secret way). I like satisfying my girlfriend and get enjoyment out of that, but I only feel turned on when I'm masturbating. Admittedly, I get kind of bored during sex. It's nothing like what I "grew up" on, and since this is basically my first sexual relationship, I have no idea what sex is "supposed" to feel like beyond what I've seen in porn (which is pretty unrealistic). I've stopped watching porn to see if that will help, but is there anything I can do to get more enjoyment out of sex?

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Heather
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Well, for starters, have you tried/asked about incorporating some of what you know you like from porn and erotica that IS translateable to real life into your sex life with your girlfriend?

For instance, you can certainly watch a partner, from a secret place or not, while they engage in masturbation if that's something they have interest in doing, too.

Can I also check in about how turned on you feel BY your current partner? In other words, are you saying you don't feel aroused by this person, in or out of bed, but only during masturbation by yourself, or am I misinterpreting something?

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cjane87
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i haven't really done that, but that's a good idea.

i don't really know how to be aroused by a person, if that makes any sense.

i was bullied for a really, really, really long time, and most of that was making fun of me for having any sort of sexual desire. couple that with an incidence of sexual abuse and some mental abuse from a family member, and i don't really feel very highly about myself or my body (so i generally fantasize about someone who isn't me watching someone else have sex). i haven't been bullied for a long time, but i'm still getting used to someone WANTING me to want them and it not being repulsive to them. i want to be wanted, but when it comes to actually having sex it's like something just shuts down and i don't really feel anything. my vagina/vulva gets really wet (which i actually find kind of uncomfortable), but i'm sort of... not really there.

i'm aroused by scenarios i imagine or have seen in porn, but an actual physical human is sort of overwhelming to me so i just... don't really feel anything at all. i really, really, really like my girlfriend, and i'm turned on by her in everyday life,but being in bed or naked together i just shut down inside.

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Heather
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I'm so sorry about all you have been through, Jane, but I AM very glad you've survived it and are here with us in the world. [Smile]

I'm a little confused, but it might be about language, so let me check.

I hear you say you don't know how -- though I'm not sure anyone does, it's more a thing that happens involuntarily, in a lot of ways -- to be aroused by a person.

But then I hear you saying you DO feel turned on by your partner, but once you get sexual, that shuts down. i also hear you describing at least one physical signal of arousal.

Does turned on and aroused mean different things to you? I use them to mean the same thing, thus part of my confusion here. Or, do you mean you can feel aroused but don't feel desire? Or....?

Can I also check in about how you feel about the time being right for you to be in a sexual relationship right now? I get what you're saying it can offer you around wanting to be wanted, but if you feel like you aren't there during sex with this person, or feel bored or disengaged, that sounds to me like it might not be so sound for you to be in this kind of interaction right now?

(Just FYI, I'm heading off for the day, so will check back in with this tomorrow.)

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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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cjane87
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it's hard to explain. i feel turned on by my girlfriend, but that level of turned on sort of disappears when it comes time to actually have sex. i feel aroused, but it's not the same way i feel when i'm masturbating by myself. i think i have just too high of expectations for what sex is supposed to be like because of porn, in a way.

but i really like our relationship, and i really really like giving her pleasure and being close to her during sex. it makes me feel really good to be able to do that for her and be so close and be with her.

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Heather
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Perhaps let's try this: what do you feel is more exciting in porn than in IRL sex? What are some of these expectations you have, that you think come from porn, that you find aren't being met in your real-life sex life?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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oh man, good question. probably the situations - it's so off the cuff and immediate, and the sorts of things i find sexy wouldn't really work in a consensual relationship. for one thing, i am not very turned on by my own body or the concept of me having sex with someone, so porn allows me to pretend to be in someone else's body, one i do find attractive. i can pretend to be someone else entirely and not have to think about myself in that situation. (most of my imaginings have involved someone who doesn't look like me, even nonsexually. when i was a little kid, i would imagine my life taking place with someone much prettier/"ideal" than me playing the role of me.

as far as what excites me, again, much of it could never actually happen (and shouldn't.) i kind of like terrible porn tropes, like "lesbians" having sex for male attention. i'm...sort of turned on by the concept of being forced into sex or seduced by a much older man (when i have no actual desire to have sex with any man). or fantasies about being male and receiving a blow job while watching two women having sex.

so, uh, yeah. i have stopped watching porn so maybe i can reset my brain, but i'm worried that thousands of hours spent masturbating while watching or thinking about porn/erotica has sort of screwed me up for life.

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Heather
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Well, role-play is certainly a thing that not only people can do in their sex lives, but which many DO do.

In other words, how about playing out some of these kinds of roles or scenarios in ways you can that ARE consensual?

That said, while I certainly think that would be fine to do, and might even be fun for you, it also sounds to me -- as I'm sure you're already clued into yourself -- like some of this may just be about needing to get a bit further down the road in your journey to claiming your own sexuality as yours, including it being part of the body, your body, it inhabits.

But I would also put in a bit of caution for anyone engaging in sex when they really don't feel excited, or after that excitement has gone away. That's just pretty much a way to set up pretty bad patterns in relationships, and a framework for a sexual life that isn't likely to feel satisfying or beneficial.

I wonder if it might not help to try and balance some of the fantasy about other people that's so typical for you with fantasy that is much more about you, and actually involves you? Maybe journaling that, or just putting it into your head and sitting with it, exploring it in your head sometimes? Doesn't have to be while masturbating or engaging in sex with a partner if that doesn't work for you, but it most certainly COULD be.

Personally, I'm not concerned that somehow watching porn in formative years breaks or screws people, or their sexuality, up for life. For sure, it sounds like fantasy, for you, and very scripted fantasy, no less, got a lot more real estate than reality. And that can be an issue no matter what kind of fantasy we're talking about. But I certainly don't think you can't change that channel, and learn to have a sexuality and sexual life that works in reality, and that is fulfilling for you in reality. It just might take a little more time than this, and it might also be that you have to figure out if that process is something that works best for you while with partners, or if this is something where you really need more of your own sexual space, alone -- but sans so much fantasy, especially the kind that is so external, and so not about you, fantasy that's really about avoiding yourself or denying yourself more than a momentary escape from reality, or an embellishment of reality.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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but i don't find myself sexy, or myself doing things to be sexy or arousing. i want to be able to do that - have fantasies and a reality that can be focused or involve me, but i don't know how to go about doing so. my girlfriend thinks i'm VERY sexy, but part of me is like "what's wrong with you why on earth do you think that?" how do you get used to having sex when you're still really worried about how your body looks and feels during sex (extra skin on my stomach, cellulite)?

i totally get what you're saying about the escape from reality. i really enjoy that - how masturbation or porn makes everything else less real and is so relaxing and takes me away from my problems or how i feel about myself. i'm so new to sex and sexuality in any real way - porn and erotica and reading (even scarleteen) has been my outlet for so long that i have no idea how to handle sex in reality.

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Heather
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So, time to learn to find your sexy. [Smile]

Like I said earlier, it just sounds to me like some of the issue with that may be you needing more time, and more time spent exploring your own self in this department, rather than doing things to escape yourself and your body, emotionally, if you get me.

Per worrying about sex with your body looking like...well, a real-life body, that usually has to do with getting more comfortable in your own skin, accepting your body as a real body, and being with partners you feel comfortable with.

Can I ask what, if any, work you have done to work on improving your body image, and feeling more at home in your own skin?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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um, well, i lost a lot of weight, which helped (though that's probably not what you mean). i started dressing better, and i've talked a lot about my feelings about my body with my close friends to see what they thought or if they had any advice. i try to eat well and exercise (though ironically, the more life i live the less time i have to work out!)
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Heather
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Yeah, that's not what I mean. Changing one's body can be a positive for people, for sure, but it usually makes little to no impact on poor body image or low self-esteem, especially if and when those things were there before any issues that were changed.

What I'm asking about are things that help you make peace with your body and enjoy being in it more. So, things you can DO with your body, for instance, that, when you're doing them, feel freeing to you, let you enjoy the fact that you have a body.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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hmm. what sorts of things? i used to dance, but that led to my dance teacher telling me i was too fat to live so i've been, uh, reticent to do that ever again. i like yoga. is that along the lines of what you mean?
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Heather
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Before your teacher said that, did you like dancing? Did it make you feel good about and in your body? If so, how about finding ways or spaces to dance where you'd not be faced with that kind of bullshit?

With the yoga, when you're doing it, is that a place for you where you feel at home in your body, where it feels like something great to be in and celebrate?

You know, if I can pitch a couple extra ideas, I'm a big fan of:
• Women's bathhouses. Not only are they relaxing and awesome, you get to see a wide range of women's real bodies to better center your ideas about bodies, including your own, in reality. I've taken more than one friend struggling with body image to a bathhouse and listened to them express total revelation afterwards. [Smile]

• Making a wall collage of images -- be they literal, of people's bodies, or otherwise evocative of bodies -- that speak to you per resembling YOU. In other words, an "Aren't these people and their bodies amazing!" wall where what you're looking at looks more like you, in all ways, or just some ways, than not.

• Making sure you are doing things with your body that really pout it to the best use. In other words, our bodies can, for instance, be used to help other people through some kinds of volunteer work. When we start to live and see them as more than billboards for our appeal, or as sexual, it can be a lot easier to make peace with them, and a whole lot richer, IMO.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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i loved dancing, i still love dancing alone in my room. i'd like to take belly dancing or something of that nature, but i'm pretty anxious about being sensual in public (if that makes any sense.)

yoga does make me feel at home in my body and very centered.

i'm intrigued by your images idea. i tend to find women who look sort of like me very attractive, but that doesn't translate to, uh, me. for some reason, i see myself through this lens of "disgusting and repulsive," and i don't know how to shift that. and i do need to find a way to do more volunteering!

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Heather
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It sounds to me like taking that risk would be taking a positive risk. Even if your body has changed, how about something like this, which would be a very safe space per being protected from anyone making comments about your weight and your body?

http://fcbd.com/

With that collage, if you do it around the edges of a mirror, so when you look at it, you are automatically included, it can do a little of that magic for you. In other words, you ARE part of the whole picture there, literally, so it can become easier to "see" yourself in it.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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good idea, i'll check this out!

i do really want to be able to feel sexy in myself. i feel so bad when my girlfriend tells me how beautiful i am and i can't understand why she says it (i don't tell her that; i don't want to throw her compliments back at her.)

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Heather
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Here's someone local to you who teaches, linked via that group, btw: http://belladonnafusion.com/class-schedule-2/

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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thanks, heather!
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Heather
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Happy to help. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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Heather
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By the by, I wonder if it might not be a good idea to talk with your girlfriend about some of this?

Sometimes, when you're coming out of negative body image, having someone express how beautiful you are a lot, or how sexy, whatever, can actually be pretty uncomfortable. It can also create some cognitive dissonance that can actually stand in the way of your own process, even if that's the last thing someone saying those things intend.

And if, as you seem to be saying, this is creating barriers to communication -- you're feeling you can't ever say how you feel when she says what she does -- that's also obviously not great for your relationship with each other, either.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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hmm. that's an interesting thought. i hadn't thought of it like that.
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Heather
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Do you know what I mean by all that?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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so... don't talk to my girlfriend about this because it might not help?
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Heather
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I'd suggest it.

Even being more honest about how you feel when she says what she does would be helpful to you, I think. She may not realize the feelings it triggers in you, for one. And being honest about where we're at with body stuff with partners can really help us along in our own process.

You two can maybe also talk out ways she can express her love, lust and other appreciation for your body in a way that feels more comfortable to you per where you're at with it yourself right now. Which I figure both of you would feel better about, you know?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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cjane87
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very true. i'll talk to her.
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