Be

She Said He Said

Caught Watching Porn

Caught Watching Porn

Dear Allison and David: I caught my husband with his pants down watching Internet porn. I had no idea this was happening under our roof. I’m shocked and feel like I suddenly don’t know him anymore. I have no idea what to do. — Prude and Prejudiced

We’re launching a new relationship series with life coach Allison White (who trained with legendary psychotherapist Barry Michels), and her screenwriter husband, David White. Got a question about romance, commitment, something seemingly weird your partner does that you just can’t figure out? Email us editorial@goop.com. First up, Allison and David weigh in on the porn debate—does it mean anything if your partner has been watching without you knowing? (For more on the ethics and health of everyone’s—women and men—relationship to porn, see our interview with clinical psychologist and sex therapist, David Ley, Ph.D.)

ALLISON says

She Said He Said

I think a lot of women (including myself) have an initial knee-jerk reaction to internet porn: ew. If you’ve ever caught your partner on his computer masturbating when you thought he was working on a Powerpoint presentation for a client…it may have felt dirty, and also, weirdly, like he was cheating on you. Here’s the thing: He’s behaving like many, many men—and it’s likely nothing to worry about. Now let me be clear, any behavior that becomes an addiction is usually a problem, particularly when it allows an individual to avoid what’s really going on. Men who indulge in internet porn as a way of avoiding intimacy with their partners probably have some real work to do. This isn’t the case for the vast majority of men, though, who are simply following their impulses from time to time with porn.

As a rule, men tend to be more visually stimulated than women (and of course there are always exceptions to that rule). Men also happen to be wired more for indiscriminate procreation and in turn, instant gratification. With the advent of the internet and its cornucopia of porn sites, men have found the most convenient way in human history to satisfy their visually stimulated need for release. I’m not suggesting this is the best news you’ll hear all week, but I’m also saying it’s hardly the end of the world, or your relationship.

My female clients who find their male partners watching porn often feel as if their partners have been harboring a secret, i.e. he’s been doing something you’re wholly unaware of, something sexual, something that involves images of other women. The feeling that he’s withholding from you—both physically and emotionally—tends to cause the most distress.

There’s a simple antidote to this: communication. If you can begin to talk about porn and bring it out of the shadows, the awkwardness, embarrassment, and pain often begin to dissipate. This also inevitably opens up channels of greater honesty, which in turn can foster greater intimacy. After all, maybe we have some “secrets,” too. Like, for instance, uh, many of us masturbate, which is of course totally healthy, and yet we may not talk about it with our partners. Once we can diffuse these sort of taboo subjects, we all feel less alone—our partners, as well as us. The bottom line is: If it bothers you, it needs to be addressed. That said, it may also be helpful to remember that men who don’t occasionally masturbate with pornography, are probably the exception, not the rule. And at the end of the day, it’s rarely a reflection of, or statement on, you or your relationship.

DAVID says

She Said He Said

I don’t have my wife’s expertise as a life coach, but I do have a penis, and say with total confidence (and from personal experience), that she’s right here. The simple truth is a lot of men masturbate—both when single and in relationships, and sometimes with the gentle aid of hardcore pornography. I personally don’t have one guy friend, married or otherwise, who doesn’t occasionally indulge in a little porn-aided self-service, whether or not their partners know about it. (I imagine this article may piss off a few friends. Sorry.)

What does this mean? In my humble opinion, not too much. I can certainly tell you what it usually doesn’t mean: that your husband or boyfriend doesn’t desire you. Watching porn is generally a form of stress release, and we’d choose to have sex with you over masturbation. But if we’re horny, and you’re not around, or happen to not be interested, the internet, as Allison said, provides instant gratification.

I imagine it’s pretty shocking to “catch” your man literally with his pants down, but it’s also pretty damn embarrassing to be the one “caught.” It seems to me that there’s really no point in hiding, though. If you ask him to be honest—like, really honest—he’ll probably confirm what Allison said: while jerking off to porn is probably not the noblest expression of our male character, it also has little to do with our feelings for you. You’re the real thing.

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