[Two Pronged] Porn in a relationship

'I don't like porn because it commodifies people and love'

 

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.


Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

I have a boyfriend of four years and he says that he’s aroused only with me yet he watches porn. I think that makes his statement a lie and I’ve confronted him about it. It also made me think that if he can do this, he is inclined to cheat in the future.

I’m really bothered because he kept on justifying that every man watches porn and I’m so grossed out about that so I am thinking of leaving him. I don’t like porn because it commodifies people and love. But I may be wrong, is it really normal to watch porn? Do I have a right to leave because of this? Are there still good men who respect women by not watching porn? I’m really disheartened by this.

Emma


Dear Emma,

You ask whether it is normal to watch porn. Well, most men have sufficient curiosity to investigate the world of porn, particularly since it is now so easily accessible, so one answer is yes. However, if your boyfriend’s interest is such that it impacts on his relationship with you, then whether it is normal or not becomes irrelevant.

Your lives are not being lived in some laboratory experiment where statistical norms govern your each and every choice. Instead you are trying to establish a modus vivendi within which to love and cherish each other. So, for example, if you both have a latex fetish, it may not be normal but it is ok for the two of you.

However, if only one of you has this fetish and it seriously bothers the other, the long term outlook for you as a couple is dire. Going back to porn, you seem truly bothered by this and that makes this issue a potential deal breaker. So if his porn addiction is causing emotional distancing and eating away at relationship trust, surely potential becomes actual. And take care if he promises to change.

Do you want to spend the rest of this relationship policing his cellphone and computer?

Are there good men who respect women by not watching porn? Yes, there are men who do not watch porn. For example some may do so out of respect, others for religious reasons, others because they worry about the slippery slope of addiction. There does not seem to be any easy way to identify them however, nor to know if they are actually good.

Is there a link between porn and infidelity? Proponents of pornography claim that it helps spice up a couple’s sex life and this may indeed be true in some cases, for example where the couple watch together. Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how persistent solo watching of sexual acts is likely to enhance a couple’s relationship and there are increasing numbers of studies suggesting porn can be highly addictive. Some would characterize porn as virtual infidelity and real infidelity must therefore seem a logical next step. 

Do you have a right to leave? You have an absolute and unconditional right to leave, without even justifying yourself to anyone. This is your life, the only one you will have (unless you believe in reincarnation) and if you stay and marry, remember you are unfortunately in the only country on earth where there is no divorce so mistakes can be costly. Resist all outside pressures; it is your heart that is on the line and no one else has the right to tell you what to do.

All the best,

JAF Baer


Dear Emma,

Thank you very much for your letter. Here are 3 additions I would like to contribute to Mr Baer’s answers: 

1. is it really normal to watch porn? 

If the subtext of your question is: “Am I asking too much of him? Am I so idealistic the kind of man I want for does not exist?” then I would say yes, at least in terms of the number of men who watch porn and seem normal.

2. Are there still good men who respects women by not watching porn?

I am sure there are men who don’t watch porn, but I doubt that this is solely (or even primarily) because they respect women.

Your “unasked question,” which is “Will his watching porn lead to cheating in the future?” leads to a more complicated answer, for which I sort of apologize. Only sort of because the nuances are what are most important.

An article in Psychology Today by Peggy Streep unequivocally states that “based on studies”: 1) Porn-free relationships are (supposedly) stronger, with a lower rate of infidelity; and that 2) “Watching porn diminishes relationship commitment.”

The above 2 conclusions seem convincing, especially since these are answers to questions many women have.

BUT please hold your horses, ok, Emma, especially since I have no doubt you want not only seemingly convincing answers but also accurate ones.

In an article published in the same magazine, Dr. Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. decimates each and every reason Ms Streep offered to rationalize the conclusions she reached: “when Peg suggests the (above two conclusions) … “the studies she quotes tell us nothing about causation and, even if it did, the effect was small enough to be almost zero… she (also) doesn’t seem to have an empirical leg to stand on…I’m not saying there are absolutely no effects to porn, but the research she presents does not make a good case for any of them.”

Admittedly, Ms Streep’s answer is much more engaging than Dr Marczyk’s but I feel it is just because she is an English major whereas he has done an entire dissertation which necessitates using scientific methods to discern the accuracy of any research presented as fact. (meow)

Dear Emma, I am so sorry we cannot give you answers as clear as the questions you asked (for which we are very grateful) but I hope we have given you some food for thought so that your continuing conversations will be more open to the other’s view instead of merely repeating arguments in the past.

Best,

MG Holmes

– Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.