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Future Sex: My Boyfriend Watches Too Much Porn

From a reader: My boyfriend’s lease just ran up and he’s staying with me until he’s able to find a new place. The situation has essentially become a trial run for us moving in together, since my lease is up soon too and we could get a bigger place...

Kelly Bourdet

Kelly Bourdet

This week, I’m taking another question from a Future Sex reader. Have your own question? Write futuresexquestions[at]gmail.com. From the inbox:

My boyfriend's lease just ran up and he's staying with me until he's able to find a new place. The situation has essentially become a trial run for us moving in together, since my lease is up soon too and we could get a bigger place together.

Some habits that were probably easier to hide with our own apartments have been coming to the forefront. We're figuring out how to split household cleaning, etc., but the biggest issue is his Internet porn consumption. I don't consider myself anti-pornography and I’ve seen my fair share of porn. But now that my boyfriend is here and his computer is here and he's watching porn while I'm at work, right here, in my bedroom, I'm starting to get a little weirded out. I don't love the porn I've seen him watch. It's all women getting slapped and being called whores and just being generally thrown around.

I find myself wanting to ask him if he's watched porn when I get home. I find myself wanting to check his Internet history and I look around for "signs" that he's been at it. When he says certain phrases to me while we're having sex, a lot of them sound suspiciously porn-y. I'm not sure I want to be his "dirty little girl." I’m beginning to have this strange feeling that he’s cheating on me with his Internet porn. I don't want to come across as being a prude, but it's making me rethink living together long-term.

Well, it's an opportune week for me to answer this particular question. Did you hear how a huge crew from the Hasidic community rented out the entire Mets stadium, and sold the thing out, for their anti-internet rally? And by anti-internet what they really meant was anti-internet pornography. Now there's a lot of rhetoric flying from either side of the aisle on this particular issue. Social and religious conservatives claim that Internet pornography is tearing at the moral fiber of our society; that it causes rape, pedophilia, and broken homes. Then there's the "progressive" sex-positive movement, a collection of voices that claims that porn is great and we should all accept our natural proclivities and watch it together. My opinion comes down somewhere in the middle.

It seems like you've got two separate issues surrounding your boyfriend's porn habits. First, you seem to have some jealously around the fact that your boyfriend is getting off to images of any woman who isn't you. Second, you disagree with the depiction of women in the videos. The first one is easier to deal with. Just deal with it. I'm sorry, but your boyfriend is going to think about other women, just as you likely occasionally think about other men. Being jealous of porn actresses isn't uncommon, but they're just actresses. But because Internet porn is so ubiquitous, because it's so easily accessible, you're becoming paranoid that every time you step away from your man he's indulging. Talk to him about his habits. You've likely exaggerated his viewing frequency in your own mind.

The second issue is a bit more difficult to tackle. I'll come out and assert an unfashionable opinion: I think a lot of mainstream pornography does degrade women. In fact, I think it's often the degradation that is, itself, the erotic selling point. Some women see this objectification as its own kind of empowerment; if we can take charge of our own sexual objectification then we can control it. Some women see this recurring theme as ultimately disempowering; there's no way to really take ownership of a medium that exploits women generally.

I think you get to set boundaries around the issue that you feel comfortable with. If thinking about your boyfriend getting off to violence against women upsets you, then that’s your experience and you deserve to have your voice heard. At the very least, you can make it clear to him that you don’t want to reenact those scenarios in your own love life. You don’t have to accept the current definition of pornified sexuality in order to be a sexually progressive, confident woman.

Follow Kelly Bourdet on Twitter: @kellybourdet.

Future Sex explores how technology affects our personal relationships and how drugs and medications influence our sexuality. Previously on Future Sex: I Hacked My Boyfriend’s Cellphone.