So Your Husband Watches Porn–Don’t Freak Out

Is your husband watching porn?

The truth is that most men do, at least sometimes. The Internet, combined with portable devices like smartphones and tablets, makes access to X-rated sites easy, immediate and private. Online porn is an estimated $2.8 billion business, not to mention the free stuff that’s out there. A whopping 87 percent of American men reported watching porn in the last year, which leaves a lot of women trying to figure out what this means for them.

If your guy is turning to his computer screen to get turned on, does it mean he’s dissatisfied with your sex life or relationship? What should you do about it? Lay down the law, call a divorce lawyer or ignore the whole thing? The answer, according to a trio of relationship experts, is none of the above. If you’ve been wondering how to address the issue with your mate, take a deep, calming breath and read on.

Maren Deaver, a Wilmette-based Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with families and couples, says a man’s use of porn doesn’t necessarily mean anything is lacking in his relationship. “I wouldn’t make the assumption that the wife is not enough for her husband,” she says. “It can be difficult to talk about, but it’s important to understand what it means to him.”

Men are highly visual, and one of the most common ways men use porn is to help them masturbate, which isn’t necessarily a substitute for sex. Amy Steinhauer, a certified sex therapist who practices in Evanston, says, “Some studies say people with sexual partners are more likely to masturbate than those that don’t. People masturbate for many reasons, including pleasure, relief of stress and tension, to fall asleep, etc. Some use fantasy or written or video erotica or porn to facilitate arousal. It often has nothing to do with the partner.”

Deaver urges women who are concerned about their husband’s porn use to not overreact or be accusatory, both of which could cause him to shut down. “Being neutral rather than reactive can help the conversation,” she says. “And just being able to talk about a difficult topic can build intimacy. I urge women to approach the topic with curiosity and see it as something they might enjoy together rather than be threatened.”

Northbrook Clinical Social Worker and Sex Therapist Barbara Whitney says a critical question to ask about porn is “Does it promote and enhance a deeper sexual connection between you and your partner, or does it interfere with one?” Sexual differences in a relationship are normal, she says. “They challenge you to be true to your own best self, to work on your own limitations, and to not enable those of your partner. Be open to the possibility of shared experiences with pornography, but don’t submit to a partner’s demands that you disregard your own needs to make room for his porn.”

One of the problems women have with porn is that they don’t respond to the images their partners do. Male-centered videos can seem too quick, explicit, rough or impersonal to women. Yet the huge popularity of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy shows that women are clearly interested in erotic material. If a couple wants to experiment with porn together, it may take a little searching, but there are movies and sites designed with women in mind too.

“Certainly there is a wide range of erotic media out there,” Steinhauer says. “Some will have more of a storyline, some will be more focused on mutual pleasure, some will have more romantic elements, some will show more average [real] people. I encourage people to speak with someone at a women-friendly sex shop where you can discuss what you do and don’t want to see as well as what themes are exciting to you.”

Wicker Park’s G Boutique recommends the female-friendly “New Sensations Romance” video series as a starting point. And it may be worth exploring, just to keep things fresh and exciting. As Maren Deaver says, “Porn does introduce something new and different to a relationship that, when both partners feel safe, [both] can enjoy.”