July 21, 2010
I pointed out in a recent conversation with you that men’s pornography use must be understood in the context of the misandrist culture where it takes place. I now think I can articulate more about why I think this is so important.
If we look at God’s curse on the man at the time of the expulsion from Eden we’ll see that from that point on the world would resist his efforts to draw from it sustenance and beauty. His work would be met by thorns and struggle and pain at every turn. This is really how men experience life. Every day is a battle on multiple fronts. Days are spent battling ourselves, others and the stubborn resistance of the world to bend to our wills. Such struggle is exhausting.
The one place we hope the struggle will not be so hard is at home. We hope that our wives, mothers, daughters and other women in our lives would understand this struggle and instead of being yet more thorns for us to cut ourselves upon, would want to be for us a garden of rest and delight. This is rarely the case, especially in a culture that actively teaches women to despise men, our needs and our natures. After a day of body and soul-breaking labor, most men do not come home to appreciation, respect and submission, but to criticism, manipulation and more unceasing demands.
Our misandrist culture propagates the lie that a man’s first need in relationship with a woman is sex. A man’s first need from her is acceptance. He needs her to be a place where rather than being challenged to take on yet one more test, one more demand that he prove himself against the hard, stone surfaces of the world, he can rest. I cannot tell whether there is a widespread ignorance among women about how men operate and what men need or if most women know perfectly well what men need and are simply too selfish to give it. Either way, a great many men are denied the two things they most need from their women: acceptance (freedom from criticism) and cheerful companionship.
Perhaps women do not know how their criticisms affect their men. Men are not changed by women’s criticism. We are simply driven away emotionally by it. All it does is increase the sense of isolation, failure and bitterness we bear. It makes our struggle with the world that much more difficult.
Into this gap steps the pornographer. Many men, since acceptance, rest, freedom from criticism, and cheerful companionship are not available to them, seek substitutes for these in pornography. For many men, pornography has the added appeal of offering content that depicts degradation or violence aimed at women thus allowing them a kind of vicarious revenge against the women who have wounded and rejected them and against the larger misandrist culture as a whole.
I’m sure there is more to this, but I am certain this dynamic is often at play and the fact that such patterns are ignored by feminist, misandrist analyses of pornography explains why such explanations make no impact on this seemingly intractable problem. I am eager to hear your and your readers’ thoughts.
In all due respect for your acute description of a serious social problem, I think you are conflating two entirely different matters. Have many women failed in their love and support of men? Yes. Does this moral failure justify or explain pornography use? No. The entire effort to excuse or explain pornography on the grounds of feminism and misandry does not lack for novelty but it is misguided and illogical.
I don’t deny the unhappy conditions you describe or that unhappiness seeks an outlet. I don’t deny that men face the great difficulties you mention. But pornography is not the only means of escape for a man. It is a disastrous response to marital discord. And, let’s face it, hardship never justifies wrong. If my son were to become terminally ill tomorrow and I became an alcoholic while he was sick, his illness would not justify my becoming a drunk, though it might be a condition of my wrongdoing. Your argument is similar to the idea that if someone were to hit me over the head with a hammer, the sensible thing for me to do would be to also hit myself over the head with a hammer. Your argument doesn’t make sense because sin hurts the sinner first.
It is always better to be the victim of wrong than the perpetrator of it. This principle is the absolute and fundamental first law of marriage. Ultimately, we are not responsible for the moral condition of our spouses, nor are they responsible for ours. We hold up our end of the bargain not only because we have made vows to our spouses, but because in marriage we face the Law, the universal principles which we violate at our own peril.
Another reader wrote me a note a few months ago that was remarkably similar to yours. He said the reason why many men turn to pornography is that their wives do not have sex with them enough. Well, a wife who neglects her husband and does not love him sexually is violating her promises to him. But pornography is not a solution to this problem; in fact, it’s an escape from it. I suggested to him that men in this situation might first, gently and sympathetically, inform their spouses that they feel sexually starved. After all, their wives might not realize the problem and they might try to gratify their husbands if they knew. It may be necessary for a man to state his case repeatedly to get it across. But pornography, which is essentially adulterous, is not a solution. If he turns to porn in replacement for more sex with his wife, he has betrayed her.
For a husband with a critical wife, I recommend the same thing. In moments when he is not angry and irritable, he needs to make his view plain. He needs to give her the benefit of the doubt and realize that she may be unaware of the effect of her nagging and criticism. He should let his wife know that she has deeply disappointed him, that his hopes for their marriage have been destroyed, and that even though he will stay married to her, he considers himself an unhappy and unlucky man. He may need to repeat this theme in various ways until she understands. It is also important for him to look at the conditions of her life. Is she trying to do too much? Is she trying to please everyone but him? He should suggest she concentrate on making their home happy. She may actually prefer to do that, but feel pressured to be a whirlwind of efficiency, productivity and social activity. Tell her she is giving up what comes first.
Again, a man in this situation will find everything worsened by pornography. His animosity will grow stronger, his sexual life worse, his distance from his wife wider. Pornography will not satisfy sexually.
For the man who ends up with a critical and unloving wife, or a sexually inadequate wife, no matter what he does, I would say this. He does not need her love. He does not need it to be perfect or even good. He can survive without the love of a selfish or an inadequate woman. He can function reasonably well in life even so. He can find compensations for this hardship in his involvement with his children, his work, his intellectual interests or hobbies. An unhappy marriage is not the end of the world. There are worse things. We cannot find any contentment when we throw away our integrity. That is the one thing most necessary to our happiness.
— Comments –
While I would never encourage anyone to use pornography or escapism of any kind, I think Youngfogey made some excellent points. Women need to be reminded of how important sex is to their husbands. I read somewhere that a woman’s continued refusal to have sex with her husband leaves him with a feeling akin to if a man said to his wife, “I don’t love you anymore”.
I’m a bit distressed because you seem to have misunderstood my intentions. I’m not sure which part of what I wrote could be construed as defending the use of pornography. I agree with the thrust of what you wrote in your response.
Nothing I wrote was intended to imply that because so many men are emotionally starved it’s okay for them to use pornography. Indeed, I think that even for these men pornography use is immoral and damaging. Chief among the damages it causes is that it represents an acquiescence to the emasculating conditions of our misandrist culture. Instead of escaping into the fantasy world of porn, men should lead the way into a more stable, fair and humane culture. Agreed.
What I am trying to do is to assert two central claims:
1) That pornography use is an epidemic problem in large part because of the way misandrist culture shapes and forms the masculine soul. This is not to excuse pornography use, but simply to understand the reasons for it. If men are going to escape compulsive pornography use, understanding the motivations for that kind of addiction is helpful.
2) That we cannot understand pornography or its use by men in a way that is truly helpful unless we seek to do so in terms other than those provided by feminist/misandrist culture. Even conservatives and religious people often adopt feminist assumptions when discussing this topic. Doing this keeps us locked into a pattern in which we must try to solve the problem from within the perspective which created much of the problem in the first place.
As far as Rita’s comment is concerned, I want to be cautious about elevating men’s sexual needs to a place where they are seen as fundamentally constitutive of our being. Men have emotional needs too, and often these are much more important than sex.
Okay, I understand you are not defending pornography use. But I don’t think feminism is the major cause of this problem. Sexual permisssiveness, the belief that free and uninhibited expression of sexuality is essential to personal development and happiness, is. This disdain for the body, and the sacred dimension of sexuality, is more relevant.
Feminist arguments against pornography are often wrong and misleading. My impression is that some of them are just plain silly, especially in the contention that every man who watches pornography is a rapist. I think many of these arguments are so trivial they should be ignored in the face of the larger problem of the marketing of pornography to men.
Youngfogey argues well that some men have reason to turn to smut, but as you properly reply, while they may have reason, they don’t have justification.
If I could offer any advice to young men, it is this: avoid pornography like the plague. The lust it incites doesn’t make you more manly. It castrates you, and the reason is very simple. The more you indiscriminately lust after women, the more power they have over you. Is it any coincidence that the wholesale castration of American men took off at the same time that pornography came out of the shadows? Interesting too is the fact that most feminists aren’t outspoken against porn, even though it certainly degrades women. Perhaps on an intuitive level they understand that porn can assist their cause.
I used to think that the warning of Christ against male lust was just to protect women. Now I understand that, just as much, it is to protect men.
John raises an important point. Feminist resistance to pornography has been half-hearted and barely audible. It’s not a burning issue for the movement.
The men’s movement should make this one of its prime slogans: Pornography Castrates.
I just had to add something to this conversation as it really struck a nerve.
I was eight months pregnant the first time I caught my husband looking at porn. I suppose I was not looking my best (having gained 45 lbs.) and I might have been nagging a bit at the time as it was incredibly hot out that year and we did not have any air conditioning because we were quite poor at the time.
I will never forget going downstairs for a drink of water at 1 a.m. and finding him on the computer, frantically trying to exit the screen he was obviously quite absorbed in viewing. I was beside myself, screaming and crying. It was such a shock that my husband would do such a thing as I had, until that point, considered him the most ethical, kind, wonderful person I knew. I had been certain he was above such things or I would not have married him. The viewing of the porn upset me, but not as much as the feeling I did not know the man I was married to at all.
I cried for a few days then went into labor early. I am convinced the incident caused the early and difficult labor and I am also certain it affected my ability to adjust to new motherhood. I felt terrible, ugly, unloved and wondered why I had a baby with such a creep.
I caught him a few more times after that, but nothing in the past couple years. It nearly ruined our marriage. My guard was always up. If we went out, I would be paranoid he was looking at other women. If I went out alone, I wondered if he was on the computer looking at porn. I said things to him I regret out of anger. I did not want to sleep with him because I wondered if he was thinking of other women when he was with me. I wondered if he was thinking of me when our child was conceived, or if he had a porn image in his head at the time….there was a great deal of damage done to our marriage. I even considered having an affair out of revenge, but I am glad I did not do that now.
I know of several other marriages that have been badly affected by porn. In every case, including mine, the men did not seem to get what the problem was, at least at first.
What surprised me the most was how many people think it is fine to view porn. How can that be, when it is so upsetting to wives? Often, single women and men (married or single) seem to have little problem with porn. It is married women who suffer because of it. I can say for sure that if a man is viewing porn because his wife is not providing enough sex, that the porn will only make things much worse. If a woman does not want to sleep with her husband, finding out he is looking at porn is not going to provide an incentive. It will add to her list of problems with the marriage and it will likely make sex much more of a problem. It will destroy what trust she has and it will forever be a cloud over the marriage if it does not contribute to a divorce. It is often the deal-breaker, as in the reason a woman leaves a marriage that otherwise might have been saved.
If a man wants a wife to provide more intimacy, there are many things he can do to encourage that. Porn is not among them.
Pornography is equally as insidious for women as it is for men in marriage. While I was married to my ex-husband, he brought pornography into our home. I thought nothing of this at the time, as I had grown up in a household with a father who subscribed to Playboy, and I even saw a Hustler from time to time on the back of the commode. My mother and father lived in separate bedrooms, and my father’s chest of drawers was filled with hard-core pornography videos as well. My ex-husband believed viewing the porn to be a benign practice in our marriage. I believed him, much to my detriment today.
Needless to say, I began a relationship with the Lord Jesus several years after our divorce, remarried a wonderful man who also came from a very broken place and we have a beautiful child now. However, this horrid seed of pornography remains a mental and emotional scar on my psyche even to this day.
We worry that our husbands are thinking of porn stars when they make love to us, but what shame it is to be the wife who struggles to push these perverse images from the mind while in the middle of intimacy! There is just no helping it – once the eyes have taken it in, the soul has drunk deeply of the filthy mire and it takes nothing short of Divine intervention on a moment-to-moment basis to focus on what is pure, honest, lovely and true while making love.
I think there are many more women out there that struggle with this. Perhaps their fathers (indirectly) and husbands introduced them to porn as well, or perhaps they once indulged in it as single women, believing the lie that it is just “fun.” It is not fun to be unable to focus on the delight that is one’s beloved husband because of what was viewed decades prior. It is not fun to feel the shame that accompanies this, and be unable to share this struggle with one’s intimate thought life with other women.
Thus, I have decided to write this in the hopes that women will see that it is not just a man’s issue. As you mentioned, feminists seem to take no stand against it. As a reforming feminist (I’d love to say fully reformed, but I’m not there yet), I can tell you that this is because the feminists are ordering it on pay-per-view in their living rooms and watching it with fervor – alone – and later bragging about it to girlfriends! Pity the day when they are delivered of their wickedness and enter into a Godly marriage, only to find that their minds are cluttered with images of perversity and they cannot enjoy sex with their husbands.
Thankfully, my husband confesses that he, too, struggles with getting these images out of his mind. Perhaps this is why God has given us to one another: He knew we could lean upon each other and share this angst within ourselves openly in our marriage, laying it before Jesus’ feet and asking for total healing in time.
As a wife and mother, I can think of few things more important than guarding my home and marriage against this type of intrustion, and I do hope the Lord gives us a boldness in testimony to share with other couples that there is hope for healing from this society travestly that is often dismissed as “just another thing that men do”. My husband agrees that we must, at all costs, keep our daughter from this filth.
Blessings and thank you for your continued Truth.
What Cynthia says is absolutely true. Pornography is a problem for women too.
When I was 18, I saw a pornographic movie that was allowed into mainstream theaters because of its intellectual pretensions. It took me many years to get certain images out of my mind and I have for a long time wished I had never seen it.
I used to have an addiction to porn, so I’ve been passionately fighting it in prayer for years now. I don’t even remember the first time I saw it, I was so young. My aunt caught my brother and I looking at my uncle’s dirty magazines. She told me this recently as if it was funny. I do remember my dad watching some trashy movie (not quite porn), and then yelling at me for staring wide eyed at it. I felt guilty, but I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Anyway, I’m too weak, even now from all I’ve seen. I won’t even watch the Bad Romance video, just in case it has something in it that gets to me. But I did watch a part of a different one, because I want to know what exactly our culture is accepting as an influence. I watched the beginning of Alejandro, and I was not the least bit turned on. I was so disgusted! And if I am disgusted, after all the pits of misery I laid in, then this is a serious crisis! I am absolutely stunned. How can people look at these gay, dancing, prancing men being dominated by a corpsely pale little girl and not be deeply offended to the center of their nature? It’s so ugly and dead. She is such a fool. I know, without a doubt, that I am more confident than that whore, even though I would never try to overpower a man or take my clothes off in public. I’m praying for her. She needs it desperately.
It puts a big pang in my heart to know that Lady Gaga is my age. At 24, we are totally opposite. She’s public, perverted, and she’s destroying our country as fast as she can. I’m hidden in my home, living purity, and fixing our country as fast as I can. It seems I’m greatly outnumbered, since I’m only influencing my kids and she’s influencing the entire world. But I know how God loves His little armies. And I’m not the only mother doing her job! It’s so exciting! We can and will triumph, if we have faith.
I also want to let you know, what you said to Youngfogey was brilliant as a remedy for a man who finds himself in the situation he describes.
My husband doesn’t tolerate my nagging and then turn around and indulge in porn. He tells me how much it disappoints him, how difficult it makes his life, and then points out things that he gives up in order to be a good, faithful husband to me. Recently, he pointed out how most men in his line of work do their business and “social networking” by hanging out in bars together. But since he doesn’t do that for my sake, he struggles in keeping his connections more than most. He can pull it off though; he’s a natural, magnetic leader. I’m so grateful to him for coming home to me at night, staying away from the floozies that hang out at bars in skimpy clothes! And that gratitude makes it easy for me to humble myself, apologize, and change my nagging tune to an encouraging one. I wish it didn’t ever have to happen at all, but I grew up thinking men liked tough, aggressive women, so that’s what I tried to become and now it’s what I strive to change, thanks to my husband’s regular reminders. And if my husband is bored with our sex life or not getting enough love, he says so. It usually is said in anger, but I’m glad he says it, regardless. I jump to the challenge, when I would otherwise not find the energy to do so. It’s motivating to know that he needs something from me, and really I need it just as badly.
But no matter how much I nag, or how wrong I am, I would only become far worse if he were to indulge in porn. I wouldn’t feel bad at all, I’d feel justified in believing he was “bad”. I know Youngfogey is not trying to justify porn, but even to imply that these men are helpless in the face of their nagging wives and driven to it like hurt dogs is misleading. Men are strong. Men have it in them to take control. There is absolutely no way a “tough” wife should have the ability to force her man into the lonely, miserable porn-corner.
My heart goes out to Elizabeth. She is a strong woman for forgiving her husband and avoiding the perilous trap of revenge!
My goodness… I was just reading your latest post, “Do Wives Drive Men to Pornography?” and came across the response Elizabeth wrote. Clearly, she was describing an event in her marriage that deeply wounded and upset her, but to be entirely honest with you, as a man, I am completely baffled by her reaction. She responded to her husband’s use of pornography the way I imagine I would respond to the discovery that my wife secretly burns our infant child with lighters every night. I mean that quite sincerely. Just to look at a few of Elizabeth’s statements:
1.) “I had been certain he was above such things or I would not have married him.” What? This by itself strikes me as completely unreasonable. I agree that watching pornograpy is harmful and immoral, and I would expect a woman to be displeased that her husband is using pornography, but to reject a man or a woman solely because he or she has watched or still sometimes watches pornography is crazy. Or perhaps it’s not crazy and I just don’t understand why a woman would think this way.
2.) Elizabeth also states that as a result of her husband’s watching pornography, she “felt terrible, ugly, unloved and wondered why I had a baby with such a creep.” Again, I just don’t get it. Why did she feel terrible? How does a woman come to feel ugly and unloved when she catches her husband viewing pornography? To say that she felt hurt is one thing, and I would even understand if she said she entered a bit of a crisis as a result of her discovery, but she’s stating her hurt in very strong terms. Her husband’s use of pornography didn’t just bruise her self-esteem — it completely undermined it. And to my mind, this is only possible because she gave her husband the power to determine her sense of self-worth — which frankly is not a power we should give to anyone, man, woman, or African zebra. No one’s behavior should cause me to seriously question my value as a human being. That is a power I give to God and God alone. I think Elizabeth needs to take greater responsibility for her feelings here.
Finally, she says she considered her husband a creep because he watched pornography. Well, if she had said he was a creep because he spent afternoons walking around playgrounds and staring lewdly at children, well, I would most certainly have to agree with her. But he’s a creep because he watched pornography? My goodness gracious! Again, I just can’t see the path from point A to point B. Is there a path? Of course, I mean a path here on Planet Earth, not in the Twilight Zone.
3.) “I wondered if he was thinking of me when our child was conceived, or if he had a porn image in his head at the time.” Though I admit her fear is reasonable, I cannot help but suspect that Elizabeth came to this concern only after looking for reasons to be upset with her husband. This strikes me as the kind of thing that occurs to someone who is trying to prove to her husband what a bad man he is. Maybe I am wrong about that. I would sincerely like to know, though I’m sure I never will.
After reading her reaction I felt badly not for her, but for her husband. I don’t condone his behavior — on the contrary, I think he was very wrong to watch pornography and I hope he has since stopped. But his wife seems only too happy to have taken the occasion to morph into a cruel and unmerciful tyrant, using his guilt to crush him and, in her words, nearly bring their marriage to ruin.
I don’t think Elizabeth was looking for reasons to be upset with her husband. If anything, she seemed to be in a state of complete admiration of him and this revelation was a shock. There is no evidence that she was tyrannical. I assume she would have been much less emotional if she had not been in the final stages of pregnancy, but I think Elizabeth’s reaction was fairly normal and many women would feel similarly. There is nothing manipulative, misandrist or hateful about these responses. It is reasonable for a woman to feel that her intimacy with her husband has been violated, and that when they are alone others are in the room with them. Women will always feel this way, but I think they should control their emotions. A woman could simply tell her husband that she will not be sleeping with him while he is in the habit of viewing porn. A wife is under no obligation to sleep with her husband when he is preoccupied with other women, although she is obligated to remain married.
You say you do not condone pornography use, but obviously you don’t think it is a very big deal. Christ specifically spoke of the evil of adulterous desire, which is what viewing pornography indulges. Adulterous desire is wrong in both men and women.
“No one’s behavior should cause me to seriously question my value as a human being.”
Then I assume if your wife had an affair or your girlfriend suddenly left you for another man it would not wound you or cause you to question your value. You are a strong individual, but I can see how Elizabeth felt unattractive in light of the discovery that her husband was looking at voluptuous women while she was 45 pounds overweight due to pregnancy. It’s true that this is not the same as having an extramarital affair, but it is a milder form of betrayal.
If a poll asked how many people got into porn before marriage or after, I suspect most start years before marriage.
“So your wife is frigid? Don’t tell me that pornography is a substitute for a good woman. I was not homeschooled and protected. I am fifty-four years old. I preach in state prisons every week and have done so since I was eighteen. I have ministered in coffeehouses and rescue missions and on the street since I was sixteen. You might convince yourself that you are forced to your actions by an unresponsive wife, but I don’t buy it. I have known of porno-freaks that got married to good women, but found that they liked to be alone better than sharing. We have talked to women who are willing and ready, but their husbands prefer their own company. Pornography and a wife are not alternate ways to fulfill the same drive. The drive for a wife is a natural drive, whereas the drive for pornography is a cultivated, perverted passion that has nothing to do with love and marriage. If a pornographer were to marry a porno queen, he would quickly become dissatisfied with her and crawl back in his little hole, alone with his imaginations and the images created by an industry that makes its money not by satisfying its customers, but by keeping them dissatisfied and hungry for the artificial. Your secret world is revolting to real men who know how to love one woman and dedicate the rest of their energies to creative living.
“But the most destructive thing about your sin is the effect [it] has on your children. We live in a spirit world of both righteous and fallen angels. We are surrounded by evil spirits seeking the moral destruction of every human soul. The children of godly parents are protected from unclean spirits by being under their moral umbrella. But when a father gives his mind over to wicked lusts, he removes the hedge of protection around his family and invites impure devils into his home. Wishing them away will avail nothing. Any prayers you pray for their safety are negated the moment you open the pages of a pornographic book or glare at an electronic image. When you tune in to electronic pornography you have established a two-way link with the spiritual underworld. When you lie in bed at night and conjure up wicked images, the devils won’t stop with your mind; they will gleefully rush into the bedrooms of your children and assault their little souls and bodies. Evil thoughts will come to their minds – thoughts you have been thinking that are telegraphed to them by the devils. Your defenseless children will be taken captive, and you are the one that threw the gate open to the enemy.”
The view that porn use isn’t like burning an infant with a lighter…how do you know that terrible damage, wounding and scarring, isn’t happening to a child’s soul when a parent uses porn?
Paul and Jenny Speed (mentioned in comments under “I Wish I’d Never Laid Eyes on Pornography,” July 12, 2010) found damage in their own children from porn use and have seen damage in other families as well. When fathers came clean, there were wives who were able to come off tranquilizers for depression and children who were set free from irrational fear, behavior problems, and horrible dreams.
And the view that the wife’s reaction to her husbands porn use was unreasonable: the Lord said, “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
Betrayal, adultery in his heart, shouldn’t be a big deal to the wife? Obviously the Lord knew how serious and damaging lust is by the term he used to describe it.
You say that there was no evidence that Elizabeth was tyrannical to her husband during this difficult stage of their marriage, and you are correct. However, were I married myself and my wife said to me any of the things Elizabeth said she was thinking after she caught her husband watching pornography, I myself would begin to consider having a divorce. The reason is that I would find myself confronted with a woman who, in my view, is simply using a pretext to express the things she really felt about me all along — that I was a creep, untrustworthy, and that I was to blame for her feelings of low self-esteem. I would be extremely disappointed to know I were married to a woman who was willing to abuse and manipulate me that way. When I read Elizabeth’s comments, I had the sense that she was not merely expressing her pain and sense of betrayal, but was relishing the expression of them, waiting for the opportunity to publicly denounce her husband.
I am a single man in my mid-twenties and frankly, reading comments such as those of Elizabeth only further underscores my conviction that there is no such thing as a good wife. What Elizabeth is showing me is that my wife someday will take one of my relatively harmless faults, react wildly, and use my error as an excuse to treat me with scorn and distrust. The women around her, for whatever reason, will defend her — more than this, they will join her in demonizing me. This is what women always do for each other, and from my experience, whether the center of their attention is right or wrong is not important to them. I have yet to meet a woman who genuinely wants a healthy, trusting relationship with a man or — much more frightening to me — who takes responsibility for her behavior.
Laura, you challenged me to consider how I would respond were my girlfriend to leave me for another man. You pointed out that I am not invincible, and I agree with you that I would be very hurt and I might indeed question my value. I can see your point here. However, I do not think your comparison is valid. Assuredly, for a man, there is nothing personal about pornography. He is well aware that he is only watching images of women — enticing images, for sure, but images nonetheless. A man does not imagine that he is forming any kind of relationship with the woman whose image he is viewing. By contrast, if my girlfriend leaves me for another man, I am aware that she is entering into a relationship with him. It’s real and it’s personal and yes, it would hurt terribly. Again, however, we are not comparing apples to apples. It is very hard for me to understand why a woman would take her husband’s viewing pornography so personally. It is hard for me to understand how a reaction like Elizabeth’s can be justified — can indeed be anything other than a delighted campaign to demean, abuse, and destroy her husband and their marriage.
Y., thank you for adding your thoughts as well. I will have to read the [post] you mentioned, I Wish I’d Never Laid Eyes on Pornography, though I must admit I am skeptical that pornography really caused all the problems you mentioned.
Like Laura, you remind us of the injunction of the Lord never to commit adultery even in our hearts. Yes, I am well aware of this injunction and take it seriously. However, it does not help me understand why Elizabeth’s reaction to her husband’s use of pornography is reasonable.
Your remarks are oblivious and insensitive. You accuse those who have commented in sympathy with Elizabeth of mindlessly rallying around another woman. I find that insulting. I think you haven’ t the foggiest idea of what goes on in a decent woman’s heart and I suspect you don’t think there are any decent women in this world. In your mind, every woman is guilty of misandry unless proven otherwise.
God help you if you would divorce a wife because she was in distress at your betrayal. God help you. A wife who would not react to the sight of her husband taking pleasure in another woman would not be worth having. The single most disturbing thing you say is that Elizabeth was looking for a pretext to denounce her husband. You obviously know nothing of what it is for a woman to admire a man, to form the most intimate bond of her life with him, and then learn, just when they are about to have their first child, of his interest in perverse sexual material and in other women. This is not a case of looking for a pretext, but it’s exact opposite: sudden disillusionment. I do not fault her for having this trust in him from the beginning, though it was obviously naive. That’s the way love works. There is not the slightest evidence in Elizabeth’s account that she was “relishing” the idea of talking about this incident. That is pure conjecture on your part. Why would a woman relish talking about something she would rather wipe from her personal history? She engaged in a “delighted campaign” to destroy him? You have no evidence for that. Absolutely none. It’s important to remember here that she is still married to him and obviously still loves him.
Assuredly, for a man, there is nothing personal about pornography. He is well aware that he is only watching images of women — enticing images, for sure, but images nonetheless.
Then I assume his wife’s body is “nothing personal.” Don’t you see how what you say makes no sense? And, if this is truly how men view women, a man should be happy to share his wife’s body with any other man, to have another man look at his wife fully unclothed, because it’s “nothing personal.” What a degraded view this is, that there is “nothing personal” in viewing another human being unclothed and in sexually explicit poses aimed at bringing the viewer to climax. No, this is still a human sexual transaction between two people, though it may be anonymous and involve computer images.
Whether or not men view images of women’s bodies as impersonal, decent women do view these things as highly personal and, if they did not, they would not be worth having as wives or mothers. So if a man wants to have a loving relationship with a woman, he will have to come to terms with female psychology. Leaving this issue aside, this type of pornography is a sexual transaction, however anonymous it may be. It is a debased form of intimacy and it is adultery.
I would like to respond to David’s comments.
First I would tell him there is nothing he can say that I have not already considered regarding my conduct. I have examined my behavior and tried to see where I might have caused a problem. I think that it is typical for a woman who has discovered her husband looking at porn to question what they may have done wrong.
My biggest “crime” was placing more trust in one man than I did in God. Of course, it was after the fact that I wondered if my husband had been thinking of other women when he was with me. Prior to discovering him looking at porn, I had no reason to think these things as I considered him completely faithful, kind, etc. I had him on a pedestal and his conduct, not mine, knocked him off it.
Is it really crazy, as David suggests, to be upset with a husband because they view porn? My expectations of my husband were the same high standards I held for myself and were based on our wedding vows. My husband never had any cause for concern regarding my honesty and complete dedication to him and I simply expected the same in return. The expectations were quite high, I suppose, and I have had to lower them. I think it is better to think so highly of one’s spouse that viewing porn would seem beneath them than to expect them to be trolling the internet in the wee hours of the morning for smut. Would it have been better if I had such a low opinion of my husband that I simply walked on by and asked how he was enjoying his entertainment for the evening? Would he have thought more of me if I had pulled up a chair and joined in the viewing? I doubt it.
The incident I wrote about occurred over a decade ago. As I struggled to come to terms with things and save my marriage, I turned to God. My husband saw how much faith I had gained and he started to go to Church with me every week. Several years later, we had our marriage blessed (convalidated) in a beautiful Catholic Church in front of our children. I do not think a wife who was an intolerable tyrant could have achieved this happy ending.
I, like David, was puzzled by Elizabeth’s reaction to discovering her husband’s pornography use. The fact that I find this puzzling doesn’t mean I am justifying his pornography use or demeaning the pain she felt. I just don’t understand several things about her reaction.
I would like to interject here before I continue with Youngfogey’s full comments. Truthfully, this statement does not make sense to me. You say you condemn pornography and then consider it strange that a woman would feel betrayed by pornography. How can pornography matter and be truly wrong and yet have no real-life consequences?
Her reaction does not seem dissimilar to the reactions I have heard from many women in these situations. What always strikes me is how much that reaction is based on a very feminine understanding of the situation and leaves out much of the man’s experience. What I don’t understand about reactions such as these, and I suspect this might have been puzzling to David, is their self-focus. So often women in these situations talk as if this situation is somehow about them rather than about the emotional starvation our misandrist culture has subjected her man to that has led him to pornography use.
Most obviously this element emerges in the questions about her worth. It’s as if the woman in question thinks her man is looking at porn because he doesn’t think she’s pretty enough, sexy enough, whatever. I don’t think this is the case. Think about women who are acknowledged more or less universally as being specimens of near perfection physically, Victoria’ Secret models, for example. Do we really think their husbands and boyfriends are free from the lure of pornography simply by virtue of having sexual access to a tremendously beautiful woman? I don’t think so.
The worry that her man will compare her to women in pornography comes mostly from a misunderstanding on the part of women about the male psyche. Women compare men to one another. Some of this is understandable because young women especially want to find the best provider/protector/ companion possible. Men don’t compare women in the same way. Men tend to see women who are even remotely attractive as part of a large pool of beauty, emanations from a common source rather than competitors. I think women who express worry about not measuring up to porn stars tend to assume their men think in the comparison-oriented way they do.
It may not be that David thinks an inward life of lust is no big deal. It may not be that he thinks lust is not a betrayal, it may just be that he understands intuitively the deepest reasons men use porn and can see that those are less threatening to marriage than many women believe. For example, I am certain that the overwhelming emotional response on the part of men while using pornography is deep sadness, rather than delight, or even intense sexual arousal.
See, men’s reactions to feminine beauty are wide and varied. Men are not programmed machines only capable of responding to feminine beauty or sexual images with unbridled lust. In misandrist culture, we are not allowed to talk about this. Instead, all our responses are construed as lustful desire. It might be that men know the nuances of their responses better than women.
I also wanted to respond to this statement:
“I know Youngfogey is not trying to justify porn, but even to imply that these men are helpless in the face of their nagging wives and driven to it like hurt dogs is misleading. Men are strong. Men have it in them to take control.”
This strikes me as pure misandrist indoctrination. Men do indeed have it within them to take control. But, to assume that men who are raised in a culture that does everything possible to destroy and sap that strength, to crush and scar him from boyhood will have developed that strength by the time he comes to physical maturity is wrong. The idea that men are strong is often used as an excuse to ignore our pain and need and to pile yet more blows on top of those we have already suffered as, I think, is being done in this comment.
Men do indeed have it within them to take control. But, to assume that men who are raised in a culture that does everything possible to destroy and sap that strength, to crush and scar him from boyhood will have developed that strength by the time he comes to physical maturity is wrong. The idea that men are strong is often used as an excuse to ignore our pain and need and to pile yet more blows on top of those we have already suffered as, I think, is being done in this comment.
Okay, so if women take control and fail to have confidence in the ability of men to lead, they are misandrists. And, if women remain submissive and have confidence in the ability of men to lead, they are misandrist too because they lack sympathy. What are we to do?
Youngfogey accuses Elizabeth of “self-focus.” Well, yes, it’s hard not to be self-focused when you are reeling from the belief that your husband doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mater whether this belief is unfounded or not, that is how a woman feels in Elizabeth’s circumstances. But she was not simply focused on herself at all. She was also focused on their marriage, which is the psychological and moral foundation of the lives of others, their children and grandchildren.
I truly did not relish relaying this story. It is the first time I have written of it in over a decade and it will be the last. [Laura writes: I certainly hope it is not the last time because others can benefit from your experience.] I think every lasting marriage has had it’s share of problems. This particular issue has caused problems in countless marriages and I appreciate Laura taking a stand against it. I have a very overweight neighbor whose husband won’t stop looking at porn even with two little girls in the home. I am sure he uses her weight as his excuse. The other day, she told me she wished she was dead. That shows how much hurt porn can cause a wife. I have another (beautiful) friend who caught her state cop husband looking at porn one night. They had suffered the still birth of a full term baby and were trying to conceive another when she caught him. She nearly had a nervous breakdown. I slept on her couch while her husband was away one night because I was afraid to leave her alone in their house with his handguns in her completely distraught condition. I had them in mind as much as myself when I wrote of my story. There are millions of stories like this out there, I am sure.
But some people would say these women are hateful of their husbands, instead of hurt and depressed.
I think David’s comments are rough because of his youth and because he is trying to find his way out of a misandrist forest in which he has been lost.
When he says that looking at porn is not personal, I suspect that what he means is that when men look at pornography it is not personal in the same way that women often imagine it to be. I suspect what David means is that when a man looks at pornography he does not have mush desire to actually meet the women who sees. He doesn’t imagine knowing her “personally” and establishing a life with her. This is the sense in which it is not “personal.”
Again, this is not a justification, but an explanation.
Yes, it is clear that women and men view this issue differently, but just as women must be sympathetic to male psychology to maintain a marriage, men must have some sensitivity to female nature.
“A misandrist forest?” I’m the last person to deny that things are bad out there, but has David never encountered the affection of a good woman? Not in his mother or sisters, friends or cousins?
One problem when discussing “pornography” and women’s responses to men’s use of it is that “pornography” can mean so many things. Often in these discussion it seems to be defined as “any material viewed in any way by any man that make any woman feel insecure about her appearance.”
One of the questions I have about women’s reactions to men’s pornography use is “shouldn’t her response be moderated with regard to the content of the ‘pornography’ he is using the extent of his use?”
For example, Mrs. Wood you seem too reasonable a person for me to believe that you would imagine that a woman would be justified in feeling betrayed to the point of considering having an affair as revenge because she saw her husband linger longer than she thought necessary over the Land’s End Summer Swimsuit Spectacular catalog Yes?
It is wrong for married men to lust after other women whether they are in the Land’s End catalogue or porn stars. The difference with pornography is that there is a two-way sexual interaction there. The woman posing for porn is consciously attempting to arouse her viewer. Even if she is a computer simulated image, the maker of the images is working consciously to stimulate the viewer.
Truthfully, this statement does not make sense to me. You say you condemn pornography and then consider it strange that a woman would feel betrayed by pornography. How can pornography matter and be truly wrong and yet have no real-life consequences?
Well, I’m not saying it has no real-life consequences, nor am I saying that some sense of betrayal isn’t reasonable. What I am saying is that often these reactions are amplified by a misunderstanding on the part of women of what is actually happening when a man uses pornography. I think if there were a greater understanding on the part of women of the psycho-spiritual dynamics of men’s pornography use, these feelings of betrayal might be less pronounced.
Let me say first that I do think some sense of betrayal is reasonable. This is especially the case if (as is common) the pornography use involves self-stimulated sexual release. Solo sex is still sex without one’s spouse and I can see why that would be seen as betrayal.
At the same time, I don’t think that simply feeling betrayed is the same as actually being betrayed.
I think that many women who discover a husband’s pornography use feel betrayed in part because they imagine that a man using pornography is having fun, a sexualized good time from which she has been excluded. The truth is that for many men, pornography use is not fun. Even while using porn, a man can feel deeply sad, frightened, pained. I think women’s responses might not be so intense if they could understand that his secret life is not some awesome party to which she has not been invited.
I believe that pornography use is immoral. I also believe that its use is often motivated by profound wounds in the male psyche. I don’t believe that these motivations make the use of pornography ok. It’s not that I believe pornography use will have no real-world consequences, but that pornography use in marriages is only part of a pattern of dysfunction. The source of much of that dysfunction is the brokenness in men that comes from their own innate sinfulness and from the damage done to them by the misandrist culture. I think if women could understand this, their reactions might be less intense and their pain at finding their husbands using porn a little less extreme.
Again, marriage is a two-way street. If women are expected to have some sympathy for the “psycho-spiritual dynamics of men’s pornography use,” then men should be expected to have some sympathy for the “psycho-spiritual dynamics” of women’s irrepressible feelings of betrayal when a husband views porn. I agree that women should understand that men are different sexually. No one here is advocating that men be arrested or that women leave their husbands or that women behave with vindictiveness, but you seem to believe women are not entitled to grief, sadness or anger. This strikes me as inhuman. Regardless, it is an impossible expectation.
John E. writes:
While the conversation in this thread has obviously caused some exasperation, and there probably still remain some misunderstandings, I have found it helpful to read everyone’s thoughts.
One thing that stands out to me from reading these thoughts is this: when we use our wills to sin, that is, defy a reasonable universe, then all bets are off as to what a reasonable reaction to these disordered actions is from the perspective of the one who sinned. If I were to sin by viewing pornography, who, then, am I to say that my wife’s reactions to it were unreasonable? I have thrown out reason by using my will to sin, and made myself a poor judge of what is reasonable. This is not only true of the husband who views pornography. What I say next is meant only to be illustrative, not accusatory, as I don’t know Elizabeth’s entire situation, and am not fit to judge culpability in the matter. If Elizabeth once thought of her husband as on a pedestal, and above the sin in which she caught him, then she had a disordered view of reality. What she discovered about her husband’s character, that is, his potential to sin, was always true of him, even before the incident occurred. While Elizabeth seems to question whether this was even a “crime,” how does she know that her unrealistic expectations of him didn’t cause an anxiety in him that made him more susceptible to falling into sin? Again, to be clear, I am not trying to set myself up as a judge of her situation. I don’t know where all of the culpability lies. I am trying to illustrate that I believe it is a healthy practice never to seek to exonerate yourself in situations like these. This is different than acknowledging the reality that he has sinned, and even sinned against you. It is acknowledging that in a way, we are personally responsible for all, but most especially to those that are closest to us. Unless we are entirely free from sin ourselves, our judgment of what is reasonable is skewered.
This is not either to say that no one has room to speak such as has been done in this thread. I think it’s helpful to air honest, relevant thoughts to each other, as long as we remain open to correction. I reiterate that I have found reading everyone’s thoughts helpful.
Youngfogey writes: ” Either way, a great many men are denied the two things they most need from their women: acceptance (freedom from criticism) and cheerful companionship.”
And, “For example, I am certain that the overwhelming emotional response on the part of men while using pornography is deep sadness, rather than delight, or even intense sexual arousal.”
Youngfogey can’t put himself in the place of a woman who has been betrayed because he’s so “hurt”. Yet, what he expects from women is what he refuses to see that we need, too. We don’t want men who are deeply sad and don’t accept us. We want acceptance and a cheerful companion just the same.
I’m guessing that what Youngfogey means to say is that women compare themselves to other women. Yes, lots of us do. But that is beside the point. It can affect a good sexual bond in marriage because confidence is needed to achieve the high level of intimacy that I’ve been describing. But if a woman knows she is loved, she can feel confident in spite of the comparisons made to her. If her husband is viewing pornography, she cannot trust his love. He’s not trying to become a cheerful, supportive man, accepting the selfless gift of her love that she longs to give. He’s turning his back on God, and that means he’s turning his back on love. On her love. On the love of their children. He’s being selfish, and having sex alone.
Youngfogey writes: “the emotional starvation our misandrist culture has subjected her man to that has led him to pornography use.”
As I pointed out, most porn use starts years before marriage. It is called lust, not emotional starvation.
The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life – “gals, gold, and glitter” – have been around since Eden. Current society is not the reason for the lust involved in pornography. It has always been difficult to be pure, and those who have no interest in personal holiness will always make excuses for sin.
King David had numerous wives and concubines; surely he didn’t have trouble fulfilling his sex drive and I can’t imagine he lacked admiration from them. Yet he saw Bathesheba naked and his lust led him to commit adultery and murder. Was it emotional starvation in a misandrist culture that drove him to it?
Sarah C. writes:
I am glad you are exposing porn addiction. I’ve seen it affect Christian men, even preachers. It begins as a small exposure, and at first, is shocking to the man but somewhat exciting. He is disgusted, but eventually, gets used to it and the next picture does not bother him as badly. After awhile, the pictures he once got a thrill from, no longer give him the same buzz, so he looks for something more bizarre. Eventually he has to have worse things to give him that high. Once he gets used to that, he has to move on to something worse. [Laura writes: But many men do not progress to violent imagery and do not find it appealing. It seems the more common phenomenon is to simply want to view different women.]
Since the man has developed a relationship with women in pictures and film, he cannot feel anything for real women. He develops a hard-heartedness towards them, and cannot appreciate the “foreplay of life,” found in the sweet smile, the voice, the soft look of the eyes, the curve of the neck, the pretty hands of a woman, and all those things described in classical poetry. Pornography destroys a man’s ability to love the refined and the noble things of life. Women who once used to be able to please their husbands just by being the special woman they married, now find that their husbands are distant, or may have a hardened look in their eyes. Husbands on pornography may even become bitter toward their wives.
Christian men especially need to be reminded that it is wrong to lust after a woman in their heart, but they also need to feel remorse at the fact that the pictures and films they are viewing to support their porn habit, are pictures of women that are someone’s daughter. How would they feel if their daughters were selling themselves for men to lust after?
I have occasionally heard a Christian man say that he was not in the least bothered by the immodesty that goes on in society, or even the immodestly dressed women in churches. When a man gets used to porn, the shameful way women dress, exposing so much of their flesh, just does not bother him. Pornography is terrible, but there is a lot of “light porn” going on in the mode of dress of women in this country.
Michael N. writes:
I was at first inclined to dismiss Sarah C.’s comments in their entirety, since much of what she writes is a familiar refrain that does not reflect my own experience. Porn certainly damaged my relationship with my wife, but it hardly destroyed my feelings for her entirely, as Sarah claims when she says that “[the porn user] cannot feel anything for real women”. Nor did it remove my ability to appreciate “the foreplay of life” or kill my ability to love “the refined and the noble things.” On the contrary, my awareness of the crushing burden of my sins led me from atheism to Catholic Christianity, which is the most refined and noble expression of Western civilization possible. As Sarah describes it, porn turns men into dumb brutes, but she paints with too broad a brush here. Porn certainly coarsens and corrupts the soul, but men under its sway (and they are legion) do not necessarily lose their ability to perceive the good, the true, and the beautiful. If that were true, we would all be irretrievably lost.
But then, maybe I wasn’t a typical porn user after all. Mainstream hardcore porn has become shockingly brutal and degrading in recent years, and the empirical evidence backs Sarah’s contention that desensitization to porn images leads to a craving for increasingly extreme material. I feel a bit like the Ancient Mariner here: At one level I would like to collar your readers and tell them in detail of the horrors I’ve seen, but I have no desire to ruin peoples’ appetites. It is enough to say that while explicit pornographic movies used to consist mostly of men and women having somewhat acrobatic consensual sex in various contrived scenarios, a large amount of modern porn features such practices as asphyxiation and violent degradation, almost entirely directed at the women involved. Porn has always been fundamentally satanic through and through, but it no longer even bothers with the pretence of displaying affection or even basic physical attraction between its characters. I am no feminist, but modern hardcore porn is saturated with hatred for the women involved (and perhaps women in general), and I fear to think of what it does to the men who enjoy it. While I was always repelled by this garbage (thank God), it is impossible to avoid coming across it once you immerse yourself in the world of pornography, and it is evidently serving a large, hidden market. I wish I knew what we could do to rescue these poor people