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November 18, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Sexpertise

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Long term effects of porn


My husband is twenty-six and has looked at porn since he was about thirteen. We argued about it. We decided he was compulsive. He decided to quit.

It has been almost a year since he quit. He has almost no sex drive and we only have sex once or so a month. We've only been together three and a half years. Our sex life used to be great.

I am thirty-three and would like to have sex with him much more. What's wrong and what can I do?

Sheryl (33 year-old woman)


I'm not sure if your question is about damage done by looking at explicit material or damage done by him quitting. Not everyone will agree with my first response, for there are a lot of professionals making a lot of money treating "sexual addictions" and "sexual compulsions." My rule of thumb is always to ask if the behavior is abnormal, culturally deviant, or uncontrollably excessive. It is certainly not unusual or atypical for a thirteen year old boy to find sexually explicit pictures exciting. Interest in visually stimulating material usually will decrease as a young man becomes increasingly involved in sexual activity with real live partners. Human males (in fact primate males) are visual creatures, responding to visual sexual cues. Women typically are not and have a hard time understanding why men have this need to look. Believe me, if men who looked at explicit pictures stopped having sex with their wives, there were be a lot of women going without sex! The reality is that sexual males can look at porn and still enjoy making love with their wives.

It is interesting that you seemed to be saying that your sex life was better when he was looking at explicit material. I have two thoughts on this. My first thought is that he might be withholding sex from you as a punishment. This, of course, would not be a nice thing for him to do, and would deny him, as well as you, frequent sexual satisfaction. So, don't jump to the conclusion that this is what he is doing.

My second thought is that he could have gone underground with his use of pornography and is now masturbating to it more often than he is having sex with you. Sometimes when a compulsive behavior becomes secret, it can intensify. However, please do not jump to the conclusion that this is what is happening. Actually, if it was a serious compulsion starting back when he was thirteen, a discussion between the two of you would not have stopped it. True sexual compulsions do not go away so easily!

It is my third thought that will be more controversial. What if your husband's sexuality is a package and Part A is a prerequisite to Part B? That is, what if he enjoys visual stimulation and it makes him feel more sexual, and then when feeling more sexual he comes to you for the real live conclusion to his package? To take away Part A would then interfere with the motivation to engage in Part B. Once in my office, a woman told her husband, "I don't care where you get your appetite, just as long as you come home to eat."

Talk again with your husband. I hope it was not easier to talk to him about what he shouldn't be doing that it is to talk with him about what he should. See if you can talk with him about how explicit sexual material fits into his concept of his male sexuality. Ask if it has or could ever replace the intimate loving sexuality that can occur between two compassionate respectful partners. Ask what has happened between the two of you and what you both might do to rekindle your physical intimacy. I think it is absolutely essential to talk about what the real problem might be, rather than cop out with the easy answer of "the porn made him do it!"

Do not hesitate to seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional who has been trained in treating emotional and sexual avoidance. Beware of the professional who will too quickly lay blame on your husband and his use of porn, without taking the time to explore what other dynamics that are taking place in your marriage.

Bob Birch

Robert W. Birch, Ph.D., is a retired sex therapist, now identifying himself as a sexologist and adult sexuality educator. He now devotes his time to writing educational and self-help books for adults.

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