Hi Anne, I am 20 years old and I am currently in a 2 year relationship. I live with my boyfriend and he is a wonderful, caring, and kind hearted person. I have been having a lot of problems accepting his addiction to pornography. I find downloaded cds and websites he looks at. Well, this bothers me extremely, almost to the point where I am willing to leave him because it hurts my feelings. I had brought it up to him several times and he seemed to not take what I was communicating to him as serious as I was. So I continued to ignore my feelings(letting it eat to me)and one day I went to write an essay for school and I found a bunch of websites he had been to that day. This was the last straw Anne. I left the disgustingly, filthy website on the computer and waited for his arrival home. When he entered our bedroom I told him to look at the screen. I told him straight out that I was going to start looking for a new place to live because I couldn’t live with what he was doing. This time he took me seriously. Anne, since we had this occasion and agreement I have felt more secure. The last 8 monthes prior to the incident I couldn’t hardly stand to look at him because of the porno. It made me have doubts of faithfulness when he would go anywhere. What do you think is going on? Could you please e-mail me and let me know your feeling on my problem.
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I don’t do private emails at present, but I do think your problem is worth writing about in my column. Many women write to me about their uncomfortableness with their spouse’s/boyfriend’s use of pornography. It is a very common problem these days, made much worse than it used to be by the complete ease of access to porn that has come into being with the Internet era. There are several issues here, really. The surface issue is your boyfriend’s cluelessness and lack of attention to your feelings. It is a very normal thing for a young man to lust for women’s bodies (or men’s bodies if he happens to be gay or bisexual). It is normal for men to find a variety of women’s bodies to be sexy. It is even getting to be a fairly normal thing for men to access pornography on the Internet – it is very easy to find (actually, it often finds you!; I get spam emails for pornographic websites emailed to me several times per week), and there is literally no barrier to accessing it as much of it seems to be offered free of charge. Like the increasing amount of tatoos that we’re seeing these days, porn is yet another sign of the decline of western civilization. What is very abnormal about your story is for your boyfriend to be so unthoughtful of your feelings as to access this material in front of you. I’m glad that you finally decided enough was enough and gave him an ultimatum regarding this flagrent disregard for your feelings. He was clearly in the wrong and needed your feedback. He sounds sort of immature, but perhaps trainable. It may sound like I’m condoning male use of porn. I’m not. I merely find it to be semi-inevitable today that a lot of men will use it. The big problem with porn as far as I’m concerned is that it focuses your boyfriend’s sexual attentions away from reality and into fantasy, away from you and the relationship you share together and into a nothingness that is all surface and no depth. If you want to continue a relationship with this man, I think you should sit him down and tell him in no uncertain terms how you feel (about yourself, about him, about your relationship) when you think of him using porn. Do this in a non-judgemental way if you can. He needs to see his behavior from your perspective if possible, but he won’t be able to do this if he is busy defending himself against your attack. I think it will also be wise for you to let him know what you can live with and what you cannot live with. If you can’t live with the posibility of his using porn, you need to tell him that and give him a sense of the consequences that will occur if you catch him using it again. This should be less a threat towards him and more a statement of what you are comfortable with and will accept and what you will not. Moving out is a very big step, but it may be justified if you just can’t get past his use of porn. Together you might want to take steps to reduce the possibility that porn can be accessed from your house. This may mean destroying CDs and bookmarks to websites, and also switching to an ISP that is designed for families with children and which attempts to block access pornographic websites. Thinking of porn as an addiction your boyfriend has may be a good way to proceed. He may relapse if it is easy for him to do so, or if he starts feeling that he is unsupported, or cannot find a more appropriate outlet for his sexuality (e.g., you). This is not his problem, but rather a problem of the relationship that can really only be solved within the context of the relationship. It’s also an oppportunity for you two to deepen the level of intimacy you share – if you are both willing to go in that rewarding and wonderful direction. Good luck.