Mark had this to say about one of my answers from last month: Anne, I’d like to comment on your answer to Porn #1, (11/7/02). While there are certainly valid points about the boyfriend being thoughtless, it is, in my opinion, much less of an issue with men than women think. Your response was that she should burn the cd’s, remove access etc. These are very controlling behaviors that really don’t serve to initiate intimacy. There are indications from the writer that her boyfriend is thoughtful, and caring and a good guy. This is the same person who happens to like viewing by her standards unsuitable material. Unless he has coerced or made demands on her that she feels are inappropriate, or has ignored her in person and in deed, all he is really guilty of is reading material she doesn’t like. Would you have the same answer if she was reading ultra feminist radical literature, but didn’t force her viewpoints on him? Men are very visual, and have been for millions of years and that won’t change. What is also true, contrary to feminist viewpoint, is that most healthy adult males do NOT fantasize or wish their partners to be the models in question. They generally keep the real world and the fantasy world completely separate, and inflict no harm, either verbally, or emotionally on their significant other as a result of their viewing habits. What this really is about, also in my opinion, is her controlling behavior, her demand for perfection in her mate, her somewhat low self esteem, his inability to communicate how much he esteems her (otherwise she’d be more secure)and his inability to be more considerate using a shared system. These are the problems in this relationship, the material is only the catalyst to the solution. This is much too short of a forum to discuss this-I just wanted to provide another viewpoint. Thank you.
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Mark Thanks for your thoughtful letter! Do you know the textbook definitions of assertive and aggressive communication styles? In aggressive communication, a person invades another person, demanding that they act in certain ways or face damaging consequences. In assertive communication, by contrast, a person will defend themselves when they are in danger of invasion but will not aggressively harm another. Whether the course of behavior I recommended to our author is aggressive (as you seem to be arguing), or assertive (as I would maintain) all turns on how invasive you see the boyfriend’s use of porn as being to our author. I see the boyfriends use of porn as an unintentional yet real attack on the author’s self-esteem – an attack that she needs to defend herself against. You seem to see differently. I recognize that the boyfriend doesn’t think of what he is doing as an attack on the author – but she interprets it that way anyway and needs to be free to defend herself so as to preserve her self-esteem. In the spirit of defending herself (but not attacking back), she has the right to request that he not offend her, and to leave if he won’t compromise in a mutually reasonable way. I was not suggesting that she demand that the boyfriend give up porn, so much as I was suggesting that she should request that he does this (with the a rational so he understands why he is being asked to do this). Hopefully, he will care enough about her that he’d want (willingly) to compromise his use of porn so as to better express his love for her. If he doesn’t care to do this willingly (perhaps because doing so would cause him to feel invaded), and she doesn’t care to live with that answer she is free to leave him. I recognize that boys will be boys. However, it seems to me that if this guy would prefer to be obvious and unsubtle in his use of porn even after he clearly understands that this behavior is offensive to his woman (and indeed to most women) then he has a real prioritization problem, and she would be well advised to look for a different, more sensitive partner.