Marriage And Pornography, Playing Devil's Advocate

Just suppose, for a moment, that I play "devil's advocate" and say that there is nothing wrong with husbands viewing internet pornographic images? Playing "devil's advocate" means something like, "For the sake of argument..."

The Problem:

In response to some articles previously published on Mental Help.Net, countless numbers of people E. Mail me about how pornography has affected their marriage. Most of the E. Mails and posts are from women who are angry and worried about their marriages. This happens with couples who are together anywhere from a few months to decades. A large percentage report that they are contemplating divorce over the problem.

The problem of marriages being negatively affected by husbands who view pornography continues to be a very troubling issue, sometimes ending in divorce. It is understandable that many wives become incensed when their husbands continue to secretly view internet pornography after they have discussed it and asked them to stop.

Many wives feel offended by pornography for a number of reasons. These reasons vary from feeling betrayed, cheated on, devalued, and being lied to. It is not unusual for wives to believe they are no longer sexy enough for their husbands or that they  have lost their attractiveness. There are also worries that the children will discover the porno that Dad has been viewing on the computer.

Let's Stop and Think:

In discussing the issue of marriage and internet pornography, it's important to delineate the real issues causing all of this pain.

Therefore, this discussion is limited to husbands who:

1. View internet pornography without engaging in any actual contact via E. Mail or Instant Messaging. In other words, they are passive viewers.

2. Are not avoiding sex with their wives, despite the interest in porn and are not substituting porn for marital sex.

3. Are willing to jointly view the material with their wives, if they are interested.

4. Are not spending unlimited amounts of time on the computer in order to view porn. In other words, they are not addicted. Their viewing is "occasional."

5. Are not wasting household money on internet porn.

6. Are not viewing child porn or pedophile behavior or porn involving violence.

The Wives:

Virtually all of the women who posted about this topic report that they enjoy sex and are willing participants in sexual experimentation within the safety of their homes. In other words, they are not people who refuse sexual relations or having fun with their husbands in the act of foreplay and sexuality.

"Playing Devil's Advocate" - For The Sake of Argument:

What worries me, as a psychotherapist and behavioral expert, is the willingness of people to rush to divorce over this issue as delineated above.

Therefore, and for the "Sake of Argument:"

1. These men are not cheating on their wives.
Please understand that the anger women feel over this is justifiable. However, passive and occasional viewing of porn does not equal having an affair.

2. It appears that, built into the male libido is the need to look at, or view, nude women. Why is the wife not enough? That is unclear. However, if the husband is sexually stimulated by viewing these images and then uses this stimulation to enhance sexuality within the marriage, why not?

3. Why not have husbands and wives jointly view the porn and become mutually stimulated so that there is no secrecy between them?

4. Why not allow the issue of internet pornography to become a topic of open and frank discussion between spouses, much like other topics, such as money and vacations?

For the sake of argument, let us say that the real problem is not pornography in and of itself. Rather, the problem is symptomatic of difficulties in the communication process within the relationship.

Secrecy does not facilitate positive marital relations. It damages trust and mutual understanding. My concern is that anger over the topic of pornography drives it further into the dark shadows, where it threatens to poison every aspect of the marriage. Should pornography be allowed to have that power?

Cautionary Note:
In no way do I support internet, or any type of pornography. I want to make that lucidly clear. However, if kept within the confines of a marriage between two consenting partners, then why not? As it's been said many times, "If you can't beat 'em, join, 'em."

Your comments are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

  • Cathy

    I have so many thoughts. First, for those that are dedicated to God, lust is adultery in the heart - breaking a commandment of God. I spent several months in a forum on the partners side for sexual addictions (my husband's problem was not porn or so I thought but realized that he was seeing pornographic pictures at work thus his wish to return to the Gates of Hell (my nickname for the city we live in and acting on his fetish behavior). Even with the couples that watched porn together a lot of the women did not really enjoy it but felt like they didn't have a lot of choice since they didn't want to be a prude. Also, this led often to including same-sex, and S & M (and those couples that molest children together, I actually processed one of those and saw the pictures that the older child drew with husband doing it and the wife as the lookout on the playground) - because it required "more". A lot of the women went along with it until the point that it was a "must have" or became dangerous and often, I am sure you know, the person viewing the porn lost interest in sex except for the masturbation they did at the computer. So, you say, what is wrong with the couple enjoying it together, consenting adults - go long term and see how many couples have mutually enjoyed watching porn over a long period of time, really enjoyed it - not with one just going along with it which can easily cause that person mental anguise. Also, right now, I believe that this addiction is the fastest growing addiction. One Christian website dedicated to sexual addiction states that many religious (I use the term loosely since I believe that people that truly have God in their hearts just don't go there in the first place.) leaders are addicted to porn. It reduces human sexuality to the level of, say, monkeys. Gosh, it just seems sad too that one's partner, the relationship and the intimacy needs this savage feed to lead to a sexual relationship. And, my last thought would be "occasional" - I thought that with an addiction that frequency and quantity was not the deciding factor as to whether or not it was an addiction but rather the "need", and I stress "need".

  • Anonymous-1

    I feel a bit disheartened by what I just read. The reason is I've been dealing with this issue now with my husband for years. Somehow I'm thinking that MOST men that use pornagraphy aren't little angels that just happen to use it in a "healthy" way. There is an underlining need and want to be with other women. Yes...that is to have sex with other women besides their wives. I've discovered pornography many times with titles such as, "barely 18" and "18 year old cum love." I'm horrified as my husband is in his 50's. Yes, it's not quit pedifile occording to the law but certainly feels like it to me and I find it profoundly distrurbing. I try to discuss this with my husband and he just looks at me with nothing to say. I've even told him if he really wants the porno to keep it just be honest about it. He'll say he doesn't want it or need it and then I'll be instint it's O.K. only to be told to throw it out. Then month's later something else is discovered. Knowing that with every rat you see there's 100 more in the shadows. It feels like a no win situation and my pain is ignored by my husband as just being a "silly woman who doesn't understand ALL men view porn." Plus I've been the one to initiate sex for years and finally I gave up because it hurt my feelings that I was always the one initiating. And now? We don't have sex. I feel hopeless and like if I was just a sexier or "better" woman my husband would love me.

  • Rajesh

    Great Perspective Doc,

    As long it is not interfering with the normal functions of a marriage.... then why not!!!

  • Cathy

    I wanted to say that Disheartened is not alone and this is more typical of the problem than not. It is not, is not, is not anything to do with her or her desirability but with the mechanics of the mind and the porn. I have read a hundred stories that are the same as hers. In this situation all you can do is take care of you and/or kick him to the curb. All men do not view porn.

  • anna

    i have had this problem with my husband for many yrs now and his porn addiction is causing him to withhold intimacey with me for months upon months so i cannot explain how i deeply feel about this only when i think about it for long enough i want to leave him for depriving me of what intimacy should be there. I know when he is doing it as he changes in personality to the extreme. He goes from my best friend to my worst enemy. It effects everything and hurts my everything about my inner character and hurts my normal way of viewing reality how sad for us whom it effects no matter what the distorted reason is for viewing pornography in the first place. in the end we just want to be the apple of his eye and discover that we are not all that to our own husbands....

  • whatever

    Are you seroius? If you can't beat them, join them? Do you see how women are treated in porn? Why do we let porn treat women like this? Are we things? Are we and will we ever be human. I mean by human, some one with a conscience. The conscience of knowing right from wrong. I hear that old saying "Boys will be boys." Come on. I use to be a smoker. If I can control that urge to not light one up, I think they can control the urge to keep it in their pants. Porn does not turn me on. Mystery of my partner turns me on. When he exploits it, I loose all interest. As I can see I am not the only one. I want to be the one he is into to, not the woman on tv. I will not settle for men are visual. As I was born with eyes too. Men want a mommy, then go back to mommy. Women get tired of playing caretaker and when men grow up, they seek out a new mommy, because their mommy said "you are on your own. Time to clean up after yourself." For all you stupid guys out there. Listen up! Help out around the house and kids. The more you help, the less she has to do and then she will have more time for you. Stop looking at porn. Talk to her and tell her how sexy you think she would look if you guys made a tape together. She gets hot if you make her feel hot. Comment her on how sexy she looks during sex. Some women, especially the one who have kids, don't feel sexy like they use too. Hey, you are not the only ones who get bored doing the same thing over and ever again. Both partners should be just as creative. If you are watching too much porn, maybe you need to get a life other than sittting in front of the tv jacking off. Get hobby. Exercise! Hey doc, exercise is great for the libido. You will want to if you feel good about yourself. Same goes for the women. Exercise together. Take time out for yourselves. Sooner or later your kids are gonna grow up and move out on their own. Then it will be you and her. If you do not nurture it now, it will be worthless in the future. Get it through your heads, your women will FIND SOMEONE ELSE IF YOU DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THEM. Really, why would we want to be with someone who does not pay attention to us? The more you make room for her, the more you get laid. Let us be jealous. We are just protecting whats ours and that means you. Hey you treat as things, I don't want to hear it. Porn is offensive. It has a way off ruining a good thing. Communicate. Stop with the "I am a man crap. I don't talk about my feelings." Hello! What year is this? You want us open sexually? Open up to us.

  • Anonymous-2

    I'm sick of being treated like a criminal for enjoying masturbation!!! My father told me when I was growing up that there was nothing wrong with masturbation. Was I wrong to believe him? I use pornography to masturbate. GET OVER IT. I have a girlfriend whom I love very much, and we have a very active and healthy sex life. However, I am a man, and I have sexual needs that she is not always prepared to provide for. She's not a horse! She's not an object!

    Most of the other men that I've talked to about porn all agree that the porn that involves the hardcore degradation of women - treating them like animals or abusing them - is abhorrent. And women, men ARE visual. Get over it. If you don't want to "settle for that", then get ready to be looking for a long, long time, because that's just the way men work. Men are willing to put up with SO MUCH from women, constantly complaining about things that the men can't do anything about. Men and women have different communicational needs, why can't women accept that men have different sexual needs? Stop shaming men for enjoying themselves! Women masturbate too, so why aren't you shaming the women who masturbate? Are they cheating on their boyfriends or husbands? No.

    To sum it up, we're not cheating, we love our significant others, we find them sexy, we wouldn't leave them for the world. We just like pictures of other people having sex - not seeing someone degraded.

  • Somerealanswers

    For me, and perhaps many women, the issue of our husbands/boyfriends/fiancees looking at porn doesn't seem adequately addressed in any of the numerous discussion threads/articles online. Firstly, the whole "what is natural" debacle. Most believe it is "natural" for men to look at porn, even when he is in a committed relationship, due to this historical, biological need to have numerous sexual partners. Yet, it is also "natural" for women to be upset by this as we are more monagomous by nature. But, as a woman, I cannot understand why any married man's argument that "it's natural for him to look at porn and he should therefore be allowed to exercise his natural desires" would ever truly be a valid point because he's already committed to something apparently very unnatural for males-- marriage. If he's willing to curb his natural desire for many real-life sexual partners, shouldn't he be willing to curb his desire for porn, if it truly bothers his wife?

    However, I think porn-viewing in and of itself does not bother most women. Like Dr. Schwartz says, "if [your] husband uses images to enhance sexuality within marriage, why not [allow him to view porn]?" I think most women actually ARE open and willing to watch porn with their husbands, yet knowing this, some husbands still engage in viewing in secrecy and in addition don't necessarily communicate with their wives their desires or how their pornographic viewing might enhance their sex life. (this is my experience) So, it's not really the pornography that is the issue here, it's the lack of communication/damaging of trust in the relationship. If a husband knows his wife is open about porn, why would he continue to engage in secrecy? What are some things women can do to encourage our husbands to be more open about porn and their sexual desires with us?

  • whatever

    No one ever said there was nothing wrong with masterbating. Get that! So your telling us, that men have no self control? If that's the case, isn't that an addiction? Like an alcoholic who has no control over his drinking. Lets just justify your answer with, we have no control and oh, and boys will be boys. I got a secret to tell you, I am a woman and guess what else? I was born with eyes. I love to watch my man do things to me. We actually recorded ourselves having sex and I get off on it. I think that involves my eyes. Watching=eyes. No, I think its poor behavior on how men are. And all porn is degrading. Why not work on making your sex life with your partner better. And you also said you watch porn because your partner will not do some of the things those girls do? Hmm! I see a problem there. If it's involving something like a threesome, yeah, I can understand why she would have a problem. You watching a threesome, on our behalf, would be an insult. It tells us that no matter what, your never pleased with what we do with you. And to see the girls that do these things absolutely makes us sick to our stomachs. So if you want a wild woman, you will find her at a whore house. All the real ones, are out for love and to be a part of something great. It's funny and kind of twisted the way men think. You want to settle for that descent girl, but then you go and get hot over the wild ones. You can't get that from your descent girl, because she thinks shes got to be that way. It's totally twisted.

  • whatever

    I can actually say you hit it on the spot. I caught my man, not watching porn, but he was buying the books and hiding them on me. He told me he knew it would hurt me that's why he hid them. I said if you knew it would hurt me, then why are you doing it? He said because it's something he like to do now and then. But the stacks of books I found tell me otherwise. I also found out he was going to strip clubs. Now thats like going to a live sex show to me. I was hurt. I felt lost, confused, ugly, even worse, betrayed by some one who kept telling me he would never do anything to hurt me. And he did. It's going on four years now since he did all of this, and I find myself from time to time getting mad over it. Yeah it's the past, but the past can sneak up on you and attack you from behind. I almost left him. And at some points I want to kick myself in the ass for not leaving. But I want to try to give it a chance to see if we can work it out. I think it's possible but hard. I am still having a hard time forgiving him. And I notice myself sometimes trying to find another mate to replace him. But I try to tell myself when I am doing this, that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Why was it so hard to tell me what his intentions were? You go numb, literally. You get cold. Then you think, there is no such thing as love. I know we are human and we all make mistakes, but some mistakes can be avoided. After all of this, I do try to give in to his sexual needs. And it pisses me off, because I do not expect anything from him, but him from me. He told me in the begining of our relationship I don't have to be promiscous. I was willing to get toys, buy lingerie, look at a bit of porn. He rejected it. Then he did this to me and made me believe he was never ones of these sickos. It hurt bad. I am making him tell me now. I ask him what he would like me to wear. He likes me in pink, I hate pink. lol. So I give in as long as I get something in return now. And you need communication. A lot of it. Men for some reason, have that thing where if they talk about things, they think that they are pussy whipped. So guys, you want an unhappy marriage or partner? Yep thats the way too go. Stop with all the excuses. Don't give us that crap, well I am a guy. You justify your actions because you are a male? Get over it. That's an excuse. A cop out. You say things like that to justify your behaviour and to get away with it. That's almost like saying "Well I raped her because she was wearing a tight skirt and she wanted it without telling me she wanted it." Come on now. Man up. And take responsibilities for your actions. I believe people can control themselves.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hello Whatever and Everyone,

    What concerns me is the fact that viewing and even going to strip clubs happens in secrecy. In the privacy of their homes, consenting adults have the right to have sex with one another as they wish. That includes viewing porn. In my mind and experience it is the secrecy with which many men do this that offends their wives and lovers. Its the secrecy that feels like a betrayal. If a couple views the pictures together and it enhances their sex lives, fine, none of us should judge. In fact, there are couples who go to strip clubs together. That is their business.

    Secrecy is not going to anything good for a relationship. Their is a lot of anger over this issue but partners need to find a way to reach a mutually satisfying solution to the problem of porn.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • whatever

    I do agree with that. But how can you say that? So as long as they are open with us about it, they should be able to go and have sex with whom ever they please? I do not call that a relationship at all. I am in a relationship, I just don't go slepp with people because it's okay. I have true respect for my partner, plus my love for him will not allow it. And I have self control over myself. I think couples should communicate more. But what if they made porn with each other. I think it's more effective for their relationship, then them watching other people having sex. They could get turned on by each other. It would be better and the woman will feel more sexier and probably feel more empowered. I would think being a doctor, you would give different ways of trying to improve their lives instead of enforcing porn and approve porn. You act like it's nothing to be worried about, when truly there is a big problem here. Women are losing their mates to this and these women feel totally lost and probably feel worthless on top of that. You are simply telling these women, men do this because they have a penis and you obey the penis so get over it. That's what I am hearing and I will not be the only one who thinks that way. You should be encouraging men to open up to their spouse or girlfriend and try new things together as a couple. Instead of hiding behind a video. I am truly disappointed.

  • anna

    i think the root of it all is selfishness especially if a partner does it alone. Sex and love is about giving to the other and not pleasing yourself . The needs of your parnter should come before your own and visa versa and so in the end masturbation is only for your own pleasure rather than giving that pleasure to someone else . Marriage is a commitment isnt it.?.there are and have always been boundaries thats the deal ! Seems to me society makes new ones up and say well this is just how it is and you dont get a choice. Whats happened to our morals and standards?..did anyone need pornography 500yrs ago and i am sure most of their marriages would have lasted far longer than the statistics these days for one reason or another. I think we have many unsolvable problems these days and this is one of them. It shouldnt be there but it is so its up to us if we want to be a part of it or not. I hope god will intervene at some stage and bring things back to the way they should have been in the first place..back to normal and clean and bring back real love in the world. Our conciences already tell us something is wrong with porn, people hide it because there is something wrong with it and as one story on here says its about shame you know like walking out into the public naked .The proof is right here in front of our faces.Maybe people justify why it is right to do it fair enough its their choice but choices have consequences If you lose your parnter and family over porn ( ie all the problems that come with it like trust etc ) then its your own fault and not because your partner couldnt except it but because their concience knows whats normal and what is not. dont become desensitized to it ,dont be moulded to see it as being normal if you know its not, dont go with the flow it will only confuse you and your inner character and dont feel like its your problem if your the one who doesnt like it...your partner is the one who needs to wake up so maybe try to get some help for them somehow if they agree.

  • Anonymous-3

    Seems like grief there is a process I"ve gone thru over the last 10 years with my husband. First complete rush of disbelief, anger, confusion, denial and a need to find out the "truth" Second I did the "if you can't find a way out find a deeper way in" thing.. I joined in with his porn viewing made myself available even when I didn't really want to,tried to fulfill all his fantasies or at least the ones he would communicate to me. Life did get better for a while but it was not real intimacy or love making it was just getting off but I was happy thinking at least we are talking not long after that he started watching porn secretly again and not having much time left for me. Third stage now is complete acceptance, that he will never change I am not trying to change him any more, I don't have a need to hear the truth from him anymore, or to try to understand why he does it. He just does and will continue in complete disregard as to how it is affecting our marriage and our famliy. His porn viewing has caused him to not be as able to function in bed, he has a difficult time ejaculating when he is with me but has no trouble at all when he is masturbating in front of porn. Also his viewing has gone from soft core to hard core viewing and I am sure it will keep escalating which now in my mind makes him a dangerous individual to have around my teenage daughter. I have caught him viewing in the living room while there are people walking around him in the middle of the afternoon. this in my mind shows his inability to see or care about the consequences of his actions. Since I have completely lost trust or respect for this man, I have lost any desire for him as well. If all men are doing this then I guess I will be alone thank you very much. Sometimes I think this is mens cruel attempt to bring women back to the stone ages, before we had the right to vote and they had all the control. Since there is nothing we can do about porn, they are in control again, degrading their wifes, girlfriends, daughters and mothers by watching this crap it gives them a sense of power over women. too bad they are not thinking about the future, if I am any indication, many marriages will end in divorce, men will only have their lap top jerk them off, but no companion to share their life with, no best friend. What bothers me the most is this porn thing is the only thing we ever fought about. So if porn viewing is symptomatic of communication issues then why does he not have the balls to say what his problem is rather than hidding behind porn.. yes man up! take responsability for your feelings and actions, if being with other women is your need then say it, if you are bored with your wife say it, if you want to experiment say that too.. as he gave me no choice said it for him as I don't want to listen to the bullshit anymore... now I have to figure out what I will do with my life...

  • Anonymous-4

    One thing that I completely disagree with you about Dr. Schwartz is that men NEED to see other women naked. Pornography has only been so readily available what, maybe 10 years? I think a lot of the attitude is social. There's the whole theory that men are meant to spread their seed, which I do not buy. Why would we raise our children so long then? Also, I am a woman. I fantasize about other people sometimes. I feel attracted to other people. It's natural. Someone else posted on another of your blogs that women are "meant" to be with only one person. However, if you can get killed for infidelity, then I guess that would keep you straight. I used to watch porno quite a bit with my boyfriend, but then he started preferring to do only that, minus me. I see nothing wrong with it every once in awhile, but I am dating someone that definitely had some addictive behavior with it, and it seriously impacted our relationship for a long time in a very negative way. I think those men that can still fulfill their duties to their wives (yes, they have a sexual duty to us as well), then more power to you. But, I think so much of it is one-sided, and men do not always see it from our point of view. I had to bring up to my boyfriend that he was uncomfortable when I was going to visit a strip club with my friends. I also put him in my shoes and asked him what if I felt like having sex with a hot Latino that day and masturbated nearly right in front of him and then did not want to have sex with him, because I had gotten my "fix". Long-term relationships do take work, and I think pornography doesn't help you stay sensual with each other.

  • jon

    to all who suffer from this type of behavior and lots of other things can i please just say that if you beleive in god then lets just say he doesnt just sit there but he is watching us all the time. Is this the kind of world he has intented for us not at all but he is allowing it for a while until he is ready to do somewhat similar to noahs day and rid the earth permanently of all wickedness.. at the end of the day he is our only hope in all our problems this world faces as they are too big and there are too many of them and we will never get on top of them no matter how smart we are...i hope you all can see the sense

  • jon

    1 john 2:16,17 everything in the world- the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of ones means of life- does not originate with the father but originates with the world. Furthermore ,the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of god remains forever.

    Revelation 21:8 says.. as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are discusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practising spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur.

  • whatever

    I totally agree with you that it seems men are using this way to get their control back. This is their way of punishing us for having rights. Look, all of these women are lost. All of these men are numb. What is the point anymore. IT IS ALL ONE SIDED. We are only suppose to see it from mens point of view. It pisses me off that women can not have any say in this. If actual beauty is to be admired, then what happened to the beholder? This is degrading. To every women out there, WE ARE NOT TOYS OR THINGS.

  • ocean

    I feel awful for the women who commented here. Their intense anguish comes through vividly, and is obviously of no interest or concern to their husbands, yet it effects me - a stranger. It's no wonder women sometimes feel their men are heartless and cold. They are, as is any addict when access to his preferred substance/compulsive behavior is threatened.

    I am not married, but my last boyfriend revealed to me that he is a porn addict, and that porn is ruining his life, his health, his relationships, and has shattered his confidence as a man. He is so beautiful, and so wrecked. Stories like his are all over the internet. Just like heroin, porn is dangerous and highly addictive. The brain of a porn addict is damaged in much the same way that a heavy drinkers, or heroin addicts is. Forgive me doctor, but I find it extremely irresponsible for you to say things like "if you can't beat em join em" and if it's between two consenting adults then "why not?". Here's why: Because we don't want our beautiful and loving men to fall into porn addictions. Because porn degrades women in more and more brutal ways as the industry grows, as the porn user needs ever more vile images to feel the thrill to get him or herself off. The typical "casual" porn user may not even be aware of the fact that he is playing with fire in just the same way shooting up heroin is, because unlike heroin, porn use is generally validated and even endorsed by those who's council is sought by the user! Oh yes! Fun! All good times! Healthy! Yep, until you wake up one day and realize your life has been overtaken by an addiction, your views of women are warped, and your relationships nonexistent.

    It's not surprising that the only discussions/sites I can find where men are declaring that no, not all men use porn, and yes porn is insidiously harmful to men, women, children, and relationships, are Christian sites. Which is fine, but there's certainly a need for education (esp of men) in the secular population, as porn is now America's #1 addiction! Ladies, you are not alone! We are all so used to hearing things like "it doesn't hurt anyone" and "masturbation is normal and natural" - clearly it does hurt people - A LOT of people. Over-masturbation is a huge problem for porn addicts. Search around and read some of the stories about the poor guys that got caught up in it. Saying it's OK, doc, is dangerous and negligent. All these women here and millions more are hurt by porn to varying degrees. All the men who, even if strung along innocently into the world of porn, find themselves abandoned by their poor wives who simply had no choice but to leave, or find that their ability to perform unenhanced by porn is either ruined, or greatly decreased, are hurt. Read Naomi Wolf's article The Porn Myth - "In the end, porn doesn't whet men's appetites—it turns them off the real thing."

    it ruins lives on both sides of the screen. And I cannot fathom how runaway misogyny, cartoon-like objectification of women, degradation or women, heinous child abuse, and human trafficking could ever be a matter of "why not" both inside a marriage and in our culture in general. IMO you are either supporting the porn industry or you are not. Even if you don't pay for porn, but just click on a site, for every click those pornographers make money from their advertisers. So there's really no such thing as grey area here. Even if you're not viewing child porn or real rape porn, you are supporting the porn industry, which supports those very things.

    The more I've thought about the issue over the years, the more I realize it's fairly black & white. Revenues for pornographers are quickly closing in on 3 billion a year in the US. Rampant abuses of human rights within the porn industry, child abuse, degradation of women, and human trafficking make porn NOT OK in any context IMO. Correct me if I'm wrong, because to tell you all the truth, I wish it were. I wish we could all just enjoy porn for what it's worth. And heroin too. Unfortunately, that's not the nature of porn, as it isn't the nature of heroin, crack, or tobacco products. It's not even about men's biological needs in the end, it's about manipulating men's biology in order to get at their wallets and souls. I suspect that men who use porn with the attitude of "it's not hurting anyone" "it's healthy" "all men use porn" etc, are simply in denial about their budding addiction. Why else would a man choose to watch his marriage end tragically, over giving up porn? He has picked a side, perhaps unwittingly, because he is under a spell woven by pornographers. He is their slave now, and no one's husband.

    Let's hope we can figure out something better than the good doc proposes. Sorry doc.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hi Ocean,

    Please do not aplogize for your point of view. Remember, I am only "playing devil's advocate" in the article. I do not support porn, I do not believe it is healthy and I wish there were method for making it vanish from the Internet.

    Pornography is indeed an insidious addiction. Experts have described the neurological basis of this addiction and it is terrible, much like heroin and other drugs.

    By the way, I can state that there are lots of men who do not approve of pornography and one does not have to be deeply any religion to be an anti pornographic type of man.

    The problem is, how do we deal with this problem? In my opinion, the anger and hurt I read from these women does not help them or their men.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • passer-by

    I'm not trying to justify any views or justify pornography. This is merely my point of view on the issue.

    About pornography I think there's two ways to look at it:

    1. It's just a little indulgence thingy.

    2. It's an addiction.

    Whenever anything becomes an addiction, then help is needed. It's a problem that needs to be dealt with in the proper way. Asking why and getting angry and all just will not make things better. It's like you're addicted to alcohol. You need professional help. Period.

    If it's merely a occasional thingy, then it's just someone indulging in their fantasy a bit. Everybody does it. Indulging in their fantasy, I mean. It's harmless so no point getting all worked up about it.

    Different people indulge in their fantasy in different ways. There's no right or wrong. I mean there are things that you fantasise about that you would not tell anyone. So keeping it a secret like that - is it right or wrong?

    For you ladies out there - tell me, even when you're with a steady partner and your sex life is great, don't you occasionally fantasise about some other men? A tall, dark and hansome prince maybe? Do you tell your partner about your fantasy? Some will, some won't. It's not a problem right?

    Viewing porn occasionally is just that, in my point of view. One of the ways to indulge in your fantasies a little. Just that the medium is different. It's like drinking a little from time to time. Alcohol can lead to addiction and we all know it's bad for us but we do drink from time to time just to indulge. We all know that one can become addicted to alcohol but we would like to think that we can be in control, don't we?

    I think it's the same with viewing porn. If you're in control and it does not become an addiction, it's not a issue to be all worked up about.

  • karen

    I have been married now for two years, with my partner for 3 in total. In the past every ex has cheated on me and lied to me about anything and everything. And so now i suffer from morbid jealousy. When i first got with my husband, he made me feel sexy and loved and was the best man i'd ever met, a really nice guy. Being a new relationship i wasn't jealous at all, even tho i only got to see him at weekends cos he was in the army so our sex life was amazing and our relationship and he proposed to me.

    But the closer ive gotten the more jealous ive become and this past year we've almost split up over it. Especially cos he told me he'd stop looking at porn when we got married, that he didn't need it. But then i found out he still watched it occasionally and i hit the roof, it makes me become violant and angry and i self harm. Im not a very attractive girl, not ugly, just a plain jo but i have small boobs and it hurts cos i feel so inadequate as do many other women in here.

    however, i myself don't know how to feel about it. I don't know if its just me on this but sometimes i like the idea of porn and regularly fantasise about catching him in the act, but then after i feel disgusted hurt and angry. I don't want him to do it regular and ignore me obviously, but i want our fun happy relationship back and if i can sometimes be turned on by porn myself, even from images of women (im not gay in the slightest, again its prob from my insecurity) and then there has to be some way to deal with this?

    I have tried to understand myself as well as my partner, but it always goes around in a vicious circle. I think every answer as to why they do it is individual, you'll never know unless they tell you but men find it difficult to talk. From speaking with my partner he's given so many conflicting answers in the past it made me more confused lol but IMHO i don't think they know why, only that it turns them on. I don't know why it turns me on, so why do they have have the answers??

    and yet saying all this i can't cope with it but really really want to. I want it to enhance our sex life, im open to ideas but really don't have much experience and so i know from recent that it gave us ideas lol But with this serious self harming stupidity i do, what do i do? how can i watch it with him? i scared it'll make me worse. Plus he refuses cos he knows how i go off. Any advice would be appreciated.....

  • Judy

    This is a very well written article. I think we give too much importance in our daily lives to this topic, and really need to forget about it. It really isn't such a big deal as the author of this article has indirectly suggested.

  • whatever

    You put that very well. I think you really hit the spot on that, And I hope evrybody thinks about what you said. Guys, you are not only hurting us, but yourselves by giving into this. I also think if you got problems and are doing this to compensate fro somthing, you should man-up and get some help. Come down from cloud nine.

  • Mary

    As the subject of porn has arisen in our marriage yet again I have spent time online reading about porn and the reasons men view it.

    Dr Schwartz, I found your web log “

    Men, Women, and Understanding Pornography” very helpful and insightful and I was grateful to have found it. I then read Marriage and Pornography, Playing Devil's Advocate hoping for even more insight into this problem, but was sadly disappointed.

    Much of the advice I have read from the “experts” seems to be similar to the suggestions in your article and is in some way critical of women in the same position as I find myself. It can be summed up as “all men are programmed to look at naked women so just get used to it ladies. If it upsets you then you obviously have a problem with your own self esteem.”

    In your web log “

    Playing Devil's Advocate” you say the discussion is limited to husbands who:

    Taking each of your points headed “Therefore, and for the "Sake of Argument:" in turn:

    1. These men are not cheating on their wives.
    Please understand that the anger women feel over this is justifiable. However, passive and occasional viewing of porn does not equal having an affair.

    2. It appears that, built into the male libido is the need to look at, or view, nude women. Why is the wife not enough? That is unclear. However, if the husband is sexually stimulated by viewing these images and then uses this stimulation to enhance sexuality within the marriage, why not?

    I agree, provided this is done with the wife’s knowledge and she is happy about it. What if she isn’t happy with it? It may be that built into the female libido there is a deep inbuilt need to know that her mate is faithful to her before she can relax and feel enthusiastic about sex, which is perhaps more prominent in some women than others.

    Not all men look at pornographic images of nude women, I suspect even if it is built into the male libido it can be controlled without too much difficulty. Men managed without porn for centuries, since the stone age, up until very recently. The internet is deluged with porn because technology has advanced very quickly and there is big money to be made from it, there hasn’t been a sudden evolution in men’s sexual requirements which makes it imperative for them to look at hundreds of pictures of women’s genitals.

    However if a man feels that looking at hundreds of pictures of nude women is essential to his sexual well being, then that is fine, but he should be honest about it at the start of a new relationship so that the woman can choose whether she feels such a man can fulfill her sexual needs.

    No, the men aren’t having an affair, but their behaviour is very similar, sneaking around behind their wife’s back and deceiving her.


    Why not have husbands and wives jointly view the porn and become mutually stimulated so that there is no secrecy between them?

    1. View internet pornography without engaging in any actual contact via E. Mail or Instant Messaging. In other words, they are passive viewers.

    2. Are not avoiding sex with their wives, despite the interest in porn and are not substituting porn for marital sex.

    3. Are willing to jointly view the material with their wives, if they are interested.

    4. Are not spending unlimited amounts of time on the computer in order to view porn. In other words, they are not addicted. Their viewing is "occasional."

    5. Are not wasting household money on internet porn.

    6. Are not viewing child porn or pedophile behavior or porn involving violence.

    However I find it hard to believe that the women who “rush to divorce over this issue” have husbands who fulfil your six criteria. If their husband’s behaviour did fulfil these criteria their wives probably wouldn’t be upset and reading this anyway.

    The women who are upset over this issue don’t write that their husbands have “occasionally” viewed porn. I would define “occasionally” as once a fortnight or less, however these women’s posts seem to indicate that their men are watching it compulsively and that their sex lives have suffered as a result.

    Indeed, if my husband had on occasion said “let’s watch an erotic film” I would have enjoyed it with him, but he didn't. I suspect most of these unhappy women would feel the same, depending, of course, on the content of the film.

    I have watched a couple of the films my husband had hidden away and I think more than a few women are going to have trouble feeling sexy while watching their men have big erections at the sight of several men ejaculating over the face of a girl young enough to be their daughter or grand daughter.

    The type of porn the men are looking at needs to be taken into account. There is a world of difference from watching pictures or films of two or more consenting adults (“normal” porn) and the material on some disgusting sites which are the products of sick minds. Expert opinion seems to be that once a man is hooked on “normal” porn he starts to crave ever more depraved pornography to get satisfaction, but this doesn’t seem to alter the advice to their partners, to watch it with him. Is it a good idea to take an alcoholic to a bar and share an alcoholic drink with him?

    4. Why not allow the issue of internet pornography to become a topic of open and frank discussion between spouses, much like other topics, such as money and vacations?

    Yes, it should be a topic of open and frank discussion, but it takes two to have a discussion. An open and frank discussion about it with their wife is the last thing these men want to have.

    Of course there are many happily married men and women who chat openly about their sexual needs and watch porn together (without becoming addicted) to spice up their sex lives, but they aren’t likely to be searching the internet looking for help, so I am not sure who the above points are aimed at.

    The women who are in a hurry to “rush to divorce” over this issue are doing so because they have been lied to repeatedly and have lost trust in their husbands. They don’t know what sort of porn, how much porn or for how long their husbands have been viewing it, and if they ask them they know that they won‘t be told the truth. They look back and realise that while they have been going innocently about their lives their husbands have been leading parallel lives. They feel deeply that the minute they are out of his sight their husbands will be visiting their secret harem of virtual mistresses.



  • Mary

    I apologise for my jumbled up post below, did I really submit it in such a mess?

  • Rhonda

    First off I will start with my experience as a child about the age of nine. And perhaps I may have blocked out somethings without wanting to I am not sure, due to all the dysfunction of my life and confusion of how this widely accepted behavior has affected my relationships with men as a young woman to an adult. I am now at 51 and have never had a problem attracting men. Infact, I am ashamed of my promiscious behavior because all i really ever wanted was to be TRULY LOVED. I guess I was looking for that stable father figure that wasnt there for me. And thought a guy had to have a magical feeling about me to want to have sex with me. How delluted !

    So, back to my early experience we moved from San Diego to Houston Texas. My mother met someone at the hospital where she had worked. Arriving in Houston we spent the night at her boyfriends apt. till she could find an apartment for us all. (lucky for me it was fast) Well, the very first night my mother left to work. I recall my two brothers looking at a Playboy that that man had in the living room on an end table. Went to sleep on recliner chair. I recall this man picking me up and carrying me to his bed and lying next to me starting to touch me on my privates I played dead, he tried to get me to fondle him with my hand but i still played dead. I was scared and didnt know whatelse to do. He gave up and took a shower I rolled up in the quilt and hide in between the crack of the bed against the wall and didnt move at all. My mom showed up not sure what time. Eighteen years I couldnt speak to anyone about that night. I guess i learned from his touch a curious excitement and curiosity in my genitals so i would masturbate alot, I was internally tortured confused and ashamed. I was still a virgin surprisingly, but ended up getting date raped (drugged). I didnt know the guys were using me I thought they were going to love me. I was so loved starved, I didnt know how to handle guys they all used me. I did have a few real so called relationships but they ended because they lied, or cheated or I pushed them away demanding truth, love and respect, I was needy, I wanted TRUE love. But I pushed some men away because I was so insecure and jealous I felt terriably unworthy. Even though I was pretty attractive. I still now and then recall a new memory of some guy I had slept with only to feel so disgusted with myself. MY self image was totally messed up. No matter how many men I attracted I still wasnt good enough. And I blame that all on that little girl in me that saw that magazine my brothers were gawking at to the perversion of that man trying to moleste me. It distorted my mind. It made me feel that all men were cheaters, liars (and that was torture enough!)By the way I am a very sexual woman, I only wanted one man. It didnt work out that way. Fifty one and divorced twice both x's had issues with addictions. I probably felt unworthy of a decent man and avoided intimacy and ended up with sick men who I guess I thought I could love them and be happy somehow. I am single now still attractive, started a new relationship with someone who seems normal, but found that his friends from work send him porn, jokes via cell phone, he is a truck driver and always on the road. He showed me the pictures and I instantly felt hurt. He said he doesnt seek it and that he cannot control the texts. We have been fighting off and on now over this for seventeen days because I am hoping and demanding he do something about it and he says its just a guy thing and he doesnt have a problem with it and its no big deal. I told him about my past and experience....he gets angry and says i am hurting him and that I am over reacting to him viewing occassional pics. I tried to explain it hurts me and makes me feel inadequate etc...but it still is a fight and struggle because I tell him he has a choice and if he continues the behavior then I am out the door (this hurt him deeply I do feel he really loves me and it terrifys me that I may be pushing my true love away by not accepting this just today he said he called his friend and told him not to call or text him anymore..(and I still have trust issues wondering it its true) this truly hurt him as well so now I fear that he will end up resenting me and resentment turns to bitterness and bitterness turns to hatefulness. How sad. But, I now have the strength in me to demand respect whether it turns out or not....will see...I might end up alone again. (PS. there is so much more to this then what I can type so its long but brieffed if you get that. ) I desire a healthy relationship with loyalty and respect and of course someone who is understanding>wonder if its out there for me.

  • Anonymous-5

    Rhonda, I'm so sorry that you had to go through all of that. I really wish you the best and hope you find a peaceful, healthy and happy relationship.

  • Anonymous-5

    I can't agree more with everyone's comments. I also just wanted to say that women are visual too, and very sexual as well. And yet, we do not do this out of respect for ourselves, for women and for our husbands or boyfriends. And I find in troublesome to hear, in one comment below, i think it was "passer by" when he said, we just like watching couples have sex. Porn is rarely couples. It's just the woman being completely objectified. Men are being fed sex and women everywhere they turn...on the Internet, in movies, on tv shows, i mean, the victoria secret runway show is on primetime hours. You can't watch a sports game without a raunchy Go Daddy commercial or a Victoria's secret ad. Not to mention places like Hooters and the coffee drive thrus where women wear lingerie or the grass cutting companies where women cut the grass wearing bikinis. It is just sickening and exhausting to see women as objects everywhere you look. Society is just feeding into it. And how many times in movies and shows has the message come across that men watching porn is no big deal as is casual's all almost an entitlement and a rite of passage. With all this stuff shoved down women's throats, why can't men see why we have esteem issues, eating disorders, inferiority complexes and all that. They would too if the tables were turned, but we have too much respect for people to do that.

  • Anonymous-5

    Dr. Schwartz,

    I do have a question for of the things that I struggle with about all of this is that, like you, I don't support porn at all and would give anything for it to go away, and because of that, i'm wondering if you have any ideas on how and if we really can make it disappear? I'm wondering if all women band together, clearly there are a lot of upset women, and if we demand that from our relationships, maybe men won't feel so entitled to it. Your suggestion in the article as devil's advocate to "join them" is upsetting because it seems that unless we take a stand and band together and be strong about it, pornography will only become more pervasive, more out of control and the hard core porn will become the soft core porn. I'm just thinking of revolutions or activism or movements within society...and how so many women are clearly so affected by this industry to the point where it even affects our relationships and daily functioning...and the thought of joining in completely wipes out any chance for change, although it does seem that the youngest generation of women are on getting on board with it all (like the Girls Gone Wild frenzy and girls making out with each other everywhere now). I think women are so angry because we can't control the situation and don't see a change and it's steamrolling us. And how can we really live if all we're doing is suppressing anger, depression, sadness, low esteem because of this?...won't we just get ourselves sick?

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    While women joining together to protest and stop pornography might be a good idea it would be almost impossible to have the desired impact on the pornography industry. The reason simple is that most of the people who use the Internet to publish the awful stuff are out of reach. I mean that they are not in the U.S and its not clear where they are. That's how they manage to say hidden. If they are revealed, they just move. I wish it could be eliminated.

    Rhonda, your experienced awful abuse from childhood onward. It is no surprise that you have trouble trusting men. Its important for you to remember that what happened to you was not your fault, that you were not to blame and that your anger should be directed at those who abused you.

  • Anonymous-5

    But I guess what I'm wondering is not so much about getting rid of it, because I think that you are right, that it would be almost impossible...although if you look at the AntiPornMenProject website, they do talk about installing more extreme filters on search engines to prevent material from even being accessible. But what I think I was really asking was about a smaller level revolution. Where if we demand it with conviction from our relationships?...Maybe men will start to realize that it just can't be negotiable for more women and maybe the use will decrease significantly. For example, I believe a lot of people would agree that they would not want or would not stay in a relationship where the spouse has an actual, physical affair. And that is clear in most relationships just as a standard, and when it happens, at least 90% of the time, the spouse who was cheated on ends the relationship. Maybe we're not making it clear to society that women are seeing porn or portrayals of women in society as cheating and we need to be more verbal and show more conviction on this topic by ending relationships or steering clear of men who do this....and if we stick to it and don't just join in because it's easier to avoid the conflict or to pass up a relationship, then maybe things can change. I guess what I'm saying is that it will at least make it more of a taboo, won't it?...Like when you know of someone who had an affair on their spouse, don't we all instantly think of this as an unjustifiable act?

  • Anonymous-6

    If you can't beat them join them? What type of advice is this? If a person is asking you to stop and you are both in a marriage (commitment) then where is the respect for the marriage? Why get married, why not just live together and not have a committed ONE ON ONE relationship? We are a country who was founded on change? Why are we accepting behavior that is making our country ill and not even fighting for change? There are more cases of child porn and trafficking now than ever before? If you porn is what they say it is it's need is grows stronger and the need for it increases...So we have a lack of respect not just a porn epidemic going on here....When did it become the norm to just take the lack of respect for marriage and hand it over to "just go with it" attitude? No your wrong and Marriage is commitment to one another not an open invitation to accept that type of behavior, if one partner is not comfortable with it then the other should respect that and explore other options?

  • Allan N. Schwartz

    Well, it's not that I'm wrong, as you will see by reading my other articles on pornography, I'm just "playing devil's advocate," meaning, this is not advice, just another point of view.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Meli

    I don't even know where to start. I was raised that it is the wife who needs to be sure her husband is happy and satisfied. And vise versa. I was also raised that porn is bad and it is cheating. Because its considered lusting. Let me add that I was married for 18 and the whole time my ex-husband was cheating on me. And for no reason.

    I do not have a problem watching it with my husband every now and then becasue yes it stirs up feelings. But I love the feeling he use to give without the porn more. I got more attention. Now he watches it every day before he goes to work while I am at work. It bothers me that its every single day.

    Try talking about it? No. Thats who he is. He has always been this way. And no he does not lust after them it just excites him.. Ok.. Well I use to do that.

    He doesn't talk to them or go to strip clubs or anything of that nature. But things are changing and I do not like it. I feel that I am second best. I have to be at work at 8 and he has to be at work by 12. So they get him before I do. Its gotten so bad that he will fall asleep early so that while I am asleep he can be alone with his girls. We use sex toys and lotions as well. Which I have no problem with. He has a problem with one of these toys so I do not use it ever. But he can use the enternet for his pleasure? Anyway I know he has a huge sex drive. But so do I and I do not resort to watching porn to get my kicks. I feel that he is more than enough for me. I know men need visual and women need the touchy feely. So I do both for him. I just do not understand why it has to be every day. Why do I need to except what is left over. Am I wrong?

  • J.Jannarone

    seriously, are you happy now? how can you seriously posit that women should put up with this? Just because technology has come up with a way for men to be sexually unfaithful to girlfriends and wives you think that women should just "join "em"?

    Have you read anything that's been posted? this is destroying male sexuality and every decent women who comes in contact with it. Please, stand up and do something about it, anything, other than "join 'em"...

  • Allan N. Schwartz, Phd

    In this article I am not positing anything. The purpose of this post is to raise questions for both men and women.

    Dr. Schwartz