Loving with porn

It is so easy to subscribe to black and white thinking.  To say that X is universally bad or Y is universally good.  To say that it is always immoral to masturbate or to have sex with a person who is not your spouse.  But such thinking is so often erroneous.  It dismisses entirely the complexity of the issue at hand.

The statement "porn kills love" is one such example of black and white thinking.  Certainly, the reasons why someone would conclude such a thing and why so many people think things along these lines of "porn is always bad" and "porn only destroys relationships" are apparent to me--at least many of the reasons are.  There are many cases where relationships go sour because one or both parties looks at porn and either that itself damages the relationship or the fact that the partner finds out about it and becomes angry damages the relationship.

However, I feel that there is so much more to the picture than simply whether one looks at porn or not.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that if porn is the only thing which is damaging your relationship, then your relationship was probably not strong enough to last in the first place.

I think one reason why it's so hard to have a rational discussion on the matter is that people on one side will say that porn is always bad and people on the other side will say that porn is never harmful in any way.  I think it's important to admit that there's much more going on than simply whether porn itself is good or bad.

Viewing pornography affects one's psyche quite strongly.  In particular, it releases the chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and serotonin into the brain.  Dopamine is a reward chemical.  Your body literally rewards you for doing something that it wants to do.  Serotonin is a happiness chemical.  It contributes to the feeling of general well-being.  Norepinephrine, an important chemical in the fight-or-flight response in stressful situations, is a focusing chemical.  It helps the brain to tunnel vision and ignore anything but the thing at hand.  In this case, it causes one to focus on the impending sexual experience and ignore any obstacles such as loved ones who may be hurt by actions about to be taken.  Oxytocin is a chemical which creates a bond between persons.  A parent and a child both have a release of oxytocin when the parent holds the child.  During sexual experiences, parties involved in the experience also have a surge of oxytocin, emotionally binding the parties together.  When this is a person viewing pornography, the person may develop an emotional connection to the subject(s) of the porn being viewed.

These are are very complicated things that have many implications.  For example, when a man views (or is about to view) pornography, he may channel his thoughts toward the porn and therefore shut out his wife or other family members.  When he is viewing the porn, he may feel a bond forming with the women in the video, and this may cause the bond with his wife to weaken or to appear weak in comparison.  One must not underestimate the power of chemicals in the brain.  These are very real responses.

However, from my own observations (now I'm not claiming scientific knowledge--while there may be studies in this field, I have not researched them) I have noticed that much of the problem caused by porn is peripheral to the porn itself.  To aid in ease of discussion, I will proceed with the scenario of a man viewing porn and his wife not viewing it.  I acknowledge that many other scenarios exist.  Often the man will hide the fact that he is viewing porn from his wife.  This is a problem in itself.  Anytime a person keeps secrets from eir spouse, ey is inviting trouble into eir relationship.  Especially when it is a secret of this magnitude.  When it is kept secret, there are also often feelings of guilt and shame.  These feelings are harmful for many reasons.  First, the man may actually develop an addiction because of the shame and guilt.  Viewing the porn makes him feel better, so he continues to view it to relieve the negative feelings of guilt and shame.  Also, he may feel inadequate as a lover.  This creates tension in the relationship.  He feels that he cannot measure up to what his wife needs.

If the wife knows of the porn viewing, this may also cause several problems.  If the woman discovers that the man is viewing porn, rather than the man coming forward with his habit, she may become angry.  She may feel betrayed that he has done this to her.  Even when the man is honest and admits he is viewing it, there may still be several problems.  The woman may feel inadequate.  She may feel that she is not pretty enough for her husband.  She may feel that he is unfaithful to her.  She may feel that she has done something wrong or that she is somehow not meeting his needs.  This can also cause much tension in the relationship.

But I believe that the real cause of these symptoms is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a faithful spouse.  When two people enter into a relationship, they should be honest.  They should be honest with themselves and with each other.  Neither one of them will instantly stop having sexual feelings for all other people simply because they are now in a relationship.  That's just not how humans are hardwired.  We are wired to be attracted to lots of people.  There are certain body types that we each find sexually appealing.  Arousal can and will happen.  But this should not be viewed as a threat to a relationship.

Conrad and I are very honest about our feelings for other men.  When we look at celebrities on the Internet, we are both comfortable with admitting which ones we think are attractive.  But not just celebrities.  When I meet a new friend that I find attractive, I tell Conrad.  And he shares his feelings with me too.  I love him and he loves me and we both know that being attracted to someone else is irrelevant to our love for each other.  I can admit that I get excited when I see certain people or certain body types and still feel and honestly profess a profound love for my companion.

We both look at porn online.  Full nudity.  Sexual acts.  We watch it.  We look at still images of it.  We like it.  Sometimes we look at it together and sometimes we look separately.  It can be a bonding experience when we view it together.  But even when we do it separately, we do not let it become an obstacle in our relationship.  How you react to a stimulus and how you interpret a situation has a far greater effect on you than the stimulus or the situation itself.

People who commit sex crimes may have started by looking at porn.  But for them, it may have well been the case that they obsessed about having sex with a certain person.  Perhaps a boy would fantasize about a girl he knew at school, and whenever he would look at porn or fantasize he'd think about her.  Then one day he finds himself raping her.  A man may view kiddie porn and obsess about sex with children.  And this may be a catalyst in him going out and actually molesting a child.  People who rape or molest children may have any number of psychological problems.  It may be something just as simple as not being able to control their sexual urges and their fantasizing and porn viewing was the main contributor to their misbehavior.  Or maybe not.  I really couldn't say.  But I do know that it is quite possible to be well-adjusted in society and also look at pornography.

There are many people in my life whom I think are attractive, and whom I may even think about sexually.  However, I do not make advances to them.  I do not even inform them of my feelings.  I am content with being intimate only with my husband.  I feel that I am quite successful at channeling all of my sexual feelings in a healthy way through viewing pornography, masturbating, and engaging in sexual activity with Conrad only.  I do not obsess about sex with other people.  I do not contemplate illegal sexual activity.  I do not think about forcing myself upon another person.  If you do have these thoughts, urges, and compulsions, I recommend that you visit a therapist.  And I don't mean that to be shameful or insulting.  I mean that to be helpful.  Talk to someone about it before these thoughts and compulsions become actions.  I think that in many cases, a sexual offense can be prevented before it ever happens by providing a healthy outlet for all of the pent-up emotions that often catalyze such actions.

Porn is like fire.  It is very powerful and can be very harmful.  But it can also provide warmth and energy.  It can be used for good.  It can be a healthy outlet for sexual energy.

But, back to my main point.  I do not believe that porn kills love.  I think that is a far too simplistic view of the matter.  I love Conrad very much.  And he loves me.  We both view porn.  Our love is not dead. In fact, I love him more than I have ever loved anyone in my life.  I would protect him with my life.  I would do anything he required.  I would stay with him no matter what.  And I know that he feels the same way about me.