The Doc really screwed the pooch on today's advice about the boyfriend lying about watching porn [rant/disc]

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Post by eselle28 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 9:12 pm

The Wisp wrote:
Wondering wrote:
2) The sex shaming masquerading as sex positivity in the article and some of the comments which laugh at, eye roll, condemn, or scoff at the LW for not being okay with porn. She doesn't like it. She needs to find someone she's compatible with, which this boyfriend isn't. But the whiff of superiority-looking-down-on-her for not being okay with porn really rubs me the wrong way.

Would you consider it sex-shaming if people criticized a guy wasn't okay with his partner owning or using a vibrator?

I think I would. I hadn't thought of this behavior in terms of "shaming" before, but I think that's what it is. Whatever reason this man has for not wanting to use a vibrator, whether it's insecurity about his ability to please his partner, a stricter than normal preference for monogamy, or a domination/submission game, that is part of his sexuality. He has the same obligation to be thoughtful and ethical about it as anyone else, but laughing a him seems like at lousy thing to do.
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Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Feb 27, 2015 9:20 pm

Caffeinated, Prajna, thanks for replies. I probably will make a thread about this in the future, and I know more about how to structure it now.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:08 pm

Re: difficulty of finding a person who will give up masturbation/porn or won't do it in the first place...

Well, I know a guy. Wink
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Post by reboot on Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:25 pm

I think I came down hard on this one because of the controlling dynamic of my marriage. I just buck at people throwing down ultimatums on harmless pleasures because it happen to me so often. I used to lie about it too when the yelling, guilting and threats started. I even once said (after being caught lying) that I did not think it* was a big deal. This letter hit all my buttons.

* It being watching the "brain rotting tripe" known as TV. He busted me when a friend mentioned us watching at her place
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Post by kath on Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:04 am

I think Wondering meant the comments on the blog, not the comments here (but Wondering, please correct me if I'm wrong).

One thing I've found interesting in this thread is that it's underlined how many different things might be going on or might be at the root of some of the behavior, preferences and reactions in these sorts of situations.
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Post by reboundstudent on Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:09 am

The Wisp wrote:
Would you consider it sex-shaming if people criticized a guy wasn't okay with his partner owning or using a vibrator?

I'm not quite sure about sex-shaming aspect, but the use of vibrator and abstaining from it has popped up in a few conversations with partners for me. I have a somewhat mild case of anorgasmia, even by myself. Partners have asked at times that I forego self-help sessions so there's a better chance of me being able to finish with them. Sometimes it's practical, sometimes it is just insecurity or inferiority. But it's still something that can be talked about and, if both parties are open to it, compromised around. If a partner comes to me with a request that's based in insecurity, I have a choice to either disregard it and tell him it's his own deal, or see if there's something I could do to help within reasonable bounds.

I think what I responded to in the comments was what seemed like very black-and-white thinking: porn is sacred, and any behavior based in insecurity is unilaterally bad. That strikes a nerve with me, as past partners did things that triggered insecurities in me, and then used those insecurities to manipulate me. For example, being told by my partner that his ex is superior to me (he didn't say it that bluntly, sadly; it was a lot more subtle and sneaky), and then when I felt insecure or inferior, having my insecurity used as the reason she was superior to me.

Guys watching porn does seem to just be part of the standard relationship package, but I don't think that means we should treat it as sacrosanct, or something that should be totally off-topic between partners.
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:22 am

reboundstudent wrote:
I'm not quite sure about sex-shaming aspect, but the use of vibrator and abstaining from it has popped up in a few conversations with partners for me. I have a somewhat mild case of anorgasmia, even by myself. Partners have asked at times that I forego self-help sessions so there's a better chance of me being able to finish with them. Sometimes it's practical, sometimes it is just insecurity or inferiority. But it's still something that can be talked about and, if both parties are open to it, compromised around. If a partner comes to me with a request that's based in insecurity, I have a choice to either disregard it and tell him it's his own deal, or see if there's something I could do to help within reasonable bounds.

I think what I responded to in the comments was what seemed like very black-and-white thinking: porn is sacred, and any behavior based in insecurity is unilaterally bad. That strikes a nerve with me, as past partners did things that triggered insecurities in me, and then used those insecurities to manipulate me. For example, being told by my partner that his ex is superior to me (he didn't say it that bluntly, sadly; it was a lot more subtle and sneaky), and then when I felt insecure or inferior, having my insecurity used as the reason she was superior to me.

Guys watching porn does seem to just be part of the standard relationship package, but I don't think that means we should treat it as sacrosanct, or something that should be totally off-topic between partners.  

That's very interesting. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

I think I agree that making insecurity-based requests can be valid, and ignoring those requests can be manipulative. But seems like a fine line to walk at times, and the person making insecurity-based requests can be toxic and manipulative as well in some circumstances, too.
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Post by Wondering on Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:31 am

I meant the comments on the blog. But if anyone is looking down on the LW for not being okay with porn (as opposed to how she may have dealt with those feelings in her relationship, which is intertwined but not the same), I would ask you to examine why you're looking down on her.

And yes, I would consider it shaming to do the same to a guy who said he didn't want his female partner using a vibrator. I think he's going to have a hard time finding that, but that's what he wants and he shouldn't be shamed for it, as long as he's being ethical about it in the ways eselle discussed.

There are ways to tell people that they are outside the norms in their expectations without shaming.

This line from the article really got my back up:
Now everyone’s got their right to have their opinions and feelings about porn – you’re well within your rights to dislike it and prefer to date men who (allegedly) don’t watch porn.

DNL is saying, then, that any guy who says he doesn't watch porn is lying. And that's pretty insulting and presumptuous. It's also shaming of people who expect to be able to believe a partner who says he doesn't. He's basically calling the LW a gullible idiot. On top of not-quite calling her a prude.

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Post by InkAndComb on Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:10 am

Wondering wrote:I meant the comments on the blog. But if anyone is looking down on the LW for not being okay with porn (as opposed to how she may have dealt with those feelings in her relationship, which is intertwined but not the same), I would ask you to examine why you're looking down on her.

And yes, I would consider it shaming to do the same to a guy who said he didn't want his female partner using a vibrator. I think he's going to have a hard time finding that, but that's what he wants and he shouldn't be shamed for it, as long as he's being ethical about it in the ways eselle discussed.

There are ways to tell people that they are outside the norms in their expectations without shaming.

This line from the article really got my back up:
Now everyone’s got their right to have their opinions and feelings about porn – you’re well within your rights to dislike it and prefer to date men who (allegedly) don’t watch porn.

DNL is saying, then, that any guy who says he doesn't watch porn is lying. And that's pretty insulting and presumptuous. It's also shaming of people who expect to be able to believe a partner who says he doesn't. He's basically calling the LW a gullible idiot. On top of not-quite calling her a prude.

I agree.  This is what pushed me to get irritated with his advice in this instance; I reread it and read the comments here, and I feel like the posters in this forum topic have been kinder to the LW in exploring her motives than the doc himself, and that makes me sad because I don't honestly think she came off as controlling or demanding or super prudish.  I read a partner who feels like they aren't doing enough, feels their trust has been betrayed, feels that their needs are being treated as petty and unrealistic, and sought out advice on how to deal with betrayal of trust and conflicting viewpoints on when/where it's ok to look at naked people (with the knowledge that they are not ok with images of naked people, watching others having sex, etc).  

On another note, the toy issue bothers me because in pornography (that is not illustrated/animated) you are watching real people.  A toy is an object; a person is not.  Literotica is the same; no real people are involved so I can see why the LW might approach this differently (if they do, it isn't clear from the letter IMO).

Also, wish Doc would have suggested this: porn made for the female gaze, and with women involved enjoying the process! Maybe what she's seen so far just isn't MADE for her; maybe that's why it's uncomfortable.  That would explain the whole "I'm open to doing things, why isn't that enough?" because many porn actresses engage in behavior during sex that isn't necessarily for their enjoyment/looks good on camera, hard in real life (no pun intended). It would also explain her "Iv'e seen some, not my cup of tea" (though maybe I'm being optimistic? she could just not like porn).  With the way he unpacked the letter, I kind of expected this to come up and for him to point her towards "explore your own sexuality/reasons behind finding it uncomfortable, if the source is that it's not catered towards you, switch up the playlist! Do you know of James Deen/ Oh Joy Sex Toy/insertrisingfemalepornproducer here".  Perhaps that wouldn't be so work safe though...
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:17 am

InkAndComb wrote:
On another note, the toy issue bothers me because in pornography (that is not illustrated/animated) you are watching real people.  A toy is an object; a person is not.  Literotica is the same; no real people are involved so I can see why the LW might approach this differently (if they do, it isn't clear from the letter IMO).

I don't actually think there is a huge difference between porn and literotica. The people in porn may be real, but you have no actual relationship with them and nor are they interacting with you. In that sense I don't see much difference between them and fictional characters (now, if you watch cam models and choose to interact with them, then that difference is more valid).

I think all three are analogous because the insecurity they provoke is "am I not good enough"? Porn it's with one's body, toys with one's performance in bed, and literotica with how exciting and interesting you make sex.
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Post by InkAndComb on Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:26 am

The Wisp wrote:
InkAndComb wrote:
On another note, the toy issue bothers me because in pornography (that is not illustrated/animated) you are watching real people.  A toy is an object; a person is not.  Literotica is the same; no real people are involved so I can see why the LW might approach this differently (if they do, it isn't clear from the letter IMO).

I don't actually think there is a huge difference between porn and literotica. The people in porn may be real, but you have no actual relationship with them and nor are they interacting with you. In that sense I don't see much difference between them and fictional characters (now, if you watch cam models and choose to interact with them, then that difference is more valid).

I think all three are analogous because the insecurity they provoke is "am I not good enough"? Porn it's with one's body, toys with one's performance in bed, and literotica with how exciting and interesting you make sex.

Hm, see for me it's more like "Would you be ok with me watching a couple having sex in person?" and I feel like it's more accepted that this is not a cut and dry "of course! You're not involved, so it's all good.".  And I feel like there are clear feelings on this, even if you were behind glass, this would be more...unusual, right? Not as conventionally accepted? Why is seeing it on a screen any different?  If you dont want your partner looking at actual, live bodies of other people naked and having sex, why does this context matter? They don't want you watching others having sex, regardless of your involvement.  
What about if he has a favorite porn star? Like, he seeks this actress out for her videos; does that change the situation?

These questions are honest questions for the record, I am not trying to sound incendiary or brusque, so my apologies if it comes across that way. I'm comfortable with porn use and others using it, but for me part of the excitement/appeal is that it's other people, so I suppose I have a hard time separating the personal aspect.  I wonder if this is a personal difference? Hrm.

Edit: Rephrasing, clarification.


Last edited by InkAndComb on Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:48 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Poor phrasing and additional query)
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Post by helbling on Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:37 am

**DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON - HERE LIES HELBLING TAKING THIS SHIT WAY TOO PERSONALLY BASED ON HER OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES: READ AT OWN RISK.**

I disagree with the fact that the lying was the big problem - I appreciate it's a YMMV issue, but for me, having seen so goddamn many abusive and controlling relationships with friends, and myself! over the years, my thoughts on this are that if the ultimatum given to you is that you accept controlling or abusive behaviours towards you, you get a free pass to say whatever the hell you need to keep the peace, and can later throw whatever promise you made out of the window. Be that 'hey, I need to be the only person you have sex with, even in your own head' or 'hey, I ought to be the only one you ever emotionally connect with on a significant level, so no close friends for you'.

(And this was, make no mistake, a controlling behaviour. If the LW decides that that level of control is what she needs in a partner, she needs to come to terms with that, but it doesn't remove what it is. No, it doesn't bode well for the future of the relationship, but if this is such a deal breaker, why is the LW still in the relationship? If he'd hit another deal breaker like say, actually cheating, she'd have been out of the door, so why not on this? Because it's control, and so often with control, the threat of leaving is actually a lot more scary and lot more effective than actually just breaking it off. Here endeth this particular I SEE RED FLAGS rant.)

I suspect this is because I believe someone's sexual identity and autonomy are real and important things and, like your normal identity and autonomy, they can be altered when you get into a relationship, because all relationships do require a certain level of compromise, but if someone asks that they be subsumed entirely, this is NOT a normal request, it should NOT be presented as the default option, and if it's something they pressure you on or you are even slightly hesitant about? RUN, RUN LIKE THE WIND.

(It should be pointed out, sexual control is where I've seen a lot of abusers start to show their true colours; the shame card is really, really easily played with sex, and it's very easy to use it to back someone into a corner and make them do the things you want to do. Anyone who tries this with you should be beaten with a baked good and sent on their way.)

Sex has always been, in our society, treated as a dirty shameful (and oddly optional!) activity that, under ideal circumstances, should be kept to the bedroom with one's spouse only. We have, thankfully, slowly been breaking that down so now there is a little bit more of a back lash of 'no, sex is fine and healthy and fun and we should talk more about it and be more open about it so we don't all end up thinking of it as this awful perverted thing'. Men - because of the power they have in society - have been faster out of the gates on this (porn and the male gaze being a good example) but women are beginning to make headway (vibrators, and there is starting to be stuff designed for the female gaze, erotica, etc). I personally have a massive, massive kneejerk BAD reaction to anything that feeds that 'sex and sexuality are dirty and to be hidden' mindset. Which this is.

Mainly because the LW seems not to have put more thought into it than 'ew, it's porn!' If she'd said 'I have a real issue with the inherent misogyny present in most porn and it would make me extremely uncomfortable if you partake, please don't' that would be at least a little understandable. (Still doesn't mean you should just automatically agree mind - people's kinks are their kinks and they can't really do much to change them, so I'm of the mindset that when it comes to certain aspects of sexuality, you should have a take-it-or-leave-it mentality, not a 'oh, but I can change them!' one, because the latter is damaging and not good. But at least a conversation could be had about responsible producers and damaging mindsets, etc.) But instead it's just 'ew, porn!' And yes, 'ew, a vibrator!' would be a very similar one from a guy.

And those ew statements generally translate to 'ew, you've dared have an orgasm I wasn't a part of!' (For the vibrator one, depending on how a woman is wired, it might be 'ew, you've dared have an orgasm POINT BLANK'.) Which isn't default monogamy - it is a very extreme version of monogamy, and I am thoroughly, thoroughly against treating it like it's a normal thing that should just be taken in one's stride, for the same reason - on a slightly larger scale - I have issues with Christian Grey in 50SoG presenting the near-virginal Ana with a submissive's contract. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL THING. THIS IS NOT A THING YOU SHOULD GO INTO WITHOUT HEAVILY THINKING IT THROUGH AND GETTING MORE EXPERIENCE. THIS IS NOT A THING YOU SHOULD EXPECT FROM YOUR PARTNERS AS DEFAULT WITHOUT PUTTING UP GREAT BIG FLAGS AROUND YOUR RELATIONSHIP SO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GETTING INTO. I don't think it's 'shaming' to point out that what the LW is asking for is actually really unusual, and yes, there are men out there that might be into it, but she's going to have to go looking for them, rather than expecting the bog standard dude she met in a bar to just be up for it, and then acting like he's the one who's wrong and flawed if he isn't.

Would it have been better if he'd been upfront about it and just said 'actually, that porn* restriction? Not for me, thanks very much'? Yes, it would have. But there's so much going on with this, and they both sound so young, that in the same way I wouldn't blame a young woman who had agreed to cut off all her friends for her new partner because they made him 'uncomfortable' and only realised she didn't like it and started meeting with them again later without telling him, I'm not actually going to get all down on this dude. Honesty is the best policy, yes, but given the alternatives, it might have seemed the worse of two evils.
* - why do I get the feeling she'd also be horrified if he masturbated if she was free? I haven't gone digging through all the comments on the main site - has this been addressed?

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Post by reboundstudent on Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:45 am

helbling wrote: (And this was, make no mistake, a controlling behaviour. If the LW decides that that level of control is what she needs in a partner, she needs to come to terms with that, but it doesn't remove what it is. No, it doesn't bode well for the future of the relationship, but if this is such a deal breaker, why is the LW still in the relationship? If he'd hit another deal breaker like say, actually cheating, she'd have been out of the door, so why not on this? Because it's control, and so often with control, the threat of leaving is actually a lot more scary and lot more effective than actually just breaking it off. Here endeth this particular I SEE RED FLAGS rant.)

Ehhh please be careful with this. Cheating has and is a deal-breaker for me, and yet I've stayed in a cheating relationship. Why? It's... complicated. There have been other deal breakers that I've hit in relationships and still stayed. Sometimes because it took a while for the behavior to sink in. Sometimes it's because the guilt and shame overrode my own needs. Sometimes I just plain ignored my own feelings, or even surmounted them through therapy and was able to just sort of accept the cheating in the past (but would leave if it happened again.) Saying something is a deal-breaker and then not being immediately out the door, especially in an established relationship where you live together, can be a very wooly issue.

helbling wrote:
I suspect this is because I believe someone's sexual identity and autonomy are real and important things and, like your normal identity and autonomy, they can be altered when you get into a relationship, because all relationships do require a certain level of compromise, but if someone asks that they be subsumed entirely, this is NOT a normal request, it should NOT be presented as the default option, and if it's something they pressure you on or you are even slightly hesitant about? RUN, RUN LIKE THE WIND.

So something I noticed on Dr. NL Prime and here that I find interesting is that some folks seem to be assuming that "no porn" means no masturbation at all, when that isn't specified in the letter. I don't think it's a terrible far leap, but as someone who still struggles with "the porn thing," it's not a leap that's automatic in my head. I come at the issue very similar to InkAndComb.... there's a very distinct different for me between a naked fantasy contained all in the head, and a naked person right in front of you. Porn hits a nerve for me that flat-pout masturbation doesn't. Interestingly, literature in erotic form also doesn't trip off my porn-insecurity alarm. There is just something about the fact that it's an actual naked person.

The suggestion that giving up porn means demanding a complete abandonment of autonomy is very interesting to me, then, because I really struggle to understand why the very specific subset of erotic material known as porn (as opposed to just plain ol' fantasizing without a provided visual, or erotic literature, or some other form) seems to be so tightly wound together with sexuality. It's like you can't have one without the other.

helbling wrote:
Sex has always been, in our society, treated as a dirty shameful (and oddly optional!) activity that, under ideal circumstances, should be kept to the bedroom with one's spouse only. We have, thankfully, slowly been breaking that down so now there is a little bit more of a back lash of 'no, sex is fine and healthy and fun and we should talk more about it and be more open about it so we don't all end up thinking of it as this awful perverted thing'. Men - because of the power they have in society - have been faster out of the gates on this (porn and the male gaze being a good example) but women are beginning to make headway (vibrators, and there is starting to be stuff designed for the female gaze, erotica, etc). I personally have a massive, massive kneejerk BAD reaction to anything that feeds that 'sex and sexuality are dirty and to be hidden' mindset. Which this is.

Kind of connecting on my thought above and this, I'm curious about your perspective. For me, the letter came across much more like "Porn makes me feel inadequate and unloved and insecure", and much, much less "sex is dirty and must be hidden", especially as the LW noted that she tries very hard to fulfill her partner's needs. Do you read much of a distinction between the two? If a person finds some aspect of sexuality degrading or intimidating or unnerved, does that also come across as "sex is dirty" from your perspective?

helbling wrote:
And those ew statements generally translate to 'ew, you've dared have an orgasm I wasn't a part of!' (For the vibrator one, depending on how a woman is wired, it might be 'ew, you've dared have an orgasm POINT BLANK'.) Which isn't default monogamy - it is a very extreme version of monogamy, and I am thoroughly, thoroughly against treating it like it's a normal thing that should just be taken in one's stride

I mentioned in my previous post that partners have asked me to temporarily give up the vibrator not because "ew I had an orgasm without them", but more me having an orgasm by myself usually meant I couldn't have an orgasm with them. They wanted to share in a specific experience with me, and couldn't. Sort of tying into my question above; would your reaction be different if the LW said she's a-okay with her partner masturbating but doesn't want him to use visuals of naked women?
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Post by reboot on Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:19 pm

To me, saying masturbation is OK, but find a different fantasy source is a potential compromise. Of course it means that the naked women (or other gender or species) will be in his head or in text, not gone, but if porn is the problem, not masturbation, it might be workable
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Post by Caffeinated on Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:31 pm

reboot wrote:I think I came down hard on this one because of the controlling dynamic of my marriage. I just buck at people throwing down ultimatums on harmless pleasures because it happen to me so often. I used to lie about it too when the yelling, guilting and threats started. I even once said (after being caught lying) that I did not think it* was a big deal. This letter hit all my buttons.

* It being watching the "brain rotting tripe" known as TV. He busted me when a friend mentioned us watching at her place

helbling wrote:**DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON - HERE LIES HELBLING TAKING THIS SHIT WAY TOO PERSONALLY BASED ON HER OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES: READ AT OWN RISK.**

I disagree with the fact that the lying was the big problem - I appreciate it's a YMMV issue, but for me, having seen so goddamn many abusive and controlling relationships with friends, and myself! over the years, my thoughts on this are that if the ultimatum given to you is that you accept controlling or abusive behaviours towards you, you get a free pass to say whatever the hell you need to keep the peace, and can later throw whatever promise you made out of the window. Be that 'hey, I need to be the only person you have sex with, even in your own head' or 'hey, I ought to be the only one you ever emotionally connect with on a significant level, so no close friends for you'.

I think I may have screwed the pooch a little in my rant. It didn't even occur to me to consider the letter in light of controlling and abusive relationships. I have no personal experience in that kind of relationship and very little in terms of close secondhand experience. I was reading it entirely in the light of a relationship between two people who were equals within the relationship but one of them was being honest about their wants and needs, and one of them was being dishonest. But read as part of a pattern of controlling behavior puts it in a very different light.
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Post by helbling on Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:59 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Ehhh please be careful with this. Cheating has and is a deal-breaker for me, and yet I've stayed in a cheating relationship. Why? It's... complicated. There have been other deal breakers that I've hit in relationships and still stayed. Sometimes because it took a while for the behavior to sink in. Sometimes it's because the guilt and shame overrode my own needs. Sometimes I just plain ignored my own feelings, or even surmounted them through therapy and was able to just sort of accept the cheating in the past (but would leave if it happened again.) Saying something is a deal-breaker and then not being immediately out the door, especially in an established relationship where you live together, can be a very wooly issue.

This is true, and I will admit I've got a harder line on this than a lot of people because of past history, and a tendency to call it out when I see it. 'Is it really a dealbreaker? Yes, then you should be gone, no and we should have had space to discuss and negotiate about this, instead you're straddling the two and using it as a stick to beat me with, fuck you, I'm gone' tends to now be my default reaction. I appreciate if there have been no other warning or worrying behaviours, staying and trying to talk things out or work out reasoning is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but I get very wary of the 'this thing about you is so awful I can't possibly put up with it! I'm staying anyway, but it's so awful!' roundabout.

Reboundstudent wrote:So something I noticed on Dr. NL Prime and here that I find interesting is that some folks seem to be assuming that "no porn" means no masturbation at all, when that isn't specified in the letter. I don't think it's a terrible far leap, but as someone who still struggles with "the porn thing," it's not a leap that's automatic in my head. [ ... ]The suggestion that giving up porn means demanding a complete abandonment of autonomy is very interesting to me, then, because I really struggle to understand why the very specific subset of erotic material known as porn (as opposed to just plain ol' fantasizing without a provided visual, or erotic literature, or some other form) seems to be so tightly wound together with sexuality. It's like you can't have one without the other.

This I think, is a gendered thing. There is a significant chance, I hypothesize, that you don't get threatened by written erotica but do by visual based stuff because you're a woman, and not a man. Men tend to be more visual[1] whereas women are more internal, so you understand (because you do it) why erotica and mental fantasizing about someone not your partner isn't threatening to your relationship because it's something that's inbuilt. But you don't automatically treat visual stimuli in the same way, so to your brain, the only reason you'd indulge in such a thing would be as a rival to your partner, rather than as a harmless part of your sexual life.

To empathise, I'd say try imagining that a partner had asked you not to fantasize about anyone not him[2] anymore. Not to read romance books, erotica, slash fanfiction, not to wonder about your favorite movie star or celebrity crush, nothing. The space in your head now belongs to him. BUT you are free to watch all the porn you want - you can get as aroused by, and masturbate to it all you like. But you can't think about the actors afterwards, you can't imagine personality traits for them, or build scenes in your head that weren't featured on the porn itself. That is pretty much the female equivalent for 'no porn' for the majority of men[3].

Reboundstudent wrote:
Kind of connecting on my thought above and this, I'm curious about your perspective. For me, the letter came across much more like "Porn makes me feel inadequate and unloved and insecure", and much, much less "sex is dirty and must be hidden", especially as the LW noted that she tries very hard to fulfill her partner's needs. Do you read much of a distinction between the two? If a person finds some aspect of sexuality degrading or intimidating or unnerved, does that also come across as "sex is dirty" from your perspective?

Ok, two different questions in this paragraph, let's break them down:
1)For me, the letter came across much more like "Porn makes me feel inadequate and unloved and insecure", and much, much less "sex is dirty and must be hidden", especially as the LW noted that she tries very hard to fulfill her partner's needs. Do you read much of a distinction between the two?

No, to be blunt. Controlling behaviour always looks reasonable to the one doing the controlling or they wouldn't do it, but that doesn't make it less bad. If something is making you insecure, that is your thing to deal with, and while it's lovely if your partner is willing to help you through it, presenting it as an ultimatum is a big, huge no. Back when husband and I were monogamous, he had a female friend that was very handsy with him, and it used to make me insecure. So, I went to him and asked him if he could lay off the shows of physical affection when I was around while I worked through things, because it was upsetting me. The big important things about that:
- I ASKED. It was not a demand. He would have been perfectly within his rights to say 'no'.
- It was a temporary arrangement - note where I said 'work through it'? It was MY issue, MY upset, and MY job to fix it. I wasn't asking him to give up hugs from his friend forever.

In the end, I did fix it and move past, but if I hadn't been able to, there should have come a point where I would have gone to him and told him that this quirk looked like something I was going to be stuck with, could he cope with that? At which point, he may very well have said no, because that friendship was important to him, and that friend primarily expresses affection through physical touch. But note the difference - the LW presented this to her partner as a wholesale ban with no room to negotiate or talk about it and the assumption he ought to say yes or there was something wrong with him. I would have presented it with the acknowledgement that was my issue, and that would have meant a relationship with me would have come with certain restrictions, but I would by no means have assumed he would be ok with shrinking down his life to fit my needs, and I would have been willing to discuss and compromise on it - for instance, one such compromise would have been if he'd asked if she could hug him when I wasn't around and I wouldn't see.

2) If a person finds some aspect of sexuality degrading or intimidating or unnerved, does that also come across as "sex is dirty" from your perspective?

Absolutely not! Note there is a difference between 'this is not ok for me' and 'this is not ok for anyone'. The distinction I got off the letter was distinctly the latter - the LW might well get insecure about porn, but the implication I got was that she believed that was a perfectly normal reaction to have around porn, and she was not unusual in this regard. There are also discussions to be had around how society treats certain sexual acts and sections of the population (I am very much not a huge fan of how much humiliation seems to be a feature of porn that features women, for instance), but you can discuss societal tendencies as much as you want, it won't cause an individual's kinks or predilections to change. Which is why this ought to be a conversation, so you can have exchanges like:
"I get really uncomfortable with the level of degradation that is in the majority of porn and the idea of you watching it; could you stay away from that sort of thing?"
For which the answer could be either:
"Yeah, it doesn't bother me, I'll seek out stuff that doesn't feature it."
Or
"Actually, that really gets me off. I know you don't like it, so we don't do it during sex, but how about we compromise by I watch it when you aren't around/I only watch it once in a while/I don't watch it on shared machines."

Wholesale 'no porn for you!' says to me that either she's not bothered to unpack where this feeling comes from and just expects her partner to cater to it regardless, or she hasn't educated herself on different types of porn and doesn't realise how much is out there. Even if she hates the idea of watching people who have been paid for sex, there are plenty of amateur sites out there that feature loving couples.

Reboundstudent wrote:
I mentioned in my previous post that partners have asked me to temporarily give up the vibrator not because "ew I had an orgasm without them", but more me having an orgasm by myself usually meant I couldn't have an orgasm with them. They wanted to share in a specific experience with me, and couldn't. Sort of tying into my question above; would your reaction be different if the LW said she's a-okay with her partner masturbating but doesn't want him to use visuals of naked women?

I think I've mostly answered this above, but to summarise, I don't think the two situations are analogous. For starters, your lack of vibe use was temporary, and for the purpose of retraining your body to climax from different stimulation. I'm willing to bet had it not worked, the vibe would have returned with a vengence, and you'd likely have looked into ways to incorporate its use into your sex life.

Footnotes:
[1]: There have been studies showing this. There is not, as far as I'm aware, a single root cause that has been identified and whether it's a biological thing or a socialised thing is still unknown. It all gets a bit chicken and egg with whether men are more visual because there's more for them to look at that they'll find appealing, or if there's more men find appealing to look at because they're more visual. Take your pick.
[2]: Defaulting to heteronormative here, but insert gender (or lack thereof) of your choice.
[3]: There will be exceptions to this, but they will be statistically small, potentially even insignificant.

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Post by reboundstudent on Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:49 pm

helbling wrote: This is true, and I will admit I've got a harder line on this than a lot of people because of past history, and a tendency to call it out when I see it. 'Is it really a dealbreaker? Yes, then you should be gone, no and we should have had space to discuss and negotiate about this, instead you're straddling the two and using it as a stick to beat me with, fuck you, I'm gone' tends to now be my default reaction. I appreciate if there have been no other warning or worrying behaviours, staying and trying to talk things out or work out reasoning is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but I get very wary of the 'this thing about you is so awful I can't possibly put up with it! I'm staying anyway, but it's so awful!' roundabout.

You'll forgive me, but I think insisting other people take such a hard stance on deal breakers or else the assumption is they're lying or manipulating is rather extreme. Some folks say cheating is a deal breaker, but might stay if it's a one night stand versus an affair. Some people say excess fighting is a deal breaker, but will stay if there's therapy involved. It's completely cool to draw your own boundaries about this, and say "I will not tolerate this, I'm gone," but I think making an assumption that someone is staying despite a deal breaker just to force their partner to comply is... kind of simplistic. Not unheard of, but also not always the case.

helbling wrote:
This I think, is a gendered thing. There is a significant chance, I hypothesize, that you don't get threatened by written erotica but do by visual based stuff because you're a woman, and not a man. Men tend to be more visual[1] whereas women are more internal, so you understand (because you do it) why erotica and mental fantasizing about someone not your partner isn't threatening to your relationship because it's something that's inbuilt. But you don't automatically treat visual stimuli in the same way, so to your brain, the only reason you'd indulge in such a thing would be as a rival to your partner, rather than as a harmless part of your sexual life.

To empathise, I'd say try imagining that a partner had asked you not to fantasize about anyone not him[2] anymore. Not to read romance books, erotica, slash fanfiction, not to wonder about your favorite movie star or celebrity crush, nothing. The space in your head now belongs to him. BUT you are free to watch all the porn you want - you can get as aroused by, and masturbate to it all you like. But you can't think about the actors afterwards, you can't imagine personality traits for them, or build scenes in your head that weren't featured on the porn itself. That is pretty much the female equivalent for 'no porn' for the majority of men[3].

Um, without trying to sound too harsh, please don't assume things about me. I actually use visual stimuli very often. And if my partner asked me to give up romance novels and erotica but said the visual stimuli was fine, I'd probably shrug and have no issue with complying. I have a preference, but it's by no means set in stone. Women are visual too, and men can enjoy erotic stories and imaginary fantasizing. Now that isn't to say that if a guy says his preference for visual stimuli is the only way he can get off, and his partner asking him to only engage in erotic literature doesn't work for him, fine, but then that means there needs to be further compromise, or they aren't a compatible couple. But insisting that men have to have visual stimuli, and so any partner asking that he find another form of sexual fantasizing is tantamount to abuse, is pretty extreme to me.


helbling wrote:
No, to be blunt. Controlling behaviour always looks reasonable to the one doing the controlling or they wouldn't do it, but that doesn't make it less bad. If something is making you insecure, that is your thing to deal with, and while it's lovely if your partner is willing to help you through it, presenting it as an ultimatum is a big, huge no.

Again, I think that's kind of a simplistic way to put it. Sometimes ultimatums need to happen because couples may be compatible. Saying that a partner just needs to "deal with" an insecurity can be its own form of abusive manipulation, as I've outlined in my own stories. I am never going to be okay with my partner excessively flirting or being physical (for example, tickling or cuddling) with another woman, even though to other people, those forms of physical affection are completely fine, and I'm "insecure" for having them. If that happened, I probably would lay down an ultimatum; stop doing those behaviors, or I leave. And I think I'd have every right to do so. My partner would have every right to either consider if giving those things up is "worth the price of admission," or he'd decide those are fundamentally important things to him. What makes the ultimatum ethical is he gets to decide. I get to decide what kind of behavior I can be comfortable with, and he gets to decide likewise. If he thinks me being insecure about those things is unacceptable, great, we're not compatible, and we can both move on.

But as someone who spent 6 miserable months fighting back my insecurities while a partner repeatedly punched me (metaphorically) right in the weak spots of my psyche, and then blamed me for being "weak" and not being able to hear how all the women he knew were better looking than I was, and smarter than I was, and nicer than I was, the whole "You're insecure deal with it" sets off the Abuse Alarm Bells for me.


helbling wrote:
In the end, I did fix it and move past, but if I hadn't been able to, there should have come a point where I would have gone to him and told him that this quirk looked like something I was going to be stuck with, could he cope with that? At which point, he may very well have said no, because that friendship was important to him, and that friend primarily expresses affection through physical touch. But note the difference - the LW presented this to her partner as a wholesale ban with no room to negotiate or talk about it and the assumption he ought to say yes or there was something wrong with him. I would have presented it with the acknowledgement that was my issue, and that would have meant a relationship with me would have come with certain restrictions, but I would by no means have assumed he would be ok with shrinking down his life to fit my needs, and I would have been willing to discuss and compromise on it - for instance, one such compromise would have been if he'd asked if she could hug him when I wasn't around and I wouldn't see.

Except that isn't how everyone read the letter. We don't know whether she demanded OR asked. Her saying "Hey I can't handle this porn thing, so if you need to keep doing it, we need to break up" is a perfectly valid thing to say, and potentially non-negotiable. Her partner then could have said okay, then we're broken up. Instead he lied. We don't know if he asked for compromises, we don't know if she offered them.

helbling wrote:
Wholesale 'no porn for you!' says to me that either she's not bothered to unpack where this feeling comes from and just expects her partner to cater to it regardless, or she hasn't educated herself on different types of porn and doesn't realise how much is out there. Even if she hates the idea of watching people who have been paid for sex, there are plenty of amateur sites out there that feature loving couples.

Or she's like me and has spent months/years unpacking it with no success at overcoming it, and has decided this is just one of her "price of admissions." I'm really not digging the assumption that if someone can't overcome a feeling or an insecurity, they just haven't "tried" hard enough.
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Post by PintsizeBro on Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:39 pm

I'm not sure on the timeline, were they already living together when she told him she wanted him to stop looking at porn? If someone I was dating but not living with told me she couldn't accept me looking at porn once in a while when she's not around, I'd break up with her. But if you're already living with someone when this kind of dealbreaker comes up, it's harder to just end things. If someone I was living with told me this... I really don't know if I'd have the mental fortitude to put my foot down and say "What you are asking is totally unreasonable and I'm not going to stop. If it was really so important to you, you should have told me before we moved in together."

I see porn use as a privacy issue... the LW said she "found out" her boyfriend looked at porn when he said he wouldn't. The only way to "find out" that I look at porn would be to snoop because I only look at it on my own personal devices when I'm alone. I get the impression the boyfriend thought he was finding himself in a DADT situation with regards to porn, that is, he'd pretend he didn't look at it, and she wouldn't go looking for evidence that he did.

Now, if he watched his porn on a shared device and she just stumbled on to it, then she wasn't snooping. And he should have been more courteous than to leave evidence of his porn use in a public place.

I used to be friends with a woman who insisted that her boyfriends not only not look at porn, but not masturbate at all. She didn't see this as controlling at all, she really and truly believed that if a guy was in a relationship, he should get 100% of his sexual satisfaction from his partner. But just because she believed what she was saying, that doesn't change the fact that her behavior was controlling. We aren't friends anymore.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:54 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:
I see porn use as a privacy issue... the LW said she "found out" her boyfriend looked at porn when he said he wouldn't. The only way to "find out" that I look at porn would be to snoop because I only look at it on my own personal devices when I'm alone. I get the impression the boyfriend thought he was finding himself in a DADT situation with regards to porn, that is, he'd pretend he didn't look at it, and she wouldn't go looking for evidence that he did.

The snooping point is important too, thank you for mentioning it--I don't think he would be stupid enough to do it on her/shared devices and not just clear his search history--because it sounds like they were together for a bit before she found out. (But then what do I know, I wasn't there. He could just be stupid and she never caught on.) Even if your partner is cheating, going through their email or phone secretly when you know they wouldn't want you to in order to find out is spying on them, also a violation of trust, and totally not okay. The fact that you found out a hypothetical partner cheated doesn't make you violating their privacy any more acceptable, and believing that its acceptable to snoop regardless of what they would feel about it is seriously wrong, even if they never find out.

Its not okay to go through someone else's personal correspondence or devices without their permission to try and confirm your suspicions of them, whether it be that they're going on Ashley Madison or PornHub.

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Post by reboundstudent on Sat Feb 28, 2015 6:39 pm

Prajnaparamita wrote:
PintsizeBro wrote:
I see porn use as a privacy issue... the LW said she "found out" her boyfriend looked at porn when he said he wouldn't. The only way to "find out" that I look at porn would be to snoop because I only look at it on my own personal devices when I'm alone. I get the impression the boyfriend thought he was finding himself in a DADT situation with regards to porn, that is, he'd pretend he didn't look at it, and she wouldn't go looking for evidence that he did.

The snooping point is important too, thank you for mentioning it--I don't think he would be stupid enough to do it on her/shared devices and not just clear his search history--because it sounds like they were together for a bit before she found out. (But then what do I know, I wasn't there. He could just be stupid and she never caught on.) Even if your partner is cheating, going through their email or phone secretly when you know they wouldn't want you to in order to find out is spying on them, also a violation of trust, and totally not okay. The fact that you found out a hypothetical partner cheated doesn't make you violating their privacy any more acceptable, and believing that its acceptable to snoop regardless of what they would feel about it is seriously wrong, even if they never find out.

Its not okay to go through someone else's personal correspondence or devices without their permission to try and confirm your suspicions of them, whether it be that they're going on Ashley Madison or PornHub.

Eh I'll be the unpopular one here and say that I still think cheating/lying is a way bigger deal than snooping. Now, the fact that you need to snoop does suggest that the relationship is already on shaky ground. However, snooping really can happen accidentally or happenstance with our modern devices. For example, if you clear your history but not your cache, your browser window may still autopopulate with a URL. Or in a case of mine, after asking an ex if I could use his laptop, a Facebook message with the girl popped up. Similar to how it's hard to not overhear folks right next to you, it's hard to immediately avert your eyes before something pops up.

I also think that there's a difference between going through someone's email or phone and going through their history. History is, more or less, public-that's why a lot of browsers not have a "privacy browse" setting. There aren't a lot of circumstances where you unknowingly unlock your partner's phone, but there are plenty of innocuous reasons to wander around someone's history.

Also, as someone who has been cheated on... sometimes it's an insecurity thing. But sometimes it is just this gut feeling. Something is wrong. Something is off. It feels.... different from insecurity. Cause the fact is, her partner was lying. In the case of cheating or lying, they are doing something wrong, and they are hiding something fundamental from their partner. So is their privacy violated if they are already violating someone else? It's a thorny issue that I can never quite sit comfortably with. We cheer when violation of privacy reveals dirty government secrets, but boo when it turns out the person is innocent. Speaking personally, I wish I had snooped in those cases where I had a bad gut feeling; instead I struggled with weeks (sometimes months) of insecurity, guilt and turmoil only to discover I was freaking right the whole time. But my gut also isn't infallible, so....
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Post by PintsizeBro on Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:09 pm

My instinct is that those guys are either really dumb or they wanted their girlfriends to find out. It's not that hard to hit Ctrl + SHIFT + N. My girlfriend doesn't care about my porn-viewing habits (I'd guess that she overestimates how much I actually look at), but I do make a point of covering my tracks because I use my personal laptop for work so I don't want Pornhub to pop up while I'm in the office. But if we had a DADT agreement about my porn viewing, she wouldn't be at risk for accidentally stumbling on to evidence. She'd have to go looking. I do most of my porn-watching on my phone these days anyway. Tumblr isn't just for angry young women into social justice.

RBS, I'm sorry that happened to you. The way your exes acted were not an okay way to treat someone.

In your example, your feelings were right. But you don't discount the fact that feelings can be wrong. I recall reading a letter to another advice columnist (I think it was Carolyn Hax, but I can't remember for sure. Dear Prudence maybe? I'm an advice column junkie) where a woman wrote in because she was absolutely convinced that her husband was cheating on her. She'd read his emails and his text messages without his knowledge and uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing, but she was still convinced that he was having an affair. Maybe she was right and he was just good at covering his tracks, but maybe she was wrong and no amount of evidence that he was innocent would convince her. Either way, the trust was gone.

In your cases when you wished you had snooped... you already didn't trust your now-exes. You already knew that on some level the relationship was broken. How would snooping have helped? Why not just end things? There's this tendency in our culture to think of breaking up with someone as a way to punish them when they did something bad, but I think that's unhealthy. If you're unhappy, that's reason enough to go.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:43 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:
In your example, your feelings were right. But you don't discount the fact that feelings can be wrong. I recall reading a letter to another advice columnist (I think it was Carolyn Hax, but I can't remember for sure. Dear Prudence maybe? I'm an advice column junkie) where a woman wrote in because she was absolutely convinced that her husband was cheating on her. She'd read his emails and his text messages without his knowledge and uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing, but she was still convinced that he was having an affair.

I'm fairly sure it was Dear Prudence, and this is the one you're referring to! (I'm an advice column junkie too! rofl ) Then again, given that it seems that quite a few people seem to think this is appropriate behavior, I could certainly believe that she was not the only one who has written in about this, even to just Prudence. Also...

PintsizeBro wrote:
There's this tendency in our culture to think of breaking up with someone as a way to punish them when they did something bad, but I think that's unhealthy. If you're unhappy, that's reason enough to go.

Thank you so much for this. This is a fallacy that I've nearly fallen into, and while I began to realize how silly I was being, I've never heard it so clearly articulated.

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Post by eselle28 on Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:47 pm

I'm going to join RBS in saying that cheating and lying are bigger deals than snooping. Even Dan Savage, who'd hate the LW, is of the opinion that snooping becomes the lesser offense if you discover your partner has been cheating on you. I confirmed one of my exes was cheating on me, and had been cheating on me for our entire 2-year relationship, by looking at his phone. I regret nothing, because I would have probably guilt tripped myself into staying with him for another couple of years if I hadn't confirmed my suspicions. Sure, I should have ended things simply because I didn't trust him, but I wouldn't have, because I didn't want to be a clingy, jealous, paranoid, crazy woman who ended things with a great guy because I had trust issues. People who don't trust their partners' fidelity really get demonized up to the point where they can demonstrate that their suspicions were correct, and more liberal, sex-positive people are at least as bad about that as their more conservative peers.

We also don't know that the LW was snooping. I know that the last time I let my dad borrow my laptop, he used it to look at porn as well as for the requested purpose. The reason I know this is that it came back loaded with malware and popup ads. I'm also hesitant to assume that the relationship here is abusive simply because the LW asked for something many of us wouldn't agree to. If she was otherwise emotionally abusive, sure, I'm automatically on her boyfriend's side. But I think it gets really easy to start to describe any relationship that we wouldn't enjoy as abusive if making a request we wouldn't agree to is the qualifying criterion.
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Feb 28, 2015 8:10 pm

eselle28 wrote:I'm going to join RBS in saying that cheating and lying are bigger deals than snooping. Even Dan Savage, who'd hate the LW, is of the opinion that snooping becomes the lesser offense if you discover your partner has been cheating on you.

Oh goodness no, I don't think they're bigger offenses at all! I just don't think that two wrongs make a right, and just because they did something that was far worse doesn't mean that what you did wasn't wrong. It doesn't clear them of guilt for having betrayed you, but I generally think you did something wrong too, and shouldn't do so in the future.

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Post by Caffeinated on Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:57 pm

Prajnaparamita wrote:
eselle28 wrote:I'm going to join RBS in saying that cheating and lying are bigger deals than snooping. Even Dan Savage, who'd hate the LW, is of the opinion that snooping becomes the lesser offense if you discover your partner has been cheating on you.

Oh goodness no, I don't think they're bigger offenses at all! I just don't think that two wrongs make a right, and just because they did something that was far worse doesn't mean that what you did wasn't wrong. It doesn't clear them of guilt for having betrayed you, but I generally think you did something wrong too, and shouldn't do so in the future.

I'm not a fan of snooping, but in a case where a partner could be cheating and potentially exposing you to serious risk of disease maybe there's a case to be made for it. A minor STI caught early and treated can remain minor, but left untreated can cause serious problems sometimes including infertility. Not to mention risk of HIV.
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