When I started my dating life the topic of pornography would come up rarely. As time went on and my friends and I experienced more serious, "long term" relationships, that changed. The topic of pornography started entering conversations about self-image, intimacy, expectations, aggression and even violence.
My generation grew up on social media, video games and pornography. In high school, everyone I knew spent hours on Facebook. In university, playing Rockband was added to the routine. Many people have told me they learned about the details of sex primarily through pornography -- even older people who were not "wild" in their youth. But what does this mean now?
More and more people are coming to me with challenges around their ability to connect -- verbally, emotionally and physically. While relationships are supposed to be based on communication and trust, they say they don't know what trust is or what it's supposed to feel like. Communication is also a challenge because of the jumble of feelings happening at the same time. Relationships are commonly between two people, but now with social media and pornography as part of the mix they are filled with anxiety, confusion, and friends, not to mention the challenges around drugs and alcohol for some. I've had both men and women tell me they feel no physical connection to their partner, some of them have even used words like repulsed, un-attracted, bored, annoyed and frustrated when speaking about their sex life.
Here are some general issues and concerns that are arising in conversation:
1) Being expected to look "perfect" all the time
2) Aggressive and/or kinky behavior when there has been no attempt at creating emotional safety
3) Impatience and not having a sense for how a partner feels
4) Partner not having the ability to be gentle
5) Not being treated as a respected equal (controlling, passive aggressive, or blatantly abusive behavior)
6) Partners saying things like "this is just who I am"
This is not to say that pornography is the problem or that the industry needs to disappear. I genuinely believe there are people who are open and willing to be in healthy relationships. I believe there are people who know how to respect and worship each other and all of us are on a journey figuring out what we like and what we could do without.
What I am addressing is that my generation grew up watching pornography on a regular basis and had access to anything from romance to violence at the click of a button -- and I can't help but notice the amount of people I talk to having similar issues in their dating life.
Everything we expose ourselves to has an impact consciously or sub-consciously on how we think, feel and treat other people. It is time to become aware of the effects of pornography on the quality of relationships. If we expose ourselves to something over and over again that shows force, aggression, an act of trade, bodies as physical objects instead of emotional beings and unnatural behavior, this energy will eventually seep its way into other areas of our lives.
In order to be loving, gentle, kind, compassionate, generous, supportive people, we have to expose ourselves to loving, gentle, kind, compassionate, generous, supportive information, material, media, people and environments.
If we fail to do so, we are sacrificing the quality of our relationships, connection, intimacy, health and well-being and therefore our happiness. When we are faced with our own mortality, we tend to think about people we have loved and how we treated them, not pornography we have watched.
So, how can we become aware of the impact pornography is having on our relationships? Here are some things to begin observing:
1) What do you expect of your partner that you may or may not be communicating to them? Do you expect them to be enthusiastic, charismatic, loud, aggressive or passionate continually? Do you expect them to be wilder, kinkier, more "masculine" or more "feminine"?
Being intimate is about mutual exploration of ourselves and our partner. Being intimate is about deepening our connection on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It is also supposed to be fun and exciting, not filled with expectations, judgements and criticism. People often think that if they don't say something out loud that they are not hurting anyone but when we think negative thoughts, our own ability to be open and vulnerable changes. Our partner can feel this shift and will often put walls up.
2) Have you spent a significant amount of time exploring emotional safety?
Emotional safety is one of the most important aspects of a healthy and loving relationship. Whenever we question whether or not our partner is on our side, whether or not they have the ability to love and honor our bodies, whether or not they take our feelings seriously, whether or not they care if we feel happy and respected, we slowly close up over time. This has a damaging effect on intimacy in relationships. Because of the fast paced, click of a button nature of this generation, emotional safety is often the last thing people want to talk about and the first thing that effects their happiness with partners.
3) Are you obsessed with what you want and how to get it? Do you often feel like if your partner doesn't give you what you want, you will just get it from somewhere else?
This is where I think we need the most work. We are hard-core consumers. We consume what we want from others and when we have gotten our fill, we discard them. We move from person to person to person completely addicted to dissatisfaction -- much like the way we act while online. But people are not stores, sites or computers. And if we continue this behavior we will spend the rest of our lives dissatisfied and in a hurry.
What most of us are missing is that it feels good to slow down. It feels good to explore our partners instead of projecting our issues onto them. It feels good to feel our connection with a person deepen. It feels good to hold someone's hand and look into a real persons eyes. It feels good to laugh and play. It feels good to know that you can be free with another person. It feels good to open up and be vulnerable. It feels good to live an exhilarating life and feel safe sharing that with someone else. It feels good to feel respected and appreciated. It feels good to respect and appreciate another person.
These are some of the best feelings in the world. Is constantly feeding the part of us that is dissatisfied worth sacrificing our need for real intimacy and connection?
- A Little Love From Mala -