Five Ways to Avoid Being "His Porn"

04/19/2016 05:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Have you ever wondered, "Am I his porn?"

If you have, you're not alone. I've been asked this question more than once by the women I work with whose lives have been rocked by betrayal. And it's a concern for many women—for good reason.

Regardless of whether you believe porn is moral or immoral, it is—without a doubt—a poor source of information for how to have real sex with a real, live person. At best, porn is entertainment with a heavy dose of misleading information. At worst, it distorts reality, disconnects you from your partner, and damages you and your relationships.

A recent Time Magazine article, Porn and the Threat to Virility, reports that "a growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents." When young men begin speaking out about the downside of porn, it's time to take note.

Here are some signs that your partner may be getting the majority of his sex ed from porn rather than from credible sources of information or face-to-face, here-and-now interaction with a real person—you:

  • He's surprised, disappointed, or even turned off by ordinary realities like body hair, or the way women function sexually. For example, he may expect you to orgasm through intercourse only, without direct clitoral stimulation. Most women don't—but you won't learn that from porn.
  • He has problems maintaining an erection, and has no medical or age-related issues that contribute to erectile problems.
  • He seems spaced out, in a trance, or not present during sex a lot of the time.
  • He frequently tries to engage you in sexual activities or behaviors you don't want to do, or that haven't been part of your sex life in the past.
  • He struggles to—or simply can't—have eye contact with you, communicate his preferences (or hear yours) during sex.

When you think about infidelity, you typically think of affairs, one-night stands, or other "in person" forms of cheating like hiring prostitutes or going to massage parlors. But when one person in a relationship engages in frequent, chronic, and secretive use of porn, the impact on the partner is identical to person-to-person cheating.

Partners of chronic—and deceptive—porn users feel deeply betrayed in the same way they would if their partner had an affair. They often see themselves as "less than" the porn their partner watched. They compare themselves—their bodies or the sex they had with their partner—to porn.

Five ways to avoid being "his porn":

  1. Start by honoring yourself for exactly who you are. The way you look and your sexual preferences are perfect just as they are, right now. Beginning with this foundation, you'll avoid getting caught up in thinking you should be or act differently than what is authentic for you.
  2. When being sexually intimate with your partner, pay attention to what you're thinking and how you're feeling. If you're feeling disconnected or like an object during sex, give yourself permission to slow things down or stop if needed.
  3. If your partner asks you to engage in sexual acts that don't interest you or that you simply don't want to do, be honest with yourself and your partner. Remember, if you can't say "no," your "yes" doesn't mean much.
  4. There's a distinct difference between the intensity of the way sex is depicted in porn and the reality of intimate, relational sex. If you tune into how you're feeling, and the connection (or lack thereof) you're having with your partner during sex, you'll know the difference between intensity and intimacy and make choices accordingly.
  5. If you find that you're repeatedly trying to mold yourself—either the way you look or what you do in bed—to your partner's wishes and against your better judgment, it's time to look deeper into why you're sacrificing your reality, along with your needs and wants, for the sake of the relationship.

While you can't guarantee that your partner will never zone out during sex or treat you like a sexual object, you can honor—and take action around—what you're experiencing, thinking, and feeling in the moment. Ultimately, you are your greatest source of clarity, safety, and empowerment.

Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW, CSAT, SEP is the author of Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts. For more information, please visit her website.