“My man looks at porn”

Some women live badly when their partner looks at pornographic material. They feel betrayed as if they have been deceived, jealous and feel devalued, feeling they are not sexually satisfying.

Or they consider that their conjugal sexuality is flourishing and they do not understand that their man consults pornographic sites. Sometimes they think about breaking up. But there’s a mistake.

Reality and fantasy

Misunderstanding is about the relationship between reality and fantasy. With fantasy, we find ourselves on the side of the imaginary. However, pornography refers to the imagination and fantasies, it is one of the possible ways to echo and feed them. Therefore, there is no a priori reason to feel betrayed because your partner is watching porn: it does not necessarily concern the couple, nor therefore the quality of sexuality within them.

A parallel with masturbation

Thus, even if the sexuality of the couple is fulfilled, this does not exclude that the spouse wants, in a private way, and without talking about it to her partner, to feed his fantasies. And that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love his partner anymore, or that he doesn’t desire her anymore. The same goes for women who consume pornographic material. We can draw a parallel here with masturbation alone: it is not because we are in a couple that it necessarily disappears, without it being a sign of a problem in the couple relationship. Solitary masturbation, without pornographic support, is another way of making one’s sexual imagination work, which is personal. And pornographic material is made for masturbation, which in this case uses a medium (pictures or videos, but also stories).

What is pornography?

It is a vast question, and controversies have never ceased on the difference between pornography and eroticism, for example, with a view to moral evaluation. However, objective characteristics of pornography can be identified, starting with the fact that it is a “writing” (graphic), that is, a representation of things, and not things themselves (1). Thus there are no pornographic sexual practices, but pornographic representations of sexual practices.

Moreover, these representations must have a perverse character, in the sense that the psychoanalyst Stoller speaks of perversion as an eroticized form of hatred (2). For him, perversion is a fantasy, which can be put into action, and whose main spring is hostility. Sadism is the main form. In other words, perversion in the sexual field is what falls within the violent part of sexuality. And pornography is the representation of the violent part of sexuality.

Consuming porn is feeding the violent part of his sexual fantasies

All sexuality, considered in its psychological dimension, is made up of elements of violence, in both men and women. All sexuality therefore has a perverse core (which does not mean that everyone has a perverse structure). The question then becomes: what to do with this perverse core? Some repress it, others translate it through their fantasies (of domination, submission…) without acting it in their sexual practices, others act it more or less in their sexual practices, others act it but not with the person they love (prostitutes, mistress, lover…), others satisfy it through the consumption of pornographic material, etc. In the latter case, the sexuality of the couple may act to some extent hostile fantasies, and pornography may serve to go beyond what is acted or actable with the partner. There are also fantasies that people do not want to realize at all, but that excite them in imagination, and possibly through pornographic representations. The rape fantasy is typically one of them.

Addiction to pornography

One of the real problems in a couple involving pornography occurs when one of the spouses has developed an addiction to pornographic material, and the sexuality in the couple suffers, and more generally the conjugal relationship, even any social relationship, with a tendency to isolation. In this case, it is a question of understanding what this dependence means, to what it refers, beyond the pornographic dimension. It is in relation to inner wounds and anxieties that it must be considered, like any addiction (tobacco, food, Internet discussion forums, emotional dependence, etc.).

The feeling of being betrayed

Another problem that pornography can raise in a couple is one that affects not the consumer spouse, but the spouse who feels betrayed and cheated. Indeed, why does she live (since it is most often women in this case) the fact that her man consumes pornographic material as a betrayal? Often comes back the fact that he does it “in secret”, that is, alone in his corner, without her. This makes it difficult to conceive, and especially to live, that the other person may have a private garden, which is also related to sexuality. Something of the sexual of the other escapes, and that is unbearable to live with. Here there is a tendency to merge, which can turn to the grip to calm the anguish of being separated from the other. In other words, it is a question of dependence, but on the side of the spouse who cannot stand that the other has little secrets, which do not, however, objectively constitute treason.

A problem of self-confidence

Problems of self-confidence can also be at the origin of the fact of living badly that the other looks at pornographic material, because he looks at other girls, with whom the spouse will compare herself and against whom she will find herself less well. However, this is generally not the question, especially if the spouse also has a desire for her partner and shares a satisfactory sexuality with her.

Perversion “revealed”

Another possibility (but without claiming to have been exhaustive): the consumption of pornography by one of the spouses emphasizes the perverse core of sexuality (always in Stoller’s sense), and in this it can anguish the other spouse. Indeed, it raises the question of the hostile dimension of sexuality, that of its share of shadow which makes it potentially sulphurous, and with which not everyone is necessarily at ease. The consumption of pornography questions not only the existence of this perverse nucleus in the consuming spouse, and the place it occupies, but also in the other spouse. It can then echo repressed things and thus be disturbing.

(1) See Ruwen Ogien, Penser la pornographie, PUF, “Questions d’éthique”, 2003.

(2) See Robert J. Stoller, La perversion, forme érotique de la haine, Payot, “Petite bibliothèque Payot” series, 2007.