Porn, Relationships, and What It's Reasonable to Ask For

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Deep inside annie sprinkle
When you’re beginning a relationship, is it reasonable to ask your partner not to watch porn?

Yesterday, I posted a column here about porn. I was writing in response to an advice column by Scarleteen, an answer to a letter from a young woman who was upset because her boyfriend watched porn. I posed the question, “In a monogamous relationship, is it reasonable to expect your partner not to watch porn?” And I concluded that it was not. I concluded that people have the right to watch whatever they want when they’re by themselves and on their own time, and that asking a partner not to watch porn is no more defensible then asking them not to watch reality TV or read true crime. I concluded that trying to regulate your partner’s private cultural pleasures — pornographic or otherwise — is like trying to regulate their imagination.

Scarleteen logo
But some readers thought I’d misread Scarleteen’s advice. They said Scarleteen’s point wasn’t that people have the right to ask their existing partners not to watch porn… but rather that if someone objects to porn, they should spell that out at the beginning of a relationship. And on re-reading the Scarleteen column, I think they’re right. In my defense, the situation I was writing about was, in fact, the situation described in the letter — dealing with an existing partner who watched porn, and trying to decide what to say to them. But I do think I misread Scarleteen’s intention in their response, and for that, I apologize.

So now I’m going to address the position Scarleteen took: that people who object to porn and are beginning to date someone should spell out their position early, and should state clearly that they don’t want to be involved with someone who watches it.

And I’m basically going to stand by my original position.

Which is that this is an unreasonable, overly controlling thing for an adult to ask another adult. It’s somewhat less unreasonable than asking it of a partner you’re already involved with, someone who’s already gotten emotionally invested in your relationship before you dropped your “It’s me or the porn” ultimatum. But I still think this is seriously pushing the line between “reasonable negotiation of desires and limits in a relationship,” and “controlling attempt to regulate not only your partner’s behavior, but their imagination.”

Here’s why.

Like I did in the previous column, I’m going to take this question out of an erotic context, to give it some perspective. (I am, however, going to keep it gendered for the moment, since much of the previous conversation was about gender and sexism.)

Monday_Night_Football
Let’s say a single straight woman has objections to televised sports. She thinks they’re immoral, or politically objectionable, or she simply finds them upsetting. (Which some women do — as do some men.) And let’s say she tells all her potential partners, “I just don’t want to be involved with someone who watches sports. Ever. Even when I’m not around. Even on their own time. Even if it’s just when they’re hanging around with their friends. If we’re going to get involved, you have to be someone who doesn’t like watching sports on TV, and you have to promise never to do so.”

Would that be a reasonable thing to ask?

I would argue No.

And I’d argue it pretty darned strongly.

Remote_control
At my most sympathetic and calm, my response to that would be, “You should know that an awful lot of men watch sports on TV. And plenty of those men don’t fit the stereotype of the sports-obsessed Neanderthal. You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about what kind of man likes to watch sports on TV, and whether those men could share your basic values — assumptions that really aren’t warranted. If you’re going to rule out all men who ever like to watch sports on TV, you’re going to limit yourself to a very small dating pool indeed… without a very strong or reality-based reason for doing so. You might want to rethink this. You might want to look more carefully at why you feel so strongly about sports — and at whether there might be a better way to handle those feelings than refusing to be involved with anyone who enjoys them.”

If I were feeling less sympathetic and calm, my response would be, “Are you out of your mind? What difference does it make what your partner watches on TV when you’re not around? How is that any of your business? Again — you seem to be making a lot of assumptions about what kind of man likes to watch sports on TV… assumptions that really aren’t warranted. What on earth makes you think that’s a reasonable thing for one adult to ask another?”

And frankly, if I were dating that woman, I’d end things as soon as I could after that conversation — even if I didn’t like sports. I’d see it as a huge red flag that she had a very controlling side of her. I’d see it as a huge red flag that she was a seriously insecure person — one who dealt with her insecurities by expecting her partner to tiptoe around them. I’d be out the door as fast as I could — even if I never planned to watch another sporting event in my life.

Why should porn be different?

Watching sex
If watching porn didn’t carry the stigma that it does — if any and all pursuits of sexual pleasure didn’t carry the stigma that they do — would we see these two situations as any different? If it weren’t the case that sports are a generally accepted cultural activity and porn is emphatically not, would we even be having this conversation? If there weren’t a stigma around porn, would anyone seriously consider asking their partner never to watch it… and if there weren’t shame around porn, would anyone who was asked not to watch it take the request seriously?

Now. To be fair, it’s certainly true that in relationships, we get a few “I know I’m being irrational, but I feel strongly about this, so can you please just humor me?” free passes. I think we do, anyway. But when we ask for those free passes, I think we need to acknowledge that that’s what we’re doing. I think we need to acknowledge that we’re asking for something unreasonable, above and beyond the call of duty — and not act as if we have the moral high ground.

And we need to recognize that not everyone is going to say Yes. We need to recognize that a lot of smart, thoughtful, decent people are going to turn us down. Especially when the activity we’re asking our partners to forgo is something that’s both ridiculously common and generally harmless.

Like watching sports on TV.

Or watching porn.

Polka dot underwear
Does my hypothetical woman have the right to ask her potential partners not to watch sports on TV, even when she’s not around? Sure, she has the right to ask. We have the right to ask for pretty much anything. We have the right to ask our potential relationship partners to not smoke, to tie us up on a semi- regular basis, to take Argentine tango lessons, to watch the entire DVD set of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in a one-weekend marathon, to wear polka dotted underwear every Friday without fail.

But does that make it a reasonable thing to ask?

Is “don’t ever watch sports on TV, even when I’m not around” a reasonable thing for one adult to ask of another? Is it reasonable to expect that people will say Yes? Is it reasonable to expect people to even take this request seriously?

I don’t think so.

There are lots of things that we have the right to do, which are still not right or reasonable for us to do. We tend to make that mistake a lot: the mistake of thinking that because we have the right to do something, we should therefore just charge on in and do it. It’s not clear thinking. We have the right to scream bigoted epithets on the street corner, too. That doesn’t make it right or reasonable to do it.

Now.

Dworkin pornography
I will qualify all this by adding: If someone is very firm in their anti-porn position — if they’ve thought it through carefully after being exposed to many sides of the debate about it, and their feelings against it are still as strong as ever — then yes, they should warn their partners up front that this is the case. I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing for them to ask… but reasonable or not, if it’s a dealbreaker for them, then by all means, they should ask it. If I were dating someone who felt this way, I sure as hell would want to be warned upfront, before I’d invested a lot of time and emotional energy in the relationship. I’d want to run screaming sooner rather than later.

But here’s the thing. In this particular letter, in the letter to Scarleteen that started this whole conversation, I did not get that impression at all. Nothing about this letter gave me the impression that it was from a confirmed, hard-core anti-porn feminist who was familiar with feminist arguments in favor of porn and had rejected them. Everything about it seemed to be from a young person who was upset by porn, and who ascribed much her of her upset to the supposed sexism of porn… without ever really thinking about it carefully, and without ever being exposed to feminism that enjoys and supports porn. (Scarleteen seems to have gotten the same impression, since they made sure to tell her that being anti-porn wasn’t the only way to be feminist, and they provided links to a wide variety of feminist writings on porn.)

So my advice to her would not be, “If you’re opposed to porn, to the point where you’re not willing to be involved with someone who ever watches it, you need to spell that out early in a relationship.”

Richard kern action
My advice would be, “If you’re opposed to porn, to the point where you’re not willing to be involved with someone who ever watches it, you need to seriously rethink whether that’s a reasonable thing for one adult to ask another. If you’re assuming that a shared opposition to porn means you’ll have shared values about sex and gender and politics, you need to seriously rethink that assumption. You need to be aware that there are a lot of pro-porn feminists in the world — women and men both — and that opposition to porn isn’t the default feminist position. You need to be aware that an awful lot of men watch porn, and it doesn’t automatically make them sexist objectifiers of women. You need to be aware that refusing to be involved with any man who watches porn is going to seriously limit your dating opportunities — and is likely going to rule out a fair number of men who might otherwise be great for you. You need to be aware that asking someone to limit what they do and don’t watch when they’re not with you is likely to come across as insecure and controlling… even to people who share your basic tastes. And you need to be aware that since there’s so much shame and stigma around porn, a lot of men aren’t going to feel comfortable standing up for their right and desire to watch it, and you may not get a straight answer about it. You might want to think about whether there’s a better way to deal with your insecurities than asking your potential partners to never even look at erotic photos or videos of other women.

“And if, after all of that, you’re still opposed to porn, to the point where you’re not willing to be involved with someone who ever watches it — then yes, you need to spell that out early in a relationship. But you need to be aware that you’re asking for a lot. And you need to not take the moral high ground about it.”

Being a feminist means, among other things, recognizing people’s right to sexual autonomy. Women’s and men’s. If you’re going to deal with your bad feelings about porn by expecting your partners to forgo a private sexual activity that doesn’t involve you in any way, you need to consider whether that’s really consistent with your feminism.

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Porn, Relationships, and What It's Reasonable to Ask For
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44 thoughts on “Porn, Relationships, and What It's Reasonable to Ask For

  1. 1

    Very good follow up piece, I definitely retract my previous skepticism on this issue. I particularly like the bit on your sign off paragraph: “Being a feminist means, among other things, recognizing people’s right to sexual autonomy.” An excellent statement that is definitely a winner in an argument concerning feminist principles.

  2. 2

    This is a little bit off topic, since this post addressed a particular situation with a woman opposing her boyfriend’s porn watching – and it being a rather common situation on the whole.
    But I have had the opposite experience a few times. I like to watch porn, and I’ve dated a few men who was very much not okay with me doing that. Even if they did it themselves. But them watching heterosexual or lesbian porn was just… normal, but me watching gay porn was just totally icky and just wrong!! Both because of me being a woman watching porn, and because of it being gay porn. Needless to say these relations didn’t last long. It wasn’t just controlling, it was hypocritical!
    One man I was involved with though was completely cool with everything. We never even had a discussion about it. To him it was just natural that we both liked different things, and shared some interests. It was just completely seamless the way we sometimes did things on our own, and sometimes together. And that when we did do things together we sometimes compromised and did what the other wanted, and sometimes found something we both wanted to do – The thing was that porn was as natural a part of this as was what food to eat and what music to listen to. He saw no difference, and neither did I. That I liked gay porn and he didn’t, didn’t bother him more than that I liked some music that he didn’t. He’d rather not actually watch it, but he downloaded stuff for me, that he thought I would like, to surprise me with, and such things… Better than getting a bunch of flowers actually 🙂

  3. 3

    I don’t think it’s okay for one person to ask another to stop doing something that doesn’t involve or impact others.
    If one person doesn’t like it, then they need to ignore that the other one does.
    And the porn watching/reading person, needs to not leave their porn or evidence of viewing laying around.
    Feminism is about being your own person – and you have to allow others that same self determination.
    Humans are sexual and it’s silly to pretend that we’re not.
    The sites on the net that make the money are porn, anytime we come up with a new communication tool – porn is at the forefront of it.
    the porn industry is now investing and leading the computer industry development, not video gaming as was commonly thought.

  4. GF
    4

    I agree mostly, it’s not great to want to control what your partner does when you’re not around, but… what kind of person would sit there on (say) the 3rd date and say “OK, I really like you, but if we’re going to have a relationship, you can’t watch porn.” I can’t even imagine that conversation.
    It is best to communicate early, certainly, but in this non-perfect life we live in I’m not sure you can consider someone unreasonable just because the conversation didn’t come up early enough in the relationship. To turn the situation on its head, is it reasonable to have not watching porn as a deal breaker if you didn’t say to them at the beginning “Hey, I’d like to enter into a relationship with you, but you have to know: when you’re not around I’m going to watch as much porn as I like.”?

  5. 5

    What about asking your partner not to watch child porn?
    What about the (barely?) legal stuff that simulates underage porn (anima/cartoon, barely 18 year olds dressing up as younger teens, photoshopped stuff, etc.)?
    Does this goes along the same lines of asking your partner to not smoke (ever), not drink (ever), not gamble (ever) or other minor, but legal vices? Is it reasonable to ask for this?

  6. 6

    fastthumbs, if everyone involved is an adult, then I don’t see the problem. There are plenty of tv shows about serial killers and the like, what’s the difference?

  7. 7

    fastthumbs: If we’re talking about actual child porn — i.e., porn filmed with actual underaged people — then obviously I think it’s valid to ask your partner not to watch it. Porn involving actual underaged people is (a) unethical and (b) a crime.
    But if we’re talking about simulated underaged porn, then you’re basically talking about regulating fantasies rather than actual behavior. As Matt said: We entertain ourselves all the time by watching simulations of unethical behavior: crime shows, etc. And lots of healthy kinky people have fantasies about being with — or being — underaged people. It’s not like it’s proof that they’re really a child molester or something.

  8. 8

    After reading the original letter, I think that the main concept that you are not getting is that the letter writer has dated the porn watcher for years, has lived with him for 2 years and only just found out about the porn a few months ago.
    Obviously the porn watching boyfriend has kept his porn watching to himself, for whatever reason, and had never even mentioned it to the girlfriend. That’s the problem here, not whether or not the letter writer has the right to ask him to cease and desist watching porn or any of the reasons that could be utilized to justify such a request.
    I think you completely dropped the ball by focusing on the letter writer as being unreasonable, controlling, insecure or insufficiently feminist. She has obviously just discovered some shocking (to her) information about her long-time partner, information which he purposely kept from her for years, that she feels will seriously affect their relationship – if only due to her reaction to it. The response from Scarleteen was spot on, basically “figure out what’s good for you, what you are willing to live with, what will make you feel right and do it”. That’s the best advice anyone can give.
    And, frankly, I’m more than a little surprised that you didn’t at least devote some space to why the boyfriend kept the porn viewing a secret from her for so long. That’s not the sign of a healthy interest in porn (there’s not many guys who come back from Saturday touch football and don’t tell their partners the highlights, after all, or at least mention they were there). And, more importantly, what your partner does “on their own time” most assuredly does involve you and affects their relationship with you, their responses to you, their feelings towards you etc. I think you are making quite a few assumptions of your own, here.
    As for asking a potential partner not do engage in some activity that you would find unacceptable, again, I think you are completely off base and making a bit of a straw man.
    Firstly, if someone is adamantly opposed to sports, the likelihood that they would seek a long term relationship with someone who was a sports fanatic is fairly low. If, however, they were seeking a long term relationship with a sports fanatic, then they are absolutely obligated to spell out exactly how much sports viewing will be tolerated in order to inform the potential partner and negotiate an agreeable relationship. If it is none, this gives the sports fanatic the opportunity to get the hell away from that person as soon as possible – no harm done to either party. Sure, it restricts your dating pool, but, people limit their dating pool all the time for all sorts of reasons. Sports shouldn’t be taken off the table, shouldn’t have to be tolerated, simply because the vast majority imbibe. Oh, I have to date a sports nut because it’s going to be difficult to find a partner who isn’t one.
    It may not be reasonable to ask others to stop doing things they enjoy simply because you don’t enjoy them also, but it sure as hell is not reasonable to subject yourself to things you don’t enjoy just to get/keep a partner that is incompatible and/or causing you stress or harm.
    And that’s what I’m not hearing from you. You seem to have a preset notion that sports watching is good and if someone doesn’t like sports, then that person is a “problem”, instead of recognizing the fact that everyone is different, everyone has different tastes and tolerance levels. Everyone has different emotional responses and coping mechanisms.
    It’s all very well and fine to negotiate boundaries at the beginning of a relationship, but that works both ways. In the relationship referenced in the letter to Scarleteen, the boundaries were not negotiated and the boyfriend actually seems more at fault for that, in my opinion. It’s as unlikely that a person would walk into a relationship stating that no porn viewing would be tolerated as it would be for a person to state that no bank robbing would be tolerated. Unless a person knows, or at least suspects, an activity is taking place, then there really isn’t any reason to bring it up…until it comes up. And the boyfriend, in this case, made sure it didn’t come up. Again, that is a red flag, one which you have completely missed.
    Besides that, it doesn’t matter why the letter writer is opposed to porn. If she doesn’t like the boyfriend watching porn because it hurts her feelings, makes her insecure and miserable, that’s enough. That’s enough to start the conversation and resolve the issue one way or the other. If that means taking the “no porn or no relationship” stand, then that’s what should happen. And that’s exactly what Scarleteen’s response was – start the conversation, inform yourself, understand yourself and see where it ends up.
    Sexual autonomy doesn’t grant a license to harm through your sexual activity. If a partner’s porn viewing makes a person feel bad about themselves and/or bad about their relationship, for any reason, it is not unreasonable to ask their partner to stop viewing – at least long enough to have the conversation. If the partner is inclined to understand how the other feels and wishes to make sure the relationship is as good for the other as it is for them, then having that conversation and resolving whatever issues are there is not an undue hardship. It’s the same conversation partners have to have about everything. Just because it’s porn, because it is engaged in “on your own time”, doesn’t grant it any special privilege or immunity from debate and discussion.

  9. 9

    Gee…
    Statement A: My girlfriend watches porn.
    Statement B: My girlfriend is immoral.
    Statement C: I should break up with my girlfriend.
    Statement D: If Statement A is true, then Statement B is true.
    Statement E: If statement B is true, then statement C is true.
    Statement F: Statement A is true.
    Seems prefectly reasonable to me. You might not agree with all of these statements, but they’re not necessarily “unreasonable.”

  10. 10

    Did she ever ask her boyfriend about porn in the two years they were together? Why does she get a pass for not inquiring about things that might bother her? Why are you supporting somebody who is so incredibly naive that they are surprised when they find out that their boyfriend watches porn?

  11. Kit
    11

    Why are you supporting somebody who is so incredibly naive that they are surprised when they find out that their boyfriend watches porn?
    …Maybe because naive people are human beings too? There doesn’t need to be a single bad guy here: both of them slipped up when it came to the porn conversation. He’s entitled to wonder what other issues she might have, she’s entitled to wonder what other secrets he might keep.
    Because her main question isn’t all that naive. It’s isn’t even about porn. Her boyfriend didn’t tell her he watched porn, so she’s got reason to think he hides things from her. Now he’s going to be visiting strip clubs, and she’s wondering how honest he’ll be about what he does there. She’s as much bothered by his secretiveness as his porn-watching, and whether or not she should have asked or assumed, the fact remains that he has been secretive.
    I think we should also bear in mind that the letter-writing didn’t say she wanted her boyfriend never to watch porn. She said it brought up some personal insecurities which she was trying to ‘come to grips’ with. She hasn’t assumed any firm ideological position: she’s just feeling shaky and wondering what to do about it. No need to attack her for that.

  12. 12

    I quite disagree.
    I think it is entirely reasonable to say “I will not date anyone who watches porn” or “I will not date anyone who watches sports” or whatever. In fact I really don’t see where you expect to draw the line here! (What about “I will not date anyone who eats meat”? Or “I will not date anyone who identifies as pro-life”?)
    I think it’s entirely usual to say “I will not date anyone whose moral and ethical system is opposed to mine in ways I find important”. Yes, you are seriously narrowing your possible dating pool, but that is your choice. But there are probably lots of other people who share your hot buttons, or just simply don’t care about that issue enough to question your request at all.
    I don’t see why I should be “reasonable” and put up with people doing things I find morally repulsive just because “lots of people do them”. That’s ludicrous. I don’t want to share my life or my home with people whose views and lifestyles are that incompatible with mine. Now, neither porn nor sports are issues to me; but for instance I simply will not date people who own and regularly use a car, which is probably weird granted, but there it is. This is a NO CAR household and that is that; he buys a car, I will find somewhere else to live.

  13. 13

    Here’s a thought; is it reasonable to allow your partner to be a product of their culture? It seems to me that the letter writer isn’t anti-porn because she herself is profoundly bothered by porn, but because she’s grown up with the cultural assumption that porn is bad. What I like about Scarleteen’s response is that they don’t preach to her, but point her to alternative perspectives so she can rethink her assumptions. I can see two possible outcomes; she either realizes that porn doesn’t bother her so much, or she realizes that though porn is not inherently wrong, she personally is not comfortable with it right now.
    Compare someone who was raised strict vegetarian. Her parents taught her that eating meat was evil and unhealthy and the smell is nauseating to her. Would it be reasonable for her to ask a partner to also not eat meat? To me it depends on her perspective on her own request. If she’s taking a standpoint of “meat is evil, I forbid it at all times because if you are eating meat you are doing something WRONG,” she is being unreasonable. If she knows intellectually that meat isn’t evil, but the smell still nauseates her and she wants her partner to not eat meat around her, that’s a more reasonable request. People who are extreme meat lovers probably shouldn’t date her, but people who don’t eat meat or don’t eat meat often should do fine.
    Porn is a little different because its more likely to be watched privately, but I think the basic analogy still holds. Its one thing to forbid porn because you think porn-watchers are evil, and another thing to forbid porn because you personally are extremely bothered by it on an irrational level, and you’re better off with someone who can tolerate the irrationality. There are two differences. First, the first one has a controlling, judgmental attitude, while the second just wants their little quirks to be accommodated. Second, because the second one is already aware its their own personal quirk, they are more likely to become more flexible over the years.

  14. 14

    @PhoenixRising
    Did Mrs. BTK Killer ask Mr. BTK Killer if he was out torturing and killing the neighbours during their fairly lengthy marriage?
    As I said, it’s highly unlikely that a subject would come up for discussion if it is a subject that wouldn’t even be thought of as something that needed discussing.
    If the letter writer was not interested in porn, if she did not know that the boyfriend was interested in porn – because he kept that a secret from her – then exactly why would she bring it up as a topic of discussion? You may find it hard to believe, but, just like art, literature, sports and cars, not everyone, possibly not even a majority of people, have any interest in porn.
    There is nothing naive about not knowing what your partner is doing if they are actively and successfully keeping it a secret from you and there is nothing naive about not discussing items that you do not know that there is a reason to discuss.
    I don’t have any problem with much of what Greta had to say in this piece, I just don’t think it applies realistically to the Scarleteen letter and response referenced.
    If you are actively keeping secrets from your partner, there is something wrong with your relationship, or you, or both.
    I am simply a little surprised that Greta, and no-one else here for that matter, picked up on the fact that the letter writer’s boyfriend kept his porn viewing a secret from his girlfriend. As I said, that indicates something less than a healthy attitude towards porn on HIS part, regardless of what the letter writer thinks (although, it can’t possibly make her feel better about porn if she thinks he thinks he needs to keep it a secret from her). It could be anything from he, himself, thinks viewing porn is “bad”, or he thinks others will consider him “bad” for doing so or he’s using it to compensate for something he is not getting or not giving in his own relationship…any humber of things.
    I mean, really, how many people do you know who watch porn regularly would live with a person for 2 years, date them for some while before that and NEVER mention that they watch porn? That would be considered unusual in my circle, to say the least. Sort of like being a steak lover and never mentioning that to your partner, never eating steak in front of your partner (even though your partner has never even mentioned steak pro or con), but doing so, secretively, elsewhere…(I actually know someone, a jew, who does that with bacon! ;))
    The other point I forgot to mention previously is that I find the characterization of the letter writer as “controlling” to be somewhat unfounded. She recently found the porn on his computer after having lived with the guy for 2 years as well as dating him previous to living together. She is obviously not so controlling as to have either not allowed him any “alone time” in order to view his porn secretly or even enough to have find out what he did on his own time. You can call that naive if you want, but at the same time, you can hardly complain about her not inquiring about his activities if she was willing enough to let him do his own thing without requiring that he account to her for his whereabouts.
    As I said, I think there were a whole lot of issues raised in the letter that simply were not addressed by Greta’s response and that Greta’s response was not really targeted at the whole letter so much as the one small mention of the fact that the letter writer was somewhat uncomfortable after finding out about the “porn conspiracy” after dating and living with the man for so long without knowing, without him ever mentioning it.

  15. 15

    why the boyfriend kept the porn viewing a secret from her for so long.

    Uh, I hate to break it to you, but most men watch porn, and most of them lie about it. Either because they think it’s wrong, or – more likely – because they think their spouse/partner will think it’s wrong. Whether it *should* be that way or not is besides the point – the situation is far from unusual, even in these “more enlightened” times.

  16. 16

    I think there’s a point many people seem to be missing. And that’s that this piece was not a criticism of the letter-writer. It was a criticism of Scarleteen’s response to the letter-writer.
    I think it’s one thing to say, “I’m not comfortable with porn, I have some negative feelings about it and it makes me unhappy that my partner watches it, and I’m trying to figure out what to do about it.” It’s another to calmly and soberly advise that person, “Be sure to tell any future partners that you’re not comfortable with porn — and that therefore, it’s not okay with you if they watch it, and you expect them to forego it if they’re going to be in a relationship with you.”
    More to say, but no time to say it right now. Please carry on with the discussion; I’ll say more on this when/if I have time, but I really wanted to say that right away.

  17. 17

    @WScott
    Actually most men do not watch porn, according to the statistics, and neither do most women.
    About 40 million US adults, out of approx. 238 million US adults, over the age of 15, use internet porn, so approx. 25% of men utilize internet porn and 10% of women do. (And most of that is done by people between the ages of 19-40.)
    In addition, porn movie rentals run about 800 million/year, which, if you cross reference with the 40 million internet porn viewers, could easily be mostly the same 40 million internet porn users watching 20 porn movies per year.
    There may be some additional folks viewing via pay-per-view at home since that is more discreet than renting dvd’s, and, of course, bored people in hotels on business trips probably account for some viewing, but I wouldn’t consider them to be regular users.
    And whether men lie about it or not is relatively pointless in this day and age for the purpose of obtaining accurate statistics. All of this stuff is tracked by internet filters, rental outlets, cable operators and marketing companies. Gotta keep track of your customers – who they are, where they are and what they like – so you can keep raking in the money.
    I would agree that most adults have seen some porn. But most adults are not regular viewers.
    As for lying about it, I would hardly think that a person with a healthy relaionship with porn would be likely to lie about it to a long-time partner. And the boyfriend lying about it to the Scarleteen letter writer is not very helpful for her to develop a healthy relationship with porn.
    @Greta
    I disagree, if the letter writer should decide that she does not like porn and does not want to be involved with a partner who views porn, then she is obligated to voice her opinion from the beginning, make her request and allow the potential partner to make a decision based on accurate and truthful information.
    It is not reasonable for her to have to know, or wonder, if her potential partner views porn if it is something that she is opposed to for any reason. It’s no different from asking whether someone is a racist. Excuse me, my step mother is black and I am very fond of her, do you have a problem with black people? If so, I really don’t think we can get a relationship going, because I would find it harmful for you to occasionally/constantly refer to someone I like and respect as a “nigger”.
    Is there a difference, really?

  18. Kit
    18

    I think there’s a point many people seem to be missing. And that’s that this piece was not a criticism of the letter-writer. It was a criticism of Scarleteen’s response to the letter-writer.
    If I gave that impression, I beg your pardon; I was just disagreeing with PhoenixRising. Sorry if that strayed off-topic.

  19. 19

    As for lying about it, I would hardly think that a person with a healthy relaionship with porn would be likely to lie about it to a long-time partner.

    flipside: I agree that lying about using porn (or concealing it, which isn’t quite the same thing but is related) isn’t the most healthy attitude. But I also have a certain amount of compassion for it. The reality is that porn is very stigmatized, and even a person who feels pretty okay with their porn consumption might feel unsafe sharing that fact, since lots of people deal with it very badly. If someone has had lots of past partners who reacted badly to the fact that they watch porn, they might well decide to keep their use of it private. And lots of people internalize society’s guilt and shame about porn, and don’t feel like it’s something they legitimately have a right to enjoy. (And for the record, I also have compassion for someone who’s not comfortable with porn. I just have a serious disagreement with Scarleteen over what’s a reasonable way to deal with that discomfort.)
    I’m not letting the boyfriend off the hook — I think the use of porn in a relationship is something both/all partners should talk about and negotiate. But given that neither of them did that (something they’re both responsible for) and that they’re now in the situation where they have this difference that they have to resolve, we’re back to the question: Is it reasonable to ask your partner not to watch porn, even when you’re not around, and even if it doesn’t affect how they are with you?
    And whether that’s early in a relationship or well into it, I still stand by my position, and nothing you’ve said so far is persuading me to change that position — which is that, for all the reasons I spelled out in this piece, this is a not a reasonable thing to ask. Yes, if someone feels very strongly about their anti-porn position, they should spell that out early so their partners can make an informed choice. (Just as someone who does enjoy porn should spell that out early, so their partners can make an informed choice, and they can negotiate reasonable limits around it.) But I think it would be a lot more productive and fair, instead of just saying “I’m not okay with porn, therefore I’m not willing to be with anyone who watches it,” to instead say, “Okay, I have some bad feelings about porn — why is that? Are those feelings reasonable, or based in reality? And regardless of why I have those feelings, do I have the right to expect my partner to never enjoy it, even in ways that have no direct impact on me?”
    Again, I ask: If someone hated sports, would it be reasonable to ask their partner to never watch sports — even when they’re not around? And if not, why is porn different?
    (BTW, I’m not responding to your racism analogy because I’m completely confused by it. Are you trying to say that watching porn is comparable to being a racist? I hope not. If not — can you please explain?)

  20. 20

    I would have said that the difference between watching porn and watching sport is that ones sexual partner probably doesn’t mind too much having her kicking skills compared to David Beckham’s.

  21. 21

    @Greta
    If something that your partner is doing upsets you for any reason, if you have thought it out and decided that you cannot live with your partner doing that thing, then, yes, it is reasonable to ask them to stop doing it. As you said, they may tell you that whatever it is is absolutely important to their own well-being and they cannot live without it and therefore you must either learn to live with it or take a hike. However, there is also the possibility that they may say, hey, I didn’t know that bothered you and it really doesn’t mean that much to me anyway, it’s just something I do to kill some time, so how about we do something else instead? You never know until you ask the question and no question is unreasonable when you and your partner’s health and well-being are at stake
    And again, there is nothing any person can think, say or do at any time, alone or together, that does not, in some way, affect their relationship with their partner – whether it changes an attitude, an ability to show compassion, general awareness, cuts into shared time, infringes on the finances etc. If you are sharing your life with someone, absolutely everything you do affects the other in some way.
    As seen in the Scarlteen letter, the boyfriend’s porn viewing has already shaped their relationship in an unhealthy way because he has kept it a secret from her so he never allowed her to even voice an opinion one way or the other – to make her own informed choice to be with someone who views porn or not. He made a decision to forge ahead with his own thing without even having the courtesy to find out if she would have a problem with it – he is controlling the relationship by withholding information. That’s patently unfair in any sort of relationship, be it personal or business.
    And someone who has had a lot of past partners react poorly to their porn viewing knows from experience that it is a potential problem, therefore that person is actually even more obligated to be upfront with a new potential partner because they absolutely know that the likelihood of it bothering a new partner is fairly significant. (The definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.) Again, withholding information from the other person, when they need that information to make a sound decision for their own welfare based on their own beliefs/opinions/ideals, is simply unfair.
    Keeping your porn viewing secret from a long term partner is every bit as damaging as keeping drug or alcohol use a secret, gambling, employment status, mental illness, financial information…any and everything.
    For instance, say the boyfriend makes $100K/year, but he tells the girlfriend he only makes $30K. The girlfriend makes $50K and decides that she’ll pay a larger share of the bills because she makes more than he does. Is that withholding of information fair? I don’t see how withholding the information about the porn viewing is either if it turns out to be something that may cause her to make a different decision without the information than she would with the information.
    And, as far as I can tell, all the Scarleteen response was suggesting is, in a nutshell, if something about your partner truly upsets you for any reason whatsoever, then you need to talk to them about it. You need to lay out what you’re willing to accept and what you’re not and you both make your decisions from a sufficiently informed, mutually understood and negotiated platform in which you each live up to the standards that you have set for yourselves.
    So, yes, if someone hated sports, couldn’t abide by the thought of their partner watching it – ever – it is reasonable to ask them to stop. If the partner does not want to, it is reasonable for them to suggest they not be partners anymore. Whatever they each are comfortable with is what should happen. If sports is a deal breaker, it’s a deal breaker.
    My racism comment wasn’t an analogy, per se. My point was that there are any number of things that any number of people could absolutely refuse to put up with in a relationship, would find unacceptable on any or all levels, and it is perfectly sound advice to suggest that people put those things right out in the open at the beginning of a relationship. And if they are not put out there at the beginning of the relationship, then they need to be put out there when they come up. It could be racism, religion, sexism, chauvanism, homophobia, elitism, intelligence, finances, plastic surgery, porn, pets, children, parents, drugs, alcohol, gambling, travel, vegetarianism, politics, abortion, death penalty…you name it. Anything that anyone could be passionate about, anything that anyone could be adamantly opposed to, are exactly the things that need to be discussed and need to be decided with full disclosure in all fairness to all parties, so everyone can make their own decisions as they see fit.
    Let me put it to you this way – if you found out your partner of 4 years, whom you have been living with for 2 years, was a born-again Christian, don’t you think that would change your relationship somewhat, even if she only engaged in it on her own time, it didn’t involve you in any way and it didn’t change her relationship with you? Given the way you feel about religion, wouldn’t the notion of your partner being religious make you reevaluate everything that you had done and are planning to do as a team? Wouldn’t it change your fundamental view and understanding of your partner? Would you feel just slightly obligated to disabuse her of her religious fantasies and request that she stop being so stupid when you’re not around? Or simply cause you to leave the relationship?
    As far as I can tell, it’s no different with the Scarleteen article. If one partner turns out to have radically different beliefs/opinions/ideals regarding porn than the other does, and those beliefs/opinions/ideals are extremely important to them, then that is an indication that they are radically incompatible on an important issue and therefore are quite possibly radically incompatible on other important and less important issues.
    All the Scarleteen response suggested to the writer was figure it out for yourself with the best knowledge you can find – whether it is a deal breaker or not – and make an informed decision to either request the partner stop the activity or consider leaving the relationship if she doesn’t want to live with someone who views porn.
    As I said, it’s pretty standard advice from everyone from dear Prudence to Dr. Phil to your local psychiatrist. It is a reasonable thing to ask and it is a reasonable thing to refuse. And it’s also reasonable to hash it out and see if you can come to some sort of equitable compromise.
    As I said, just because it’s porn doesn’t give it some sort of immutable diplomatic immunity. It isn’t untouchable. Nothing is in a partnership or a relationship.
    For the record, there are more reasons to dislike porn than just moral and feminist reasons. Personally, I am uninterested porn because I find it insipid, unimaginative and boring. I would not want to have a porn watching partner because I would be under the constant internal assault of “Is this person really that insipid, unimaginative and boring? Can I live with that???”
    I’m pretty sure I couldn’t live with that. In the words of some obscure band from the 70’s whose name I can’t remember, “there’s more going on in my head than on any tv screen…” 😉

  22. 22

    Flipside: I’m going to start with something you said near the end of your comment, as I think it may be the most crucial thing I have to say.

    Personally, I am uninterested porn because I find it insipid, unimaginative and boring. I would not want to have a porn watching partner because I would be under the constant internal assault of “Is this person really that insipid, unimaginative and boring? Can I live with that???”

    This sentiment is EXACTLY what I was talking about when I argued that people should not make assumptions about others simply because they watch porn — and that doing so is not only unfair, but will seriously limit your dating possibilities.
    I, personally, Greta Christina, author of this blog, enjoy porn. I enjoy a fair amount of it, actually. Do you think I am insipid, unimaginative and boring? I hope not. I can’t imagine why you’d read my blog, and participate in this conversation, if you did.
    And many of the people in my life — now and in my past, women and men, friends, lovers, colleagues and more — are now or have been porn consumers. They are not insipid, unimaginative, or boring. Even if you grant that all porn is insipid, unimaginative and boring (which I don’t, although a lot of it certainly is), that says very little about the people who enjoy it. A lot of lively, imaginative, interesting people occasionally enjoy the dumber parts of our pop culture. Ingrid enjoys plenty of popular culture that I find boring at best and distasteful at worst. And I am very grateful indeed that I did not reject her on that basis. It would have been a terrible decision — unfair to her, and very sad indeed for me.
    This idea is not only insulting and offensive to large numbers of people. It’s just flatly wrong. R-O-N-G wrong. Mistaken. Not true.

  23. 23

    As to the rest of your comment, flipside: I feel like we’re going around in circles. I keep saying, “Yes, if you’re absolutely adamantly opposed to porn, of course you should tell your partners upfront”… and you keep making that point again. Which I’m agreeing with. If people have deal-breakers, they should spell them out early. Obviously.
    That’s not my point. My point is this:
    Some requests of our partners are less reasonable than others. Some behaviors infringe on our partners a fair amount, and it’s more reasonable to ask our partners to change those behaviors, or to ask early on if they engage in those behaviors so we can make an informed choice about whether to pursue the relationship. But other behaviors infringe on our partners very little — and in those cases, I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to ask our partners to change, or to make that behavior a deal-breaker. If we have issues with those behaviors, I think it’s our responsibility to deal with our issues ourselves.
    Examples: Is it reasonable to not want to date someone who smokes? Yes. Smoking seriously infringes on your partner — even if you only do it away from them and out of the house, since it makes you smell and taste like an ashtray.
    But is it reasonable to not want to date someone who wears blue underwear? I would argue No. If someone asked me on our second date, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved with someone who wears blue underwear,” I would think they were a scary control freak who expected people to tiptoe around every one of their emotional tender spots. I would be heading for the hills — even though I don’t have a single piece of blue underwear in my wardrobe.
    Or to give a more serious example: You argue that it’s reasonable for us to ask anything at all of our partners if it’s upsetting enough to us. Do you think it’s reasonable to ask our partners to stop seeing their family and friends? That’s classic abusive behavior — abusers often make this request of their partners. Do you think that’s a reasonable request?
    My point is that some requests of our partners are more reasonable than others. And my point is that “don’t watch porn, even on our own time, even when I’m not around, even when you keep it completely out of my face” is pretty far on the “unreasonable” side of that spectrum. If you want to argue that latter point, I’d be interested to hear it — but if you’re going to continue to argue that any and all relationship dealbreakers/ requests of our partners are completely reasonable, no matter how petty or controlling, I’m not going to be interested in continuing this discussion for much longer.
    (And as I said in the piece: I do think that in relationships, we get a few “I know I’m being irrational, but I feel strongly about this, so can you please just humor me?” free passes. But when we ask for those free passes, I think we need to acknowledge that we’re asking for something unreasonable, above and beyond the call of duty — and not act as if we have the moral high ground.)
    As to the honesty: I’ve already granted that the boyfriend shares some responsibility for not mentioning this earlier. I have some compassion — in the same way that I have compassion for men who, for instance, don’t tell their partners that they cross-dress, since it’s so stigmatized and there’s so much shame around it. But yes, I’ve already acknowledged that he should have been upfront about this sooner.
    But why does the boyfriend get your blame for dishonesty — and not the girlfriend? No, he wasn’t honest early on about liking porn — but she wasn’t honest early on about having problems with it. They both should have brought this up sooner. Why do you see him as being dishonest, but not her?

  24. 24

    Even if you grant that all porn is insipid, unimaginative and boring (which I don’t, although a lot of it certainly is), that says very little about the people who enjoy it.
    YES!
    I must say that the idea that a person is only like their least accepted interest is one of the more ridiculous notions I’ve heard in a long time.
    Many people have demanding lives and only want to relax now and then with something that is less demanding for one thing – does that mean that the one time a week (or something) that they do that tells us everything about this person? And what they do the rest of the week, tells us nothing?
    I agree that very much porn is rather stupid (though far from all) but so what? Just as Greta says, a lot of people like a few things that are nonsense stuff, but I would say that it’s rare that those few things are, in fact, the ONLY thing they like, and that there would be nothing else about them worth loving or befriending.
    Personally I think it’s rather stupid to run around on a big field chasing a boll, but I would be stupid myself if I really thought all soccer fans are insipid and unimaginative! It’s never occurred to me that I would never have anything to do with a soccer fan just because it bores me to death watching it.
    I think there’s an image of porn watching as being something that the viewer must necessarily obsess about, to the cost of other interesting interests, social contact and personal development. Not necessarily true at all.
    I do watch porn. I like to relax after demanding days watching two beautiful men do it. That is ONE interest in my life, among many, many others, and it isn’t even the biggest one – though it’s probably on the top twenty list :-).
    Watching porn seems to have had no detrimental effect on Greta’s brain judging from her blogging. And it doesn’t seem to have had a bad effect on most other people I’ve met either who admitted watching porn. Yeah, I’ve met some real insipid, stupid and imaginative people who watched porn too, but since I’ve met even more smart, imaginative and interesting people who do – my conclusion is that people of all kinds watch porn – that their personality traits are there regardless – and that porn watching in general does not seem to have that much effect on how people are otherwise.
    Lastly, I’m surprised no one reacted to this, though I agree it’s worthy of ignoring, as it seems a bit trollish!
    Statement A: My girlfriend watches porn.
    Statement B: My girlfriend is immoral.
    Statement C: I should break up with my girlfriend.
    Seems prefectly reasonable to me. You might not agree with all of these statements, but they’re not necessarily “unreasonable.”

    Yes, I would say that it IS unreasonable to state that a ‘woman is immoral’ for watching porn. What I think we disagree on is not these statements as much as the definition of ‘moral’.

  25. 25

    Greta
    I liked your arguement which says “If you’re going to rule out all men who ever like to watch sports on TV, you’re going to limit yourself to a very small dating pool indeed”. Very good point.
    But there clearly is a difference between being smart about your standards, and having the “right” to have them. Let me put it another way. I am pushing 50, short and bald. I’m a good dancer and in good shape, but nobody is going to mistake me for Brad Pitt. So I have the “right” to decide I am only going to date women I think are a 10 (on the conventional scale) but by doing so, I am likely to remain dateless for the remainder of my years on planet earth.
    So does a woman have the right to make this a pre-condition to dating? Sure. Is it smart? Probably not.
    Lastly, I would argue the feminist community is clearly conflicted on the issue of porn and while I absolutely agree with you and your position vis-a-vis feminism, I am also equally sure there are plenty of feminist activists who would love a supreme court ruling that bans pornograghy outright.

  26. 27

    @Greta
    OK, here’s what I think you’re not getting: say a woman is living with a guy for a couple of years, he’s a corporate sort of guy, lives in the city, works in an office, dresses elegantly, does city sorts of things – theatre, opera, etc.
    One day the guy’s old friend from his college days in Maine calls up and says the old gang is getting together in the wilderness to go bear hunting. The guy says he’s in, tells the girlfriend he’s going to head up to Maine next weekend to go kill some bears, he hasn’t done it in 15 years, it’ll be great fun.
    Up to this point in their relationship, there’s been no mention of killing bears, why would there be? They live in a city and do city stuff together with their city friends. The guy hasn’t even seen or talked to the old gang from Maine for so long he can’t even remember.
    Regardless of the fact that they’ve been shacked up together for several years, the first mention of killing bears IS the beginning of THAT facet of their relationship. There is no reason on earth why any woman, living in a city, with a city sort of guy, would ever have any reason to ask if said city sort of guy is a bear killer. It wouldn’t come up as a topic of conversation on the city girlfriend’s part. You can hardly put the onus on her to root out her partners past bear killing atrocities.
    No-one sits down at the beginning of a relationship and goes over every single possible activity anyone could ever engage in with a potential partner. (As I pointed out with Mrs. BTK Killer – how likely do you think it would be that she would have just up and asked her husband if he was the BTK Killer? Not very, even after the killings started, definitely not before.)
    Similarly, the Scarlteen letter writer, after years with her partner, has just found out about the porn. She probably didn’t know how she felt about having a partner who viewed porn because it never crossed her mind that she would have and had a partner who views porn. Therefore, this IS the beginning of the porn facet of her relationship with her partner. This IS the time when she has to decide whether or not this is a deal breaker – she hasn’t had the luxury (courtesy) of being able to make that decision in the beginning of the rest of the relationship with her partner.
    And, according to her letter, she, herself does not yet know exactly how she feels about the porn viewing, how it makes her feel about herself and how it will affect her relationship with her partner. All she knows is that right now, she’s got some reservations. But, with new information, the relationship is effectively back to the starting position, so it is perfectly reasonable to treat the porn viewing, well into the relationship, in the same manner one would treat the porn at the beginning of the relationship and that would be to request the boyfriend to stop viewing if that is what she feels is necessary at the moment for her well-being.
    As for the amount of infringement another’s behavior has on a person, that is entirely based on the individual and their own emotional, intellectual, psychological and physical stamina as well as their own personal experiences and reactions to those experiences. You cannot offer another person a reasonable and finite answer to what infringes on them any more than you can offer them a reasonable and finite answer to what they like to eat. Each person is different.
    So let’s take your examples. If a potential partner had a totally traumatic experience – every awful thing that could have happened did – with a person who only ever wore blue underwear and so now blue underwear gives them nightmarish flashbacks (this isn’t just a silly superstition or personal quirk, blue underwear are actually traumatic for this person), then asking/requiring the new partner not to wear blue underwear is perfectly reasonable, no matter where it occurs in the relationship. Same for the family scenario. If a person is subject to derision and abuse by the partner’s family and knows that when the partner visits the family on their own time, without involving them, that the family continues to engage in the abuse and derision, then, by all means, it is reasonable to ask the partner to make a choice between family or partner (this actually happens fairly regularly for mixed race and mixed religion couples, amongst other scenarios).
    And that is my point, the REASON for asking is more important than WHAT is being asked. And the Scarleteen response to the letter writer was well within the boundaries of that rule, as the letter writer was at a critical pivot in the relationship, a return to square one, with the sudden acquisition of new information.
    You have no way of knowing how much this new information infringes on the letter writer. Neither does the Scarleteen responder, which is why the response was appropriate. And that was your major complaint, was it not, that the response was not appropriate? That IF (and it’s only an “if” along with ALL the other advice given) the writer should decide that porn viewing by a partner is unacceptable to her she should advise all future prospective partners of that fact up front.
    I am having difficulty understanding why you have a problem with that advice, since your own stated opinion is that people should spell out these things in the beginning of the relationship – that’s exactly what the Scarleteen advice says to do.
    And I think you are making a straw man of the “moral high ground” excuse. Some people just don’t like some stuff and it’s got nothing to do with morality, it’s just personal differences. e.g. I didn’t say that there was anything intrinsically wrong with porn. I didn’t say that other people can’t get something useful out of it. I didn’t say that I would want a partner who didn’t watch porn based on moral or socio-cultural (e.g. feminist) reasons. I wouldn’t. I simply said that I don’t find porn interesting, I find it boring and I would, knowing that I live by/with my biases, be suspect of a partner who would engage in viewing porn, when they could actually be having sex with me (I’m pretty much ready and available for such at all times). That’s all. I would look for a partner with similar tastes and attitudes towards porn/sex, just as I would look for a partner with similar tastes and attitudes regarding a lot of other things – furniture, literature, music, pets, marriage, education, finances, food.
    I only have so many hours in a day that I can devote to and spend time with a partner or potential partner. I want to know that those few hours will be mutually satisfactory for both of us and I can know that by choosing the qualities that are important to me in the other person and making sure that I have the qualities that are important to them. Yes, I, personally, want to limit my dating pool, and I know how and why I want to limit my dating pool because I know that I would like the limited time I have to spend with that person will be enjoyable and satisfying.
    You and I have different personal requirements, that’s all. I don’t feel limited by my requirements and I would hope that you don’t feel limited by yours. We should all feel empowered by being the people we think we should be for the reasons we feel we should be and living our lives according to our personal beliefs, requirements, expectations and desires.
    But, back to the Scarleteen advice, unless you know the ENTIRE details of any situation, you don’t know what is reasonable for someone else and you don’t know what is reasonable for someone to do or not do for another at that other’s request.
    Without a whole lot more information, there wasn’t any other, or better, advice that Scarleteen could offer that particular letter writer.

  27. 28

    Flipside
    You wrote:
    “Similarly, the Scarlteen letter writer, after years with her partner, has just found out about the porn. She probably didn’t know how she felt about having a partner who viewed porn because it never crossed her mind that she would have and had a partner who views porn.”
    Where has Scarleteen been spending these initial years of her life – the moons of jupiter? Because pornograghy in it’s many forms is everywhere. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting porn in some way or the other. I don’t think this quite compares to the possibility of him being the BTK killer. Now maybe it didn’t occur to her earlier, but this is an issue I would think would come up sooner rather than latter. If she rules out men who ever look at porn, she is going to be ruling out almost as many men as watch sports.
    As for hunting, it stands to reason if you are a vegetarian you will object to hunting. If you aren’t, you don’t have much to object to rationally. If you are a vegetarian, your boyfriend’s probably going to notice that and hence it will be up for early discussion in the relationship. I know you were citing an example, but these two weren’t the best you could have chosen.
    I agree with Greta’s position with the small exception of whether or not she has the “right” to rule this guy out for this reason. I think she has the right, but it’s not a right she should probably exercise unless she wants to lead a single life.

  28. 29

    Gosh, so many things get relationships into trouble … I would say chief among them is the lack of communication.
    Boyfriend doesn’t mention porn because, quite frankly, it’s just better if he doesn’t. He doesn’t choose to involve her, so there you have it. Is he right never to mention it? Hard to say, but under the circumstances he may already know her views on the subject, and has chosen the safer route.
    Girlfriend doesn’t mention porn because, well, quite frankly, it hasn’t ever come up. Until now. So now she has to deal with it.
    She should talk to him, and make whatever deal she can. If he says it would not be reasonable to “give up” porn, then there you have it. She can then decide whether to compromise or not. But even if he agrees, he’s probably only going to take (stronger) measures to ensure she doesn’t find out. That’s too bad, but defining sexual behavior as wrong has never eliminated it. NEVER. (Gee, I wonder why, he asks rhetorically.)
    Porn is only different in many people’s eyes because it involves sex, and most of us seem to have our fair share of hangups about it. Some, more than their fair share.
    It’s reasonable to ask for what you want/need in a relationship, and good for you if you get it. But asking and GETTING are two very different things. Everything is a negotiation, and everything is a compromise. Oh, and be careful what you ask for, too.

  29. 30

    The fact that you think that watching porn (which is a catch-all term that includes all erotic material of any kind) and being the BTK killer are similar is all I need to know that you aren’t the kind of person with which it’s possible to have a rational discussion. My life will be better if I simply ignore you. And therefore I shall.

  30. 31

    Phoenix
    I am pretty sure the BTK killer (and Bear Hunter) references were examples of other issues that would not normally come up in discussion concerning your boyfriends preferences. I don’t think it was meant as a moral comparison.

  31. 32

    @Jimmy Crummins
    You are correct.
    I had a fairly lengthy response that I posted to you last night, went through the whole procedure with the code and everything, it said it posted, it was there for a few minutes, then it was gone.
    If I have time tonight, I will try to recreate it…

  32. 33

    Part 2
    Greta’s position was exactly the same as the responder’s position with the exception that the Scarleteen response did not pass any judgment on either the boyfriend’s porn viewing or the letter writer’s uneasiness with it, as Greta, and a few others here, did.
    I find it a bit annoying, and slightly amusing, that so many people are willing to berate others for allegedy making assumptions (porn watchers are NOT insipid, unimaginative and stupid!), when they, themselves are doing the same thing – all men watch porn, porn is everywhere, this girl couldn’t possibly have not known her boyfriend was watching porn, she should have brought up a topic she had no reason to bring up.
    I found this particularly distressing:
    “But even if he agrees, he’s probably only going to take (stronger) measures to ensure she doesn’t find out.”
    That guy doesn’t know that and there is no reason to think that would actually be the case.
    The only thing I think was missing from the Scarleteen response was the suggestion that, if the writer is still on the fence about porn, after researching and discussing with her boyfriend, that she should suggest that they watch some of his porn together, so that she can see what it is he’s watching, see how he reacts to it and see what he gets out of it in order to see if she can become comfortable with it, even if not for herself, then comfortable with his viewing. There’s no reason to assume that the writer will end up being opposed to porn and/or demand that the boyfriend stop viewing. It’s equally as likely that one or the other would suggest they make it a group activity instead of a solo activity. And perhaps in doing so, they will both be happier people.
    The Scarleteen response that a person should disclose information up front, and pass on those people who don’t come up to personal requirements, was ONLY in the event that the writer decides she IS firmly opposed to porn and WILL NOT accept it in a partner. And that IS the correct advice to give. And it is exactly what the majority of people do on a daily basis in regards to millions of criteria totally unrelated to porn or sex. We may take a pass on an unintelligent person, even if they’re gorgeous; we may take a pass on a rich person if they show poor financial management skills; we may take a pass on a person who is funny and charming to us, but treats the wait staff poorly. Whatever your criteria are, and as long as your own emotional and psychological criteria are influencing, they should be adhered to in order to maintain personal well-being . That doesn’t mean that issues can’t be revisited if/when things change, only that, at the moment of having to make decisions, you have to make them based on what you know and feel now, not on the expectation that things will change.
    So, as far as the response went, I think it was fine, helpful. It could have gone a little further, but there’s only so much type space and a single person can’t be expected to think of everything!

  33. 34

    This site has a problem with my part 1. I broke the post into 2 parts because I thought it was too long, but it simply won’t take part one. I guess I can try to break it down further. Youll have to read posts from the bottom up…

  34. 35

    Part 1B
    So, it is fairly common for someone who is not looking for porn to be completely unaware of it, just the same way a person who isn’t looking for ink cartridges wouldn’t notice them in the office supply store when they’re there to get pens and rulers.
    Along with serial killing, burglarizing, embezzling, cooking meth and making bombs to blow up federal buildings (amongst other things), for many people inquiring about porn would simply not be on any list of questions to ask potential or current partners unless some indication of that activity were obvious on the part of the partner. And automatically assuming that everyone you meet would be a porn viewer would certainly not cross many peoples’ minds unless, they, themselves were interested in porn. It certainly isn’t anything I would assume or ask about unless someone made mention of it, in the same way that I wouldn’t assume someone doesn’t take a daily multivitamin unless they mention it.
    A person can object to killing bears because they like bears. A person can object to killing bears because it is barbaric and unnecessary. A person can object to killing bears because it is unfair with our modern weaponry. A person can object to killing bears because it diminishes the genetic biodiversity of tenuous species populations. A person can object to killing bears because it shows a lack of respect for and understanding of, our environment. A person can object to killing bears because bears are a symbol of the vastness and beauty of America. A person can object to killing bears because it leaves baby bears with no mother bears to protect and raise them. There are many perfectly rational reasons to object to killing bears. As a matter of fact, vegetarianism is one of the less rational ones, if one is a vegetarian for health reasons, not animal rights reasons. Not many people actually eat the bears they kill. And if any of those topics never came up in conversation, there would be no way of knowing a person’s stance on bear killing.

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    I am guessing the Scarleteen letter write is in her 20’s. I am in my 40’s and I have never had a partner who was a regular porn viewer. Which isn’t to say that I or they have never viewed porn, just that it was not a regular activity – daily, weekly, monthly etc. And it did not occur during the time we were partners except with the one partner – we watched a few together, laughed at the stupidity of it, and went on our merry way . I would guess that I have seen a dozen porn movies in my life, as well as skimmed through Playboy and Penthouse on occasion. (Although, as these things are measured, I think Playboy would be considered more as erotica instead of porn, which is more to my personal taste (written and art)).
    According to the statistics, the majority of adults do not view porn regularly, so I think you are grossly overinflating the idea that a woman can’t meet a man who is not a porn viewer and vice versa (although, apparently the odds are significantly decreased amongst Christians). There are plenty of men (and women) out there who do not watch porn, do not subscribe to magazines and do not peruse the internet for porn (who’s got the time, even if they have the notion???). And, contrary to porn being inescapable, a person actually has to purposely seek out porn, as it is still kept behind the counter or wrapped in brown paper in all public places aside from “adult only” venues. Personally, I have never received an e-mail at any of my numerous e-mail addresses that was related to porn. The occasional Viagra or penis enlargement promo, but never porn.

  36. 38

    Part 1A…or not…last try…
    I am guessing the Scarleteen letter write is in her 20’s. I am in my 40’s and I have never had a partner who was a regular porn viewer. Which isn’t to say that I or they have never viewed porn, just that it was not a regular activity – daily, weekly, monthly etc. And it did not occur during the time we were partners except with the one partner – we watched a few together, laughed at the stupidity of it, and went on our merry way . I would guess that I have seen a dozen porn movies in my life, as well as skimmed through Playboy and Penthouse on occasion. (Although, as these things are measured, I think Playboy would be considered more as erotica instead of porn, which is more to my personal taste (written and art)).
    According to the statistics, the majority of adults do not view porn regularly, so I think you are grossly overinflating the idea that a woman can’t meet a man who is not a porn viewer and vice versa (although, apparently the odds are significantly decreased amongst Christians). There are plenty of men (and women) out there who do not watch porn, do not subscribe to magazines and do not peruse the internet for porn (who’s got the time, even if they have the notion???). And, contrary to porn being inescapable, a person actually has to purposely seek out porn, as it is still kept behind the counter or wrapped in brown paper in all public places aside from “adult only” venues. Personally, I have never received an e-mail at any of my numerous e-mail addresses that was related to porn. The occasional Viagra or penis enlargement promo, but never porn.

  37. 39

    Flipside
    Hunting is BY FAR the most humane way to acquire your meat (note I didn’t say trapping). So, if you are not a vegatarian, then hunting is far more humane than going to the supermarket to buy meat products.
    Secondly (and I am sorry to thread fuck this, but I had to respond), the populations of animals hunted in North America are carefully managed to maintain an optimum size (that is – one that is sustainable for it’s environment). This wasn’t always true, but it is now. Hunting in North America today enhances biodiversity by culling the animals to numbers their environment can sustain.
    I can understand how people object to hunting based on the idea that man has moved past it – i.e. humans should be herbivores and not omnivores and that they find the notion of taking any life objectionable. I don’t agree with it, but it’s a logical and understandable arguement. But if you reject that arguement, then hunting is a great way to acquire your meat.
    Lastly, I don’t know who told you that nobody eats bears – the meat quality is not the best, but I have a lot of friends who hunt, and hunting ethics demand you eat what you kill. I don’t know anyone who trophy hunts and all of my hunting friends find this idea unethical.
    The crucial tie in for me to this thread on this line of arguementation, however, is that if you are not a vegetarian and you object to hunting, you just haven’t thought it through. Hunted animals get to live their whole lives in the wild, while many animals raised as livestock spend their whole lives in cages until they are slaughtered. THAT bothers me.

  38. 40

    Jimmy: Thank you for sharing.
    flipside: I’m sorry, but I have to bow out of this now. I have four deadlines in the next five days, plus a talk I’m giving in two weeks that I have to make major revisions to. I’ve already given this more time than I ought to have, and I can’t give it any more. I don’t agree with you, but this is clearly going nowhere, and I have to move on now. Thanks for an interesting conversation.

  39. 41

    @Greta
    No problem. I’m up to my ass in work and have to travel next week…plus half the time I post now, it isn’t accepted anyway…
    Enjoy your deadlines, as much as I enjoy mine. 😉

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    Just found your missing comments in the spam filter, btw. Sorry about that — don’t know what happened there. My guess is that you used language that I’ve had to ban because it’s commonly used by spammers. If that happens again, please email me and let me know.

  41. 43

    flipside | May 10, 2010 at 07:54 AM:

    Did Mrs. BTK Killer ask Mr. BTK Killer if he was out torturing and killing the neighbours during their fairly lengthy marriage?

    Because using porn is totally equivalent to binding, torturing, and murdering multiple people. Why didn’t you just cut to the chase, and compare porn to the murder of six million Jews? Wouldn’t that have made your argument a lot stronger?

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    Relationships between a couple are as unique as the individuals. Some couples can have open marriages and be perfectly happy with their marriage. So it all boils down to what you decide (as a couple) what is acceptable and what is not. If a woman says that porn is not acceptable, then the man has to accept her wishes or find a woman who doesn’t care if he watches porn.
    I am sick of the whole “its the 21st century, every man watches porn, so just get over it.” These are just weak women, who settle for men who care more about watching porn than making sure their girlfriend is happy in the relationship.
    If your man is watching porn and you feel degraded and that you are not good enough to sexually satisfy him, tell him.
    then, if he says he cannot give up porn, you can either settle and always feel second best next to the porn girls or leave him and find a better man.
    You do not have to “just deal”
    or “get over it.” You are allowed to not want porn in your relationship.

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