One of the things we do on radical feminist blogs is discuss the horrible advice given to us by the professionals who are supposed to help us but don’t, and provide a more woman-centered approach. This validates women’s feelings after they’ve been dismissed, ridiculed and gas-lighted by men, it makes us feel less alone, and it gives us the strength to face what we have to do.
Here is an article by a male sex therapist who excuses men’s use of porn as no big deal and his private business, and dismisses women’s objections to it. Now, I’m not an authority on heterosexual relationships, but I am a fully certified Radical Feminist Killjoy with a black belt in taking down patriarchal bullshit, and I think you’ll be quite pleased with my advice.
Husbands Watch Porn, Wives Despair—But Why?, asks sex therapist and professional male supremacist Marty Klein.
Klein opens his article by responding to a standard set of questions that wives ask him when they catch their husbands watching porn, and then explains some things, from a male perspective, about why wives should just disregard their feelings and let their husbands continue their objectionable habit.
Klein believes that porn is an innocent pastime, just entertainment the way romance novels and pictures of cats are entertainment, and that there is nothing for wives to be concerned about. He doesn’t even dimly grasp that porn is violence against women. He isn’t aware that porn represents a male-centered view of sex that is all about men’s use of women as sex objects, that there is verbal and physical abuse of women by men in a large percentage of porn scenes, that porn specifically celebrates male dominance and female submission, that plenty of porn is non-consensual, that many porn scenes specifically celebrate the non-consensual nature of the act, that porn actresses are physically harmed in a lot of scenes because of the brutal treatment, and a large portion of it depicts literal torture and rape of women. For a more thorough analysis than I’ve included here of what is wrong with porn, please read Pornland by Gail Dines and Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Andrea Dworkin (available in PDF). For a quicker read, my anti-porn trio of blog posts can be found here, here and here.
Since Klein hasn’t bothered to notice the really obvious misogyny inherent in the porn industry, the advice he gives to his sample letter-writer is completely ignorant and unhelpful. (Well, it does help the porn-watching husband.)
Klein reports that the wives who write to him asking for advice usually ask the following questions:
- Why do men watch porn?
- Why do men promise to stop watching, and then keep watching?
- Why don’t men understand how their porn-watching breaks women’s hearts?
- How can I make love with a man who watches porn?
- How can I trust a man who watches porn?
- Aren’t there any men who don’t hate women?
Klein gives the following answers:
- Men watch porn because it’s entertaining to watch naked women (&/or men) while they masturbate. It generally has nothing to do with how they feel about women (or men).
- Men don’t watch porn because their partners are inadequate.
- Some men are jerks. Some of them watch porn, others don’t. Most men aren’t jerks. Some of them watch porn, others don’t. Porn-watching doesn’t predict jerk-itude.
- Men promise to not watch porn because they don’t want to deal with their partner’s pain or anger. It’s an inappropriate promise to ask for, and it’s a foolish promise to make.
- Men shouldn’t break their promises.
- Women shouldn’t go hunting for evidence of men’s private behavior.
- Almost all conflict about porn is actually about something else. If your partner never watched porn, would you two have an ideal relationship? If so (which I doubt), let go of the porn issue and enjoy paradise. If not, talk about the stuff you really need to talk about. If he refuses, let him know that’s a deal-breaker for you.
I’ve got some way more realistic explanations for these important questions.
Why do men watch porn?
There are many factors that lead to men watching porn, and they’re all about equally important. The porn industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that targets boys right from the time they are children. Even before the Internet, boys were familiar with porn in the form of their dad’s “dirty magazines” and videos only semi-hidden in the house, and late-night movies on cable TV, and advertising and magazines and calendars using women’s bodies as props and sex objects. Now that the average kid has a smart phone with Internet access, free high-resolution porn is only a click away.
Men are taught that they are entitled to women’s bodies. They are taught this through all the media they consume and through male-created culture, from locker room talk to social institions such as religion. Men are taught that they deserve beautiful women and that they have a right to expect women to cater to them sexually. Due to an almost complete lack of convictions for rape, and the popular promotion of rape culture, men are taught that they are allowed to “take” women whenever they want, no matter what—women’s willingness is irrelevant. This is something that men relish.
Rape in marriage has only been illegal, in some places, for a relatively short time in history, and is still legal in other places. It is legally and culturally acceptable for men to treat wives as sexual slaves, in many parts of the world, including in parts of North America. The prevalence of prostitution demonstrates that men will treat other woman as sexual merchandise, too—it’s not just wives that are abused.
Since men are taught that women are commodities and sexual playthings for them to use, and since they develop the habit of thinking of women this way right from childhood, it’s not surprising that they watch porn and think it’s normal. It’s heartbreaking, but not surprising. Men can’t understand why women object, because they don’t understand that it’s wrong to treat female people like things. Some of them don’t think we are people at all, and others know we’re people but get off on dehumanizing us.
Although men can certainly masturbate without looking at photos or videos of women being sexually used, they enjoy the exhilaration they get from viewing the sexual use of women and the reminder that women exist for their pleasure. It’s a high that comes from both sexual pleasure and the reinforcement of their dominant position in the sex hierarchy—an irresistible combination for them.
Why do men promise to stop watching, and then keep watching?
Men promise their wives they will stop watching porn, even though they have no intention to stop, because they don’t care about their wives’ feelings, they aren’t willing to examine the problems with their behavior, and their only interest is in getting their wives to stop complaining as soon as possible. They will say anything their wives want to hear so that they don’t have to talk about it anymore. They are interested in nothing but their own comfort.
Why don’t men understand how their porn-watching breaks women’s hearts?
Men are so conditioned to believe that women are things for them to use that they can’t even see that this is happening or that it’s not okay. They believe it’s natural for women to fulfill men’s sexual desires whenever and however men want, and they think that this is what women are for and that women agree with this treatment. They are taught this belief largely by porn itself, and the rest of the culture contributes too. Men are not willing to listen to women and understand how we actually feel. They cannot empathize with us and they’re not willing to try.
How can I make love with a man who watches porn?
It’s not enjoyable to make love to a man who watches porn. You can tell that he’s been watching porn by his attitude toward sex. I’ve heard several straight women now tell me that they can always tell if a man is a porn user by the way he treats her in bed, and I’m not surprised. Porn teaches men that what women really want is to be dominated and treated in a rough and callous manner. If a man thinks of women this way, he won’t be a good lover.
How can I trust a man who watches porn?
You most likely can’t trust him. He doesn’t respect women, and you’re a woman, so he doesn’t respect you. It’s difficult to face this, but it’s true.
Aren’t there any men who don’t hate women?
There are very few men who don’t hate women. In order to change this, please join radical feminism and help us create a culture where the sexes are equal and men are not allowed to abuse women. By fighting back against male supremacist institutions like the porn industry and prostitution, we tell men that they are not allowed to abuse us and they have to treat us like the human beings that we are. Men aren’t born hating women, this hatred is learned, and we need to teach a different lesson.
Our sex therapist explains:
“Some women seem to feel that there’s an implicit contract that their partner won’t watch porn, even though he never suggested such a thing. Therefore, they feel betrayed when he “breaks” the “contract.” That’s a mistake. You can dislike his porn-watching without deciding it’s a betrayal.”
Dear women, it’s not a mistake to assume your husband won’t watch porn, and to expect him not to. You have many legitimate reasons to expect that he won’t. For example, on your wedding day, he stood up in front of his and your family and friends and your religious leader and he promised to be faithful to you forever. Deliberately seeking out other women’s vaginas to get off on is not a part of being faithful, and he is breaking that promise. He also promised to love you. If his behavior indicates that he hates women, then that extends to you too. If he’s watching videos online of men shoving their penises down women’s throats until they gag, vomit and cry, or if he’s watching videos where “Dad” molests the babysitter, or videos where several men gang-rape a college student who was looking for her next class, then you are right to suspect that he hates women. It’s horrifying to realize that the man you thought was in love with you actually doesn’t think that women are fully human. Women who realize this will often use strategies to pretend it’s not true, such is convincing themselves that those women in the videos really “wanted” the abuse, or that the small amount of money they may have been given as compensation makes the abuse not hurt them, or that abuse is something sexy and fun, or any number of other excuses. Or they may not make excuses, they may repress their knowledge and just refuse altogether to think about it. But those repressed hurt feelings will eventually cause ulcers if they are not dealt with.
Men who watch videos of real sexual violence being enacted upon women and girls indeed are betraying their wives—and their daughters, and all women. Men who actually love women are sickened by violence against women.
“Some women seem to feel that because their partner watches porn they find disgusting or scary or confusing, they have a right to demand he stop watching it. A woman has no such right, any more than he has a right to patrol the TV, novels, or videos she watches. In an adult relationship, whatever objection she has to his porn shouldn’t carry more weight (or less weight) than his objection to her CSI or romance novels or cat videos.”
There is a reason why you would find abusive and misogynist porn disgusting or scary. It is disgusting and scary. Your husband would find it disgusting and scary too if he cared about women. Do not let anyone sell you the bullshit claim that videos of women being abused is the same thing as prime-time TV shows or pictures of cats. This is an obvious lie and anyone telling you this is deliberately dismissing your legitimate concerns in order to protect his abusive behavior. This is a tactic to allow him to continue hurting you.
“Some women seem to believe their partner has “left” them for porn. No sane person does that. People do withdraw from sexual relationships for many reasons, often passively or without adequate discussion. That’s a legitimate thing to complain about. Criticizing a man’s porn watching as the “cause” of a couple’s poor or missing sex life is as cowardly as a man withdrawing sexually without explaining his dissatisfaction.”
A porn user may very well withdraw from a sexual relationship. This may not mean he stops going through the motions of having sex with you. It might mean that he is having sex with the imaginary scenario he has in his head rather than paying attention to you, his real-life partner. Pay attention to how he treats his sex life with you.
Let me present two ways of viewing sex: the “menu of choices” or the “conversation.” In the “menu of choices” model, sex is a list of many possible activities that one can choose from as if choosing a sandwich off a lunch menu. The activity itself is the focus, rather than the relationship between the partners. The partner in fact is completely interchangeable because anyone could act out the activity, and the activity is what matters.
In the “conversation” model, sex consists of two partners relating to each other in a way that grows organically out of their feelings for each other and the time they spend together. Being together, doing things together, and talking with each other naturally produces sparks and feelings of excitement, and sexual activity is entered into as a part of their ongoing joy of their relationship. The method used to achieve orgasm isn’t what’s important. What is important here is the excitement of being together.
You wouldn’t enter into a conversation with your date with a list of things to talk about, or a pre-written script, and insist upon your date following those lines of dialogue whether she’s interested in them or not. You enter into conversations based on what the two of you want to talk about, because the two of you enjoy each other’s company, and because there is delight in finding out what your date might say. The conversation builds as the two of you interact, and the way you answer her depends on what she says. Same with sex. There should not be a script. There should be spontaneous response to your partner’s reactions and a mutual buildup of excitement as you interact.
If you feel that your husband has a preconceived idea in his head of what he wants to do, and expects you to act it out for him, regardless of whether that is one of your turn-ons or not, and regardless of whether you are feeling tired or anxious or insecure, and if you feel that he is not really making love to you the person, but just to the general concept of a woman, then your husband is viewing sex through the “menu of choices” model. He likely got this way from so many years of clicking on whatever sexual act he felt like watching at the time. Sexual acts are commodities that he as a consumer feels entitled to have. Sex with a man who thinks this way isn’t “making love.” It doesn’t create love between you, it just produces an orgasm for him.
Our male supremacist sex therapist asks the following questions of wives who have a problem with their husband’s porn use. These are designed to make women think they are being unreasonable. Let’s answer them from a feminist perspective.
Why do you feel you have a right to a porn-free house, and why is that right more important than your husband’s right to have porn in his house?
A woman has a right to a porn-free house because she has a right to a house free of abuse. Pornography is violence against women, and as such, is harmful to all women. Women have the right to expect love, respect, and support from their partners, and this obviously extends to not bringing material into the home that celebrates male supremacy and male violence against women.
Men should not have the right to abuse women, nor to consume depictions of the abuse of women, on the basis that women are human beings who do not deserve abuse.
It’s unbelievable that someone calling himself a “therapist” thinks that men’s desire to abuse women is just as important as women’s desire not to be abused.
Why do you give your husband’s porn-watching meaning that he doesn’t give it? And why do you believe that your interpretation—of HIS behavior—is more accurate than his?
This isn’t a simple matter of subjective opinion, like deciding which flavor of ice cream tastes the best. The violence and misogyny in porn is real, not imagined. Real men call real women bitches and whores in porn, real men choke real women in porn, and do things like double penetration, ass-to-mouth, rosebudding, simulated rape, real rape, and simulated molestation of underage girls. (As well as real molestation, in the case of child porn.) These abusive behaviors don’t hurt any less if the woman is compensated with money. These images aren’t any less harmful to women as a class because some of the women volunteered to step onto the porn set. Women don’t control what happens to them on the set—they are told what to do by male producers and male actors, and they are satisfying a demand from male viewers. None of it is driven by women’s desires. Even so-called “feminist porn” almost precisely resembles mainstream porn.
The reason you have a different “interpretation” of your husband’s porn use than your husband does is because you are naming the fact that porn is harmful, and he is denying this. You are allowed to trust your own perception. When you see violence, you are right that it’s violence. His denial is just that—denial. It’s not an equally valid opinion. The idea that male violence against women isn’t violence is not an opinion that should carry any weight. The apologies for male violence is another tactic of abuse.
Why is it OK for you to hack into your boyfriend’s private stuff?
Generally, I don’t recommend hacking into anyone’s private stuff. A person should only check into someone’s private things if they suspect a serious issue that needs to be dealt with. If your teenager was suicidal or running away from home you might read their diary. It would be a breach of privacy to do so, but you would do it because of the more important issue of keeping your child safe. If you have good reason to believe that your husband is accessing images of violence against women, you have a good reason to be concerned, because you are a woman, and you are allowed to protect yourself and your children from violence.
Partners should be able to trust each other and should have no reason to suspect wrongdoing. If you cannot trust your partner, then it’s probably best to break up. You can’t use snooping as a tactic to improve your relationship, because that won’t improve it. You want to be with someone who you don’t even feel tempted to snoop on, because you know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. If your partner is willing to do things that hurt you, then it’s over.
Why would you wreck a good relationship over his private behavior?
I wonder if a therapist would ask this question to a wife whose husband had been doing other harmful things “in private.” What if he was “privately” using illegal drugs in the home while she was out? Would this be “private behavior” that she shouldn’t interfere with, too?
This “private” excuse is bullshit. If you are doing something wrong, then it doesn’t matter whether you do it in public or private, it’s still wrong. When you contribute to an industry that sexually exploits women and girls, it doesn’t matter if you do it in the family home, on your smart phone, at the municipal library, at work, or wherever. The immorality of sexual exploitation is not location-dependent.
If your husband is engaging in immoral behavior that upsets you and if he won’t stop even when you tell him why it upsets you, then it’s not a good relationship. That’s an abusive relationship.
The field of sex therapy has always been a field dominated by men and male ideas about sex. Men have created the idea of the sexual “inhibition” which needs to be cured in women, which is a fancy way of saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to say no. Men have ignored the clitoris, have prioritized penis-in-vagina sex even when women don’t get any pleasure from it and they’ve named women “frigid” for not engaging in the kind of sex that men want them to have. Sex therapists will not help you to improve your sex life, they will just help your husband to keep his dominant position over you and continue engaging in harmful behaviours. A sex therapist who tells you to accept your husband’s porn use is nothing more than a male supremacist with a fancy title. Do not listen to him.
Here’s how to actually improve your sex life. First, make your husband read Pornland by Gail Dines and then explain to you, face-to-face, in his own words, what he learned from the book. I suggest proceeding one chapter at a time, to make sure he thoroughly understands all the issues. Discuss with him why he feels he needs to use porn, and correct any misconceptions he may have. For example, he might believe that you are forbidding him from masturbating. Men are so dumb that they have no idea that one can touch one’s genitals without looking at a computer screen. He may need this explained to him.
If he refuses to understand what’s wrong with porn, and if he begins dismissing your feelings or gas-lighting you, get a lawyer, and start planning to move out. If he never repents, finalize your divorce.
Next, overthrow the patriarchy. After the revolution, sex will get much better for women, along with everything else in life. Lots of your sisters are already fighting with you. We’ve got your back.