Ms. Opinionated: How Do I Talk to My Partner About Porn?

Nicole Georges
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Nicole J. Georges is an illustrator, pet portrait artist, and zine teacher living in Portland, Oregon.

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Welcome to Ms. Opinionated, our weekly advice column dealing with questions of life, love, feminism, and pop culture. Submit your anonymous questions here. This week, Nicole Georges weighs in on a reader’s long-distance relationship.

Dear Ms. Opinionated,

I just want to start out by saying I’m a very lucky lady - I met an incredible guy who I’m madly in love with (who’s 1000% in love with me).  I am struggling with one thing though - he’s in his thirties and has been solely relying on watching porn for sexual satisfaction as he was a virgin when I met him.  We’re currently doing long distance and I’m concerned that he’s having a hard time weaning himself from porn.  I think it’s given him very unrealistic expectations about what to expect from our sexual relationship, and it has kind of numbed his responses to me.  I don’t know what to do.  I don’t want to make him feel guilty or ashamed but I do want to encourage him to take a break to see if it will make a difference.  I just don’t know how to approach this and am looking for any sage advice you incredible women may have.  Is it weird I don’t feel comfortable talking to my girlfriends about this in person?

Thank you… I really appreciate any help you can give!

Signed,

Long Distance Lucille

Hello Lucille!

I’m going to start out harsh and get nicer.

If you are dating someone who was a virgin until their thirties, and you are dating long distance, I cannot imagine that porn is your only sex problem. You two have a lot of time to make up for!

You have possibly been having sex for decades longer than your boyfriend, and now that you are having sex, you are far apart, so you’re still not having one-on-one human sex most of the time.  You two are going to need to make a map together to a new, exciting, human sex life.

I’d like to take this question step by step.

Firstly, I think porn is fine to watch, and it’s borderline weird to ask someone to not watch it if that’s something they like. If this was a consensual, kinky suggestion, like “I want you to just think about me doing (insert sex thing) instead of watching porn for two days.” that would be one thing. But I suspect you mean it more in a “I’m bummed that you watch porn at all and I think that by asking you to lay off of it, it will turn you into a more grounded, realistic lover.” If that is the case, I think it is a bit controlling and misguided.                               

I’ve had friends suggest I give the ole vibrator a rest and I reacted much the same as a feral dog protecting his bone. They rarely suggest it twice!  I would feel so bummed if someone I was dating tried to hold dominion over my personal (non-cheaterly) time.

With that said, a young man coming up in the world watching standard, straight-dude pornography might believe that women like some things that, in real life, are a little harder to come by.

Love facials? Desperately crave anal from a giant human weiner with no foreplay? Probably not.

But ladies in videos really DO seem to love these things, and seeing this provides a large dose of stimulation, so there is a potential problem.

I think the way you one-up his video girlfriends is through physical, real-life contact, which will always trump a 2-D screenshot.

I think it is REALLY hard to have a sex life long distance. What even is that? Cyber sex? Jacking off on the telephone? I don’t mean to be raunchy, but since you can’t talk to your girlfriends about this, I will be your rent-a-girlfriend for the moment, and with my ladies, I get raw. So.  It seems to me that if one were to engage in sex over the internet or telephone, one would have to be a little more performative (or at least vocal) than normal in order to convey what was going on. 

Whereas in real life you could squeeze your eyes shut and chomp on a pillow, that might not translate via text. 

ANYWAY,  I think there are a couple of things to do.

You don’t want to damage the boy. And you don’t want to just be a mean partner saying “NO! YOU’RE WRONG!” and then expect him to have a boner. I think you need to have a conversation with him where you make clear how you are and are not like the ladies in the videos. “I do not crave the feeling of cum dripping from my nose.”  “I do not want to be penetrated by two of your best friends at the same time.” “I do not wish to vomit upon your you-know-what.”

AND THEN (same conversation or different, up to you) you have to get a little saucy in this conversation to put a positive reinforcement/sex-vibe into the conversation to balance out the boner stomping you did in the one before:

“I would love to be tied up with a dog leash.”

“Oooh, ahhh (whatever)”

“It would be really hot if you showed me what it looks like when you ____________.”

“If you were ______________ me, and I was _____________, I would ____________.”

                      sex verb                                      verbing                      synonym for climax

When you are having sex with each other, slow down a sec and tell him what you like.

Reinforce the conversation you had over the telephone.

Sharing your own sexy information is crucial to you are giving you both a healthy sex life.  Believe, Achieve.

If you try all of this, respond enthusiastically, and he still seems numbed out, it is possible that he requires a higher level of stimulation than you, Lucille, are standardly equipped for. This reality exists even for people who don’t visit JackHole.com. It could either be an opportunity for you to rise to the occasion and try out some totally crazy sex things, or it could be a time to assess your sexual compatibility and potentially bid him adieu.  I hope the latter is not the case.

Good luck!

Nicole 

p.s. Obviously some of you out there love facials, barfing, spit-roasts, etc. No shade intended, friends! I salute you. 

Do you have a question for advice columnists Andi ZeislerSydette Harry, or Nicole GeorgesSend it in! All questions will remain anonymous. Read previous installments of our feminist advice column

 

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11 Comments Have Been Posted

Hey, I think something that

Hey,

I think something that doesn't get a lot of play is how addictive porn is and the effects the addiction has on your sexual function and creativity.

Watching internet porn to masturbate creates a massive spike in dopamine, one that cannot be mimicked by regular sexual encounters. This is a problem, because dopamine is a main component in both addiction and sexual arousal. Continued internet porn use forces your brain to adjust to the massive amounts of dopamine that it receives, thus making regular sexual function increasingly difficult. It's different than any prior form of porn in it's constant novelty, which is why, while porn has existed for literally ever, this is a new problem.

I don't think I should try to explain the science much more than that, because that's not what this question was about; but if anyone wants more information this site is where I found most of this information (www.yourbrainonporn.com).

Good Luck, LW!

Peddle your 12 step cult

Peddle your 12 step cult "recovery" bullshit somewhere else.

i don't think that was really

i don't think that was really necessary. i'm a recovering porn addict myself, so i'll let you know that it's real. i lost my partner of three years because of it & i feel like if someone had told me about how porn affects your brain i wouldn't have had to wait until i'm almost 30 to have good sex. i blamed everything else, because i never realized how dangerous porn can be for me. for some people it's fine and have fun and do whatever, not everyone can handle it.

good luck.

Thank you for this dose of

Thank you for this dose of sanity. This site is ridiculously pro-anything to do with sex regardless of potential harm, though.

"harm" from consensual sex. I

"harm" from consensual sex. I think you are misguided.

nah, you're misguided if you

nah, you're misguided if you think all porn is consensual.

I would love to see any

I would love to see any pro-sex feminist discussion of sex addiction. There is a load of room between sex negative puritanical shaming and addiction.

exactly.

exactly.

yeah, it's reader based so

yeah, it's reader based so it's not perfect, but the information pertaining to the actual science of porn addiction and how to beat it are really on point and important.

Re: Dear Ms. Opinionated...

Hello again,

So you're partly right... we do have a lot of time to make up for, but the reason I was reaching out wasn't because I don't communicate with my partner... I wanted to make sure I was speaking with him about it in the most sensitive way so that we can grow together instead of letting this physical disconnect push us father apart. Anyone who has been in a long distance relationship knows for stretches of time sometimes all you have is communicating with each other. You can't hug it out, or have make up sex to diffuse a stressful situation... you are forced to talk it out if you care about one another. And we are both willing to put in the work.

I guess I should have mentioned in my original plea for help that I'm certainly not anti-porn... I think it can definitely be part of a healthy sexual experience and like you alluded to, different strokes for different folks... everyone is different. I wouldn't have an issue with my partner's adult video indulging if I wasn't worried it was impacting our actual IRL one-on-one time. This is a guy who decided to wait for the right woman to come along, and in many ways I won the lottery when I met him. When I was younger I might have felt threatened by the unrealistic beauty standards mainstream porn tends to show the world... but I've done enough self work and I feel okay with the fact that I'm not "perfect" and I'm pretty okay with that. We actually joke that we're imperfectly perfect for each other, because I think it's important to recognize that it's the imperfections that truly make each one of us unique and beautiful.

I know this may seem like an attempt to control and change a person, but when I mentioned it has numbed his responses to me I mean he literally has a hard time performing. We have had conversations where I have gently tried to figure out what was going on and he mentioned he thinks it could be because masturbating to a strong visual image that is outside yourself is very different from being face to face with a person who you love and care about.

I think it's fantastic that you have a healthy libido and are very comfortable in your skin, and that you feel confident to call a friend out if you feel they've overstepped their boundaries... but this is kind of exactly the reason I was asking for advice. I don't want to make my partner feel there is something "wrong" with him... because this is ultimately how the gentle conversations I have tried to have with him have ended. He feels shitty and guilty when it's not my intention to make him feel so, and I'm at a loss.

I think the points you made about 'how to one-up his video girlfriends' were a bit obvious. We're working at closing our geographical gap, and yes... it isn't for the faint of heart to take on a long distance relationship, but I wouldn't trade what I have with my partner for anything. I know my way around a facetime sesh, and am grateful for the messaging/phone/video options we have today to make the time apart a bit easier... you would be surprised how it forces you to get creative.

Thanks for trying to help Ms. Opinionated... although I can't say that I'm not a bit shocked and a tad disappointed by the advice you've given... I feel like I could have looked at the cover of Cosmo for 'dirty talk mad-libs to drive him wild', but in your defense you could have used more background to direct your comments.

No luck needed, but thank you,

Long Distance Lucille

Great response. (agree w ur

Great response.
(agree w ur criticism of the article but I guess it's not an easy thing to figure out)

I feel that getting aroused/turnedon/orgasiming by
-porn
-masturbation without porn
-physical sex with another human

...are all so totally different things.

Like chocolate is amazing and so is bike riding & swimming in a beautiful ocean..

...but we enjoy + experience & understand + "do them" totally differently... We make effort to learn how to ride a bike or swim so we can enjoy the bliss.. (we feel like it doesn't require effort to (learn to) enjoy chocolate but lots of ppl don't enjoy it so for them to do so would require effort (if they wished to).. of course we only put in the work to enjoy it if we are committed to wanting to enjoy it... But also if we are feeling like it's a chore... Like "must.learn.to.enjoy.Xx' then that is bs. We must want to learn more naturally and if not then look more deeply at what might b causing an 'iwant/idontwant' dynamic.)

That's my experience wrt couple sex vs masturbation. I never got into porn but feel like from what I did try that it's def diff compared to the others bc of the emphssis/dependance on visual and novel elements.

Acknowledging that they are totally diff is a good place to start I reckon..

You feel shit that he feels shit that he 'can't swim backstroke'... What would it feel like if u said to him: 'i feel shit bc I'm scared u r feeling shit about not enjoying this in the way u think u wld like...' (fact is u are better at it than him but whatevs.)

[Massive pause + silence for him to respond.]

If u have already done this then:
Can u just acknowledge/see it as something totally different and have that discussion w him?

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