Porn and Relationships: How Portability Complicates Things

A man sits on a couch with a laptop on his lap.In my first blog post last month I wrote about my work as a sex therapist, and how “talking about sex” can help us to heal memories and repair and strengthen relationships. Many of the responses I’ve received have been about addiction to sex (especially internet pornography) and the devastating effect it has on committed relationships, or on the ability to form intimate relationships.

Internet overuse can be compared to alcoholism, drug addiction, or compulsive gambling. Like alcoholics or those who abuse drugs, people who are addicted to the Internet use it to change their mood and feel better—a pathological attachment to a mood altering experience.

And, understand that I’m not only talking about men! Facebook, chat rooms, and sexting are becoming rampant among many women, who report that they become anxious when going more than a few hours without checking their email. When sex and romance enter the mix, Internet abuse becomes even more deadly. Experts call online porn and chat room/Facebook romance “the crack cocaine or methamphetamine of sexual addiction,” fueled by the Three A’s: Anonymity, Affordability and Accessibility.

Chad is one example. At 27, he’s bright, attractive, and rising rapidly in his legal firm. But he’s never had a girlfriend, and remains a virgin. The three A’s have become a deadly vortex that keep him isolated and lonely, afraid to actually date “real girls.” He’s found a site that provides affordable live video streaming via webcam. A live young woman reads his typed “commands” and sexually performs for him. She can’t see Chad, only he can see her. Accessibility—24 hours per day. Anonymity—complete.

In my practice I see many similarities between compulsive gamblers and cybersex addicts. Like a gambler at a casino, someone logging onto the net enters a world of lights, color, adrenaline, intrigue, and excitement, with risk often added to spice the brew. In addition, there are no clocks or windows in casinos or on the Internet, so any sense of time is blurred, if not lost. The cyber-sexual addict is interacting, engaged and involved, and what’s more compelling than sex—or the promise of sexual release—or (usually for women) “true love?”

Marlys has been married for many years. Her husband, an engineer, spends long hours, and most weekends, at the office. Through a classmate’s site Marlys got in touch with Todd, a man she had dated in high school who is recently divorced. She spends many hours instant messaging him, and their texting moved to sexting months ago. “Now,” she reports, “it doesn’t hurt anymore when my husband is unavailable; I won’t be with him much longer!” She is convinced that life would be better with Todd.

Jeremy is a fireman who spends long hours at the station, and sometimes long days in motels when he’s working forest fires. His wife only recently discovered that he “decompressed” at night by looking at online porn and texting women that he “found” online. She is heartbroken, primarily about the deception: “I feel like I’m a crazy person, having my reality denied and being blamed when I try to talk to Jeremy about what I sense is wrong in our marriage. I’m mostly concerned about being a flesh-and-blood woman who can’t compete with a fantasy!”

Ah, you might say, at least people can be physically separated from their computers so detox can begin. Don’t be too sure. The popular iPod music player provides free nude video downloads, representing the power of porn on the tiny screen. And recently the Yankee Group of Boston estimated that the “portable porn” market is burgeoning, as cell phone providers aim for rating systems so they can sell “adult” content to users over age 18.

When it comes to porn, bigger used to be better. To increase profits, it now appears that online porn will become smaller and portable.

© Copyright 2010 by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Amy

    Amy

    January 8th, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    This really pisses me off! My husband lost his job a few months ago because of his addiction to online porn, and now they are making it easier for people the have access to it? Great- how many more lives would they like to infect with this sickness? Everyone that they can make money off of I suppose. Yes I am angry at the easy access to porn that everyone seems to have these days, and yes I am angry that my husband chose to use it as an outlet for a job that he hated. But I agree so much with the statement that you feel like you cannot compete with all of the fakeness that you find in online porn. I feel like I will never be able to live up to what he has seen and experienced online and I know deep down inside that no amount of therapy is ever going to take that feeling away. Shame on the providers of this smut but also shame on those like my spouse who let it take over their lives and let it ruin everything that you may have worked for together for years. When it comes down to it frankly it all just disgusts me and leaves me really wondering when the wives stopped being good enough.

  • Alex Katehakis, MFT, CSAT, CST

    Alex Katehakis, MFT, CSAT, CST

    January 16th, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    Well done, Jill you covered a lot of territory in your article!

  • Deborah

    Deborah

    September 10th, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    I totally agree with everything said.. My boyfriend of 4 years, although has never “brought it to bed” with us (as he puts it) I do find the computer having viruses because of it with magazines and movies in hiding so when I’m not there and he’s “having a moment”. We are a very physical and sexually active couple but when I try to talk to him about how I feel, that knowing he’s getting sexually excited over this crap totally disgusts me and makes me feel jealous that he is getting turned on by other girls, he gets upset with me…. What do I do? How do I get over feeling this way? Ignoring the fact that its happening isn’t working anymore.

  • Craig

    Craig

    May 25th, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    I have a problem with pornography. I love my girlfriend very very much. its not so much the porn its that it was gay porn. I am not now have i ever been gay just sexually attracted to guys. i have never done anything with a guy nor do i want to. i want to do whatever it takes to strengthen mine and hers relationship. i love her with all my heart and i was always attracted to her even when we were kids. Does anyone have any advice on what i can do to suppress or get rid of these urges for the better of our relationship? any advice at all would be appreciated. Thx in advance.

  • helenwillow

    helenwillow

    January 22nd, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    While I do agree porn ,especially online porn, has become rampant. I don’t view it much, but my wife and my (lesbian couple) sex life has become dead, so I do occasionally use it. I have tried getting her to go to therapy with me and everything, so I use it occasionally. I don’t feel there is anything wrong with occasionally use or use with a partner as long as it doesn’t become a habit

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