"Despite all the porn, we may be moving towards a romantic renaissance"

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couple in bed with guy watching pornRecently I caught up with a wonderful friend whose company I adore because he is so damn honest. As usual, over a few drinks, we made each other laugh, talked politics and then moved on to deeper issues like how are you really?

The answer, pleasingly, was we both felt cheerful, content and grateful, something which has not always been the case. For my friend, there was an unhappy time   years ago when he found himself addicted to porn.

In Australia, one in four web pages is porn-related. 

Even when recalling those times, the change in my usually ebullient mate's countenance  was visible and visceral. But he  wanted to talk about it because it was real, it was scary, it ruined his life and in part, marriage.

 "I can't tell you what it was like walking in the door each day and experiencing the fear of knowing that within minutes I would be sitting in front of my computer with my pants around my ankles masturbating," he explained (told you he was honest). 

"It was so demeaning to know that while I may have been watching what is regarded as conventional porn these days - which, let's face it, is extreme and unrealistic anyway - pop ups would appear on my screen tempting me to view something darker and more degrading and I would click on them out of perverse curiosity. 

"I can't explain how I felt watching girls whose age I couldn't be sure of being humiliated and rendered inanimate objects, mere holes to be filled and defiled. I hated myself. Looking back I think that on a subconscious level I wanted to see someone treated as worthless and disgusting as I felt. How sad and sick is that?"

While I couldn't disagree with my friend, I did to a certain degree, understand and sympathise. While I will never advocate censorship or deny pornography has a place (albeit very small) in society, today it is a very real and extremely troubling problem causing untold damage to both sexes. 

In Australia, one in four web pages is porn-related and the vast majority of porn viewers (anywhere between 75 and 90 per cent) are males, with about 7-10 per cent addicted to on online sex.

While much has been written and debated about porn from a female perspective, lately I have been intrigued, enlightened, but most of all overjoyed to hear men speak up and admit they don't like what porn is doing to their relationships (or lack of them), their self-esteem and sense of humanity.

One of these men is British comedian and self-confessed sex-addict Russell Brand, who last week posted a video blog on his website russellbrand.com. "Pornography is not something that I like. It's something that I haven't been able to make a long-term commitment to not look at and, it's affected my ability to relate to women, to relate to myself, my own sexuality, my own spirituality," he confessed.

"Our attitudes toward sex have warped and perverted and have deviated from its true function as an expression of love and means of procreation. If you're constantly bombarded with great waves of filth, it's really difficult to remain connected to truth."

On the video he cites a report from the Journal of Adolescent Health on the  effects of prolonged exposure to porn - an exaggerated perception of sex in society; diminished trust between intimate couples; the abandonment of hope of sexual monogamy and; the belief promiscuity is a natural state.

He talks of how softcore porn is everywhere from bump and grind music clips to women fellating ice-creams in advertising, and how this leads to states of voyeurism, objectification, the belief that women are collectibles like trophies and a fear of true intimacy. 

Melbourne psychologist and author Meredith Fuller agrees with Brand but, like me, is seeing a glimmer of light in the darkness. Among those seeking her help to save marriages grown stale or considered "boring" after being overly influenced by porn, and young girls feeling "worthless and ugly" because of boyfriends comparing them to, and preferring, the inanimate and compliant women they see on screen, she's also seeing men – and lots of them – craving a real emotional connection.

"These guys are generally in their early 30s and they are enlightened," Fuller explains. "They want more than an image of sex or a booty call at the click of an app. These men want touch and tenderness, commitment and connection. They want to romance a woman and respect her. 

"But it seems a lot of women have been conditioned to believe these men don't exist. It's like they have given up and bought in to the messages of porn, thinking they have to have hair free pudendum and perform sexually in ways they may not be comfortable with to be accepted. Many of the young men I see who want a real connection are also growing beards and I believe it's a reaction to women going hairless. It's like they're saying, it's OK to be natural." 

Fuller says another hopeful sign the fulcrum of sex is moving to a more moderate position is that trendsetters such as Lady Gaga are swinging away from thrust in the face imagery to something softer and more romantic. 

"I can see how performers like her are leading the way to a romantic renaissance," Fuller says. "We have got so down in the gutter around sex there is nowhere else to go than back to a gentler, more alluring, mysterious and layered stance."

Brand  urges men to "address our obsession with looking at women rather than interacting with them" and wants us all to ask, "How can we understand our sexuality? How can we express it lovingly in harmony with the principles that it's there to demonstrate procreation and sensual love between consenting adults?"

Perhaps Brand's position is best summed up by a quote from a priest he cites on the video, "porn is not a problem cause it shows too much, but it shows too little".

I say, bring on the light and shade. My friend did, and now not only has a loving relationship with his new partner, he actually likes himself, too.

Age columnist Wendy Squires is a journalist, editor and author. Twitter: @Wendy_Squires

 

Original article

Comments

I liked this and enjoyed the

I liked this and enjoyed the author's spin on the topic. I don't think the pendulum simply swings back and forth, nor that this is merely reversion to the mean without growth involved. Even as we inevitably go back towards center, it seems we're going to that center in a different way than what's ever happened before. We return again and again, but on a different plain of existence we're spiraling up each time we cross over the center again.

Not that, of course, humanity is never guilty of repeating itself over and over again, just in different costume.

I wonder why some men become

I wonder why some men become addicted and some don't? I suppose like all addictions some people can take it or leave it. Others evolve.
My H and I have always been very touchy feely together. Only married a year and together 5. There was nothing stale.
Yet despite my first discovery in 2012 while pregnant with our child and the upset and promises. Turns out he never stopped. He allowed himself to evolve to harder stuff behind my back. He risked our marriage and being a constant in our child's life.
He knew I'd suffered sexual abuse age 12. Despite this I was no prude but p was an absolute no no.
It's brought back feelings of sexual abuse for me as well as severe body image crisis. I own these issues and am getting counselling but this was the man I trusted. My soul mate.
I'm struggling with the knowledge my body has been repeatedly used as a vessel for his warped fantasy without my consent. It's the consent that's really a painful issue for me. I wouldn't have consented and he knew/knows this.
P only has a place in a relationship if it's consented between the two people.
Happily since learning about karezza my H said he hasn't had any urges. He's agreed to stop physical contact with me if p pops into his head. Luckily due to the whole point of karezza that's not needed to happen.
I'm still left with the aftermath of what the PA has caused for me personally. I hope counselling coupled with karezza will help heal the pain.

Have you watched this?

I think it might help you see that how porn so easily hijacks a primitive part of the brain. It alters priorities, like any addictive substance/behavior, such that the person affected does things he would normally never do. As the saying goes, "When he could control himself he didn't. Now that he wants to control himself, he can't (without great difficulty).

Your Brain on Porn: How Internet porn affects the brain (May, 2015) | Your Brain On Porn

Be patient, both of you. It takes time for his brain to heal and your trust to return. Daily bonding behaviors help.

Maybe its because we respond differently to trauma

Hi gemlou78,

In my mind, porn is a very poor substitute for genuine intimacy, yet when it comes to intimacy men and women are conditioned differently. It's relatively OK for women to declare their victimization. It gives men a chance to be the hero and come to the rescue. It's much much harder for men to declare their victimization and particularly hard when it comes to sexual victimization. Who's heard of a "dude in distress" anyways? If you can't feel pain, you are going to look for substitutes so that you can more effectively avoid it and keep up the image of the strong, in control "hero"... temporarily. Porn, like any addiction, serves that purpose.

You may want to read Alice Miller's books on child abuse. She claims that there are three ways adults cope with the effects of child abuse: self destruction (including all forms of addiction), passing it on to your kids, and sociopathology. Perhaps there is the odd male who has escaped the toxicity of our culture. I would suspect they are fairly rare. Men who are capable of going beyond the taboo against being seen as a victim are quite rare. We are just beginning to address our woundedness.

So if you assume that the messages we get as boys around sexuality have generally not been all that loving, fulfilling, or healthy, there is much more abuse of boys than has been recognized and that men are capable of admitting to themselves. Sex education in my youth had nothing to do with Love and Intimacy. It had much more to do with mechanics and disease prevention. Parental modelling was about rigid gender roles, frustration, and secrecy. The way we cope with the pain of that reality varies. The first phase is to step out of denial. For men, that usually means gaining the ability to feel (and most importantly feel emotional pain) and being able to express ourselves clearly in a safe place. Then we can truly heal.

My personal vulnerability to porn is quite low. My ability to physically self-destruct is powerful, highly developed and clearly has roots in subtle childhood sexual trauma. Is it better? Well, if you prefer a man in a body to a man in your memory, it probably isn't.

Does this help you understand why some men may be more vulnerable to porn?

Sincerely,

"Arnold"

Hi Arnold,

Hi Arnold,

Thanks for taking the time to try to answer. Yes I've been reading up a lot on the Sci behind it which deals with once they start what happens in the brain. The reasons for what was it trying to hide.. Are I suppose complex and different for each person.
He's currently trying to dig deep and has been writing about upheaval in his childhood and his dad being absent a lot due to work. Bullying at all the different schools he had to go to due to frequently moving. It seems he's buried a lor of negative feelings from an early age. His parents don't express love the way mine do either which is something that always stuck out to me.
Hopefully counselling will allow him to go through these emotions and give him better ways to express himself. This is going to sound awful and I don't mean it to but from my point of view as a wife..I'd have coped better with alcohol or drug addiction rather than this! I know men are apparently better at compartmentalising but it's such a personal thing due to it being sex related. Add in my past and it's been like a bomb going off
We've built back up loving feeling over a few days of karezza like encounters and he's clearly very loved up right now. I am when he's here but my mind drifts to sorrow over what's happened when he's away.
Thank you Arnold I appreciate your take on it.

Also keep in mind

that stress will be a trigger for a long time. And sometimes he may screw up. It's not easy to root out a coping mechanisms such that you don't rush back to it when stress/disharmony strike.

He'll definitely need support that is not you, so he has a safe place to vent and the equivalent of a sponsor/accountability buddy. He can also get one of those online at forums like www.nofap.com and www.rebootnation.org (the second is perhaps a better forum, science-wise).

You may need additional in-person support too. Your feelings are also legitimate, and they will need time to heal fully. This book seems to do a good job for both husband and wife Love You Hate the Porn. The authors encourage the wife to express her feelings, and the husband to listen and demonstrate that he heard her - without necessarily taking on any of her judgments...for as long as it takes. But daily bonding behaviors are a must!

How men get hurt.

Hi gemlou78,

You are welcome for my input. It’s good for me to have my experience be helpful to others. I too am recovering from childhood sexual abuse. I know very well what you mean when you say it’s like a bomb going off. I go through very similar feelings whenever I encounter most sexualized environments. It makes dating, for me, virtually impossible.

If you’d like some additional insight into how men get hurt in our culture you might want to read Warren Farrell’s book “The Myth of Male Power” (see: http://www.warrenfarrell.org/). It’s available from his website as an e-book. Otherwise it’s out of print. You can get older hard copies from http://www.abebooks.com/ or perhaps your local second hand book store or library. His intention is very much to support love and fulfillment between men and women. His descriptions of the way sexism negatively affects men are remarkably clear and somewhat disturbing because they are often accepted as normal in our culture. So if you and/or your husband decide to read it, make sure you have enough support to weather a shaking of core cultural beliefs. It could be helpful to both of you to see how men are hurt in our culture and expected to simply suck it up and tough it out. You are going to need to be able to put aside your own hurts, however, at least temporarily, in order to see and have compassion for what has generally happened to men. I'm not suggesting that you should neglect your needs, just that you should be prepared before reading this book.

I hope this helps too. Best wishes to you as you pursue healing and deepening your connection with your husband.

Sincerely,

“Arnold”

Thank you, we'll take all the

Thank you, we'll take all the advice and extra support we can. Also thanks for the warning about being in the right space before reading the book you mentioned. It's actually pretty shocking how many things are triggering me and not him..including reading certain things, so I appreciate your thought to warn me first.

Wishing you happiness Arnold.

A few more thoughts

Hi Gemlou78,

I had a few more thoughts this morning that I'd like to pass on to you (and your husband).

The rare times that I've been attracted to porn is when I'm trying to avoid dealing with the repressed anger (and pain) that I feel towards the people who hurt me most in my youth. The fear of feeling the anger/pain can be intense for me since the primary perpetrator of childhood abuse in my life was my mother. Porn and/or masturbation is an effective way to dump the energy and not feel the associated emotions!

I'm sharing this with you because I imagine that being a partner of someone who has been sexually abused like myself could be challenging and frustrating. I tend to be, like you have mentioned about yourself, very sensitive and easily triggered. It would be simple to see that directing that anger at the recovering partner (you) would be misdirected and hurtful and directing it at the perpetrator (although healthier) might be risky in other ways. Your husband might be struggling to find a healthy outlet for his frustration (and pain).

There are two books I know of that specifically address the challenges of couples where at least one partner is recovering from childhood sexual abuse:
1. Laura Davis: Allies in Healing
2. Wendy Maltz: The Sexual Healing Journey
I'm sure there are more.

I know that MaleSurvivor has a online section for friends and partners. I'm not so aware of what is available for partners of female survivors online but a quick search led me to this site:

http://www.pandys.org/

I have no idea of its quality, but its a start.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely,

"Arnold"