Women, Porn and Self-esteem

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offeringHow do you cope with the feelings that come up when a mate has put on his "porn spectacles," and you feel his perception shift? Perhaps you notice that he looks at you and other women differently than he did before. Perhaps you notice that he avoids making eye contact. Perhaps you resent the hours spent on his computer and his defensiveness when you attempt to discuss it. Perhaps you sense that he is fantasizing while you're making love. Perhaps he wants to try things in bed that you find distasteful. Perhaps you feel unlovable because two-dimensional images are more of a sexual turn-on than you are. Perhaps you feel like something must be wrong with you.

First, put your distress in context. Today's Internet porn videos are intensely stimulating, and their casual use is sweeping the globe. They are like nothing our ancestors' brains ever had to cope with. Because they register in most male brains as intensely sexually stimulating, they also register as "extremely valuable" in a very primitive part of the brain. That part of the brain thinks each novel "mate" who appears on the screen is a real mating opportunity...a chance to pass on genes. The brain begins to wire itself to find more and more such images. Human brains also find novelty-on-demand (the ability to click to another exciting porn video, or each spin of a slot machine) very compelling.

Porn is extremely addictive for many men (and some women too). In fact, it's getting hard to find men who don't use it. Sadly, most are unable to see its risks until its drawbacks become painfully obvious: erectile dysfunction, so many hours wasted that careers suffer, or escalating tastes for bizarre things. While they are figuring out the truth for themselves, you need to find ways to cope and to nurture your self-esteem.

Porn is not REAL competition from other women. Porn (and naked airbrushed bodies) are cartoons...cartoons that have an effect on many male brains like crack.

Of course, this doesn't mean porn is harmless. The changes in your mate's perception are very real, and can definitely interfere with intimacy between you. This situation can be reversed...when your mate is ready.

Meanwhile, you don't have to let porn affect your self-esteem for the worse. It's legal (most of it), it's everywhere, it's widely considered harmless, and it's very enticing, so it's no wonder it is so popular. However, using porn is much like using a drug (neurochemically speaking). You cannot compete with the neurochemical rush of today's porn videos anymore than you could with a snort of cocaine, so don't even try. The high is far more intense (and addictive) than the high from straight masturbation or sex (except during the neurochemically enhanced honeymoon period of a new relationship...Mother Nature wants to make sure sperm and egg connect.)

The porn high is a neurochemical blast of intensely exciting neurochemicals. Although it feels VERY rewarding, it actually increases dissatisfaction. The neurochemical high is followed by a neurochemical low, which can feel so awful that the user is driven to seek another orgasm to "medicate" his depression or anxiety. And the "hangover" can linger for days. It can make him irritable, stressed, restless, or apathetic, and even interfere with his sleep. It can also make him extremely horny and very susceptible to sexual cues in his environment (because a subconscious part of his brain associates them with instant "relief").

If you have been thinking of yourself as your partner's neurochemical "sex drug," it can feel like you have lost to another woman (or harem) when a cartoon session delivers a bigger hit of excitement.

However, the true gifts you have for your mate are things that cartoons can't deliver. Affectionate touch and close companionship have an entirely different effect on human nervous systems. They counter stress and produce subtle feelings of well-being. They also ease cravings, which ease his need to find relief. Unfortunately, a primitive part of his brain doesn't value these gifts of well-being as highly as the "opportunity to fertilize a novel sex partner" via the Internet. It will probably take him a while to figure out that he's hooked on cartoons that make him feel more sexually dissatisfied than ever.

Meanwhile, refuse to compete with cartoons by trying to imitate porn stars. Doing so can speed the habituation between you. (For more: What If She Were Always in the Mood?)

Nurture yourself. Trust your inner worth and wait. Look to activities like friends, time in nature, exercise, inspired reading, and spiritual practice for nurturing in the meanwhile. Learn about the power of bonding behaviors. Make some experiments with your own sexual energy: Sexual Energy and the Single Woman. Get ready for a fresh start. You may even want to consider a new approach to sex when the time comes.

Do your best to avoid shaming your partner. Scolding and guilt make it harder for men to leave porn behind. Shame makes them feel bad, which increases their tendency to seek the "comfort" of the instant oblivion of intense sexual excitement. When he's open to it, you may want to help him learn more about how porn affects the brain. These articles may help:

Measuring Porn's Effects: What About the Users?

Was the Cowardly Lion Just Masturbating Too Much?

And here's an entire chapter on porn recovery, which discusses the experience of various men: The Road to Excess

Take heart! The good news is that today's porn videos are so extreme that men are figuring out faster and faster that they are causing problems...like ED, escalation into addictive, but unwelcome tastes, or compulsion that is chewing up hours of their time, etc. This means women need to wait with confidence. Above all, never lose sight of your true value --or that of your mate (when returned to sanity). Feel free to join our forum, so we can support you meanwhile.