Ask Professor Foxy: How Do I Get Over My Boyfriend’s Viewing of Porn? And How Do I Stop Punishing Myself?

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Dear Professor Foxy,

I know you probably don’t have time to respond to questions like these, but I don’t really have anyone to talk to and I’m milking all of the limited resources I have. I’ve been a fan of Feministing for a few months now, and I identify as a feminist cisgender gay male, but lately I’ve been having trouble practicing what I preach.

I’ve been in a wonderful healthy relationship with my boyfriend for over 2 years now, and we are very close, but sometimes have trouble confronting each other when we see issues in the relationship. A few months back I was (wrongfully) snooping on his computer, and I found some porn and some webcam photos of another guy in there.

We’ve discussed the issue at length (something that isn’t very natural to us), but I feel like the tarnishing of his image has poisoned my view of him, and my view of myself as well. I know he loves me and he shows me in a variety of ways, but I can’t stop myself from thinking that every minute he’s alone, he’s masturbating to porn. And lately, it’s gotten worse- all the porn he watched had these tiny, skinny boys in it. I’ve started to cutting down my meals, replacing them with exercising, and counting calories militantly.

This is very unlike me, but I don’t know how to stop. I’m totally exhausted with bringing up the subject to him, and so is he, but it’s on my mind relatively frequently when we are together.

Maybe I just need to recognize that he’s a sexual person even when he’s not around me? Or recognize that his fantasies shouldn’t be projected into his real life? I can’t seem to convince myself of either.

If you can, please help me.

Thank you so much,

J

Dear J –

You have a bunch of things going on here. Let’s address one at a time.

First, you identified one clear problem with your relationship (confronting issues). I would say that even the language shows a problem: confronting versus discussing. Partners needs to be able to talk about things, confronting is a whole different level. Talking with our partner about what bothers us in a relationship makes our relationship stronger, avoiding issues weakens the relationship.

You also don’t trust him; otherwise you wouldn’t be looking in his computer. When we go looking for things we don’t want to see, we often find them. You need to reflect on what is causing this distrust, is it him, you, or some combination?

Our partners are always sexual people, whether or not we are in the room. A person’s sexuality is not dependent on others. Part of being in a relationship means discussing how that sexuality is expressed. This does not mean you get to control, but boundaries around things like having sex with other people can be discussed. I caution against trying to control how often he masturbates. Why does it matter? Does it take away from sex in your relationship? Or is it a different kind of stress relief?

Also, the kind of porn that one masturbates to may or may not reflect what we desire in actual life. Just the other day another queer woman and I were talking to a gay male friend of ours about the incredible prevalence of queer women who love gay male porn. Many of these women have no desire to have the kind of sex shown in much of gay porn, but still love watching it. He may watch skinny boys have sex, but he loves the body you have.

You’ve discussed it at length with him. What will it actually take for you to feel good again? Is there actually anything? It may just take time and a conscious effort to let it go. You need to make the decision to stay in this relationship and actively work towards feeling ok again (some of this is work you need to do on your own) or leave it.

The thing I am actually most worried about is your eating habits. You are working your way into or are already experiencing an eating disorder. You need to seek help for this. Gay and bi men are significantly more likely to have an eating disorder. I don’t know where you live, but you can find your local LGBT community center on Centerlink’s website and many of them have counseling services that can help you as an individual. Some information on eating disorders can also be found here.

You need to take steps towards healing. Your relationship can’t be ok until you are ok. You need to do that for yourself.

Best,

Professor Foxy

If you have a question for Professor Foxy, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/ikkin/ Jasmine Nicole Bruns

    For what it is worth, my boyfriend and I went through a similar situation after I discovered his pornography doing basically the same thing J was doing. It was really hurtful to me because we had some trust/intimacy issues that caused me to feel really insecure by his behavior. We decided that he should not use porn until we worked out those issues. When I say we, I mean that we, together, made that decision. It made working out intimacy a little bit easier — it was like putting one thing to the side for a moment so we could work on the other stuff.

    Four years later, he has not gone back to pornography because while we were working on our shit, he figured out that he was a feminist and the old mainstream stuff that is often very anti-woman didn’t do it for him anymore. Plus, he doesn’t feel like paying for the better stuff. It isn’t entirely unreasonable or wrong to remove pornography from the relationship, temporarily or permanently.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    I’m in a bit of a different circumstance, but I can relate to this situation. My partner has had a difficult time being assured that even though I fantasize about men, and indeed watch gay pornography that I’m not going to leave her for another man. She is, however, at least willing to talk about it up to a point. This is in great contrast to other female partners I’ve had who were openly hostile to the mere thought of it. She knows I do it, but she doesn’t want to know just who I find attractive or what my fantasies/preferences might be.

    To keep her from worrying unnecessarily, I don’t talk about same-sex attraction in front of her, nor do I look at gay pornography while she is present in the same room. It would be nice to have a partner where I didn’t have to resort to such things, but other partners have been very intolerant while she has at least made an attempt to try to understand. I’m glad she’s been able to entertain both the bisexual and genderqueer parts of me, and indeed she’s one of the few partners with whom I have entrusted that part of myself. Sometimes relationships are compromise, I suppose.

  • jiujitsubuddah

    Most people, men and women, heteros and homos, watch porn. Nothing wrong with it.

    • saltylilkipper

      Some people watch porn. I’m not sure that it’s true that “most people” watch porn. Even if they do, there’s nothing wrong with being uncomfortable with porn. I don’t watch porn and neither does my partner. It’s just not for us.

      J sounds like he needs to heal and take care of himself, but aside from that, he might just not be compatible with his partner as well. He might need to be involved with somebody who isn’t interested in pornography. It’s okay to like porn, but it’s also okay to not like porn.

  • http://feministing.com/members/fenriswolf/ Dana Reid

    Hi J,

    Can I x2 on getting professional help? I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with it because it feels like admitting there is something wrong with you, but really a damn sight more people could benefit from reaching out for help.

    Eating disorders are unbelievably powerful, you do need to talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about! Also, if you can, reach out to the people in your life. Find out who’s really going to stand by you and let them know you need support.

    WRT the porn, do you have any idea what would make you more comfortable? Is he uncomfortable with sharing porn with you, and would you be open to it? It could help to have some sexy fun times *together* with the porn as a backdrop to help you really *feel* how much it’s just a stimulant rather than wishing for someone else. But only if that is something you might enjoy.

    Unfortunately a vast majority of dealing with these feelings involves talking with your boyfriend, and without knowing how those conversations have gone it’s hard to give advice at all.

    Ultimately it’s not fair to ask him to stop using porn, but if he’s been acting exasperated from the beginning when you bring it up, that’s not fair to you. You need your partner to show caring and a willingness to compromise if you’re going to be able to move on from those feelings.

    My advice, as weak as it is over the internet and with little to go on is:

    (a) do look into counselling, but remember you absolutely have the right to say “no, you’re not working for me” and find someone else. Not all mental health professionals are created equal.

    (b) Rather than trying to *stop* your new diet and exercise habits, maybe try altering them and making a regimen of regular, calorie-appropriate, meals. Try to trick yourself with the fact you’re still indulging the urge to control your body but make sure you’re getting enough energy to feel good.

    (c) Try having a solution-based discussion with your boyfriend. Explain how you know it’s not a healthy behaviour but you can’t get it off your mind and it would help if you could work through the motivations and find something you can do together to ease the anxiety. Even if you do it on paper and pass it back and forth, or emails, if it helps.

    I don’t know if any of my advice will help but wanted to give something. Good luck.

  • http://feministing.com/members/volta/ Kayla Greene

    One thing that really bothers me is the belief that anyone should have to “put up with” or “get over” a behavior in their romantic partner that they disagree with. It is completely one’s own decision what they want in a mate and if the person they are currently with doesn’t fulfill their requirements, they have the right to ask for a change in the behavior or to leave if their partner refuses to reform.

    For those who disagree, I offer an example: if I were dating someone I discover was a racist, I would have the right to ask him to change his opinions as I find his disposition morally reprehensible or to leave him if he decides that being a bigot is more important to him than being with me. Seems fair, doesn’t it?

    There is no need to force such obligations to yourself. However, I do suggest being understanding of the person while they’re attempting to reform their behavior if they so choose, and to allow for mistakes or occasional errors in judgment- you have to be patient. Nobody’s perfect.

    This is YOUR life- you get to decide how to live it, not just to “get over it.”