I dated a porn addict

I dated a self-identified porn addict.

After dating for a couple of months, he admitted to me that he was a recovering pornography addict. I was quite shocked, even though I didn’t know what being a pornography addict entailed. I felt nauseous, but I didn’t show this because my then boyfriend was extremely emotional when telling me. He was crying uncontrollably. I sat, listened, and tried to console him. I asked him how he knew he had an addiction, and he said that he used to go online at work and look at pornography every day. I commended him for his honesty and his ability to talk to me about this. I didn’t know what to do or say so I just said, “It’ll be okay. I still love you. You’re still the same person you were before you told me.” But was I being honest? I did love him, but at that moment, he did become a different person to me.

We continued talking and I asked him when he last viewed pornography. He told me a couple months ago, which was when we first started dating. I felt deeply hurt—like I wasn’t enough. I felt like he was unfaithful to me (as weird as that sounds. I guess I was upset that he hadn’t told me sooner or something). I advised him to see a counselor, since he was obviously upset by his addiction, and wanted help.

Throughout our relationship, I wondered whether or not he was still using pornography. I found myself becoming more mistrustful. Whenever we engaged sexually, I wondered silently whether he was imagining a porn star in place of me, or whether he was fantasizing about a specific pornographic scene. At my lowest, I searched his bedroom for magazines or videos (I never found them)–this is when I realized I couldn’t handle the situation anymore. He abruptly stopped going to therapy, which I believe to be a poor decision. Our relationship began to deteriorate, and eventually we broke up. Since this experience, the issue of pornography has been of great interest to me.

Whenever I am asked whether I am pro- or anti-pornography, I shy away from sharing my answer. Because, really, no one wants to hear a feminist talk about how she hates porn and what it does to (some) people. If I say the truth, that I fervently dislike porn (not the people who perform in it, of course), I’m immediately cast into this box of “Anti-Sex” or “Conservative Feminism.” For the record, I’m very much sex positive. It really bothers me, however, when people I have conversations with about this subject act as though porn is just a healthy way of life. Maybe it can be–maybe it is for some–but I’ve witnessed another side.

When my then-boyfriend told me he was a porn addict, I wrestled with conflicting emotions/identities that I believed I “should” feel/be. I thought, well, shit, I’m a feminist, and I’m sex positive, maybe this isn’t such a big deal. My other thought was, I feel uncomfortable–I don’t like this; I feel sick; and any sort of addiction is never good/healthy. Eventually, I had to admit to myself that this wasn’t something I could handle, and it didn’t erase any of my feminist identity.

My ex-boyfriend may still be addicted to pornography. I have no idea. Through him though, my mind has been opened. I think about others like him and, for me, it’s most important to realize everyone’s humanity—even the people who use or produce pornography. I hate what his addiction has done to him, but he is the same person inside.

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