Porn & relationships: When Three’s a Crowd

I wonder how many relationships are marred, possibly even destroyed, by a partner’s addiction to porn. Typically the male partner. Is it a harmless addiction – far less harmful than, for instance, alcohol, drugs, gambling or having compulsive affairs? Or is watching porn in itself on a par with having an affair, in the sense that it’s done in secret, it involves another woman (or more), and involves sex, albeit vicarious? Okay, so it doesn’t involve the risk of the partner falling in love with the ‘other woman’ and wanting to end the marriage/partnership as a result, but it still does involve another woman. Let’s call it a series of multiple sexual flings rather than a single, committed, extra-marital liaison. Is watching porn less dangerous? Maybe not. Isn’t the ‘guilty party’ just as likely to fantasise about the other woman when making love to his partner? Aren’t there likely to be ‘three in a bed’ when under the influence of this ongoing porn fantasy? Without the wife even knowing it? Just like with a real affair?

So is it a bad thing? A dangerous addiction? Or can it, just possibly, actually help a relationship in which the sex has become stale?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that, and I certainly don’t intend to be all sanctimonious about it. As a woman I naturally feel appalled at the thought of porn and the way it is demeaning to my sex. I’m sure many women will feel the same way. But at the same time, I want to be realistic. Porn exists, and has existed, for a very, very long time. And is unlikely to suddenly come to a standstill.

How do women cope with their relationship, if they find out that their partner is secretly watching porn? What do they do? Say nothing? Confront their partner with the issue? Display jealousy of these sexy, dangerous ‘other women’ who threaten to encroach in the marital bedroom?

Or how about this. How about, instead of accusing your partner, you suggest to him that you make a romantic trip to a sex shop and indulge in some fun, spicy shopping?

Ever since my graphic-designer son got a job as a sales assistant in a London sex shop, my mind was opened to the scary secrets of such lascivious domains. And believe me, for anyone who has never been in one, or who enters one for the first time, it IS scary! For all sorts of reasons. Especially if you’re a woman crossing this forbidden threshold on your own. What woman would do something like that?

Actually, quite a few. And I admire them for it.

My own first time in a sex shop was when I was conducting research for my latest novel, and my totally unselfconscious son gave me a tour of his recently acquired work-domain. “Okay, Mum, so here are the rabbits and vibrators,” he explained without so much as blinking an eye, “and here are the lubes and massage oils …” and then, as he shepherded me into the neighbouring dimly-lit, purple-and-gold-hued room, “and here are the bondage accessories – you know, the whips and wrist and ankle restraints and the “Bondage Toy Beginner Packs …” Hmm. “Oh, right,” I said, not knowing where to look. Directly at said items, or at my son, or the floor?

As it happened, I glanced around the room and took a mental note of the other customers, and was quite surprised by what I saw. A middle-aged woman carrying a shopping bag, examining some half-hidden item on a shelf that I couldn’t quite see. Handcuffs, maybe? A young couple walking arm in arm into another room that led off from the one we were currently in, where I espied a mannequin brightly bedecked in naughty nurse attire. And then the typical image that comes to mind when imagining sex shop customers: a solitary man studiously examining heaven-knows-what titillating delights. Were these to be for his own pleasure, I wondered, or to share with his partner?

And of course, there were the porn DVDs, which brings me back to the beginning of this post. These garish items were exhibited on shelves in yet another room, this one located in the basement. I observed a youngish couple scrutinising a DVD that displayed on its front cover two naked women and a man, all tangled up, making it difficult to determine whose limbs were whose – perhaps apart from the man’s hairy legs. Would the young couple watch it together later that night, perhaps over a glass of wine or two, before taking some of its inspiration to the bedroom?

So, am I recommending a visit to a sex shop? Am I suggesting that playing with sex toys – rabbits and cock rings and butt plugs and whips and things – and watching some porn together, will enhance your sex life? And that, therefore, three won’t be a crowd?

Who knows what the answer is. As long as it’s consensual, should it matter?

 

 

 

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