Do You Get a Say in Your Partner’s Porn Habits?

Since we’re trapped at home in isolation, we decided to record an extra episode this week. We talk about a fight we had yesterday and how stress levels are affecting the way we interact. We also spend some time discussing an unrelated user question: “Do I get a say in my partner’s porn use?”. We explore the difference between setting boundaries and dictating behaviour as well as specific communication prompts you can use to talk to your partner about porn. We also consider whether or not you should change your habits to meet your partner’s needs and concerns.

Please see below for a rough transcript of this podcast. 

Listener Question: “Do you get a say in your partner’s porn habits?”

You have a say in terms of having the right to speak up about how you feel. You don’t have a right to dictate how they behave. And why would you want to? If they have a desire to engage in a specific behaviour, why do you want to limit them? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Explore your reasonings for wanting to limit their sexual exploration. This may help you to adjust your expectations and/or better communicate your needs and feelings.

Note: If you can’t agree on porn use, it’s likely you’re not sexually compatible. Unless porn is interfering in your daily interactions (e.g. they can’t focus on a conversation or hold a job because they want to run off to their laptop and stroke it), it’s unlikely to be a real problem.

Listener Question: Where is the line between advocating for what I want/setting boundaries and being controlling?

Of course you can tell them if you feel jealous or uncomfortable. And they have a right to express how they feel about using porn (e.g. excited, passionate, entertained). You’re both entitled to your feelings. And you’re also responsible for your own feelings — your partner’s behaviour may affect how you feel, but your emotional response is complex and is influenced by a great number of factors (e.g. your past, sexual values, sexual associations, mood, sleep, previous relationships, your own experiences with porn).

You can ask your partner to take your feelings into consideration and you can ask them to engage in a dialogue about porn. Hopefully they’ll be willing to listen and consider your feelings. This doesn’t mean they have to adjust their behavior to make your feel better; perhaps you need to adjust the way you think to make yourself feel better. Of course, if you’re expressing feelings of vulnerability, I would hope that they’d respond with care, love and reassurance. If, on the other hand, you’re making accusations and directing blame, it’s more likely they’ll respond with defensiveness and/or their own accusations.

Listener Question: What about types of porn? Are some more acceptable than others? What about porn that depicts women as objects?

It’s not uncommon to feel uncomfortable in response to scenes that depict degradation, age play and other taboo sex topics. It’s also not uncommon to be aroused by these scenes. In fact, some people are simultaneously aroused and disgusted. Just because a fantasy makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s inherently bad — as a fantasy.  When actors consent to perform a degradation scene for example, they’re not personally being degraded; they’re actors playing a role for pay with consent.

Listener Question: Should I try to change if my porn use is upsetting my partner?

I suggest you consider their feelings and think about whether you want to change your habits. If you do something because you feel forced to do so, it’s likely you’ll find yourself frustrated and resentful.

Some changes might be more doable (e.g. don’t watch porn in the living room) while others might feel like a violation of your own sexual rights (e.g. don’t watch porn at all).

You might want to ask yourself why you’re uncomfortable with porn in the first place. Dig deep and don’t make excuses. Do you consider the same moral/personal issues when you look at o…

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