It felt like Cheating when my Ex used Porn.

Via on Oct 30, 2012

Is porn a good thing?

It was for me because it helped me to end a long-term, committed relationship. He was a lover of soft porn and it bothered me. I wanted him to bring that energy to me and our relationship rather than act it out with a picture or a computer screen.

Yes, it felt like cheating.

I tried everything from shaming him, to making “agreements,” to trying to understand and let go, to ignoring, to looking at my own issues around simply being upstaged. Eventually I admitted the truth—it was his life. He could and should do what he wanted to do. I decided that I wouldn’t ask, pry, judge or make it about me. I would just relate honestly, which so far meant that when I saw or sensed he was using porn I wasn’t interested in being close with him.

No more attempts at punishment or shame. I just simply acknowledged that my authentic response was “yuck.”

So, is porn a good thing more generally—does it enhance the well-being of individuals, couples, communities, kids? To me that answer depends entirely on what we mean by “porn.” If we mean erotic, open authentic sexuality—well, that just does not sound like a bad thing in my book. But what about when it instills images in our minds that are haunting, unwanted or disturbing.

A mentor of mine once talked about grotesque and violent movie images as being “pornographic” because they become embedded in our psyches. I remember seeing a movie when I was 12-years-old in which a cop discovers teenage lovers making out on a roof-top. He picks up the young man and throws him off the building to his death. I was horrified. For me it was pornographic. Here, pornography is defined as violation—something insidious that penetrates one’s senses and cannot easily be left behind. That was 30 years ago and it still shakes me.

Yet, from that definition, if you accidentally walk in on your parents making passionate, sweet love when you are 8-years old—well, it could be pornographic. Those unwanted images might well disturb, and stay with you.

The actual definition of “pornographic,” is: “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” Hmmm, pictures designed to arouse—how could that be bad? I mean, arousal is kind of awesome.

It could be bad if it is visited on un-wanting or unsuitable subjects, like children. It could also be harmful if the people involved in creating the images are themselves coerced, harmed or engaging in it primarily from a sense of fear or shame. And I would add, not just from a fear of being hurt but from a fear that they are not enough if they don’t give what others want, even at the expense of what feels comfortable to them; societally induced prostitution. It is a fear far more common that we would like to believe.

The truth is that there is a wide spectrum of what constitutes “material intended to stimulate erotic feelings.” If we dropped all conceptual projection and looked at a rose petal we would dissolve into ecstasy. Porn. I remember beholding two trees growing together—twisted and entangled delicately into one-another. Porn.

I admit that I sent pictures of myself in rather compromised positions to my husband while he was traveling. Sweet, sexy, intimate, and yes, a bit naughty. Certainly designed to arouse. Porn.

Then there are teenagers, or even kids, on the street who are promised a good life and desperately need someone to trust. I had a friend who lost her ivy-league scholarship and, without any other financial options, saw her choices as prostitution or not having a future. She chose prostitution—willing to do or pose for anything to stay in school. She graduated. Porn.

And then there is child porn. It turns the stomach just to think about it. Images designed for arousal.

There is a huge range of what we call “pornography.” My private, scandalous photos to my husband—sweet. My friend prostituting herself to pay for college—tragic. Children being coerced into sexual activity to arouse some adults—horrific.

And what about the garden-variety, red-blooded American porn? What of that range between freckled, naked beach beauties all the way to bleach-blond, enhanced bosoms with the fake lipstick “ohs!” into the camera while something goes up her ass?

Do we desire or approve of it? Does it add to our well-being? Is it, by the very definition, “good”?

The truth is that I have no idea. What I care about is the welfare of the actress, or actor, and the integrity of the situation. I also care whether the images feed the best in us (and ecstasy and eroticism count in my book).

What turns me on personally is witnessing the authenticity in a man’s eyes such that we both dissolve into vulnerability. What seemed to turn my ex on was sandy young breasts on a clear day. Who is to judge? Some of us find eroticism in communion with other, and some find it more privately. All of us, I think, want to merge ecstatically, and porn—like movies, or dancing, or being in nature, or sharing a meal and a glass of wine with someone we adore—gives us a hint of that.

When pornography rips into us, mesmerizing us with its undeniable images, I just want it to be real. Is this person coming from and conveying a truth? Or are they fabricating something that we then pretend to believe—getting us off with the aim of getting a lot of people richer in the meantime? I don’t see the need for judgment, but rather to advocate for the innocent—both those photographed and those viewing—and looking inward to see how it serves our own well-being.

The truth is that we all long for communion, reunion, merging, ecstasy. It is just part of being human. I wonder whether pornography would have even a toe in the market if we already had the kind of love and communion that we desire with each another?

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Kristin Luce

Kristin Luce is slowly going sane by using her actual life and relationships to wake up. Her quest for truth has led her through a B.A. in Philosophy, an M.A. in Buddhist Psychology, intensive retreat practice, certification as a Meditation Instructor, two life-changing relationships and two life-changing kids. She now provides in-depth coaching for individuals and couples who want profound and dramatic transformation. An avid writer, she has been featured in such publications as Mothering Magazine and The Buddhadharma, and is a regular contributor to elephant journal. Friend her on Facebook, Twitter, her website or contact her at info@kristinluce.com.

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21 Responses to “It felt like Cheating when my Ex used Porn.”

  1. Edward Staskus says:

    It depends on who is doing the defining, obviously, but if you go to the fountainhead, the world's biggest porn convention in Las Vegas, known as the Adult Entertainment Expo, our current definition of pornography is "fun and fantasy".

  2. KristinSLuce says:

    Fun and fantasy sounds wonderful. I like both! And, as I say in this article, I love when all people involved are treated with respect — both by themselves and others. When that is true, what could be bad? Thanks, Edward!

  3. I love your delivery of complex questions, paradoxical situations and discernment rather than judgement. I found this piece rather refreshing. Thank You!
    -Lesley Glenner MA Transpersonal Psychotherapist at HoloBeing LLC

  4. David Pimentel says:

    Well-written as always! I especially like your willingness to keep-it-real by sharing your own stories and internal experiences in your articles. Clearly this is a highly reactive topic that evokes a lot of intense responses for many people. Just the willingness to discuss it creates more light and awareness. Personally, I think you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence:

    “I wonder whether pornography would even have a toe in the market if we alteady had the kind of love and communion that we desire with each other.”

    Thanks as always for your gift of challenging, disarming, loving, and entertaining with your words and your presence.

  5. KristinSLuce says:

    I am moved and honored by your response. In truth, I have come a long way from judgement to genuine and open-hearted inquiry (my ex will attest to the first part!). Thank you for this post.

  6. JinpaG says:

    In full agreement with Lesley and David above, Kristin. You address this topic with wisdom (which can only be arrived at through genuine examination of one's own beliefs and experiences, and a non-judgmental attitude (different than discernment, which clearly exists in your treatment of these very human realm issues)), sensitivity, and compassion. You've invited me to look more closely at my own habits, attitudes, concerns, and humanness. Thank you!

  7. YESDV says:

    Awesome article. Thank you for sharing. This is an important topic that affects many couples I know, including my own. Thank you for your bravery, heart, and your ability to cut through.

  8. Joe Sparks says:

    The sex industries harm men's and women's relationships with each other. Often patterned attitudes ( portraying women as "sex objects" ) have been installed by the distress in the culture to replace the natural response of relaxed affection between men and women. These tense preoccupations come up around women, and the culture has attached shame to this. All people sense intuitively that involvement with the various phases of the sex industries is not rational. Te sex industries are dehumanizing to both men and women.
    Preoccupation with sexual tension can become addictive, just as any other distress can become addictive, and can ruin people's lives if it not healed.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I so love your pithy articulation of this subject– one that I did not cover in my article. Thank you, and personally I agree.

  9. ed mcbain says:

    Interesting article. It's well written, convincing even, in the way that a well presented debate is convincing but I just don't agree with it.

    It seems to me there are two things going on here – one is the the lack of fulfilling sexual intimacy in the marriage, and the other is your dislike of porn. In the case of porn in marriages, obviously it's no substitute for a healthy, loving sexual relationship between partners. As for porn in general, I think it's just very difficult for women to accept that men are highly charged sexual beings, in whom the cultural construct of monogamy sits uneasily. Open minded use of porn, to my mind, is a way to release this in a way which is entirely unemotional and which does not involve physical adultery. Sex with a partner can be profound, even spiritual. Pornography is pure fantasy, pure mind stuff. It has no emotional quality whatsoever….

    On the flip side sexual intimacy between long term partners is very difficult to maintain – it's the litmus paper for the whole relationship and the first thing to suffer in case of tension. It requires two people and so becomes a more complicated. It needs more time, emotional openeness, and a lot more physical effort. When things are tough between couples sex can be painful, frustrating, full of sadness. It can bring one deeper into problems when it doesn't go right

    Pornography carries a much lighter charge in the male mind. It's a quick fix, a hot dog for the mind. It's not about intimacy, love, or 'dissolving into vulnerability.' It's purely about sandy young breasts on a clear day'' It's about attraction to the feminine archetypes, it's about edge, energy, danger, delight.

    When asked about the violence in America, Chogyam Trungpa replied to the audience 'I'm more interested in the violence here in this room.' I offer the same response to those whose dislike of porn immediately goes to notions of 'the welfare of the actress, or actor, and the integrity of the situation' Why not let them worry about that? Our job is to see how it effects each and every one of us right 'here' and take responsibility for that….

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I think you may be right that it is difficult for women to accept the level of sexuality of men living in a culture of monogomy. As I have come more and more into my own, I have greater understanding and empathy for the power and dignity of that force, as I encounter it myself.

      If I understand you right, you suggest that what I write about includes or stems from a lack of fulfilling sexual relationship. That was not true in my case. It was a strength in the relationship until the end. And, for me, I also love the feminine archetype, the edge, energy, danger and delight. You nailed. it.

      My question (and it is actually a question not a judgement unlike what it was for most of my adult-hood) is whether using pornography bleeds vital energy off of a potentially transformative process through relationship. For instance, if porn were totally unavailable, and your partner was not, what might happen that does not happen otherwise? It's a genuine question, because I am equally open to finding that I am simply jealous, insecure, and as I say, feeling upstaged by porn. That may be the case.

      My sense has been that there is sometimes more at play around pornography for men than the lightness you suggest. And I could be wrong.

      I like what you end with, about the "violence in this room." Forget judgments about pornography, what did I perpetrate on my beloved when I saw or suspected he was engaged in it? Shaming and violence. And now I feel regret. I also find that it is still true for me to care about the welfare of the situation. If my adult child were involved in the porn industry, I would want to know whether it served her, and what the integrity of the situation was.

      My experience is that I seem to feel the honesty in things, including sexual photography. I chose the cover photo for this article — seeing it as sexy, beautiful, potentially arousing, and also honest or having some kind of integrity. I have no basis for that other than my felt sense. When my sense is that there is fake-ness or especially some kind of violation, I notice that I have aversion.

      Thanks for your clear and in-depth dialogue!

  10. Some Guy says:

    Kristen,

    I typically enjoy your articles here, they are typically a good read. This one however is painful and not because of the subject matter.

    The entire post is clouded from the very beginning:

    "I decided that I wouldn’t ask, pry, judge or make it about me. I would just relate honestly, which so far meant that when I saw or sensed he was using porn I wasn’t interested in being close with him."

    You then go on to say you didn't punish or shame any longer. Quite to the contrary, you actively disengaged from your husband and your relationship simply based on your assumption that he had even been looking at porn. Sorry Kristen, that is your big blind spot right there. You withdrew, punishment to him, and left the moment. Closing off any opportunity for other interaction and love.

    The rest of your article as it stems from this sense of your rightness contrary to porn's wrongness, is silly. Obviously, we all want to dissolve into each other into some kind of protoplasmic love ooze, and of course porn is unnecessary from such transpersonal realms….Good luck with maintaining that ooze on a daily basis with a long term partner and good luck finding a man who is not aroused by naked women other than simply yourself.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I realize that my article is short for such a large topic, and I could have easily written one just on my personal experience (i.e. expanded the first couple of paragraphs). Actually my experience was not that I punished and left the moment as you suggest. I had certainly been doing that for many years, but something actually shifted in me such that I stopped judging him, porn, or myself. I came back "into my own business" as Byron Katie says. From here I could simply be honest with him and with myself.

      A good analogy is if I were dating someone who smoked cigarettes on occasion. I notice that I don't like the smell of cigarettes on someone's mouth and thus that I don't want to kiss him when he smokes. I don't have to judge him or cigarettes or myself to know that I don't enjoy kissing lips that smell like smoke. There may be other areas where my honest answer is "no," like let's say he's into sailing and I get sea-sick. Over time we may or may not stay together, who knows?

      I walked out of the relationship one step at a time in this way– with no agenda to judge, punish or even to leave (that is, I was open to the possibility of my honest response changing at any time, or to the situation changing). I can't even say now that I want a partner who doesn't enjoy porn. I like R-rated steamy romances, so clearly I also enjoy it! Boobs, kissing, love, yes!

      If my article suggests that I see porn as wrong, then I can see I was not clear in my articulation. I do think you are on to something with my "wanting to maintain that ooze on a daily basis." It's definitely a weak spot for me, and causes me (and likely my partner!) suffering. Thanks.

  11. eleanor says:

    Thank you for this well-written, and supremely timed article.

  12. Andy says:

    Man EJ is on quite tne anti-porn crusade lately.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      EJ called for submissions of articles on porn in conjunction with the "Good Men Project" (which I don't know much about). They are posting a series of different opinions. For my part, I am not anti-porn, but wanted to weigh in on the discussion because it has played a big part in my life. I have learned so much, and care about how it affects us, both positively and negatively.

  13. The Corpse says:

    I want to honor your honesty. I think you went about trying to understand your husband and be true to your own boundaries and desires in the most graceful way possible. Years ago, I went through this with a live-in bf, who, as it turns out, had never been with anyone seriously before me because of the level of his engagement with porn. I didn't know that when we got together. BTW, we had great sex. A few times a day. That didn't have anything to do with it. According to him, he was wildly in love with me. This was just a thing that happened in his head. He used the word "addiction." I don't have a universal problem with all porn. I have and do watch porn when a certain mood arises. But, without going into detail, the experience of that relationship was very painful for me. Very. You have a right to your feelings. I respect your kind answers to the people who have commented on this piece. I disagree with some of them, and others I feel must have only skimmed your essay, or they may not have posited some of the opinions they did. Again, I want to reiterate: YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO YOUR FEELINGS. Thank god, the days of women having to please everyone are over. Your POV isn't silly. It's your opinion. You left because clearly the dynamic didn't work for you. That's ok, too. Relationships end all the time, porn or no porn.

    Clearly I'm having more trouble with some of your responders than you are!! ha!

    I think it's a good idea for couples to establish what constitutes cheating in a way that they can agree on. That's a good first step.

    Well, my last point is that, as a 37 year old woman, I can truly say that the myth that all men are more sexual than all women is an old fashioned notion. There is a spectrum across both genders. It's not that simple.

    Keep writing your truth, and don't let the haters get you down. <3

  14. KristinSLuce says:

    Thank you for this encouraging and heart-ful post. I agree, and it's why I eventually left, in part, because I realized that I did have a right to my feelings and that didn't mean that I needed to make anyone "wrong" (him or me). My sense is that there have been some assumptions when people read this article, or skim as you suggest. I have had many responses that I am "anti-porn," which is not my experience (heck, I posed for photos myself and sent them to my beloved, as I say.)

    I very much agree that it is a myth that men are more sexual than women. Not my personal experience at all.

    I am moved and grateful to have you articulate your support here so straightforwardly. Strangely, this article has engendered the most conflictual feedback I have received, though many of my other articles are equally or more controversial. Blessings!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Kristin, I appreciate your openness about this issue, and my only selfish wish is that you wrote it ten months ago. If so, I would have shared it with my girlfriend at the time; instead, she proceeded to shame my sexuality, erect an impenetrable emotional wall, and systematically abandon me after I confessed to my own porn usage in an act of vulnerability and honesty.

    It’s encouraging to know that you took the time to understand that confessing to such an act affects both parties, but the emotional pain that often comes along with such discovery is not to be resolved by one party in the relationship. Just as the offended partner needs to understand whether the usage is a replacement for his/her sexuality, which comes through open and honest communication, the offended partner also has to ensure the offender is not shamed into oblivion.

  16. [...] around sexual fears and shadows. Being vulnerable enough to say to your partner, “I notice this feeling of betrayal when you watch porn and I have a fear that I can never live up to your fantasies” or “I feel [...]

  17. KristinSLuce says:

    Thanks, Lucy. I have been thinking about it, and I agree. I am working to change the details of the piece, though unfortunately it is late in the game. I didn't publish the article as any sort of retribution or with ill-will — I am actually not bothered by porn, though I was at the time. I see it as so ubiquitous and normal–though not particularly my cup of tea so far–that it hardly occurred to me to censor myself more. Now I see that his privacy is his own and that without his permission I would like to keep things far more confidential. Thank you.

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