Further Reading

What if my boyfriend wanks off to Internet porno when I'm away?

Dear Stanton:

My fiancé, with whom I live, has every weekday morning alone in the house. I go to work at 7:00 a.m. and he leaves at 11:00 a.m., giving him ample time to use the Internet. I have come home unexpectedly a few times and found him naked, with an erection and in the process of turning off the internet. He claims nothing is going on, but, the only time we have sex is when he is unable to have any time on-line, such as weekends and when I have any days off.

I have tolerated this deception for nearly three years because despite this "addiction" he is a good partner. I don't like the lies and I don't like feeling as if I come second to his fantasy women. Does he have a sexual addiction to porn and what can I do about it? Before I met him, I considered myself to be quite sexually liberal and enjoyed the pleasures of sex a lot. Now I feel betrayed and allocated to a second-class standing. This is ruining my urge for sex.

Please help.

Thank you.

Dear Bernadette:

Your concerns are real and legitimate, and there are things you can do.

You seemingly understand that masturbation can occur in your relationship without endangering it. But, you are certainly legitimately upset that you seem consistently to be second choice to Internet porn.

One thing I have learned from offering advice to people is that addiction to Internet porn is common. In many cases people describe to me, the man makes no bones about preferring porn exclusively. In that sense, it is good that your boyfriend turns the porn off when you return unexpectedly, and that he does engage in normal sexual relations on weekends and other times when you are together. In other words, he is displaying a commitment to the relationship. He is not as addicted to porn as many people from whom I hear. Thus, one possible answer is to accept your boyfriend continuing with this activity, as long as you and he feel he can control it and contain it to weekdays when you are out, which so far seems to be the case.

You are concerned with the flip side of this issue, on the other hand, that he is hiding this activity from you. I understand your feelings. From your description, you have not been able to break through his unwillingness to speak to you about his masturbation. Have you tried? Why do you feel he refuses to speak about it? One obvious possibility is that he is embarrassed. Yet, you seem to be willing to say to him, "I accept that you like Internet porn. I resent that I am consistently playing second fiddle to this fascination, and that you are SO preoccupied with it, and that you feel a need to lie to me." With this out in the open, perhaps you can begin to discuss the whys, whens, and wherefores of his behavior.

If you must be the active partner in this issue, perhaps you should also try to take a lead in your sexuality together. That is, could you incorporate something about his Internet sexuality into your sexual relations? Could you, for example, communicate on computers via instant messaging within your home, then turn that into an actual sexual encounter? Or, more simply, allow him to start to fantasize on the Internet, then have sex together. (In this vein, if he were open and you comfortable enough about his masturbation, you could have simply laughed and joined in when you found him "active" when you came home suddenly.)

Although this is perhaps a daring strategy, it offers these benefits: (1) you can learn, in an admittedly indirect way, what exactly is turning him on about Internet porn, (2) you can enhance your relationship's honesty and sharing, (3) you can take control of this problem and this aspect of your relationship, to counteract your feelings of frustration and futility in this situation. All of these recommendations are predicated on your belief that this is a worthwhile relationship, and that your lover is a good partner. This is, above all, paramount. Things may change over the course of a relationship. If this is less than a full-bore addiction, his interest in Internet porn should decrease, like all temporary fascinations. If, on the other hand, porn continues to grow in his life, then this too tells your something important.

Best wishes,