Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What Porn Really Offers: Rejection-free Sex

I've been reading Brené Brown's Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and  Lead. There's lots of insight into why we act the way we do...but I hadn't anticipated stumbling upon her thoughts on porn addiction. Although, given that the book is largely about shame, I shouldn't have been surprised.
While interviewing a male therapist about men's shame around sexual rejection, a point she considered when a male in a research group pointedly brought up how vulnerable men feel in the sexual arena, Dr. Brown sought the therapist's thoughts around addiction and pornography. His response? "For five bucks and five minutes, you think you're getting what you need, and you don't have to risk rejection."
She calls the comment "revelatory" for her because, like so many women, she'd always assumed that porn was about men seeking novelty, sexual expertise, spectacular bodies. Of course porn provides that. But in this therapist's point of view, the appeal of porn is rejection-free sex. "I guess the secret is that sex is terrifying for most men," he says, noting that porn offers "power and control". (Hardly makes porn harmless, there's still evidence that viewing it alters neural pathways in the brain.)
My husband has been telling me this for years. I didn't really believe him. Or rather, I listened. And then dismissed what he'd told me in favor of self-bashing. My body isn't firm enough. My breasts aren't big enough. My sexual gymnastics aren't exciting enough. Despite my husband's repeated insistence that porn never ultimately provided what he now understands he craved – intimacy – I too often assumed he'd simply had his fun and was okay with it being over.
I've said before, however, and it seems I've forgotten my own words: sex addiction and porn addiction are hardly "fun". The rest of us assume, because sex is generally "fun", that, as addictions go, one that allows you to indulge in sex anywhere with anyone has to be a laugh-riot.
It's not. It's steeped in shame and fear, no matter what mask it's wearing.

7 comments:

  1. This really baffles me and I was thinking about the sexual part of their affair just yesterday. I mean wasn't he embarrassed at all about taking his clothes off in front of this stranger at his age?? Also the fact that he needed the little blue pill to help "keep things going"? If they are so scared and afraid of rejection wouldn't that keep them from affairs? Porn I can see because it's all in you mind (altho I see the harm in porn to relationships particularly if the spouse doesn't know about it). How does he not think that when his ass was out the door she wasn't counting the money he gave her and laughing at him because I believe she was!!! Plus she had another lover that he didn't know about until he left me and her lover called and told him. My H is a good lover but trust me he's not Casanova. Never has been. He's nice enough looking, but he isn't Brad Pitt either. I'm sure she liked him well enough, but I am convinced it was the money, and lots of it, that motivated her, not the incredible sex that she convinced him of. I think the man really thought he was a stud. One of his admissions was that when he was "done" he was ready to leave! All I know is at my age I would have to know a person a realllly long time and realllllly trust them before taking my clothes off. I know I am very rejection averse!

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    1. In my husband's case, he simply didn't care what they thought. So rejection by them (or criticism or whatever) wouldn't carry the same weight. He didn't feel vulnerable with them. As he said to me, "I never once imagined what they were doing when they weren't with me, or wanted to sit down and have dinner with them" The fact that he objectified them to that extent – they were important to him only in as far as they met his physical needs – is another part of his shame. He never thought he'd be capable of that.
      So though it is baffling, I think it's only that way to us.
      I used to be baffled at my mother's alcoholism. I simply couldn't understand why she would consistently choose alcohol when the consequences (almost losing her family) were so severe. With all the work I've been doing to try and understand my husband's actions, it's becoming much more clear.

      Elle

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  2. This post is insightful. Thank you so much for posting it.

    In my case, my husband was addicted to porn for years. He stayed up all night with it. He secretly used cialis to masturbate. I pleaded with him to stop. I articulated the pain it was causing me and, because my self-esteem and body image were poor, I resented him "using me" for release. His response was to get angry and accuse me of being controlling. He did compare me to the porn objects and told me I was "ample". (I truly wasn't. I simply had the body of a 50 year old.) There was little affection in our infrequent love-making because I was being used and I knew it. It was a vicious downward cycle. The porn led to the affair quite easily. Since discovery the porn has ended. Our love-making is meaningful and mutual. But I am always on guard-it is sobering to know how easily he did what he did.

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    1. I completely understand your point. Porn gives men a blueprint for sex that has very little basis in reality. Women are always willing. They're always turned on. They have virtually no demands other than "more" and "harder". I recently read an article by a porn star who talked about the damage she and other women experience – prolapsed vaginas, chafing, bruising. Nothing sexy about that!
      And, of course, men begin to objectify women. I told my husband I began to feel like a blow-up doll.
      Which is why I thought Brené Brown's understanding of men and porn was so fascinating. It's in keeping with what many experts/therapists say...but so counter-intuitive to how most women feel. Worth exploring.

      Elle

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  3. Elle
    You are right and I think the high from the affair is an addiction just like that to alcohol. Maybe that is trying to find excuses for peoples poor choices. Maybe it's trying to rationalize irrational behavior. Yes your Mon chose alcohol over you. In my H's case the OW worked for him so he had to see her everyday. It's weird, it's all weird and yes baffling.

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    1. I think what trips many of us non-addicts up is the idea of "choice". We think it's just a matter of choosing differently. And clearly there's an element of that or else no-one would ever be able to beat an addiction. But choice to an addict is never simple. It's a street-fight and all to often the demons win.
      Watching my mom spiral down into alcoholism wasn't about watching someone "choose" alcohol over me, though it felt that way at the time. It was about watching someone medicate pain that she simply didn't have the ability to manage at that point in her life. Living hurt too much so she numbed it. And, for years, thought she wasn't hurting anybody. Something that I think sounds familiar to a lot of us.

      Elle

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  4. This makes sense to me. I am the one who posted earlier about recently discovering my husband's sex addiction. He's told me it stemmed from low self-esteem, but I couldn't understand how paying prostitutes for sex would make anyone feel better - wouldn't it make more sense to pick up women at a bar or something? But the fact that it's rejection-free - that makes sense now. Thanks.

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