Porn hurts women, so say the partners of users

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 I wrote ‘Porn Hurts’ after I saw Bettina Arndt’s Age article, ‘Porn is not a Dirty word‘. Here she provides data from her research on couples in long-term relationships. While her article, and the book on which it is based, provide a particularly insightful window into how many men feel about porn, she misses the mark entirely in terms of how this impacts women in relationship with users. This article offers an opinion suggesting, following the current research, that women are often distressed by their partner’s porn use, most especially where this use is secret and the couple are in a long-term relationship. I also question Arndt’s implicit reinforcement of male sex-right. 

Bueskens, P. (2012). ‘Porn hurts’, Arena Magazine, no. 117, May 2012, pp. 15-16.

 

A longer more radical version of this article was re-printed in On-Line Opinion on May 1st, 2012:

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=13565&page=0

 

This article has been re-printed in a number of additional places including:

 

Antipornography.org on June 12, 2012:

http://www.antipornography.org/petra_bueskens_author.html

 

The Anti Porn Men Project on July 22, 2012:

http://www.antipornmen.org/2012/07/22/porn-hurts-women-so-say-the-partners-of-users/

 

 

5 comments


  • Jennifer

    This article was spot on. This was a major issue in my marriage. When my husband started using porn, he stopped being my friend, he lost his attraction to me, and he was angry with me all the time because I wasn’t “good enough”. Basicly, he behaved like any other addict. Thankfully, he was willing to go to therapy and give up his addiction. But, it’s always there on the horizion of my awareness. Is he going to stop loving me again like he did back then? I hope not. But, the threat will always be there. If men would put the energy they’re putting into their porn addictions into their relationships instead, they’d truly be happy. Instead of the false thrill that they had with titilation, they’d have happy and secure relationships. Porn won’t make you soup when you’re sick, or hold your hand on a walk. Porn doesn’t love you back. It does leave you unfulfulled. That’s why users seek out bigger and more. You get sucked into a rabbit hole of self gratification and are emotionally and physically distant from your family. This is why women mourn. We’re the guardians of relationships. We love and want to be loved in return. There’s nothing more painful than loving someone so much that you’ve committed your life to them… and they don’t love you back.

    May 1, 2012
    • Petra

      Thank you Jennifer for your heartfelt response. There is a raw and painful truth in your story that is being experienced by more and more women. It is your story (and it’s many variations) that motivated me to write this piece. The saddest part is your point about the loss of trust – it’s is so very difficult to regain. Have you seen ‘Caroline’s Story’ in the new book Big Porn Inc? It is another moving account of this phenomenon. All the best and thanks again for sharing. Petra
      P.S. Sorry for the delayed reply.

      May 20, 2012
  • Are you seriously implying that women should be able to tell men not to masturbate? You criticise men for trying to control women’s bodies, so this sounds extremely hypocritical. See http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroyalty/2012/05/14/the-hypocrisy-of-anti-sex-feminism-or-why-women-will-never-stop-men-masturbating/

    May 14, 2012
    • Petra

      I replied to this post with the following:

      This is an engaged and engaging response to my article. Thank-you for thinking about it – even if you were pissed off – and for taking the time to write this.

      I think, however, that your post fails to see or acknowledge my central point: that increasing  research shows that many women experience their partner’s secret porn use as distressing – especially if that use is frequent, if the couple are in a long-term relationship, and if that use is accompanied by masturbation. 

      This position is not simply a matter of opinion but of evidence. In your eagerness to defend men’s right to masturbate (albeit to legal material), you ignore this point. This point, not the multitude of others you make – some of which I agree with – is what the article is about. 

      It is a discourse that isn’t heard much, except in arcane academic journals, and I believe it is an important part of the debate. I have in my article attempted to share this research with a wider audience, while also and simultaneously challenging some of Arndt’s assumptions.

      There are many other points that could be made regarding your arguments about porn – the porn is ‘age old’ argument, which fails to understand the industrial product that is Internet porn today; the assumption regarding the relativity and empemeral nature of fashion, which denies that there are definite demographics that look at porn (mostly young men though also increasing numbers of older men), and that those who make mainstream porn cater to, and construct the ‘tastes’ of this group (very little porn in other words caters to the female gaze, female pleasure, or even considers female orgasm relevant, much of it – including the example of bukkake you provide – is misogynist) and; the incorrect assumption that I conflate mainstream heterosexual porn with ‘kiddy porn’. I did not make this slippage. What I did do was acknowledge that there is, alongside a growing market for mainstream porn (in which waxed, piggy-tailed ‘teen girls’ figure prominently), a growing market for child abuse porn. This is a fact, a sordid revolting fact, but a fact nonetheless. It is men who seek and consume this stuff – the most interesting research shows that it is difficult to find atypical or specific traits among those who are caught. In other words those men who are consuming this material are not always ‘peadophiles’ or otherwise clinically disturbed.  Many are normal men who started out on ‘lighter marerial’ and found their way into this mess in search of a bigger hit, a greater taboo etc, Tragically and repulsively, this is a growing phenomenon. Look it up yourself if you don’t believe me.    

      My deeper point is that porn exists inside a political, economic, ideological and structural framework that is patriarchal and capitalist. It is not beyond or outside these structures. It reflects and petpetuates these structures. The current industrial product is not the random, sexually democratic, polymorphous plurality you suggest. Sure, there’s everything there – but what MOST viewers (ie most men) are watching – is mind numbingly familiar content that looks like this: one young woman roughly and multiply penetrated (oral, anal, vaginal) without ‘foreplay’ while being called derogatory names and then ejaculated on – usually on her face. She is usually thin, hairless, conventionally attractive and very young. She has no sexual or emotional needs. She is not given or apparently deserving of respect. This content is neither radical, nor diverse, nor challenging, nor progressive. While more interesting and egalitarian porn exists it is not the norm and it is not what I was talking about.

      But I guess what really distinguishes our positions is the fact that, unlike you, I do not think men’s right to masturbate to porn (note this is NOT the same as the right to masturbate)  trumps honesty and respect in a relationship. In other words, if porn is distressing to your partner her distress is, to my mind, more important than your (self centred) pleasure. This is where we differ. And this – not all the other stuff you raise – is what my article was about. 

      May 20, 2012
  • Sarah

    Insightful, flawless, eloquent, clear, precise, passionate writing. Thankyou Ms Bueskens for making sense of a difficult complicated new phenomenon in love relationships.

    May 21, 2012

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Petra Bueskens | Mother, scholar, psychotherapist | Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne Daylesford