Lucy, what you’re experiencing in your relationship is definitely not healthy. I want to be clear about using that word ‘healthy’ because words like normal or not normal are very subjective. It’s very clear from your letter that you and your intimate partner are not connecting to each other in a healthy way when it comes to sex. I also want to make it really clear, Lucy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are sexy and beautiful. What is going on in your relationship has nothing to do with how you look or how you are showing up. Instead, this is about how your partner is thinking about sex and not connecting to you in a sexual, intimate way.
There is no doubt that porn has negative impacts on how some people, particularly young people, view sexual activities and relationships. Some early studies show boys, who are exposed to porn from an early age and then consistently exposed to it over the years, experience challenges when they begin connecting with women sexually, as young men. These issues include erectile dysfunction.
One reason this may be occurring is because boys and young men believe what they see depicted in porn is real. But it’s not, it is only acting. However, when your mind has become accustomed to viewing things a certain way, you may experience cognitive dissonance when you are confronted by a real-life woman. That is, your mind may struggle with what you think should be happening versus reality.
Porn also commodifies sex and female bodies while displaying women in ways that are unrealistic regarding how we respond to sexual advances. Let’s face it, porn can show women enjoying some activities but as a woman you might think, “Hell no! That is not enjoyable for me.” In fact, if a guy attempted it, you would run a mile. But in the porn video, it looks like women are turned on by that activity. Then a young guy watches it and thinks it’s real.
Porn also shows women who physically look a certain way and this is often not based in reality either. Many porn stars have plastic surgery and body modifications to look a certain way. Once again, when a guy is later confronted with a real-life female who doesn’t look like that, his mind thinks, “What’s going on? Is this normal?”
Another unfortunate impact is that young women watching porn believe they should physically look like the porn stars and when they don’t, they develop body image and self-esteem issues. Some then seek out plastic surgery to fix something that was never broken in the first place.
We’re not supposed to look the same and we don’t all like the same things when it comes to sex. We are all unique and we all respond differently. And everyone looks different when we take our clothes off. This is reality. But unfortunately, with overexposure to porn from a young age, there can be a discord between what young men believe is normal and the reality of connecting with a woman sexually. This creates problems.
Lucy, if your partner would prefer to engage with porn instead of having sex with a live, breathing human who loves him, is horny and is standing in front of him, there is a problem.
But the problem is not you.
However, there is clearly a problem with how you connect intimately and it’s not healthy. Until he is ready to understand and accept this is an issue, and agrees to work on it, nothing will change. This isn’t a good sign for your relationship.
Sex in a relationship is more than just the physical act – it is about connection. Porn in your situation is creating and facilitating disconnection. When your partners chooses to sit alone, in front of a screen and get himself off versus connecting sexually with you, he is not making a healthy choice for your intimate relationship.
Lucy, spend some time alone and get clear about how you would like to connect intimately with your partner. What feels good and healthy for you? Then sit down and have an honest conversation with him about how you feel and how you want to connect.
If he’s not willing to connect with you intimately in the way you need, then you have your answer about where your relationship is going (i.e. not in a positive direction). Please don’t accept it when he tells you it’s normal because you know it’s not healthy and that’s why you’re questioning it.
Lots of love,