The Porn Trap

There is so much about today’s lifestyle that is bringing significant changes to our relationships. We are admittedly a whole lot busier and spend far more time on the road. We do little face-to-face communication and possess a slew of technological gizmos and gadgets. We are also avid consumers of entertainment and have grown accustomed to hyper-stimulation. In other words, we get bored easily and seem to need a constant stream of new excitement. Is it any surprise then that our new mode of living would have an impact on our intimate relationships? It has actually changed things so much that it has affected even the way individuals in relationships cheat or bring harm to their intimate relationships. This leads us to the touchy issue of porn.

Internet porn has risen in popularity

There has been perhaps no other time in history, where pornography has been so readily available to everyone, than today. With the click of a mouse, any of us can have access to over 1.3 million porn sites. Reputable research agencies have estimated that every second, 28, 258 internet users are viewing pornography while per second, 372 users are typing adult “sex terms” into search engines in search of sexual titillation. At the same time, every 39 minutes a new porn video is being made in the US, while every second $3,074. 64, is also being spent on porn (and this has nothing to do with other regions of the world). In the US alone, porn (internet and video) has been known to rake in over $13.33 billion dollars in revenue. So this is a huge business. While these statistics alone boggle the mind, they allow us to know the depth of involvement of porn in our daily lives. Undeniably, this level of involvement will impact marriages, other relationships, secular leaders, religious leaders, politicians, children, teens and the list is inexhaustible.

Some of the fall-outs as a result of involvement with porn have been: the destruction of marital intimacy, porn-addiction, masturbation-addiction, infidelity, divorce, financial ruin, job-loss, sexual desensitization, sex-crimes and the most unlikely; sexual and arousal dysfunction. While this article will not attempt to deal with all of these issues, it will look briefly at how porn hurts our sex/love-lives. This is particularly necessary, since so many relationship-advocates, “sexperts” and therapists are today advising couples to turn to porn to get their groove on; especially when boredom has set in and there is the need to spice things up a bit. This practice is in fact lethal to the relationship and so many conveniently neglect to mention how potentially addictive and destructive porn can be.

Porn Warps Reality

Pornography is based and thrives on a skewed perception of reality. In the porn-world most women are overt or closet nymphomaniacs who will do any and everything to get laid. They are like dogs in heat who enjoy being raped, abused, having multiple sexual partners (often of both sexes) and who will be any man’s sex –slave; once his penis is big enough. Men on the other hand are depicted as “ever-ready” sexual studs with over-grown organs whose lives are consumed by sex with large numbers of women in high-risk scenarios.

David Morgan, consultant clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst at the Portman Clinic in London, has noted that “the more time you spend in this fantasy world, the more difficult it becomes to make the transition to reality. Just like drugs, pornography provides a quick fix, a masturbatory universe people can get stuck in. This can result in their not being able to involve anyone else.”

Porn Destroys Intimacy

Porn affects our ability to relate

Like every other form of cheating, porn encourages its participants to disengage with their partners, in order to become connected with others. Fantasy is so effective because it leads the participant to shed the real world he/she is in, in order to become an active participant in the world that has been “created” for him/her.

Many men have shared that porn has caused them to make unhealthy comparisons between their wives and the women in these videos; and which of us women, without boob jobs, have large breasts that stand erect like torpedoes?  Men can also become victims of this when their wives are dissatisfied with penis-size because their husband’s organ fails literally to “measure up” to what they’ve seen. The research is clear in confirming that men who repeatedly use porn are less attracted to their wives.

Porn encourages a fixation on body-parts and when this is transferred to the relationship, real emotional intimacy is affected. The reality is that graphic porn-scenes will remain in the mind; that’s just how our minds work. If we’re thinking so much about an unreal scenario or if we’re involved in cyber-sex, then we’re definitely not connected with our partners but are simply using their body-parts.

Porn Desensitizes Us

Systematic desensitization is a term used in psychology to describe how our constant exposure to a particular negative stimulus, can affect our ability to be affected by it. Research has shown that this is particularly true of men. The more porn a man is exposed to, the more graphic, violent and demeaning he needs it to be to incite arousal. This explains why men whose initiation with porn began with seeming “harmless” lingerie ads a la Victoria Secret and softer porn like Playboy, end up needing sadomasochistic or pedophile-based porn, to elicit an arousal in them. This is in fact how many kinky sexual fetishes are formed; simply because straight-up sex becomes boring and predictable and people begin to suffer from under-stimulation.

Many of today’s so-called swingers (couples who swap sexual partners) admit that this began after repeated viewing of porn together. After allowing their sexual inhibitions to be lowered with respect to viewing other couples having sex, they found it easier to submit to the idea of partner-sharing; suddenly their own partners were not enough.

Decreases Sexual Responsiveness and Arousal

Much of the media-hype surrounding the purported “good-use” of porn, would lead many of us to believe that porn-users are liberated, sexy, in-touch-with-their-sexuality individuals, who have great uninhibited sex-lives. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Related to the idea of desensitization mentioned previously, repeated porn-use over time, has been found to also reduce a man’s ability to be aroused. This can even affect his ability to maintain an erection.

This is one of the industry’s most closely guarded secrets. It is in fact the fuel used to trap men into more and more graphic, decadent and debased forms of porn use. In other words, for the guy who starts using porn in his teens and hides out to masturbate over a couple of bare-breasted women, if he continues, by the time he reaches his twenties, a woman’s breasts alone will fail to cause an erection. And this trend will continue. Research is in fact confirming that repeated porn-use virtually neutralizes a man’s capacity for sexual arousal. But this is seldom discussed in forums which encourage the use of porn and the industry moguls are, of course, laughing all the way to the bank.

What Should a Couple’s Response Be?

Has porn affected your relationship?

Obviously the issue of porn and its impact on relationships is wide and varied. I could write an entire book about it and this article has really barely scratched the surface. It is however necessary that the couple who is interested in preserving the sanctity and exclusivity of their relationship, set some parameters in place. These should include openness and accountability with respect to internet use, especially if one party has been involved with porn previously.

I do applaud and support couples reading about sex together, watching wholesome documentaries and talking about their likes and dislikes where sex is concerned. However, if it is noted that some fire is missing in the relationship then porn is not the answer. Very often sex fizzles because of unresolved issues in the relationship some of which may have nothing to do directly with sex. These can be related to the handling of finance, the intrusion of in-laws, past abuse issues, hidden or exposed infidelity, lack of sexual knowledge or technique and this list is by no means exhaustive.

Communication is critical therefore and is the first step towards bringing any sexual resolution to the relationship. This does not only include seeking to uncover what may be affecting the sex-life but also a mutual decision about the use of porn in the relationship. If there is nothing really wrong with the sex-life but there is the temptation to use porn as just another form of popular entertainment, then please, pause and re-think this in light of what the research is saying. A couple stands to lose a lot more, than they could possibly gain from the few seconds of titillation which will eventually pale. Your relationship is worth a whole lot more than that. In cases where porn-addiction is already seriously affecting the relationship, then professional help should be sought.

For more ideas on re-kindling the sexual fires check out my recent articles on this site:  Keeping Love Alive Fresh and Kicking and The Score: What Type of Lover are You?

What Does Everyone Really Want?

Is this perhaps you?

Love sex? Hate sex? Couldn’t care less about sex? Need to learn more? Perhaps already screaming the house down? Well maybe this latest book by author Denise J Charles is just what you need. Check out this latest promotional video on “You Tube”, shot on location in beautiful Barbados. And please; share with your friends.

So Men Just Aren’t Sex Machines After All!

Just when I thought we could no longer be surprised by sex research, a new study by the Kinsey Institute for Sex Gender and Reproduction yielded a set of unusual findings. Contrary to popular opinion, this new study found that men, who kiss and cuddle, are three times more happy than those who don’t. Imagine that. In other words, men who were more in touch with their kinder, gentler, “coochier” side were more likely to experience satisfaction in their long term relationships. These men who made it a practice of smooching with their wives or significant others, were in fact found to experience greater levels of sexual satisfaction than those who didn’t.

What does this tell us girls? It confirms what we’ve known instinctively since Adam was a lad; that sexual satisfaction is much more than the straight-forward thrusting of a penis in a vagina. There I’ve said it! It goes a lot deeper than the length and breadth of the penis, or the depth of the vagina for that matter; never mind what Cosmo says! Sexual satisfaction also definitely extends beyond the latest tricks or is more than those impossible gymnastics’ positions highlighted in the Kama Sutra.

If what we understand about this study is correct, then we can gather that intimacy means a lot more to men than they have traditionally let on. If you remember anything about the movie Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, then you would recall that the prostitute played by Roberts, had a distinct difficulty with kissing her clients. She admitted that it fostered attachments and created a sense of intimacy that she didn’t exactly want to encourage in her line of work. Both women and men recognize that there can be nothing more intimate than breathing each other’s oxygen. Maybe this explains why some men subconsciously decide to lay off the smooching after they have landed their catch; perhaps it’s a means of maintaining some level of control; you know, like protecting themselves against too much vulnerability. Unfortunately, however, holding out in the intimacy department actually leads to less relationship fulfillment.

Not that I’m suggesting that most men don’t like to kiss, but other studies have shown that the more stale a relationship gets, the less kissing there often is. As sex becomes routine, several couples admit to simply honing in on what they see as the important hardware for sex; mainly the genitals. With kids to get off to school, pets to feed and jobs to get up and go to, kissing can become relegated to the trash-heap of a relationship. Whether intimacy dies because there is a lack of deep kissing or whether it is that the death of intimacy means that we no longer want to kiss and cuddle, this study confirms that relationships which are satisfying do thrive on something more than just straight-up sex.

What was even more astounding was that this cuddly stuff was more predictive of male happiness than it was of female happiness in relationships. Hmmm. Now that was a stunner. We women have been conditioned into seeing ourselves as soft, mushy, emotional and in need of lots of non-sex affirmation; that is, hugging and the like. While I do believe that this is still very true, it is also true that as women grow older, they also become more in tuned with and comfortable about expressing their sexual needs. In other words, we become more sexually complex. A woman in her late thirties, forties or fifties is more assertive in requesting what she wants from her spouse, than a woman in her twenties, who’s more concerned about how she looks in bright light.

As confirmed by one sex expert, as we women grow older, we come into our own sexually. A woman’s sexual peak tends to take place after thirty five and really takes off when she hits her forties. Men on the other hand, tend to peak in their early twenties and keep up a lot I believe through social expectations and the consumption of Red Bull (just kidding). Not that I’m suggesting that men lose interest in sex, but there is a known difference in our sexual peak points. (I honestly believe that this see-saw effect is genetically engineered to allow us to get on with other aspects of our lives; imagine how the world just might stand still if men and women both peaked at the same time; nothing else would ever get done; balance is always good)

Of course being in love and being committed in a long term relationship, will affect a man’s libido to a great extent. Consequently, what this study also reveals is that men in stable relationships are very concerned with pleasing their partner sexually; it’s more about connection and less about competition. After all it takes a class act of a man to learn his woman’s body very well and know how to keep it humming as her sexual needs change. But these findings all fit together quite nicely. As men become more settled with one woman, their desire is to be more intimate with her and this is strengthened as they kiss and cuddle and allow that attachment hormone Oxytocin to do its work. Women, on the other hand, as their relationships lengthen, experience a greater yearning for hot, steamy sex with the one man to whom they are committed. And this is of course in keeping with a woman’s rise in sexual assertiveness. These male-female differences in need, are in fact complimentary and represent a wonderful dove-tailing of cuddly warmth and hot passion.

These findings to my mind are a great plus for the institution of marriage, which has wrongfully taken a beating and the blame for many a failed sex life. There is a lot then to be said for long term relationships and the commitment which allows couples to grow sexually together.

And it’s nice to know that it’s finally official; guys are a lot more than automatic sex machines.

Addicted to Sexual Chemistry?

I remember a while back hanging in a bar with a group of girl- friends for some after-work drinks. There I was approached by a fairly attractive guy who delivered kind of an original line. I wasn’t quite sure what to say when he said to me quite enthusiastically, “You’ve got one of the sexiest faces I’ve ever seen”. Young, inexperienced married woman that I was, I don’t think that I’d ever heard “sexy” and “face” in the same sentence, but I guess I understood intuitively what he meant; even though now it’s still hard to articulate. Something about the twinkle in my eye or maybe my body language communicated that I was confident and comfortable with my sexuality, and as any testosterone loaded male, he was quick to pick up on this and voiced his appreciation. At least I think (hope?) that’s all he meant.

Never having been one to be on the prowl in a bar or at a party looking to be “picked up” (yeah I found the love of my life really early and settled), I’ve nonetheless been one to keenly observe the workings of those sex hormones after the sun goes down and the alcohol begins to flow. Yes, there is definitely something to be said for muted lights, laughter, chinking glasses, soulful music, wine, beer and the week-end horniness that goes into so many of the bad sexual choices chalked up to “sexual chemistry”.

We’ve become so seduced by the multiplicity of chick-flicks which assault our senses that we need to pause long enough to distinguish reality from fantasy. Such shows rope us into the belief that we will one day find true-love unexpectedly in a bar, an elevator or in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket; once the “chemistry” is right! As such, we grow to associate the “idea” of love with butterflies in the pit of our stomach and the unexpected surge of good pleasure that infuses us when our eyes make four with a stranger or when, like in my example, a guy hands us an irresistible one-liner.

But is this sexual chemistry all that it’s cracked up to be and is it at all predictive of a deep abiding long-term relationship? When we become addicted to the chemical responses which are characteristic of early attraction, we begin to believe that this is what should constitute a good relationship. This has unfortunately influenced today’s social habit of falling in and out of love. Some of us may dismiss this discussion as irrelevant and think that such behaviour is only characteristic of giddy-headed adolescents. I’ve however witnessed first-hand my fair share of marital break-ups or of committed relationships which went awry simply because one partner got caught in the chemistry trap. In such a scenario what appeared to be a totally solid relationship, is suddenly abandoned because one partner has suddenly fallen “out of love” with his/her spouse, and “in love” with someone else.

What these individuals fail to realise is that they have really fallen “in love’ with their own chemical responses and are in danger of being in love with love. Dr. David Givens, author of Love Signals describes sexual chemistry as the basic engagement of the brain’s pleasure centre (so that guy who says he’s hooked on you, is actually hooked on how you make him feel). Other researchers in the field of sexual attraction have discovered that romantic relationships often progress in stages which are determined by our responses to particular hormones. So according to this theory, there is a physical, chemical, scientific reason for that can’t-get you-out-of-my-mind-kind-of-feeling, which features prominently during the initial stage of a romantic relationship.

Where we end up in trouble is where we find ourselves to be always in search of this chemical high and as a result, get caught up in either emotional or sexual infidelity. Even if this does not happen, we can grow to believe that there is something decidedly missing or wrong with our primary relationship, simply because the butterflies have died. Research carried out on a number of couples, actually found that so-called “love” or “passion” hormones were in fact at much higher levels in those in the early stages of a romance, than in those who were in a long-term relationship. Others have confirmed that the chemical high of a new love-interest only lasts for about two years.

Should this normal relationship flow then be the premise for us to allow our eyes to roam? Should it cause us to perceive that our relationship in its changed state is severely lacking? Of course there is much to be said for keeping love alive, working on keeping our marriages interesting, re-igniting passion and the like. No quarrels here with those ideas. Nonetheless, it is perhaps imperative, for our own peace of mind, that we accept that the change in chemical responses in a relationship need not signal the death of excitement nor a need to go back to what a couple initially had. The truth is, where long-term relationships are concerned, you can “never go home again”. In other words, your relationship will never be what it seemed at first; and perhaps you shouldn’t want it to be.

This is not to say that sexual chemistry is necessarily a bad thing. The way I see it, this initial intense attraction provides the basis for a good “couple memory” as it were. It allows the couple in question to share a memory of that intensity which propelled their relationship to a new level; and this is good. It creates a shared history upon which they can always reflect. Where the whole chemistry equation becomes problematic, is where we fail to recognise that as our relationship changes, so will our chemical responses to it. If a couple does not come to terms with this, or if one party’s expectations remain immature, then dissatisfaction will continue to characterize the relationship. This dissatisfaction is also responsible for many of the “accidental” affairs which occur. You know the kind where you sort of slipped and fell into another guy’s bed because you were searching for some needed sexual excitement.

This is why couples must actively work at constantly refining and redefining what they have together. There is much to be said for deep love and the attachment which is stimulated by the hormone Oxytocin. As couples continue to kiss, hug and connect sexually, they are in essence solidifying their relationship in new ways. The more active the sex-life, the more deep will be the connection. It may not be the heated rush of ripping off clothes as you did the first times you made love but as you grow to know your partner more, love-making becomes a more meaningful display of your commitment which is born out of knowledge and intimacy. This explains the pleasure which married couples often derive from cuddling together on mornings; there is a sense of intimacy and belonging that actually supersedes the heat of the early relationship. As expected, if you’ve been married for ten years, who you were as a lover at twenty-five, won’t be who you are as a lover at thirty-five; and hopefully your partner would have grown sexually with you.

For those in committed relationships, the next time you are tempted to go ‘what if . . . “ after some guy or girl, comes on to you, do the double-take. Reflect and recognize that every new relationship is likely to go through the same sequence. Besides, throwing away what you have built together, to recapture what you have lost, is usually not worth the pain. In two years time, you’re likely to be in the same position, no matter what the romance novels say. There is something then to be said for our need to redefine true love as a decision of commitment as opposed to it being the simple animal response to a chemical reaction. We humans can be a whole lot more than that.