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I have started to write this page and then stopped several times, because it's such a controversial subject. I mean, you aren't neutral on the subject of porn, are you? I guess that more men than women think it's acceptable, but beyond that, who knows? The Internet has opened up the possibility of getting whatever variation of sexual activity you care for on line, and even meeting others who share your tastes in chat rooms. Is this a good thing?

No, obviously not if it involves young people. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about more conventional sexual material that shows sex between consenting adults - gay or straight. Even here, it seems hard to draw a line between what's normal and what's not - is water sports (pissing on each other) or "scat" (shitting on each other) normal in the pursuit of sexual arousal?

I only pose these questions to be provocative, not because I have any answers to them. But when I think about porn, I do know that my moral reaction to gay porn is much less intense than to straight porn. I tend to think of gay porn as being much more the product of consenting adults entering freely into the act and being filmed for enjoyment or money with full awareness and little pressure.

This may reflect my beliefs about the gay world, and the straightforward nature of sex to men in general as compared to women, but I think it's right. When I think of straight porn, I must confess I think of women being abused and pressured into it for reasons of economic necessity.

I said this to a feminist writer on sex and she wouldn't have it: she accused me of thinking like that because I couldn't accept that women were just as sexual as men, or that I didn't like to think of women being in charge of their destiny. No way! Sex - as a generality - is something women value as the physical expression of emotional connection to a man they care about - not as a transaction to be paid for by someone who uses them as a sexual object.

You only have to hear the women who have worked in the porn industry speak about their work to understand it: time after time they use expressions like: It fucks you up, it does your head in, and so on. Women who think they are choosing to work in porn but in fact are doing it because that's the only way they can earn money, or because some man in their life pressured them into it, are not really doing it through choice.

Does that make it morally wrong? I'm no moral philosopher, but I think the answer is "No". Like everything else, people do things that are good or bad because they seem expedient. Pressurizing women into porn is abusive, but so is forcing them to work for low wages.

So does that make porn acceptable? When you look how much porn there is in society now, you might think so. I read a piece in an English paper the other day about a dinner party at which the subject of porn had come up, and it turned out that all the middle-class couples present watched porno films together. No wonder the porn industry is bigger than the conventional film industry in terms of bucks turned over.

But then what about this: I was alone in the showers at the sports club when two young lads, presumably not knowing I was there, came in and started recapping the plot (OK, I use the word loosely) of the porno film loaned to them by their friend thus: "....and wasn't it great when those five blokes fucked her and then came over her face?"

Does it shock you that fifteen-year-olds should think of sex in that way? That they respond just to their arousal and not to anything else that sex might imply, for good or bad? Make no mistake, porn like this is designed to appeal to the more biological instincts of men, and it does so very effectively. Men are visual creatures, they are easily aroused, and once aroused they want to get off. Result? Big profits for the porno producers. And what about the rest of us? What does it do for us?

Again, I don't have the answers. I used porn myself, I admit, in my younger days, but I don't now I'm in a relationship. I seem to remember always feeling a bit dirty after I'd come - often very powerfully, as it happens. This might have been something to do with childhood shame about sex, or it might have represented guilt about using the women in that way....I don't know.

What I do know, through the men's groups I run, is that about 75% of men have used porn at some time - some obsessively so. And most of them feel bad about it at some level.

So why do men do it? Well, I think the answer to that is very simple. We are biologically programmed to seek out new sexual stimuli (spreading the seed and all that). But the balance between seeking out new sexual stimuli and staying faithful to one partner is a fine one, as we all know - temptation is everywhere, and while the spirit may be strong, the flesh is stronger....and porn provides an answer to this dilemma: lots of new stimuli, some of them very exciting, and lots of arousal. Result? A big orgasm. A quick orgasm (not a process calculated to help a man find a premature ejaculation cure, really, is it?). Relief. Easy. Much easier, perhaps, than wooing a partner, even one in a relationship - especially if sex has become a bit routine.....

Now, in case at this point you're thinking "And what's wrong with that, may I ask?" did you ever ask your partner what she thinks about it? (I'm talking about a female partner, so gay men are excluded from this discussion, though I would love to hear what they have to say about porn in their experience, if any happen to be reading this page.) By the way, I'm not judging in any way. The issue is much too complicated for that. For example, I know a wheelchair-bound man with severe deformities who thinks he's never going to have a partner, and so chooses to use porn as a way of getting off; he objects strongly to the idea that his choice might ever be taken away from him by moralists.

And then again, I know a guy aged 37 who learnt about sex by watching porno movies with his older brothers when he was 13, and who tells me it messed up his ability to get on with women as sexual partners for years and years. And I also know a guy with some emotional and physical difficulties who tells me that he finally found the confidence to get into a relationship by learning what to do sexually from porno films (and presumably seeing it wasn't that difficult!)

Anyway, I digress. I was wondering what women think of their partners using porn. Here's an email I received from a female reader of this site: "Hello again. Grab a nice glass of wine, or whatever you prefer, to read this verbose e-mail. I believe it is as you said (i.e. that men are visually stimulated by porn and that it's an easy way for them to get off). However in my pursuit to understand, and of course be the perfect mate, I'm looking for guidance...

I've known the man I'm with for a very long time. We were friends for years prior to entering into a "real" relationship. We talked about everything (sex and our sexual preferences included), and knew each other on a level that was as close to a soul mate as you can get.

When we did eventually decide to be together, I was coming out of a bad marriage, and he was dealing with sexual issues from a prior relationship. I know sex (in general) has been something that he has struggled with since he was a teen learning how to cope with his sexuality. Very early in our relationship (we've been together for a year and a half), sex was a very emotionally charged experience, and he would sometimes lose his erection while we were making love. Rather than push the issue, I would give him a massage and we would kiss and talk so that he knew I loved him, not just his anatomy......sharing that experience was one that increased our level of intimacy, as well as his confidence.....today we have an amazing, explorative sex life, as well as a strong relationship. This one topic - overcoming porn addiction - remains the area that is sticky for us to navigate.

I found out about his use of porn rather late in our relationship by catching him in the act early one morning when I had awakened and was curious as to why he was not in bed. I didn't think too much of it at the time, and made love to him that night because (to be honest), knowing that men masturbate actually arouses me. Next morning, out of aversion (or perhaps respect), I asked him not to look at it if I was at home as I felt it was a choice between that and me given I was a ready, willing and able partner. Insofar as I know, he has honored his word with regard to my request.

The issue arose when I encountered a similar scenario upon arriving home from a business trip and learned that he indulged himself in it for six hours (on the net). At that time he related the binge to stress and wanting to lose himself in fantasy, rather than internet porn addiction, but I feared that perhaps it was an obsession that I wasn't sure I could live with, regardless of how much I love him. The ensuing argument was not pretty, and did not make either of us feel good, but was essential perhaps to laying it all on the table.

Because it was so secretive and happened after we had been together for a year (living together for four months) at a time when our sex life was complicated by conflicting schedules, it shook me regarding our whole relationship and what else he might be hiding from me. I was angry that he lied to me about the frequency with which he was engaging in "eye candy", and ultimately felt as if I had been deceived.

I didn't mind it that first time, after all, I know men masturbate and are visual creatures, but it hurt me knowing it was a major aspect of his sexuality, or at least appeared to be, that I was not aware of from the start of our relationship. The timing was especially bad since the frequency with which we were making love had diminished significantly - and I hate to admit it, but I too have sexual needs and get horny. At the time, and even still, I can't believe that such a small thing upsets me in such a profound way. We've worked through it to some degree, and I've come to an uneasy peace with his use of it. 

In every conversation we've had on the topic - and they have been few since the subject is so taboo - he has said that his use of it disgusts him, hence the secretive nature of it. One of my gay male friends suggested that his experience may be enhanced by the possibility of getting caught - the excitement of risk being a major stimulus. Again, logically I understand, but emotionally it is difficult for me to come to terms with. I guess as a woman, if I were engaged in an activity that disgusted me, I would probably avoid it.

Because of the way I've found out about the porn, discussions about it are not an easy subject for us as a couple to broach - especially when I'm feeling insecure and in need of his understanding. It is odd to me because we talk about all other sexual topics so freely.

I've explained that I simply want to know that he is using it, and this is where the disagreement comes into play. He has reassured me that it is just a way for him to relieve his sexual needs and ejaculate quickly and enjoy better sex.

In the end, I'm an advocate of open and honest communication. It was easy for me to open up to him because I am completely comfortable telling him about all aspects of my life/feelings, sexual or otherwise, so I assumed he'd feel the same. And he has, I believe, been open, with the exception of this particular domain. I realize that part of the problem for me is coping with the initial shock of discovery since I was more upset about being deceived than I was about the porn itself. As a result, it is still hard for me to come to terms with. Additionally, given male insecurities around sex in general, I'm concerned that porn sets an unrealistic precedent for what real women, such as myself, want and need sexually - i.e. he sees so many enormous penises, he thinks that's what all women want.

In the end, I suppose it is just fantasy, and that I should let it be at that... in my relationship, the issue boils down to wanting to communicate about our sexual relationship with honesty, comfortable in the fact that neither of us is judging the other. But for him (with regard to porn), that is too much for me to ask. I know he loves me, and he is my best friend... it just sucks to feel so conflicted over something so stupid!

Because I can't discuss it with him and want to understand, I've turned to the web as a tool for learning about male sexuality because many books gloss over such topics, or have a religious bent that I find disturbing. Finding a site like yours helps because it validates all of the complicated, sexual feelings related to being male and female, and ultimately of relating to one another.

In that regard you are doing your readers a huge service. I have used some of the other sites you posted to understand more about masturbation and what it means/is for men. I love men, always have, and getting insight into the male psyche is an amazing find. Thanks for listening, and for your advice if you have any. I feel as if I have entered a confessional and appreciate an anonymous ear!"

My response to this reader included the observation that nature provided all animals, us included, with many biologically based behaviors which have been necessary for the survival of the species. They tend, however, to get a bit distorted in modern human society - so, for example, the natural urge to eat fat when it's available as a security against bad times becomes an uncontrolled binge on twenty cream donuts in a week.

And the urge to get out there and find new sexual stimuli (spreading the seed and all that) becomes an impulse - or a compulsion - to browse internet porn. It's no wonder it's so addictive - finding new sexual stimuli in such abundance, combined with human curiosity, means men can get hooked on the whole internet porn thing all too easily.

But guys, the question is - what are you doing to yourself and what are you doing to your partner? I know you're all going to go on with the use of pornography, but remember that managing your penis is what makes you human and sets you above your biological ancestry. And so, if you want to know more about moral philosophy, read this book:

How To Manage Your penis.

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