People Who Think Porn RUINS Sex & Marriage Are Flat-Out WRONG

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porn and shame
Sex

Sorry, but it's not the porn.

I love learning about what makes relationships work.

It fascinates me to know that billions of people all over the world are in committed relationships, and every single one of these relationships is absolutely, 100% unique to every other relationship in history. Isn’t that wild?!

There are literally an infinite number of ways to create, maintain, and grow a romantic relationship.

It’s so inspiring to me that there is no secret recipe for creating a truly happy, fulfilling, and loving relationship because it means it’s completely up to you to determine what you want and what works best for you!

[Queue the segue…]

One of the most important and complicated elements in most romantic relationships is developing healthy sexuality as individuals and as a couple.

Yes, I mean sexuality, not just sex.

I’ve heard that term “healthy sexuality” come up a lot over the years… but what the heck does that mean? What’s this “healthy sexuality” everyone’s talking about?

Well, first we need to understand what sexuality is. To do this, it helps to first understand what it’s not…

What sexuality is NOT:

Sexuality is not your sex.

Your sex is your biological status, most often determined by your sex chromosomes, and the type of reproductive organs you have.

Sexuality is not gender.

Your gender is comprised of your attitudes, feelings, and behaviors towards other humans, and how these behaviors fit in with other normative cultural expectations aka: gender roles. Your brain determines the gender with which you identify… not your genitals.

Sexuality is not sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is defined by WHO you love/date/are attracted to.

Each of the above topics is far more complex and nuanced than I’ve described. They worthy of their own individual blog posts (or their own books… which other people have already written). But what I’ve detailed should be enough to make my point.

So now you know what sexuality isn’t. Let’s talk about what it is.

What sexuality IS:

Think about the set of qualities and beliefs that make you completely different and unique from everyone else.

For example, I’m a guy who likes hamburgers, The Muppets, and occasionally picks his nose when nobody is looking. I value my family and my friends. I believe in the power of kindness. I value hard work, compassion, integrity, and I believe that I will never be done growing (figuratively) as a human being.

Those are a small number of the qualities and beliefs that identify me. That list could probably be 1,000 pages long and still be unfinished.

See how complex this is getting?

Now let’s complete the analogy.

Sexuality is a combination of your sexual orientation, your gender, your sex, the gender roles of the society you live in, how comfortable you are with your body, your values, your self esteem, and your sexual experiences. It’s how you’ve been influenced by your religion, family, friends, age, goals, and the media. It’s how you experience touch, love, compassion, joy, sadness and loneliness. It’s how you dress, what you find funny. And it’s how you feel about it all!

Do you see how sexuality is incredibly nuanced, fluid, complex and messy?

Yet we have a tendency to want to simplify sexuality. Simple things make us feel comfortable and safe.

We often package up our sexuality with binary words like “good/bad,”” right/wrong,” “safe/risky,” “clean/dirty,” or “gay/straight.”

We attach labels and judgments to thoughts, feelings, behaviors, groups and practices that we agree with or don’t agree with… that we feel a part of, or that make us uncomfortable.

The things we desire sexually we rush to deem as acceptable. But once we run up against something that makes us uncomfortable, or isn’t up our alley, we rush to identify it as something that is perverse, gross, dirty or sinful.

​The hazards of poor judgement:

Judgment is a very human behavior. We all do it.

Good judgment keeps us safe. It’s what keeps us from jumping off a cliff, walking into a dark alley at night, or talking to strangers.

Excessive, uninformed judgment turns us into close-minded self-righteous a-holes who are isolated from the world and condemn anyone who is different from them. Think Donald Trump.

And when it comes to sexuality too much judgment, especially uninformed or ill-informed judgment can be harmful and dangerous.

I’ll demonstrate this in about 5 paragraphs.

Where the anti-porn movement goes wrong: 

We’ve been quick to assign porn the labels of “bad,” “evil,” “wrong,” “addictive,” and “destructive.”

Yet people (women included) look at porn for a HUGE list of reasons… and many of them are not “bad,” “evil,” or “destructive.”

For example:

  • People look at porn because they’re curious. They have a sensation, a desire, or a fantasy they would like to explore in a safe environment. Porn is a private and easy way to explore these often-new desires and curiosities.
     
  • People look at porn as an emotional escape. Everyone has moments where the stress, anxiety, and overwhelm in life becomes too much to handle. Porn consumers sometimes turn to porn as a quick escape from the pressures of life.
     
  • People look at porn because they feel cut off and lonely. They may not have a romantic partner, or even close friends. Porn is their short-term virtual companion and escape from loneliness.
     
  • People look at porn because they want to research new and exciting things to do in the bedroom.

Before reading on, take a moment to reflect. What were your emotional reactions to the reasons I listed above? Did any of them make you uncomfortable? Did you have the “I don’t agree, so that is wrong/bad and not right/good!” narrative going on in your head?

Having a “healthy” relationship with your sexuality means you can feel those judgments and ask yourself questions like this:

  • Where did my judgments around sexuality come from?
     
  • Are my judgments and opinions on sexuality fixed or adjustable?
     
  • Am I willing to challenge my beliefs?
     
  • Am I willing to have civil conversations with, and seek understanding with people who may have different opinions than my own?
     
  • Have I ever changed my beliefs around sexuality in the past? Why? Could it happen again?

If you have an unhealthy relationship with porn, you probably have an unhealthy relationship with your sexuality.

Alternatively, one of the best things we can do to combat porn abuse is to develop healthy sexuality.

That means being willing to set aside your judgments regarding what you believe to be “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad.” It means expressing empathy and attempting to understand the experience of others before labeling them. It’s being willing to challenge your own paradigm.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate for porn. Not even a little bit. I am, however, an advocate for compassion, understanding, empathy, and healthy sexuality.

What has the potential to destroy your marriage is not porn. 

It’s your unwillingness to understand the why’s, when’s, and what’s that prompt you or your partner to look at porn. It’s your resistance to exploring your partner’s fantasy without judgment. It’s your refusal to share the things you’re ashamed of that feed your shame cycle*.

It’s your unwillingness to be vulnerable enough demonstrate to your partner your desire to develop a healthy emotional attachment full of honesty, transparency, and courage. It’s the judgments you carry regarding what you believe to be “right” or “wrong.” It’s your defiance to educate yourself – even if it makes you a little uncomfortable – to the idea that someone else can have a valid experience that is unlike your own and that their experience may not be wrong, evil, or bad.

For example:

Imagine if every teenager who looked at porn had a relationship with a compassionate adult in their life with whom they felt comfortable sharing their experience. The adult could comfortably ask them shame-free questions like, “What did you experience?” “What did you enjoy?” “What did you not enjoy?” “Where do you think those positive/negative feelings came from?” “Would you like to look at porn again? Why or why not?” “Have you thought about _______?”

What would change? How would the world be different?

It’s time to move away from the widely-held myths that men are the only ones who struggle with porn. Or that anyone who looks at porn is an addict, or in danger of becoming an addict. Or that all porn is damaging and unrealistic.

Porn is like Voldemort (aka: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named). It holds power over us because we are scared of it, and we are unwilling to talk about it.

The best way to combat porn is to celebrate our nuanced and complicated sexuality! We must give ourselves permission to talk about it! We must try to understand each other, cultivate our desires, and banish shame from the conversation.

You are a sexual snowflake.

(*Pro Tip: Most people who view porn and don’t want to – from casual observers, to those who watch porn several times a day –  are stuck in a negative shame cycle that consists of doing something wrong, keeping it a secret, and having lots of judgement around it. Break the cycle by making it ok to talk about, and getting rid of the judgement, and you can help those you care about develop healthy habits to manage their sexuality that don’t include porn. Handling it with anger, outrage, and more judgement will just make it worse.)

Huge thanks to Kristin Hodson for her help and guidance with this piece. She’s an incredible sex therapist, human being, mother, and friend (in no specific order). If you want to learn more about her, you can visit her website here.

This article was originally published at Loveumentary . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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