Letter to a psychotherapist

Concerns about husband's pornography use

Dear Dr. Kim,

Well. My husband the sex addict. Suddenly on his computer, this cow, pardon my language, with the fake boobs and the fake smile. At first he denied everything, but after about an hour he admitted that he uses pornography "a little bit". I've been madly reading the internet to find out about this, and you can't be "a little bit" addicted. I can't look at him, if I do he looks like this big ugly toad. I'm so embarrassed I haven't even been able to tell my best friend, never mind my mother and sister. My sister says porn objectifies women and teaches guys to disrespect their wives and girlfriends. I found out on the internet that they often become abusers even, because they get tired of the smiling idiots like the one I saw (no kidding) and move on to S & M, like guys who do pot and move on to hard drugs I suppose.

The people on the internet who have dealt with this are pretty clear that being an addict is permanent. Does a 12-step program or sex addiction counselling really work? Can they change a person? And if they do, will I be able to ever trust him again or even like him?

Dr. Kim replies:

Your language begs the question of who is objectifying whom. You have obviously had a big shock. Unfortunately you didn't have anyone knowledgeable to ask about this, so you turned to the internet. Although the internet contains a lot of useful information, it often gets buried in the misinformation, especially on an emotionally charged issue like this one. You have been misinformed about several things.

Firstly, you seem to equate pornography use with addiction. They are not the same thing. There is even a lot of disagreement among scientists and professionals about whether sex addictions should be called addictions, or more properly obsessions or compulsions. But in any case, most people who use pornography are not addicted, compelled or obsessed, and from what you have said, your husband does not seem to be. Yes, 12-step programs are very helpful for some people, and good counselling usually demolishes a sex addiction. There is no evidence that  watching porn causes men to have less respect for women, that smiley porn causes people to "move on" to S & M, or that watching S & M causes people to be abusive--or that smoking pot causes people to use hard drugs, for that matter. For more detailed information, see an article on myths about pornography addiction by a Toronto sex therapist.

It looks like what you need is marriage counselling to sort this out and re-establish (or establish) a functioning and happy relationship.

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Copyright 2014 M. Mares