Feministe Feedback: What if I don’t want my partner to watch porn?

Feministe Feedback

It’s been a while, but we have a question for Feministe Feedback. As a reminder, you can send Feministe Feedback questions to feministe@gmail.com. We post them and invite the commentariat to offer suggestions, advice and general feedback. As a reminder to the commentariat, the people writing in are asking genuine questions. The feedback should be constructive and offered with kindness, in the spirit of helping the question-asker. Comments that are hostile or that attack the asker will be deleted. Now, onto today’s question from Feministe reader Flowerpuff:

Someone did a post recently on sex negativity and I just ran across a comment that said a sex positive woman will be ok with her significant other using porn. I feel like this is a way to shame women for liking monogamy and porn fitting into a violation of that monogamy for some women – and also a way to shame women who are concerned about the myriad of legitimate ethical concerns regarding selling sex for money and using a human being you do not love for their sexuality without caring about who they are, how they really feel, or why they are even sharing their sexuality for you.

I feel like sex positive culture can be used to shame people for their boundaries and feelings about sex and it starts getting really creepy. No one needs to date someone with different vision of sexuality— so respecting that someone doesn’t want their SO to watch porn doesn’t mean you have to DATE that person. You can break up over a difference of boundaries.

But somehow claiming that all women who have that boundary are “sex negative” implies they are regressive and prudish and, well, bad. In a way that I think is itself cruel, bullying, and regressive.

I feel genuinely concerned that myself and many women I know feel kind of bullied into tolerating their partners porn use when they don’t like it, and they don’t even use porn themselves. Honestly, I don’t date because of it, because I feel like it’s “unfair” of me to have this as a requirement and I know that it is, for me. I will be unhappy with a man (or woman) who uses people they don’t know or love for their sexuality without knowing if the other person may be harmed by it, or care what circumstances and belief systems may be driving their participation in porn.

I think it’s fair for me to have this concern, even if it means I never get to date again because I’m an oddball. Having this per-requisite does not mean I’m controlling anyone. No one has to date me, you know?

It’s a major issues that many of my lady friends have talked with me about as well- even friends of mine who are really horny, and who have had sex with many many partners, who like sex parties and group sex, can still have problems with sex as an industry that feeds off human beings in a very uncaring way with money as a huge driving factor.

Thanks for reading!

Thoughts? Feedback?

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302 Responses

  1. Melissa
    Melissa August 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

    Absolutely, hear hear.

    As a very sex-positive, sexually open person who now chooses not to have porn be a feature in my relationships, I’ve seen exactly what you describe — how many women get “bullied” into accepting porn, treated as “prudes,” or shamed for their dislike of it via assumptions made about their “insecurities.”

    I choose not to watch porn, and to prefer my partners do not watch it, because the more I learned about the porn industry the more concerned I became with the ethics of it. While I know some women in porn make an empowered choice to participate, many are exploited or pressured in ways I cannot be comfortable with, and since (with a few exceptions) almost impossible for a viewer to differentiate ethically-made mainstream porn from exploitative, I find it best to choose not to validate the medium.

    In this, I am no different than anyone who chooses a vegan diet or not to shop from companies which use sweatshop labour — and yet I’ve been judged a “prude” and had people question my “self-esteem” and been accused of somehow being oppressive to the men in my life, as if they are incapable of making their own choices about porn based on our discussions.

    It is ridiculous that culture has become so pornofied that any reason to not want to engage in it in or out of a relationship is seen as deviant and sex-negative. That is not the case for most of us. I’m a passionate, open and experimental lover, with a kinky and non-monogamous streak. I WANT a culture that’s more o

    1. Melissa
      Melissa August 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

      Bah, stupid comment got cut off. I forget how the rest went. You get the picture.

      At the end of the day, it is absolutely not unfair to say to a partner “hey, this is harmful to me” or “hey, this is too harmful to others for me to be comfortable with,” and allow them to make their own decisions. The OP might be surprised by how many potential partners would agree — I haven’t had a problem with it at all, when I’ve let potential partners know where I stand.

      Personally, in terms of hetero relationships since that’s my experience, I’ve found that despite the popular myth that all men crave and use porn, many straight guys I know voice that they’ve always been uncomfortable with it once I give them the opportunity to have that discussion. They see that the majority of straight porn is not a reflection of how they perceive their sexuality, or are uncomfortable with the way women in it are often portrayed, and they’re quite happy to talk about my concerns and leave it behind entirely, if they use it at all.

    2. Evan
      Evan August 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

      and since (with a few exceptions) almost impossible for a viewer to differentiate ethically-made mainstream porn from exploitative

      It has been INCREDIBLY hard to find porn that I can feel comfortable is not exploitative.

      I’ll take the opportunity to point out my current favourite example of one of the few exceptions: makelovenotporn.tv (Content note: this is a porn site).

      This is not to say that just because there are options for ethically-made porn, that everyone needs to accept porn. But just wanted to share the knowledge that there are examples out there that I believe more people could feel good about.

  2. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

    In before inevitable wank to point out that not all porn contains real human beings or is even visual. If someone’s problem is exclusively with the victimisation of women in the live-action porn industry, they shouldn’t give a shit about that smutty Drarry fanfiction or the well-worn DVD of The Magical Adventures Of Porny-Porny-Chan.

    Re: porn violating monogamy, all I can say is that I’ve never really figured out how that even works, but whatever.

    That said, I think LW hits the nail on the head with this:

    I think it’s fair for me to have this concern, even if it means I never get to date again because I’m an oddball. Having this per-requisite does not mean I’m controlling anyone. No one has to date me, you know?

    It doesn’t matter how unreasonable or petty or ridiculous or insert adjective here someone’s dealbreakers seem to anyone; what matter is that it matters that much to them. No one’s being blackmailed into dating LW, so I don’t think anyone gets to tell LW not to have these conditions for any reason.

    1. A4
      A4 August 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

      It doesn’t matter how unreasonable or petty or ridiculous or insert adjective here someone’s dealbreakers seem to anyone; what matter is that it matters that much to them. No one’s being blackmailed into dating LW, so I don’t think anyone gets to tell LW not to have these conditions for any reason.

      In this case I totally totally agree, but what about people whose dealbreakers are racist? I’m not going to tell they who to sleep with, but I might grant some serious side-eye.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |

        You know, I’m not comfortable in telling racists they have to sleep with an Insert Race Here either. Not least because what in the hell did that poor Inserted Race Person do to deserve it?!?! Of course I’d side-eye someone who wouldn’t sleep with a black person, or a bisexual person, or a trans person. But honestly I’m not sure what there is to do in those cases aside from work hard to educate the racist/transphobe/biphobe on those isms and how they work and hope like hell they stop being assholes at some point. Just like I’m not sure what to do with someone who says ALL PORN IS EVIL, like the creep getting off on live-action snuff child porn is being functionally identical to me when I read smutty manga Tenpou/Kenren fanfiction, except keep pointing out that ALL porn =/= victimisation of anyone. There really isn’t much else I can think of doing that doesn’t fall into creepy invasive sexual policing.

        1. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm |

          Oh come on, there is no feminist (anti-sex fundies are different) who says ALL PORN IS EVIL. Do you honestly think there’s a single person who conflates live action snuff porn and sexy fanfic? It just seems like a waste of time to rail against those fringe extremist radicals who believe ALL PORN IS RAPE…because those people don’t actually exist.

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm |

          It just seems like a waste of time to rail against those fringe extremist radicals who believe ALL PORN IS RAPE…because those people don’t actually exist.

          Actually, they do exist. I was recently conversing with one over the evil that is “Leaves of Grass”.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |

          Oh come on, there is no feminist (anti-sex fundies are different) who says ALL PORN IS EVIL.

          I didn’t say “a feminist who says all porn is evil”, I said “someone who says all porn is evil”. And I didn’t say feminists say all porn is rape either – in fact, the words “feminist” and “rape” weren’t in my comment at all – so quit making shit up so you can work yourself up into a lather defending those nonexistent feminists I wasn’t even discussing.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm |

          Do you honestly think there’s a single person who conflates live action snuff porn and sexy fanfic?

          Oh and by the way: YES. I cannot count how many people have informed me dead seriously that reading/writing about something is a gateway drug to doing it and worse. I also cannot tell you how many people think that all porn is equally evil (because any porn eventually leads to all porn). For instance, my mother had a meltdown and cried for days when I wrote a fanfiction which implied a same-sex kiss because she was certain I’d be “recruited” into lesbian biker orgies or something.

          (It’s been eight years and I haven’t had even one lesbian orgy. I feel very cheated, for the record.)

        5. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

          D’oh me, my second caps ‘ALL PORN IS…’ was meant to finish ‘EVIL’ as well! I was thinking about the similarity between ‘all porn is evil’ people (mostly imaginary) and ‘all heterosex is rape’ people (again, mostly imaginary) and I typo’d.

          I just see those people referenced, and never actually see them (in the feminist world), which makes me think there aren’t any.

          The feminist bit is a fair reading of your comment, though, and denying that is totally disingenuous. You said you’d counter an ‘all porn is evil’ person by pointing out that ‘ALL porn =/= victimisation of anyone.’ It was a fair assumption that you weren’t talking about the kind of person who thinks sex is dirty and porn is dirty because it’s sexy – you were talking about someone who comes at porn from an ethical, harm-based standpoint. Probably a feminist, in other words. I’m not a mind-reader, but that was a fair old regular reading of what you wrote.

        6. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

          Do you honestly think there’s a single person who conflates live action snuff porn and sexy fanfic?

          No, but I’ve seen enough people that think m/m slash is fetishizing gay males, that fanfictional rape will make readers into rapists*, promote rape culture, etc, that X kink is wrong and should not be written about, that women in fanfiction are written in a harmful misogynistic way…

          it’s not like any of it gets a free pass from criticism, regardless of it’s format/medium.

          *so not wanting to argue about this one. It’s just one of the criticisms

        7. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

          Yes, there are people out there who think all porn is Bad and Dirty – I have met loads as well! But I was talking about feministy-type people (haven’t met any who thought ALL porn was wrong) and thought you were too.

          Also, if you HAVE met feminists who say all porn is evil, then hallelujah I am converted/convinced by the evidence – it’s just not something I’ve seen, having had many discussions about porn in feminist spaces, so I assumed it didn’t exist.

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

          ou were talking about someone who comes at porn from an ethical, harm-based standpoint. Probably a feminist, in other words.

          There are also a lot of anti-porn people who are emphatically NOT feminist who believe that porn victimises women. Because women are exploited in the porn industry, yes, but also because it “devalues women”, and “warps natural married heterosexual intercourse” and also the “porn violates monogamy and victimises women whose men watch porn” crowd, who are not insubstantial.

        9. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

          Also, if you HAVE met feminists who say all porn is evil, then hallelujah I am converted/convinced by the evidence – it’s just not something I’ve seen, having had many discussions about porn in feminist spaces, so I assumed it didn’t exist.

          I’ve only met a couple of those IRL, thank fuck. I think they tend to be scarcer on the internetz because the interval between typing and posting often allows for a thought or two to pass between the brain-hand filter.

        10. A4
          A4 August 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

          Yeah I understand that. Thanks

        11. CBrachyrhynchos
          CBrachyrhynchos August 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

          No, but I’ve seen enough people that think m/m slash is fetishizing gay males,…

          Well, when I see a story that starts with, “this is about real men having sex” that goes from zero to fisting in under 200 words, well, that’s exactly what I think is happening. But a fair bit of that comes from a bad relationship with a straight partner who appropriated gay porn but was clueless about why I wasn’t interested in swinging with a guy for her benefit.

          Which just goes to show that the capacity to create or use porn in creepy ways sometimes crosses the gender barrier.

        12. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm |

          a fair bit of that comes from a bad relationship with a straight partner who appropriated gay porn

          Your use of “appropriated” is incredibly troubling. I’m not sure if that is what you meant, but you are definitely suggesting that some porn is o.k. for some people to read/view/etc. and not for others.

        13. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

          Well, when I see a story that starts with, “this is about real men having sex” that goes from zero to fisting in under 200 words, well, that’s exactly what I think is happening.

          o_O I’ve had a long and illustrious career in reading slash across a few dozen fandoms and I’ve honestly never seen anything like that. I’ve seen that stuff on “real porn” sites like Literotica (o god what an ego boost for writers that shitpile is), and it always seemed to be written by usernames that sounded pretty male…

          Granted, my tastes in anime tend to skew towards more “grown up” fandoms, where the fanfic writer demographic is relatively old because the show isn’t exactly skewed towards youth. So maybe I’m not seeing the worst of the SuperWhoLock squeecrowd.

        14. shfree
          shfree August 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm |

          o_O I’ve had a long and illustrious career in reading slash across a few dozen fandoms and I’ve honestly never seen anything like that. I’ve seen that stuff on “real porn” sites like Literotica (o god what an ego boost for writers that shitpile is), and it always seemed to be written by usernames that sounded pretty male…

          Granted, it was up for purely the mocking, but I did go to a panel about bad adult fan fiction at an anime convention recently. And some of it got very, very bad in distressing ways very quickly.

          OT aside: Tetris porn DOES exist. And it is ICKY.

        15. CBrachyrhynchos
          CBrachyrhynchos August 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm |

          Your use of “appropriated” is incredibly troubling. I’m not sure if that is what you meant, but you are definitely suggesting that some porn is o.k. for some people to read/view/etc. and not for others.

          It’s not what I meant or suggested, since there’s a distinct difference between read/view/etc. and appropriate. That line is crossed when the audience member reframes the work as being all about their personal desires when it was never about them to start with.

          Straight guys pull this shit with bisexual women all the time. The problem isn’t the read/view/etc.. It’s the attitude that same-sex sex can be safely compartmentalized into a experimental swing that isn’t meaningful or threatening to the heterosexual relationship.

          And when I encounter that dynamic, I feel perfectly comfortable in saying that person is trivializing my sexual, spiritual, emotional, and political relationships with men as instrumental for their arousal.

          Or objectifying and appropriating to be short.

        16. Chataya
          Chataya August 8, 2013 at 7:03 pm |

          Do you honestly think there’s a single person who conflates live action snuff porn and sexy fanfic?

          I’ve encountered a large number of people who equate furry porn with raping animals, but I don’t know how much of that is internet hyperbole.

        17. CBrachyrhynchos
          CBrachyrhynchos August 8, 2013 at 7:10 pm |

          o_O I’ve had a long and illustrious career in reading slash across a few dozen fandoms and I’ve honestly never seen anything like that.

          Most isn’t. But I reserve the right to object to certain ways of portraying my sexuality, and be deeply weirded out by some of the more aggressive flavors of tinhatting I see.

        18. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm |

          I’m not sure I am completely understanding you, but I think by that definition a lot of the manga on my shelf is appropriative.

        19. CBrachyrhynchos
          CBrachyrhynchos August 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm |

          I can’t critique what I’ve not seen, but I can critique some of what I do see as objectifying or appropriative.

        20. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

          (objective viewpoint)
          Most of it is young male romance with other young men, written by women. It’s (usually) not explicit, but it’s heavily emotional, and often quite ridiculous and unrealistic.

          (my viewpoint)
          Obviously it is something I enjoy, otherwise I wouldn’t have it. It is in no way objectifying, but I can see how it cold be appropriative.

    2. Revolver
      Revolver August 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |

      Re: porn violating monogamy, all I can say is that I’ve never really figured out how that even works, but whatever.

      I’m going to take a stab at explaining this, based on my own feelings about it. I’m not saying it’s right, or that everyone feels the same way.

      For a monogamous person, it can feel like cheating because the partner is going outside of the relationship to satisfy sexual needs, often with the expectation that the other partner(s) should be cool with it without prior discussion. I can’t separate that mindset from the “boys will be boys” or “no one is meant to be monogamous” mindset…that men watching porn or physically cheating is natural and needed because a single woman can’t fulfill a man’s vast sexual desire. (Being heteronormative here for my own situation.)

      It is so messily tied into personal feelings of insecurity too. If my partner finds that thin, artificially-enhanced porn actor attractive, what does that mean about his/her attraction to me? When s/he is fucking me, is s/he really thinking about the porn star and wishing I was them? Does s/he wish I would do more degrading (to me) stuff?

      Obviously my insecurity is not my partner’s problem to solve, but it’s a big factor into why sometimes watching porn feels similar to cheating. I am clearly unfit to meet my partner’s needs that s/he has to go to porn to get them fulfilled.

      On the flip side, watching porn together can be really sexy for me because it’s mutual and I don’t feel like I’m being left out on purpose because I can’t fulfill needs. Any recommendations for good feminist porn??

      1. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |

        For a monogamous person, it can feel like cheating because the partner is going outside of the relationship to satisfy sexual needs, often with the expectation that the other partner(s) should be cool with it without prior discussion

        I totally understand this, and could see why “no porn” would be a contract of a monogamous relationship. This would lend itself to a broad definition of porn.

        1. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm |

          I was definitely thinking mostly about visual, live-action porn when I wrote that…more intellectual porn doesn’t seem like cheating to me because there is no other person involved.

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |

          But wouldn’t it be the fantasizing about being with someone else that is the deal-breaker in a monogamous relationship? I’m not sure how that wold be limited to visual live-action porn.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm |

        For a monogamous person, it can feel like cheating because the partner is going outside of the relationship to satisfy sexual needs

        That…makes sense to me? I guess? I’m really not wired that way, so I can’t really hope for more than an intellectual understanding in any case. But how are you defining “satisfy(ing) sexual needs”? I mean… does it only count if they come? If they’re touching themselves?

        If visual appreciation satisfies a sexual need for someone – if literally all they do is look at porn, never masturbate to it – then wouldn’t almost-naked people in any context be pornographic? (In which case, is this person also violating monogamy by going to a swimming pool or gym or beach, where there could conceivably be people who are in a thong bikini?) Or, if they’re turned on by specific fetishes, like shoes, would they have to never look at another person’s feet again?

        It seems to me like a bit of an impossible situation to try to control for both partners.

        Any recommendations for good feminist porn??

        Er… I don’t know. I’m sorry. 99% of my porn consumption is fanfiction (I know, I know)…

        1. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

          Yeah, it’s definitely murky waters. I would never expect my partner to never find anyone else attractive or not have sexual feelings for anyone else ever. But there’s a distinction for me between having those thoughts and actually doing something about it, like masturbating.

          It’s not a clear cut THIS IS CHEATING situation, it just can feel like a betrayal or like a sign that the sexual relationship is failing.

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

          If visual appreciation satisfies a sexual need for someone – if literally all they do is look at porn, never masturbate to it – then wouldn’t almost-naked people in any context be pornographic? (In which case, is this person also violating monogamy by going to a swimming pool or gym or beach, where there could conceivably be people who are in a thong bikini?) Or, if they’re turned on by specific fetishes, like shoes, would they have to never look at another person’s feet again?

          ???. My upbringing says yes. My current self says ???.

        3. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

          I dunno, I don’t want to control what someone thinks about while masturbating either. So, take the above comment with a grain of salt.

          I think it’s very similar to emotional cheating: hard to define, based in one’s own feelings, and super subjective.

        4. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

          Sorry, I meant my comment above, not Sophia’s. I also feel many question marks about this!

      3. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve August 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

        Any recommendations for good feminist porn??

        I interviewed a woman called Erika Lust who makes feminist porn, we basically had her on the show to explain what ‘feminist porn’ is. Anyway, she sounded very intelligent, had a great cinematic vocabulary and was clearly committed to her brand of feminism- so you may want to check out her movies- but having only seen a small clip, (and to be honest I couldn’t tell much of a difference between that and sexist porn,) I can’t give a personal recommendation.

      4. Aydan
        Aydan August 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm |

        I’m curious, if you feel like expanding.

        I’m going to take a stab at explaining this, based on my own feelings about it. I’m not saying it’s right, or that everyone feels the same way.

        For a monogamous person, it can feel like cheating because the partner is going outside of the relationship to satisfy sexual needs, often with the expectation that the other partner(s) should be cool with it without prior discussion. I can’t separate that mindset from the “boys will be boys” or “no one is meant to be monogamous” mindset…that men watching porn or physically cheating is natural and needed because a single woman can’t fulfill a man’s vast sexual desire. (Being heteronormative here for my own situation.)

        In terms of the monogamy connection, is there a line here, between using porn to “satisfy sexual needs” and masturbating without porn to “satisfy sexual needs”? Or masturbating while fantasizing to “satisfy sexual needs”? (Not scare quotes, just regular quotes!)

        I can see how there’s a line where porn much more directly involves other people, but it seems like what you were talking about is more related to the fact that the sexual activity is happening without the other partner.

        1. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

          No, just with porn. If my partner wants to masturbate while thinking of someone else, I won’t be thrilled but it’s not my place at all to dictate that.

          To me, watching porn and masturbating is different. Because there is an actual other person involved (sort of). And also the often degrading nature of mainstream porn.

          I mentioned feeling left out because in my experience porn has been much more about the male partner getting gratification. So I don’t feel like I’m needed or wanted.

          Not very logically sound, but emotions don’t always listen to logic. :)

        2. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

          And I don’t mind a partner masturbating when I’m not involved! I would never say a partner could not do anything sexual without me…it just gets murkier when porn is involved.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

          I find this to be an interesting discussion as well.

          I can see a point where porn watching as substitute for sexing with one’s partner may become problematic, especially if the porn-watching partner is eschewing sexing with the non-porn watching partner in favor of watching porn. You know, instead of actually getting busy with their partner, who does want to get busy in the sex department, but is being left wanting because the porn-watching partner is putting most or all of their sexual energy towards porn watching.

      5. wanttobeanon
        wanttobeanon August 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

        Revolver this is all really well said, and I would add that the feeling of betrayal or discomfort is compounded when the partner who watches the porn doesn’t want sex as frequently as the other partner. Because then, when the lower desire partner chooses to get off to porn solo, the higher desire partner is often left feeling high and dry, bereft and frustrated. I’ve been in this situation and will attest to it being extremely difficult.

        1. wanttobeanon
          wanttobeanon August 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm |

          Oooops, I see this has already been said and is being discussed. Should have read further before replying.

        2. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon August 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm |

          That does sound difficult. My relationship is open and I typically don’t care what my boyfriend gets up to with other people – but if porn (however you want to define that) was getting in the way of our sex life, that’s like… different story and I would absolutely resent that. I’ve never really been in a similar situation, though.

      6. feministlibrarian
        feministlibrarian August 8, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

        Re: where one might find feminist porn…

        I always hesitate to define “feminist” porn, but there are some really good books out on the subject (which obviously embed discussion of specific films one could check out):

        The Feminist Porn Book, edited by Tristan Taormino, and its associated website.

        New Porn By Women, by Anne Sabo, and her blog.

        Back in 2011, I wrote a post at The Pursuit of Harpyness describing where I go to look for “women-empowering porn,” in response to a reader request.

      7. Brea
        Brea August 8, 2013 at 6:58 pm |

        I have similar feelings. My #1 relationship boundary is something like “this sexual relationship involves you, me, and no other person.” If there is a real person in porn, to me that is a violation. My husband and I have settled on erotic writing and art as totally acceptable, and images of other real live human beings as unacceptable. It doesn’t have much to do with solo sexual activity, as that satisfies different needs than partnered sex (for us). Ethics also plays a big role, since drawings and text don’t have the same victimizing potential as live images.

        It did take us a long time and a number of hurt feelings to work this out, but now things are good.

    3. Buttered Lilies
      Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm |

      Yeah, it’s incredibly frustrating to have this conversation so many times. “Porn victimizes the women involved.” “How is a fanfic about two men victimizing women?” “Obviously, I’m not talking about pornography that doesn’t involve any real humans. Why would you think I was?” “Because you said ‘porn’, with no specificity, so it seemed logical to assume you were talking about all of it.”

      Given that written and animated pornography is overwhelmingly created by and consumed by women, I’m not sure it’s all that helpful to continually see women’s pornography as unworthy of recognition or incorporation into the framework.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm |

        Given that written and animated pornography is overwhelmingly created by and consumed by women, I’m not sure it’s all that helpful to continually see women’s pornography as unworthy of recognition or incorporation into the framework.

        No, see, when women make porn it’s not really porn. Because, uh…ladyflowers. And reasons.

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

          Women don’t make porn, they make erotica. For the same reason that women don’t sweat, they glow. And that reason is… um, guys think that women think that getting sticky is gross?

        2. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon August 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm |

          For the same reason that women don’t sweat, they glow.

          God. I wish.

  3. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet August 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |

    Agreed, women shouldn’t be shamed for having a “don’t watch porn” boundary (although I wouldn’t date anyone with it myself) but people’s boundaries/limits should be respect regardless of how arbitrary they seem.

    That doesn’t mean a partner can’t ask to discuss them or want an explanation for them, but I don’t think outside people should be casting their judgement down on any woman over a deeply personal sexual issue/choice.

    That said, I don’t agree with dismissing all porn out of hand with the excuse that “people could have been harmed making it”. There’s plenty of porn that doesn’t even involve real people: animated porn, erotica, porn games, porn comics etc. When someone says “porn” I don’t think exclusively of the live-action videos or photographic porn. That’s not even getting into the porn that tries to be ethical.

  4. Revolver
    Revolver August 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

    There is so much pressure for us to be “chill girls”, the term that has been used in skeptic circles. I’ve felt like I had to go out of my way to not be THAT girlfriend, the one who is a nag and a harpy. And it sucks!

  5. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl August 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

    I’m super conflicted in my feeling wrt to porn. I agree that the live action stuff is problematic in that it’s difficult to tell how much the women in the productions are given the freedom to have their personal agency respected. I also think that concerns over porn giving people (guys especially) unrealistic expectations wrt to women’s physical appearance, their openness to various sex acts, and their being GGT at all times is A Real Thing.

    When it comes to one or both partners watching porn, I don’t see how this can’t be one of those things that is subject to negotiation. Of course the sticky part of the negotiating process will come when and if a mutually agreed up resolution can’t be found. Ether way, I’m not necessarily cool with a partner shaming another for wanting to watch porn or NOT wanting to watch porn or what have you.

    Complicated waters to navigate, for sure.

    1. mamram
      mamram August 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm |

      I feel like this is analogous to monogamy. Nobody should shamed for wanting or not wanting to be monogamous either. If you and a partner can’t get on the same page, then you’re probably just not compatible. The same thing applies here.

  6. Kate
    Kate August 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |

    LW, I’m on board with you and Melissa, and would add that even “ethical” porn is viewed within a patriarchy where women’s sexuality is controlled and violated to maintain oppression and therefore has reinforcing implications. And also that we’ve been made to believe that ALL men watch porn and would never date a woman that would challenge them about it and this is false. You can have your (very reasonable) boundary and still date.

    Recommended reading: Robert Jensen’s Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.

    1. mamram
      mamram August 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm |

      I’ve heard enough negative stories about “ethical” (or even “feminist”) porn production to suspect that for a lot of producers, the “ethical” part is more a matter of viewers’ comfort rather than performers’ rights. Like, yeah it’s reassuring to have the performers tell you what a good time they had, but if they had to do that in order to get paid, then that’s really just an extension of their performance.

    2. mamram
      mamram August 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

      Sorry for double commenting, but I wanted to add: years ago, I told a (female, feminist, sex positive) friend that my boyfriend had agreed to my request that he not watch porn (it just makes me uncomfortable for SO MANY REASONS) and she laughed at me. I immediately felt betrayed. Everything I knew about my boyfriend as a person (honest, shares my values) went out the window, and the narrative that for men (ALL MEN) porn is an inherent part of sexuality took over. It was as if he had been lying to me, not just about porn, but all though all of our discussions about feminism. After talking to him everything came back into focus, but it really showed me how cultural narratives can sneak into one’s mind and infect the way we interact with others, overpowering what we know about people as individuals. I wish that sex positive people, feminists especially, would stop propagating these narratives, because they undermine happy, satisfying, uncoerced relationships between unique individuals.

      1. Miranda
        Miranda August 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

        Yeah.

        When I saw a senior in high school, my religious school subjected us to a video series about sexuality. We watched a “How To Quit” about pornography and masturbation–well, porn addiction, because of course all pornography/masturbation is addicting and evil. Anywayyy, for the girls, they told us we needed to simply never ever do it, don’t get there. Then they turned to the guys and commiserated how hardddd it would be for them to stop, and they didn’t have to stop all at once but could just kind of slowlllyyyy ween themselves off of it, and it was okay to mess up…So even the religious anti-sex whackos buy into the “all men need porn” narrative.

    3. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon August 9, 2013 at 7:19 pm |

      and would add that even “ethical” porn is viewed within a patriarchy where women’s sexuality is controlled and violated to maintain oppression and therefore has reinforcing implications.

      I don’t disagree with this at all, but I do question where you see this as leading, logically. Arguably, any heterosexual sex is viewed/had within a patriarchy where women’s sexuality is controlled and violated to maintain oppression, but I still think heterosexual couples can have ethical sex (even if it’s more difficult than it would be without the patriarchy). But here are my questions: (1) Is there something that makes porn different? (2) Where do you draw the line?

  7. emilybites
    emilybites August 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |

    LW, you’re right – no one has to date you, so you get to set whatever sexual/emotional/relationship boundaries you want. Obviously if they were racist/dreadful/whatever we could point that out, but I don’t think this is.

    I feel similarly about porn, and have also been told by other feminists that I was controlling and possibly abusive for explaining (early on!) to my now-boyfriend-of-two-years that I wouldn’t date a guy who watched porn. It’s a really emotive, and to me, significant issue. I don’t have any problem with written porn or animated, unless it’s violent/misogynistic/gross to me in some similar fashion.

    If you couldn’t be happy with someone who doesn’t share your sexual and emotional values then you get to decide that, I would say.

  8. Radiant Sophia
    Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

    I think that before I can understand this, I need to know what is being referred to as “porn”. As others have pointed out, “porn” can be a reference to live-action sex, erotic prose, or anything in between. Without knowing what is being referred to, it really is impossible to give constructive feedback.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl August 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

      Apparently this is where I fall into old fuddy-duddy territory. Because none of these other potential varieties of porn ever occurred to me as existing.

      When I hear the word porn, or say the word porn, I mean the old fashioned, live-action, James Deen and Stoya kind of porn.

      Gonna go crawl back under my rock now…

      1. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

        Um, I don’t think you are an “old fuddy-duddy”. I had to look up who those people are…

      2. Computer Soldier Porygon
        Computer Soldier Porygon August 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm |

        Same, plus I feel like it’s obvious the letter-writer is concerned about live-action porn.

      3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 12:55 am |

        Is there room for two under that rock? That’s how I think of porn, too.

  9. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm |

    Honestly, I don’t date because of it, because I feel like it’s “unfair” of me to have this as a requirement and I know that it is, for me. I will be unhappy with a man (or woman) who uses people they don’t know or love for their sexuality without knowing if the other person may be harmed by it, or care what circumstances and belief systems may be driving their participation in porn.

    I think it’s fair for me to have this concern, even if it means I never get to date again because I’m an oddball. Having this per-requisite does not mean I’m controlling anyone. No one has to date me, you know?

    Of course the LW is being fair. It’s fair to have any concern and to voice that concern. It should also be pointed out that while the heading says ‘watch porn,’ the LW specifically mentions using (i.e masturbating to) porn with people “without knowing if the other person may be harmed by it.” So also, the whole animated porn thing is not really relevant.

    However the whole ‘watch/use’ porn dichotomy is interesting. I myself, do not masturbate to porn, but I can’t go a few moments of searching the internet without seeing some sort of pornographic image. So, ‘watching’ porn occasionally is a lot different than ‘using’ porn regularly (which is what the LW is talking about.) Whereas a recent ‘sex-positive’ post by Jill referred to internet porn as ‘ubiquitous,’ I don’t think this was necessarily saying internet porn is completely acceptable.

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm |

      Steve, I think we may have a language issue. Where (and when) I was raised, “porn” referred to any media with sexual content or nudity, including much of classic literature and poetry. My view of porn has narrowed substantially since then, but I still include a lot of the things I read or watch. I don’t think that I’m the only person in existence to think of the word “porn” in these terms, so yes, it is relevant to this discussion. A better understanding of what is being talked about can be nothing but helpful.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve August 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm |

        Steve, I think we may have a language issue. Where (and when) I was raised, “porn” referred to any media with sexual content or nudity, including much of classic literature and poetry. My view of porn has narrowed substantially since then, but I still include a lot of the things I read or watch. I don’t think that I’m the only person in existence to think of the word “porn” in these terms, so yes, it is relevant to this discussion. A better understanding of what is being talked about can be nothing but helpful.

        Ah yes, sure, it is relevant to coming up with a definition, I just didn’t get the impression it was relevant to the LW’s specific issue.

      2. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl August 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

        I find this really fascinating, and after you mentioned it I recall a few fundie Christians I know using porn in this broad manner.

        But, I don’t know, I think the general, socially accepted definition of porn is the live action, two or more people having sex on camera production. Back in the Dark Ages of my high school and college years I worked at a video store that had a porn room. And the porn room was exclusively full of the live action, tape recorded kind of porn. (And all on VHS. See, I told you I was an old fuddy-duddy.)

        1. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm |

          Off topic, but I remember VHS tapes, and worked in a video store (with a porn room) during the tail end of the “priced-to-rent” era.

        2. Buttered Lilies
          Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

          I think when most people hear the word “porn”, they immediately think of live-action porn. But at the same time, I can’t imagine that there are all that many parents who tell their kids that “porn” is off-limits and then when they found their kid reading a Drarry rape fic, would be like “oh, well, that was outside the scope of what I said was off-limits, so you didn’t break any rules.” So while written and animated porn might not be what most people immediately think of, they’re also not outside the scope of the societal understanding of porn.

    2. Flowerpuff
      Flowerpuff August 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

      “It should also be pointed out that while the heading says ‘watch porn,’ the LW specifically mentions using (i.e masturbating to) porn with people “without knowing if the other person may be harmed by it.” So also, the whole animated porn thing is not really relevant. ”

      It might help this discussion to clarify I was personally referring to porn that involves real people. I don’t PERSONALLY have any concern about animated porn although having a fetish for animated depictions of rape porn is something I think it would/should be fair of me to not be into in a partner. Of course there are grey areas between porn and erotic art- exploitation and healthy sexual expression. I’m just pushing back against the expectation that I have no right to care what my partner consumes and their values and beliefs about consumption/purchasing and how it relates to other human beings. (I personally avoid exploitative business when possible).

      I just think it’s a strange thing that it’s assumed that even potentially exploitive porn is something that either men or women NEED to have a healthy sex life- and I’m not sure how this mentality came to be since I masturbate to orgasm all the time without porn and have never used it. I don’t understand how some people NEED it and the idea it’s a NEED kind of creeps me out. How did our species survive before watching depictions of sex on film? How can it really be a need?

      That strikes me as insincere and used against people who don’t have such a need to demand they accept in their partner. I could use porn to orgasm if I wanted to, but I choose not to because of my concerns for exploitation.
      What is or isn’t exploitive is debatable but the idea that there could be concerns about that shouldn’t be seen as “sex negative”.

      I’m really appreciating this discussion a LOT, I hope to hear more!

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm |

        Thanks for clarifying, Flowerpuff!

        I don’t PERSONALLY have any concern about animated porn although having a fetish for animated depictions of rape porn is something I think it would/should be fair of me to not be into in a partner.

        That seems entirely fair to me. I mean, your problem’s with the rapeyness, no matter the medium. That’s entirely consistent with being uncomfortable with depictions of sexualised violence.

        1. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm |

          I totally agree.

      2. Buttered Lilies
        Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 8:22 pm |

        I don’t think *on film* is a requirement for anyone, but I can say that, for me personally, I have a very hard time concentrating on building imagery in my head without any external help long enough to get aroused, while also focusing on relaxing enough to actually climax.

  10. Ephena
    Ephena August 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

    While I don’t have a problem with my partner using porn, and also don’t have a problem with masturbation in a monogamous relationship, I do have a problem with people telling other people what to be comfortable with.

    I think porn, in many and varied forms, has been part of most cultures since we started making images, and that porn is one of the expressions of human sexuality. There are clearly abuses in the porn industry, and I think that should be examined and dealt with, but that won’t happen if we continue to hide and shame people who use porn. In the same way, I am pro-sex work. Prostitution has always existed, and I think, will always exist. To hide it in the shadows makes it even more dangerous for the women and men who do that work. When we as a society try to moralize and control other peoples’ behaviour, especially around sexuality, we end up setting up structures that leave the more vulnerable, in this case primarily women, open to further abuse by people who are trying to make money without regard for safety and dignity. The more you deny or try to marginalize sex work and pornography, the more you make it into an abusive situation.

    I also don’t subscribe to the idea that all sex and sexuality has to be confined to people who love each other. There should be respect, but sexuality is a basic human need, and not everyone is in a committed loving relationship. I don’t think you should have to pass a love test in order to have sex. I think if you want that for yourself, that is a good thing, but I don’t think it is fair to extrapolate one concept of good sex to the whole of the population.

    If you want to ban porn from your relationships, I think you clearly have that right, and I would support you and be pretty harsh with people who tried to shame you for that choice, but I also think that there is nothing wrong with pornography as a concept, and I would probably try to have a reasonable debate with you about it – in a non-shaming, non-judgmental way. It is possible to have vastly different perspectives on an issue like this without resorting to degrading attacks and bullying.

    1. Sarah
      Sarah August 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

      I agree — but I have a problem with the fact that after a certain point, one persons limits becomes controlling.

      If a person insists that their partner should not watch porn-movies, not read erotic fiction, and not masturbate, then to me that’s very controlling, and to me especially the no-masturbation rule smells too much like religiously motivated attempts at controlling normal healthy sexuality, so for me those limits would be showstoppers. If someone asked my opinion, like this piece does, I’d recommend that they also do -not- accept such tight limits on their sexuality.

      1. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia August 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

        to me especially the no-masturbation rule smells too much like religiously motivated attempts at controlling

        Sarah (That’s also my name!), outside of the unique instance cited elsewhere on this thread, I honestly cannot imagine no-masturbation outside of a faith-based context.

  11. 30ish
    30ish August 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm |

    To me, the ethical concerns about watching porn (possibility of porn actors being coerced or exploited) are separate from the monogamy issue. I would see an ethical opposition to watching porn as similar to other cases of complicity in what you consider a moral wrong. It’s OK to have that boundary, even though people might of course disagree with the ethical issue – not that coercion or exploitation in porn are wrong, but that any porn use counts as complicity in that wrong. With regard to monogamy, I personally wouldn’t be comfortable with someone trying to restrict my porn use (again, putting the ethical issue aside, assuming there was no coercion or exploitation involved in the porn I’m watching). I can’t see how it violates monogamy and I see it was a private pleasure of mine. Of course again, in the end you are free to set a boundary that defines watching porn as a violation of monogamy, but I wouldn’t see it as reasonable. To me it’s not an issue of being prudish – I wouldn’t judge anyone for not liking porn – but an issue of trying to put very strict boundaries on a partner’s solo sexual behavior. It’s not abusive if your partner agrees to it, obviously, but I wouldn’t date anyone who wanted to have this much of a say in my masturbation behavior.

  12. Gorb
    Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    I think I’m not the only person that has noticed a slight sexual-control issue in many of the comments, if not in the premise.

    Porn is a staple, and erotic imagery (porn) has been around since Egyptians painted interesting designs in their bedrooms and in special rooms in caves.

    Men are largely visual, women also but much less so. Romance novels are most definitely a kind of porn, as is much literature (50 Shades of grey, anyone?) and at least as damaging to relationships.

    Singling out one kind of porn used only by one gender (especially when it’s not) is not exactly equitable.

    1. emilybites
      emilybites August 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm |

      BOLLOCKS men are more visual. Women have WAY better eyesight, which is necessary for picking out all those tiny berries on the bushes!

      1. Gorb
        Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm |

        Those berries are dastardly prey, from what I hear. But I’m too busy tracking moving objects and rotating them in three dimensions to notice.

        1. Jamie
          Jamie August 9, 2013 at 10:54 am |

          If by moving objects, you mean the Cheetos in the bag next to you, sure. Also, that motion you’re doing with your hand, on your dick? That’s up and down, buddy. Grab a dictionary.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 11:03 am |

          How can he, unless it’s moving quickly and requiring rotating in three dimensions?

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 3:33 am |

        ::sporfle::

        Damn, I was enjoying that cuppa, too.

    2. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm |

      I can’t speak as to the universality of this, but 99%+ of what I own that I consider porn is visual (anime and manga).

      1. Gorb
        Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm |

        Humanity is a damned big tent.

    3. Aydan
      Aydan August 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

      Romance novels are most definitely a kind of porn, as is much literature (50 Shades of grey, anyone?) and at least as damaging to relationships.

      50 Shades of Grey is not, by any definition or stretch of the imagination, literature. (Unless you are strictly going with the definition of “that which has been written down,” but in that case, you wouldn’t have had to differentiate romance novels from literature.)

      Nor is “much literature” porn. I guess you could make an argument from quantity if you wanted to assert that modern literature is much more porn-y and there’s much more modern literature than anything else… but I wouldn’t believe you.

      And I’m thirding the objection to “women just aren’t sexually visual.” This is a tired old idea. Tumblr, for example, skews slightly more female than the Internet as a whole, and it is fairly drowning in pictures of attractive (to someone) men.

      1. Aydan
        Aydan August 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

        Addendum to say that of course not all women on Tumblr are hetero- or bisexual. But I’m pretty sure that the number of female Tumblr users who are is greater than the number of users of any other gender who are attracted to men.

    4. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers August 9, 2013 at 10:10 am |

      It’s not at all that women are less visual. It’s that women have no reasonable expectation that men will perform sexually for their benefit. If women want visual porn, they have to draw it. And since so far we have no reasonable way of artificially creating human voices, straight women don’t get to have porn with an audio track because that would involve getting men to record a faked sexual performance for women’s benefit.

      There are, in fact, some men who might enjoy doing this. But the dominant cultural narrative is that women can’t reasonably expect this and that men will react with disgust if women even ask (or will take it as an expression of personal interest in *them*, which can get even ickier), so women have just totally given up on the idea that it’s even a possibility.

      Otherwise the world would be *drowning* in reasonably well-acted (as in soap opera, not traditional porn, levels) soap-opera-esque stories in which a cast of gay men, straight men and a handful of women have lots and lots of sex in amidst the occasional plot. The sex would mostly be organized around monogamous pairings within the context of the story, although a different story might appropriate the same or nearly identical characters with a different pairing.

      So if you’re going to have to imagine the audio track anyway, and you can’t get real people so all your visuals are going to be artistic renderings in varying levels of quality, why not go all the way and just read written material with no artwork? Besides, if you look at visual porn, people looking over your shoulder can immediately tell what it is and shame you for it, whereas it’s a lot harder to immediately tell that a text is pornographic.

      1. Jamie
        Jamie August 9, 2013 at 11:28 am |

        You always win every thread.

      2. theLaplaceDemon
        theLaplaceDemon August 9, 2013 at 7:27 pm |

        It’s not at all that women are less visual. It’s that women have no reasonable expectation that men will perform sexually for their benefit.

        THAT.

      3. TomSims
        TomSims August 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |

        “It’s not at all that women are less visual. It’s that women have no reasonable expectation that men will perform sexually for their benefit. ”

        That says it all!

        “(or will take it as an expression of personal interest in *them*, which can get even ickier), ”

        I’m not sure I get exactly what you mean Alara. Would you be kind enough to explain further?

    5. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 11:01 am |

      Singling out one kind of porn used only by one gender (especially when it’s not) is not exactly equitable.

      Well, if the porn primarily controlled and used by men involves routinely raping real live women for the entertainment of Straight Dudely Ones, I think the inequity began somewhere other than us hysterical wimminz, hm?

      1. matlun
        matlun August 9, 2013 at 11:18 am |

        Well, if the porn primarily controlled and used by men involves routinely raping real live women for the entertainment of Straight Dudely Ones, I think the inequity began somewhere other than us hysterical wimminz, hm?

        Yes, and if that porn involved routinely killing cute little puppies, that would also be bad.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 11:41 am |

          Sorry, is the history of exploitation of women in the porn industry something you’re too willfully blinkered to accept, or simply too clueless to know?

        2. matlun
          matlun August 10, 2013 at 7:03 am |

          @mac: If you were just talking about “the history of exploitation of women in the porn industry”, you would have had an interesting point, and I would not have made that post.

          However: routinely raping for entertainment?

          In your opinion: How common is this?
          How large a proportion of pornographic works are actually films of real rapes?

          I think that you would have to seek long and hard to find anything like that. Especially on the open internet.

  13. feministlibrarian
    feministlibrarian August 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    After reading the OP and the comment thread, here’s my two cents.

    Like many who’ve written in, as a feminist who identifies with a lot of sex positivity perspectives, I agree that you get to ultimately set the terms of your sexual intimacies. Likewise, so does the person or people with whom you seek to engage in sexual intimacy. So porn is a boundary for you — it might also be (in the opposite direction) for a potential partner. So if there was someone you really wanted to be in a relationship with, who felt porn was an important aspect of their sexuality, that’s where communication and negotiation comes in. Neither of you should be shamed for knowing what your emotional and sexual limits and preferences are.

    That being said, both people in this hypothetical situation might see it as an opportunity to interrogate their preferences and think about how and why they do or don’t engage with sexual fantasies. I see “porn” being equated with “the porn industry” a lot in this thread; does written erotica get rolled into that? sexually explicit drawings and graphic novels? fan fiction? Do self-created fantasies count? What are you thinking about when you say “porn” — and what are your reasons for defining it the way you do? It might help consider your categorical boundary on porn if you think of porn in broader terms than must moving-image porn (if that boundary is something you want to re-think, which it may not be).

    Speaking as a female porn consumer (text and still image, mostly, though I’m not opposed to film as a medium) who is married to another woman, I will say from personal experience that fantasy and exploration of erotic material is something that we have had to intentionally engage with in our relationship. Porn is something we share with one another, but we can sometimes run up against those insecurities that make masturbation and fantasies and erotica feel threatening. It’s important in those moments to honor and negotiate those feels in a way that recognizes the validity of BOTH peoples’ experience.

    For myself, in those contexts, two things are important for me to keep in mind. One, that each of us (my wife and I) have a relationship with our own selves as well as a relationship with one another. It’s important for me to get in touch with my body through masturbation, which often has fantasy as a component. For me, that’s not often in direct conjunction with “watching porn,” but it is in dialogue with the erotica I read/write and the images (still and moving) I explore in daily life, with my wife and independently. This is not a replacement for sexual intimacy with my wife — one person can never replicate partnered sex — but rather part of remaining in touch with myself, grounding myself in my body and mind. So for me, that’s a non-negotiable: my continuing relationship with my own body is something I won’t give up as a spouse (and my wife isn’t asking me to). BUT, two, part of being in a relationship with another person is to consider the way your actions interact with your partner’s life. So if my fantasy or solitary sex life is distressing my wife, or vice versa, we need to talk about that and negotiate that as a couple. Because I care about my wife’s emotional and all other ways wellbeing.

    I think too often our culture treats this issue (porn) as something that isn’t subject to negotiation and compromise or just nuanced discussion. It’s either “anything goes” or “porn is cheating” or “porn is sinful”. A more nuanced understanding on both “sides” seems important if sustaining a relationship where there’s a difference on that score is important to you.

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm |

      O.k. That was kind of awesome.

    2. Ms. Kristen J.
      Ms. Kristen J. August 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

      I agree completely. This is an excellent explanation of how people can and do negotiate compromises in long term relationships. Often you have to balance your needs and desires against the needs and desires of your partner(s). That doesn’t mean that a person can’t or shouldn’t have boundaries or that those boundaries should be violated because of some greater relationship good. It does mean that it takes work and empathy to figure out where those boundaries are for the people involved. There is no perfect answer, just what works for you and your significant other(s).

    3. feministlibrarian
      feministlibrarian August 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm |

      Aww, thank you Radiant Sophia and Ms. Kristen :-)

      As an addendum to this, which I was thinking about while puttering in the kitchen…it seems important to me in any discussion about the politics (personal or otherwise) of pornography creation/consumption to remember that our narratives around porn are deeply gendered (see, for example, Gorb’s comment below.

      I’ve seen porn used in relationships, particularly hetero relationships (though not exclusively) as a bullying weapon. Much as the OP describes, women I knew in college who raised uncertainties or challenges to their male partners’ use of porn — either altogether or aspects of it, such as ethical concerns about its creation — were too often wholesale dismissed, denigrated, or told they simply had to shut up about those concerns.

      The narrative that “men are visual” and that “all men” use (visual) pornography to get off supports the men who are uncomfortable talking about pornography in complex ways; it encourages them to dismiss the personal and political discomfort of their female partners. And that is a feminist issue, and a sex-positivity issue — because (to me) sex positive folks should be advocating for MORE not less engagement in these issues in the name of greater comfort with/liberation of our sexual selves.

      Just because porn as a genre is a neutral medium doesn’t mean it can’t be used in misogynist and harmful, unethical, or just assholey ways. And supporting individuals’ right to bodily autonomy and fantasy lives shouldn’t preclude our naming asshole behavior.

      I guess what I’m saying is that masturbation and porn use can be used to control someone in an unhealthy and abusive relationship just like trying to police someone’s porn and masturbation experiences can be.

      1. Gorb
        Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

        I’m still going to have to stick with “what someone does with their own body (masturbation) is their own business and none of their partner’s unless the person wants to make it so. We ultimately have the strongest sexual relationship we’ll ever have with ourselves, not with someone else, though they may figure large in our sexual lives.

        When it comes to porn, in a misogynistic society, not just porn but everything comes with nasty strings. Of course lots of porn is problematic.

        I was deliberately trying to separate and tease out the various strands of these issues, and leave that one out. Underneath the “porn is problematic” issue was also one of sexual control, and to make a false equivalency between using porn on your own time in your own head (or masturbating to random images in your own head, for that matter) and having that be controlled, and calling the use of porn (and presumably masturbation) a way to control your partner – well, they’re not remotely equivalent.

        1. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm |

          The point is, Gorb, that masturbation and porn use are two different things. I believe we have the non-assholey prerogative to tell a partner ‘I don’t fuck people who use (live-action) porn,’ but I definitely don’t think we have the right to dictate their masturbatory habits.

        2. Gorb
          Gorb August 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm |

          So the distinction I get from you is this:

          Live-action porn use (but not, say, still images, books, texts or any other material) is okay to object to. Pictures are okay. Moving pictures are not, unless they’re animated.

          Objecting to live-action porn is acceptable; objecting to other forms of porn… is not? I’m not sure this is what you mean. You seem to say this, but if this isn’t what you’re saying, you should clarify.

          If we don’t have the right to dictate people’s masturbatory habits, then … what if their masturbatory habits involve reading erotica, looking at pictures of birthday-suit toting women/guys, Japanese anime or live-action porn? Where do you draw the line?

          What part of masturbation becomes shameful and therefore open to restriction?

          I don’t think the road down which you’re walking is free of brambles and rocks.

        3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 3:39 am |

          Gorb, you seem to be generalising again. The whole point is that different people have different boundaries. You can see that, right here in this thread! Some aren’t fussed about their partners watching porn, some don’t care for it, and some are concerned when it involves masturbation. That’s before even considering the different types of porn in question. The point is that people – women in particular, as the subjects of this conversation – are allowed to set their own boundaries.

    4. Revolver
      Revolver August 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

      Yes yes yes yes yes! You have SO eloquently stated what I was trying to muddle through! Absolutely each partner should have control of their bodies and sexual habits, but you also have to think about the effect on your partner and your relationship. And this is what is often missing – it’s assumed that people NEED to watch porn and that partners (often the women in a hetero relationship) need to just accept that or they’re controlling.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 3:40 am |

        FWIW I didn’t think you were muddling; your thinking-aloud (if that’s the right term!) was clear and interesting.

  14. Alexandra
    Alexandra August 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm |

    Thanks to the letter writer for starting this conversation.

    One of the things that I want to push back against is the notion that porn watching/porn use is somehow universal among men. I know plenty of men who don’t watch porn, or at least don’t do so regularly, and I haven’t noticed that religiosity has much to do with this. Partly it may be out of principle, but for some men I know it just doesn’t do that much for them.

    Universal porn use is yet another masculine gender role that I’d love to see bite the dust.

  15. Gorb
    Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

    One idea really makes me uncomfortable.
    It saddens me that more commenters aren’t pointing this out.

    For the moment, let’s put aside the issue of non-consent in the creation of porn; let’s assume that porn being consumed is consensual and non-violent. I assume this because there’s a deeper issue here that really, really bothers me.

    It’s the idea that you own your partner’s sexuality and they owe it to you to spend it solely with you: You are your partner’s only sexual outlet. They are, in effect, your property. Their sexuality is yours to control, to own, to command.

    What happens when the partners involved radically differ in the amount of sex each wants? What if what they want to do or experience differs? In that case, the partner isn’t even able to explore this on their own.

    As with any two people, what if partners differ in the fantasy lives they move in? Should they break up?

    (totally separate issue but very relevant, the type of porn: What if a photo of a girl in a dress does it, but someone else needs video of people actually having sex, and another needs a novelization describing the environment? And what if one or both of the partners are, for shame, into BDSM or other forms of sexual fantasy that might not appear in porn to be all that kosher? who operates as the sexual police – and in a relationship, is it okay to demand that your partner have identical sexual proclivities? Is that even possible? If it’s possible, is it even desirable?)

    The point is: the idea of holding your partner’s sexuality to ransom seems controlling, and fundamentally abusive.

    We’ve spent 100 years trying to free both men and women from oppressive sexual stereotyping and demands. I’m not sure inserting a value system that has more in common with victorian shaming and sexual guilt is a solution.

    I’m surprised nobody has made this connection more explicit.

    I don’t see how objecting to your partner masturbating – or whatever they need to do to get there in their fantasy life , so long as it doesn’t involve coercion (no nasty stuff) – is “feminist”, as opposed to something akin to religious-y moral imperialism.

    Relational control and abuse, in fact.

    I mean, it’s your relationship – you can choose whatever rules you like for your side of it. But as a matter of principle, beyond monogamy (and even this should be negotiated, not assumed or presumed), y reaction would be that anything else is creepy and controlling and a huge, massive red flag for other controlling and abusive behaviors.

    Men and women engage in all kinds of abusive sexual-control behaviors. “Don’t wear that kind of dress”, “I don’t like you having female friends”, … much of this seems to come out of a deep-seated fear and crippling insecurity. Allowing yourself to be dicated to not by your partner’s legitimate demands (usually just social expectations) but by his or her most crippling insecurities seems more like enabling bad behavior than any kind of virtue.

    “I own my partner’s sexuality” and “You can only be sexual with me – not even with yourself” stands out massively as one of these forms of abusive-ish controlling behavior. It’s actually repugnant, and I’m shocked more people haven’t notices this. More people than Jill. Jill is walking on glass, here, trying not to offend, but clearly it makes her uncomfortable, too.

    It’s as if a putatively feminist viewpoint is digging through feminism and emerging somewhere about 1890 or so in the churchyard of a small village.

    It’s no strength. By the way, the same principles are regularly used to punish and regulate women’s sexuality on a regular basis.

    This kind of insecurity and instinctive control of others leads to nothing good, in the end, especially on a societal level.

    Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.

    1. emilybites
      emilybites August 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm |

      That tl:dr ended in a really creepy way.

      1. Jamie
        Jamie August 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

        To the surprise of no one.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L August 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm |

      “I own my partner’s sexuality” and “You can only be sexual with me – not even with yourself” stands out massively as one of these forms of abusive-ish controlling behavior. It’s actually repugnant, and I’m shocked more people haven’t notices this.

      So you think that if a woman is bothered by the fact that her husband (for example) seems to enjoy masturbating to images of other women — who meet conventional beauty standards in a way she doesn’t — as much as or more than he seems to enjoy being with her, and she tells him that she finds it upsetting, that’s repugnant, abusive-ish controlling behavior? She’s just supposed to keep quiet about it? Interesting.

      1. Gorb
        Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

        Not at all: but the root cause of this has to be found and isolated.

        It’s her insecurity. She’s not dealing with her own insecurity.

        Alternatively, many men suffer from the precise same difficulty – worrying about not meeting the attraction standards for their (monogamous) mates. The issue isn’t man – woman. Don’t confuse this or obfuscate.

        The issue is one partner objecting to the other engaging in masturbation (self-sexual behavior).

        Let’s reverse this exactly. A parallel: a woman is masturbating to fantasies of more attractive men. Her male mate objects: Stop using imagery / text / whatever to imagine people more attractive than me.

        It’s not a feminist issue, on that level: It’s a partner issue. If the one is objectionable, so is the other, but it’s never framed this way, and more’s the pity.

        People should have whatever boundaries they want. Full stop.

        But at some point I think these boundaries might (as the very thoughtful commenter above who addressed this same issue but more diplomatically than I did) begin to chafe.

        If one partner has issues about the other being attracted to images of what the first partner feels are more attractive people, at what point is it stopped: Images? Fantasies? Thoughts?

        This is all obsessive insecurity speaking. In some cases, it’s a form of benevolent relationship-building for the other partner to take the insecurities of the other into account. But from a relationship perspective, operating in “insecurity pandering” mode isn’t going to bode well for everything else going on in the relationship.

        Just saying.

        BTW, this applies oh so equally for men, too, on a host of other issues. This is not a male-female split issue. it also applies equally to same- sex relationships, if not moreso.

        1. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm |

          I disagree. The root cause of this problem is one partner hurting the other by engaging in behaviour they know upsets them.

          And you cannot uncouple this problem from gender, especially from misogynistic attitudes about women’s sexuality being somehow more ‘negotiable’ than men’s.

          It’s a fact that mostly men are watching porn and where there’s a problem in a relationship because of it it’s mostly because their female partners are objecting. And your conclusion is that women are wrong to object?

          Conflating fantasies and porn watching is also dishonest: one is a thought, the other is a real action in the world that a person demonstrably performs. Why shouldn’t it make a partner feel bad or insecure?

          Many monogamous couples would think it a tad rude if their partner (out of the blue, non-consensually) gave them a monologue during sex about the hot woman they saw on the bus earlier. Watching porn can be seen as similar. You’re rubbing it in the other person’s face, as it were, that you find this other person/kind of sex hot. In my relationship, that would be kind of rude.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

          Watching porn can be seen as similar. You’re rubbing it in the other person’s face, as it were, that you find this other person/kind of sex hot. In my relationship, that would be kind of rude.

          OK. But there’s a difference between watching porn all by your lonesome and telling the other person about the porn they watched (same as there’s a difference between noticing a hot woman on the bus and squeeing about her to your wife for an hour straight). You’re making a case for the privacy of porn consumption, not the abandonment of it.

        3. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

          It’s a fact that mostly men are watching porn and where there’s a problem in a relationship because of it it’s mostly because their female partners are objecting. And your conclusion is that women are wrong to object?

          Show me the statistics.

        4. Gorb
          Gorb August 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

          She has the right idea.

          Given circumstances, she feels that her demands are unlikely to be met, and are too onerous for others to oblige. I presume she’s heterosexual. If, as other commenter suggests, porn is a male consumption thing, with women objecting, one obvious out would be for women to date women and avoid the obvious problem of male sexuality, as it is today, altogether.

          It’s quite reasonable for her to withdraw herself from the dating pool; but this means she’s single. There’s no one to “blame” – it’s the same as anyone whose standards are too specific/precise/high/misapplied for the dating market they’re in. In this case, looking for men.

          If the potential mates you seek don’t exist or are hard to find, it’s entirely reasonable for you to withdraw from the general mating pool. In fact, it’s likely the only recourse.

          This makes no moral judgment of you, the potential mating partners, observers or anyone. It’s just a rational observation.

        5. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

          Hmmmm…the more I think about this (leaving the ethical issues of the porn industry aside), the more I think you might be right about that, macavitykitsune.

          For me the issue is both the industry/ethics and the feelings/monogamy issue. But the feelings objection probably stems from my feelings about relationship monogamy: if you committed to monogamy, cheating is wrong because it hurts the other person. However, with porn, the user isn’t actually having sexual contact with someone else, so it’s only a risk that feelings might be hurt. But if a tree falls in the forest, etc., is there any harm done? This is making me think.

        6. emilybites
          emilybites August 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm |

          @ Radiant Sophia

          You aren’t aware that straight men are the majority of consumers of hetero live porn?

          I admit it was kind of a lazy statement on my part but it was made in support of a later point which stands on its own, so whether I can prove it or not doesn’t actually alter that principle: women’s sexuality and sexual behaviour is generally required to be negotiable/flexible.

          Anecdatally (even on this thread), men use/defend their porn use against their female partners’ objections, and society generally tells women that men have needs and we ought not to be so uptight about it.

        7. Gorb
          Gorb August 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm |

          Emilybites,

          The problem is that your argument can be used to justify virtually all controlling behaviors.

          “This X behavior of yours makes me uncomfortable. You must stop. On top of that, what you do it immoral”. WHen this references sex, it has the power to shame.

          This is using restrictive sexual power in a relationship to control. It’s usually unacceptable to do this. If the objection is bad porn, then certainly better porn could be found. The partner would then have to act as censor.

          If the issue is “monogamy”, well, then, the reasoned response is that both partners better negotiate that monogamy definition pretty hard -because there are strict religious sects that have looser restrictions than that.

          If the only argument is that “X partner feels uncomfortable therefore Y must stop immediately or be a jerk worthy of moral censure” then…

          we approach nasty territory. Which behavior will fall into this category? I one dated a woman who thought it was abusive for me to work overtime, though it was hardly a choice I could exercise. She detested me staying late at work. I told her: I can’t accept your evaluation of this behavior, and I rejected it. She wanted me to quit the job (which I otherwise was very fond of).

          Where do you draw these lines?

          We’ve spent 100 years trying to rub these lines out, to give people some incentive other than mutual obligation (often due to social stigma and moral judgment) to be together.

          I don’t know that crawling back down that hole is any improvement.

        8. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm |

          You aren’t aware that straight men are the majority of consumers of hetero live porn?

          O.k. let me explain better: I don’t have enough knowledge of the subject to accept that as fact. I wasn’t trying to call you out on a lazy statement, or undermining your argument. I was actually asking if that is, in fact, true.

        9. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm |

          Anecdatally (even on this thread), men use/defend their porn use against their female partners’ objections

          @emily:

          Where’s that going on here? :/ I haven’t seen any men here talking about their female partner’s objections.

          Now, getting into the statistics, most of the (admittedly crappy sources, but I am so not logging onto my school’s academic databases to find peer-reviewed porn studies) seem to have it at about 1/3rd of porn viewers being women. I don’t know that 2/3rds is such an overwhelmingly large disproportion that you can say “most porn viewers are men” especially when you take into account, as someone mentioned upthread, that the porn created largely by and for the consumption of women is not considered “real” porn by our misogynistic societies, and it’s highly unlikely it’s being counted in the statistics on porn use.

          So it could very well be 50/50 gender wise on porn use.

        10. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm |

          It’s “her insecurity,” eh? Why, one might infer that we live in a society in which women define our own sexuality, that we are not compared with impossible beauty standards; indeed, we are not even the “sex class.”

          “We’ve spent 100 years trying to free both men and women from oppressive sexual stereotyping and demands.”

          Nope. Try again. “We” have spent millenia trying to maintainthe status quo of oppression of women by men.

      2. matlun
        matlun August 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

        So you think that if a woman is bothered by the fact that her husband (for example) seems to enjoy masturbating to images of other women[…], and she tells him that she finds it upsetting, that’s repugnant, abusive-ish controlling behavior?

        I would say it is.

        Isn’t this is similar to the controlling, overly jealous type who will not abide the partner appreciating the looks of anyone else or being too friendly with other women/men?

        Even if it does not enter the arena of actual abuse, it does not give a good feeling or point to a healthy relationship.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L August 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm |

          So, what if she tells her husband that she finds it upsetting that he frequently masturbates to gay male porn, and that’s the only kind of porn he can get off on. Is that OK, or is that repugnant and controlling behavior on her part as well?

        2. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

          So, what if she tells her husband that she finds it upsetting that he frequently masturbates to gay male porn, and that’s the only kind of porn he can get off on. Is that OK, or is that repugnant and controlling behavior on her part as well?

          ….I would find it creepier for her to object to that than watching hetero porn. The hetero porn objection can stem from either insecurity about body image or ethical concerns. The homo porn objection could stem from ethical concerns as well, but instead of insecurity about body image you get a concern based from homophobia/biphobia as the other possibility.

          I’m really curious why you think gay male porn should be something a woman can especially object to her male partner from watching. In this case, the partner would be denying a bisexual person one of the few sexuality-affirming sex acts they could have within a monogamous heterosexual marriage, unless they resorted to cheating or ethically seeking a male partner.

        3. matlun
          matlun August 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

          It is certainly controlling and problematic.

          However, I should perhaps moderate my previous post a bit. While I do find it problematic and a sign of an unhealthy relationship, repugnant may be too strong an adjective.

          To clarify: If he only really gets off on gay sex or anal sex or [insert sexual practice/fetish], and this is something his partner find objectionable and/or do not wish to be a part of, then this could certainly be a problem in the relationship. But the core problem is not then the porn. That would just be a sign of deeper underlying problems.

          But in the same way, the objection to the porn would not be the core issue either. It is not the objection of the woman which “causes” the problem. So it might not be correct to call it “repugnant” which implies moral condemnation. That depends on the specifics of the situation.

        4. feministlibrarian
          feministlibrarian August 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm |

          @barnacle, as a bi woman married to a bi woman, I can speak to this on a couple of levels.

          1. bi stereotypes encourage fears of bisexual folks being incapable of monogamy. so porn use that doesn’t match the gender of one’s chosen partner can be frightening to someone with insecurity issues. like, “how can I ever meet this person’s needs??”

          2. watching gay porn doesn’t necessarily mean the person wants gay sex or feels they are lacking something in their relationship. I know straight, bi, and lesbian women who enjoy m/m porn with no desire to be in a gay male relationship!

        5. Donna L
          Donna L August 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm |

          Because there are plenty of women who would conclude that that meant that he wasn’t “really” interested in her, and preferred men. Whether or not she “believes” that bisexual people exist. It might not be a remotely accurate reaction, but I can guarantee that a lot of people would feel that way. Perhaps not unlike the way that many straight women whose male partners or spouses like to cross-dress assume that means that they’re gay. Or “want to be women.” (And/or are just sick, perverted freaks, of course.) I may not think that’s a great reaction, but I’ve heard too many stories from people not to realize that it’s an extremely common one. I think, however, that most attempts to enforce boundaries prohibiting that kind of thing after the fact are doomed to failure. If it’s not something someone wants to deal with, they have the right to feel that way, but ending the relationship would seem to be the right thing to do.

        6. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

          So it’s abusive for a woman to express to her partner how she feels about something her partner might do. Uh-huh. Sure.

          When you threaten to take away, limit, analyze – hell, even discuss – porn, dudes really panic.

        7. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 3:50 am |

          Matlun, do you really think someone sitting masturbating to porn is comparable with noticing a stranger in passing? One’s a glance (at least I hope the presumed man in this scenario isn’t staring at passing women, because creepy) and the other is a deliberate act, a choice not just to masturbate, or to fantasise, but to do it – presumably for some time – while watching other women in whatever sex acts.

          There’s a world of difference. If anyone’s in the wrong in that situation, I’d say it’s a porn-consumer who’s dismissive of their partner’s discomfort.

        8. matlun
          matlun August 9, 2013 at 6:28 am |

          Matlun, do you really think someone sitting masturbating to porn is comparable with noticing a stranger in passing?

          I did say “appreciating the looks” and wanted to imply “finding others sexually hot”. It is a very natural reaction, but there are quite a few people who would have a problem with this. Exactly where the limit is between unjustified, controlling jealousy and a reasonable reaction is a judgment call, but I am sure you would agree that both categories exist.

          I think it is a reasonable comparison. The wish to absolutely monopolise all sexual urges and desires of the partner seems to me to be pretty similar in both cases.

        9. Gorb
          Gorb August 9, 2013 at 11:31 am |

          Matlun has it:

          “…Exactly where the limit is between unjustified, controlling jealousy and a reasonable reaction is a judgment call, but I am sure you would agree that both categories exist.

          I think it is a reasonable comparison. The wish to absolutely monopolise all sexual urges and desires of the partner seems to me to be pretty similar in both cases.

          Exactly.

        10. Donna L
          Donna L August 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm |

          Tinfoil Hattie, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who sees things that way. I was beginning to wonder just how much time every day a woman’s husband would have to be spending masturbating to porn (of any kind), before some people would be willing to admit that it isn’t “abusive and controlling” for her to tell him that it bothers her.

        11. Ms. Kristen J.
          Ms. Kristen J. August 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

          @Donna L,

          Couldn’t we make a distinction between aksing someone to modify their sexual behavior because *we don’t like it* and asking someone to modify their sexual behavior because its having a negative consequence on your shared life. If a partner is shirking hir agreed to responsbilities, then does it matter whether the shirking is caused by masturbation or a love of sudoku? Your hobbies are causing problems seems to be reasonable to me. Your hobbies are bad/wrong/silly so you can’t do them or can only do them to the extent *I* think is appropriate even though no harm is being caused does not seem reasonable to me.

          Of course people have unreasonable dealbreakers, I have them myself, but they can be a red flag that the person may be controlling and abusive.

        12. Donna L
          Donna L August 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm |

          I didn’t say she can “order” him to stop doing whatever he’s doing. What I’m strenuously objecting to is the notion that even opening her mouth and saying it upsets her is itself “abusive and controlling.” That she has to keep silent about how she feels. That it’s not something that can even be discussed. And if she feels rejected and unhappy and that she can’t “compete” with the people in her husband’s porn, too bad.

        13. Ms. Kristen J.
          Ms. Kristen J. August 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

          Who said that someone wasn’t permitted to express their views on how something makes them feel?

        14. Donna L
          Donna L August 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

          The people who said “yes” when I asked if it would be abusive and controlling for a woman to “tell” her husband that she found it “upsetting”? Yes, those people, right up above in this thread. That’s who.

        15. Ms. Kristen J.
          Ms. Kristen J. August 9, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

          So, then just Matlun, who qualified his answer subsequently? I don’t see anyone actually defending the position that you can’t ever talk about how things make you feel. Perhaps its just a miscommunication?

        16. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm |

          “Couldn’t we make a distinction between aksing someone to modify their sexual behavior because *we don’t like it* and asking someone to modify their sexual behavior because its having a negative consequence on your shared life.”

          Why? “Because I don’t like it” is a perfectly valid reason for making a request. It IS having a negative consequence on a shared life if one partner consistently does something the other partner doesn’t like.

        17. Ms. Kristen J.
          Ms. Kristen J. August 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

          @Tinfoil,

          I think this will have to be an agree to disagree thing. I have probably been in too many highly critical relationships, with people telling me how my clothes, hair, mannerisms, voice, etc etc should change because it made them unhappy, for me to be objective. I consider it a huge red flag when anyone suggests that who I am isn’t acceptable.

    3. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

      I am shamed for being a “prude”. Again.

    4. A4
      A4 August 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm |

      It’s the idea that you own your partner’s sexuality and they owe it to you to spend it solely with you: You are your partner’s only sexual outlet. They are, in effect, your property. Their sexuality is yours to control, to own, to command.

      What happens when the partners involved radically differ in the amount of sex each wants? What if what they want to do or experience differs? In that case, the partner isn’t even able to explore this on their own.

      I see a common sentiment of:

      “When you make a commitment at the beginning of a relationship, you need to keep it forever. You then need to be happy with your commitment and if you aren’t happy or you break it then you are a bad person. If you grow or change as a person that doesn’t matter because of your original commitment. If it looks like ‘doing the right thing’ will cause way more pain than ‘doing the wrong thing’, it doesn’t matter. You need to either sacrifice your happiness or your life for the sake of perfect top down moral consistency”

      That works nicely for a third party looking in and deciding who’s in the club and who isn’t, but it doesn’t actually do anything to solve the tension between “people have to keep their promises forever” and “people are not static being who can be satisfied by perfectly consistent and rational rules of morality and they cannot just decide how to feel”.

      It’s a question of whether I’m interested in a perfectly defensible judgement or helping people solve their problem.

      1. Ms. Kristen J.
        Ms. Kristen J. August 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

        I think this depends on what you think the “commitment” of a relationship is. I think a relationship is a commitment to work together and support one another (even if that “support” takes the form of not being around each other anymore). Sometimes that leads to a long and happy life between people who grow together or in compatible ways and sometimes it doesn’t.

        I don’t know very many people who have been in longer term relationships (including people who have very traditional views of marriage) that believe that the terms of a relationship don’t change as the partners themselves change and grow. There are very often sticking points or deal breakers around issues like fidelity, child rearing, and even money where competing priorities may end a relationship, but I don’t know anyone really who thinks their partner(s) should just suck it up and be miserable because *they promised.* That’s not how, IME, love works.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L August 8, 2013 at 8:17 pm |

          I don’t know anyone really who thinks their partner(s) should just suck it up and be miserable because *they promised.*

          You’re lucky. Because there are definitely people who feel that way, even if the other person never actually promised anything.

        2. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm |

          Well, the suck it up and be miserable thing sounds as though it is highly situationally dependent, don’t you think?

          I mean, there have been a few occasions where I as sick for a relatively brief period of time, and yeah, the spouse had to suck it up and be miserable until the bad stuff had passed. And no, I wasn’t inclined to be terribly worried about his unmet sexual needs while I in the hosptial trying to not die of sepsis or on bed rest trying to not have a severely premature baby. I can certainly assure you that I was at least as miserable as the spouse was during this time, if not more.

          Ditto with some of the stuff related to having small kids to take care of. That shit can be pretty damn miserable at times, but one has to put on one’s adult pants and deal with it. The point is that you are supposed to try and work through the bad stuff together and see it through to its end. And then fun and happy times can be had once again.

          Or am I missing something here?

        3. Ms. Kristen J.
          Ms. Kristen J. August 9, 2013 at 2:53 am |

          I was thinking more of misery related to long term incompatibility. A4s example seemed to be related to deal breakers in a committed relationship and the idea that one partner would want the other to accept behavior that they consider to be a dealbreaker just because they made a commitment to each other.

        4. Donna L
          Donna L August 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

          Yes, I was also thinking of the long term.

    5. Aydan
      Aydan August 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm |

      For the moment, let’s put aside the issue of non-consent in the creation of porn; let’s assume that porn being consumed is consensual and non-violent. I assume this because there’s a deeper issue here that really, really bothers me.

      You can assume that, but my interpretation of the letter was that the ethical issues in the creation and consumption of porn are one of the writer’s primary concerns.

      1. Gorb
        Gorb August 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm |

        Right. I’m not objecting to the objectionable aspect of porn.

        I was trying to get at the apparent dislike of a partner having a sexual life of her or his own not involving the other partner.

        There were comments to the effect that some were uncomfortable with a partner even masturbating – that this was a form of “cheating”.

        There are a few separate issues locked up in this porn thread so far. 1- One is misogyny and porn; that’s a massive debate and distracts from the other issues; 2- the other is what acceptable boundaries should be (with some hint that validation is required; 3- I think most are agreed that we’re free to set whatever boundaries we feel like, so long as we accept the consequences); the third is about whether or not an individual is obliged to share all aspects of his or her sexuality only with the partner, rendering masturbation a form of “cheating”.

        I’m calling out #3 as a slippery slope: Controlling and abusive, in essence, and depending on how this is implemented, in degree, as well.

        #2 I think most agree on.

        #1 is arguably complex in a patriarchal society and is a problem, but that debate is ginormous and I wanted to just point out #3.

        1. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm |

          I’m not sure if you’re referencing my comments…if you are maybe I wasn’t clear enough. It’s a specific type of masturbating – using visual porn – that CAN be construed as cheating. Very similar to emotional cheating – finding an important need outside of your partner. Especially when the partner seeking outside fulfillment doesn’t communicate to the other partner about what his/her needs are and how they can work together to find a solution. Like I said earlier, it is super super subjective. What may be platonic cuddling to one person may be inappropriate cuddling to another.

          I don’t think that’s control or abuse. I think that’s personal preferences or deal breakers or whatever that people get to set. If I was dating someone and I said, “I’d prefer that you didn’t watch porn, it makes me feel really uncomfortable,” s/he has every right in the world to say “Actually, THAT makes me uncomfortable” and s/he and I can figure out for ourselves and between us whether that’s something to negotiate or something that is a deal breaker.

          Also, nothing happens in a vacuum. If I am in a committed, monogamous relationship, my partner’s sexual behavior affects me. Even the solo sexual behavior.

        2. Revolver
          Revolver August 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

          And I’m not saying that this is how all relationships should be. I was trying to explain how watching porn can be viewed as cheating in SOME types of monogamous relationships. IT’S SUBJECTIVE. So for you to automatically label it as controlling, without being in the relationship, or know the people involved, is pretty crappy and a reason that women feel the need to accept their partners’ porn use, to avoid being cast as the controlling, abusive nag.

        3. Tyris
          Tyris August 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm |

          Very similar to emotional cheating – finding an important need outside of your partner.

          We must be reading this wrong.

          What kind of “important need”?

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 7:26 pm |

          Very similar to emotional cheating – finding an important need outside of your partner.

          Wait, I didn’t notice this before, so I have to ask: people other than my wife fulfill lots of my emotional needs. Some of which are incredibly important; vital, even. However, no one other than my wife fulfills any of my sexual needs (except myself obviously lol). I’m really very content with both of these facts. So I guess my question is, what emotional needs are earmarked as Belonging To Partner? With whom am I cheating on her emotionally – because, I mean, I can’t actually think of any emotional need that others do not/have not fulfilled in the past, broadly defined!? That’s…really pretty weird nad codependent, to say that seeking emotional fulfillment in general from anyone other than one’s partner is emotional cheating, so you must be thinking of some types of needs in particular. Right?

        5. Revolver
          Revolver August 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |

          Sorry, I did not phrase that well at all. Of course partners go outside the relationship to fill needs – I get different emotional needs filled by my sister than I would by my partner.

          What I meant was the kind of emotional connect that is subjectively, for each individual relationship, earmarked as “relationship stuff.” So like if my partner never told me that he was unhappy about something really important in his life, like his job or whatever, but told someone else, I would be upset about it. Key words there are “I” and “upset” – it is an issue for me…but I wouldn’t demand that he talk to me about it, or say that he could never talk about that stuff with anyone else ever. But TO ME, giving him support around something he was unhappy about is something I would like to provide and it would make me a little jealous that he was seeking that support totally outside of me. I would just verbalize that it made me uncomfortable, and try to explain why, and have a two-way conversation about expectations and wants and needs.

          I understand even that can sound codependent. There are things that I tell my sister that I don’t tell a partner. But I would absolutely consider it okay for my partner to register being upset with that, and have an honest conversation about it.

          And I realize that other people are more easygoing than me and are secure in their relationships and aren’t jealous. That’s awesome that you can be that way, but unfortunately I am not and I am not going to feel shamed that I need different boundaries in a relationship than other people. I recognize that if a partner doesn’t feel the same way, he should end the relationship.

          Does that make more sense?

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |

          Revolver, that makes more sense to me, and it’s what I figured you were going for when I said that you must be thinking of some needs in particular. Thanks for clarifying. And yeah, there’s absolutely some things that are marked as Partnery Stuff, they’re just not things I would immediately have associated with the phrase “emotional needs”.

    6. Roboten
      Roboten August 10, 2013 at 5:57 am |

      I love you.

  16. ginmar
    ginmar August 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm |

    My ex used to try and manipulate me into various sex acts I didn’t feel comfortable with—–stuff that was heavy on the degradation factor. When I refused, he’d call me repressed, then tell me he was going to use porn because I was so repressed. His idea of repressed was not doing whatever he wanted. He was my first BF and a good fifteen years older than me.

    1. Gorb
      Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

      Either dumping him (good idea) or letting him do his own thing were your rights. If he did his nasty fantasy stuff elsewhere, you could debate the rest of the relationship.

      There are enough women into degrading sex (or at least unconventional sex) that these guys should be able to find an outlet with them. What’s unfortunate is that we can’t randomly sort ourselves so that sexualities automatically match.

      Perhaps technology and information processing will one day step in and solve this problem for us.

      I can just imagine the emergent business plan being bankrolled in about 3.8 seconds.

      1. mamram
        mamram August 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

        I don’t really understand what your sorting problem has to do with a person manipulating his partner into sex acts that his partner does not want to perform.

      2. BBBShrewHarpy
        BBBShrewHarpy August 9, 2013 at 11:36 am |

        I don’t see the problem as being incompatible needs, it’s Ginmar’s partner accusing her(?) of being “repressed” i.e., defective, rather than simply having different tastes, and then accusing Ginmar of pushing him to use porn because of her defect. The idea of porn use by men as a weapon that is needed to compensate for a woman’s inadequacies probably lies underneath a lot of the discomfort we have about this.

    2. Miranda
      Miranda August 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

      Whelp. That sounds depressingly familiar. :(

    3. Flowerpuff
      Flowerpuff August 9, 2013 at 11:46 am |

      Yeah I’ve been through that sort of thing too. : (

  17. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte August 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

    I don’t see the problem here. If a man said that his female partner’s desire to have her own fantasy and masturbation life was something he can’t stand, but he chose not to date because he knows that demand is unmeetable, I don’t think many sex positive people would care. Seems like the long road, but the end is the same: Not exerting control over someone else’s masturbation habits.

    1. Gorb
      Gorb August 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

      This is good. and succinct.

      Set whatever boundaries you want. About anything at all. People either fulfill them or not. You choose to respond accordingly.

      So long as this kind of intense boundary-charting was never applied to the population at large or extended beyond your immediate self, that would be fine.

      I would only ever object if this were applied to anyone other than the individual with the boundaries in question, or if judgment were then passed over to others based on one person’s boundaries.

      Too often, these norms are oppressive.

      If my boundaries were too tight, I would just remain single – and this would be my choice and option.

      I wonder, though. So long as these boundaries require no external validation, any boundary will do.

      Where we’re going to get into trouble is if these boundaries then seek out external validation, and people’s sexual lives are interfered with. On a personal level, this is all fine. On a social level, not so much.

  18. Aydan
    Aydan August 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

    Someone did a post recently on sex negativity and I just ran across a comment that said a sex positive woman will be ok with her significant other using porn. I feel like this is a way to shame women for liking monogamy and porn fitting into a violation of that monogamy for some women – and also a way to shame women who are concerned about the myriad of legitimate ethical concerns regarding selling sex for money and using a human being you do not love for their sexuality without caring about who they are, how they really feel, or why they are even sharing their sexuality for you.

    I really have no idea how to address the monogamy thing. But, I think the commenter’s basic assumption was flawed, that “a sex positive woman will be ok with her significant other using porn.” I have no idea if the commenter was speaking from a sex-pos perspective or from outside perceptions of that perspective, so I don’t want to get into that, but I think this is a perception of sex positivity as “yay sex!” rather than “go forth and (attempt to) have all the consensual sexual activity you desire, if you desire any.” It seems like a misconception along the lines of “sex-positive feminists are 100% for all kinds of BDSM without ever examining the wider cultural context.”

    1. Buttered Lilies
      Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

      Mmmm… to the extent that anti-porn feminism is such a huge reason why sex-positive feminism is a “thing”, yeah, I think it’s safe to assume that most or all sex-positive feminists are ok with at least some porn usage, though it might be that they’re ok with a smutty fanfic but not live-action porn. But, I doubt there are that many who are ok with any and all porn, either. (I mean, somewhere, in the great wide world, there’s probably a woman who has no problem with child porn, and calls herself a sex-positive feminist, but in general, everyone has limits.) But, I also think that to not be sex-positive is to not be sex-positive, not to be sex-negative.

  19. Drahill
    Drahill August 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

    I can’t really see a problem with this – after all, dealbreakers are perfectly acceptable on a personal level. I would wonder about timing, though. Is this the sort of thing one would need to be very up-front about early into a relationship (or before one ever starts)? I can see how a demand to not view or use pornography could be seen as pretty onerous for a great many (heck, maybe even a majority) of people. Does that mean having that standard is something a person would need to be upfront with very quickly, before any serious relationship started? I’m kind of getting the impression that it would be.

    1. Gorb
      Gorb August 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm |

      Given the near-ubiquity of porn use among men and women, and the way use changes even for individual people over time, I’d guess that this issue would have to come up pretty early. More or less at the very beginning.

      As a deal-breaker, its huge, and would need some pretty serious negotiation. I can see how some might be put off by forcing this on a new partner, but the onus is entirely on the partner with the restrictions to bring it up and insist.

      MY guess is that in the current cultural zeitgeist, it would be a hard call and would put many people in the singles bin.

      it might be why the guilt from feeling shamed: with so many people and so much of our culture awash in sexual imagery (misogynistic and not), I can see why it would be a major uphill slog for someone who felt this was inappropriate to bring it up with a partner. But this in and of itself is not an issue of social concern. It’s up to the partner with the restriction to sell the restriction to the other.

      It’s like a kind of marketing. We do this all the time. I don’t want you eating X / smoking / drinking / seeing X friend / watching TV after midnight / going on business trips alone / dancing with anyone else / etc.

      We market our restrictions and try to sell them. Partners can lie about it.

      I get the feeling some would like their personal restrictions to have more “standard” social acceptance so they don’t feel like mini Mussolinis when they demand it from partners.

      I suspect this is what I’m reacting to.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 9, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

        “I get the feeling some would like their personal restrictions to have more “standard” social acceptance so they don’t feel like mini Mussolinis when they demand it from partners.

        I suspect this is what I’m reacting to.”

        I get the feeling everything other people do isn’t about you, Mr. Pornsplainer.

    2. Buttered Lilies
      Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm |

      I’d think you’d have to be upfront about it, wouldn’t you? It’s not like an expectation of monogamy, where the boundary gets set after agreeing to be monogamous. If it’s about someone’s moral character, then I can’t imagine Flowerpuff would be really ok with someone watching porn after date #2, so long as they’d stopped on date #15 when Flowerpuff told her date that she didn’t want to be with someone who watched porn. (Flowerpuff, please feel free to correct me on that.)

      1. Drahill
        Drahill August 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

        From a totally practical perspective, I think it would be far harder to enforce earlier in a relationship – when, presumably, you do not live together. Most issues with porn usage seem to (at least from advice columns) crop up once cohabitation starts, and the disapproving partner can more see for themselves what the other’s porn usage actually is. But that seems to make for really bad timing – usually when the people in the relationship are more invested in each other and breaking up is tougher. That’s why I personally would err on the side of saying, “You must lay this bare very soon into seeing somebody.” It would probably be better to walk away quickly than have to go through the strife of a serious breakup.

  20. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar August 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm |

    I’m generally in favor of people being upfront and transparent about what they need in a relationship — whether that’s monogamy or polyamory or no porn use or a certain arrangement of housework. (And that’s a pretty universal principle — wouldn’t it be fantastic if abusive assholes would say right up front “my needs in this relationship are for you to be terrified of me, and cut off from all other sources of emotional and financial support”?)

    So in that sense, I think the letter writer is completely right to state the position and look for partners compattible with it. And the notion that men all use porn, or all masturbate, and can’t control it and are lying if they claim to, is part and parcel with this pernicious idea that needs to fucking die that male sexuality is uncontrollable. See this rant. It’s not true, it was never true, and it’s used to justify everything from cheating by men who promise to be monogamous, to rape. Men are actually creatures with the capacity to reason and to exercise executive function over our desires; we should only make promises when we mean to stick to them and we should be accountable for sticking to the promises we make.

    Finally, some folks on the thread react with horror to the idea that someone could negotiate for no masturbation. I know plenty of people who have negotiated exactly that, at least for some period — and always as part of kinky play. I doubt there are a lot of folks here who have a problem with that. So if it is an acceptable thing to negotiate for a kink, why wouldn’t it be as an issue of comfort for one partner?

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

      So if it is an acceptable thing to negotiate for a kink, why wouldn’t it be as an issue of comfort for one partner?

      Because you can safeword out of kinky play, and also because there is no moral judgment of “cheating” attached to being unable to fulfill a dom(me)’s demands, whatever they may be. How is this not immediately evident?

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

        I mean. Seriously.

        “Well, some people like to negotiate tying their partner to the bed for six hours as part of kinky play, so why is it controlling for me to demand that my partner never leave the bedroom at night? That makes me feel comfortable!”

        “Well, some people like to get pierced by needles as part of kinky play, so why is it controlling if I demand that anyone who dates me get a tattoo chosen by me? That makes me feel comfortable!”

        “Well, some people like to negotiate taking a belt to their partner as part of kinky play, so why are these nosy feminists mad that I beat my protesting, sobbing wife bloody? That makes me feel unsafe in my preferences!”

      2. Revolver
        Revolver August 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

        I read it as “Some people like no-masturbation-as-kink in their relationships. Others like no-masturabation-at-all because of their comfort levels.” Both are things to be negotiated between partners, not demanded.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

          Both are things to be negotiated between partners, not demanded.

          Well…yes, but also no. For example, if I were to safeword out of a kinky act, it wouldn’t be a value judgment on my ability to do kink, it would be that I couldn’t take it at that moment for whatever reason.

          Maybe if you’re talking about 24/7 permanent D/s relationships I can see the point, but tbh 24/7 arrangements that provide no respite creep me out at least a little. I don’t want to get into that fight, but still… if failure is constructed as failure to love/be faithful/be committed, as opposed to failure to endure/accept/enjoy an act for a set duration of time, I think the weight of that “never” is pretty different.

        2. Thomas MacAulay Millar
          Thomas MacAulay Millar August 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

          I also think 24/7 is inherently problematic, so … that’s a good point. That’s true of relationship dynamics, too. Maybe the idea that one relationship can survive with the same rules for decades isn’t such a good one; maybe that only works sometimes for some people and not all the time for all people.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 11:14 am |

          Maybe the idea that one relationship can survive with the same rules for decades isn’t such a good one

          Honestly, I don’t think the percentage of relationships that can do that are going to progress past decimal points, if you change “survive” to “fulfill”. I mean, if all it takes is for one person to die before either expresses discontent…

          but no, I think if anything, constant renegotiation should be pretty much a given in relationships. It’s the main reason I find unrelenting 24/7 creepy, the complete lack of a predetermined time or safe space in which to step out of the mindset and just think. It seems to me that it would be too easy to stay stuck in patterns past the time when they’re what’s right and useful to the people involved.

          Though TBH if a lack of masturbation were seriously hurting someone in a 24/7 setup, I’d hope an even halfway decent dom(me) would insist that their sub’s (mental)health not be compromised for the sake of the dom(me)’s pantsfeelings. I can’t see that happening at all if masturbation were formally constructed as cheating within any relationship.

      3. wanttobeanon
        wanttobeanon August 9, 2013 at 9:43 am |

        I want to push back against this idea that asking a partner not to masturbate sounds notes of being controlling and abusive. In a relationship with a man who had very low libido, but who did use porn and masturbate to it, I was the higher desire partner. In the course of figuring our sex life out I requested he not masturbate. I wanted him to save what libido he had to share with me in sex. It was a compromise – I would be having much less couple-sex than I wanted, and he would cease jerking off alone. He agreed. We were otherwise compatible and we both wanted very much to make our relationship work. I did not phrase this request as a demand or ultimatum, although if he had said no, I probably would have left him. But if he didn’t want to, or thought my request was controlling or way out of line, he obviously could have left me too.

        I submit there was nothing abusive or wrong about my request. It was merely one part of the negotiation we did for our sex life.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 10:53 am |

          I think there’s a difference between “I need you to give me as much of your libido as you can” and “if you touch your peepee in the shower it is exactly as bad and horrible to me as if you were deep-dicking the last 20 years’ worth of Playmates “, though. It’s the framing of masturbation as cheating that I’m talking about:

          because there is no moral judgment of “cheating” attached to being unable to fulfill a dom(me)’s demands

          like so. Also, if your partner had felt that he simply couldn’t stop masturbating, and you two had broken up over it, I highly doubt it would have been framed as “he cheated on me with his dick”, but “we had incompatible libidos”.

          I respectfully submit that anyone who says that self-generated, isolate sexual pleasure can be constructed as premeditated infidelity is a creepy fucking fuck and honestly I’m not really going to be convinced otherwise.

  21. Bridget
    Bridget August 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

    LW, let me begin by saying that I agree with you about porn, and in years past the issue became problematic in some of my relationships. I will also say that being a vegan, and even identifying as a feminist has led me at times to feel pretty alone due to where I live and the sort of people I’ve interacted with in daily life. I think your boundary is perfectly valid. But I’ll also say that for me personally, I reached a point where I felt that my moral standards were making me misanthropic and kind of pushing me in the direction of wanting to live on a deserted island with only my cat. So I’m trying to move in the direction of seeking common ground with people who disagree with me, and finding people with whom I can have respectful (and challenging) dialogue about this stuff. Of course, it’s a question of priorities. I realized I wanted a family and was unlikely to find someone who was 100% on board with my aforementioned moral standards. I decided that being with a good person with whom I could have respectful discussions was more important than being in full agreement on the porn issue (or other issues). YMMV.

  22. Buttered Lilies
    Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

    I don’t really know what to say, when you yourself find this such an unreasonable demand to put on your partners you don’t date at all. I mean, you put women in parentheses, and I can’t tell if you’re saying you’re bisexual or just trying not to be heteronormative, but there are definitely lesbians out there who share your views on porn. There are men out there who don’t watch porn, often because they think it victimizes women, though they’re definitely less common.

    It just sort of seems like not dating because you have this boundary you feel uncomfortable enforcing with any actual human being sort of solves the problem.

    1. Flowerpuff
      Flowerpuff August 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm |

      I would date if I met someone who was happy with that. It doesn’t solve my own personal dilemma since I would rather date. I just notice a lot of my female friends who date don’t use porn themselves but feel like they have to tolerate their male partners use because it’s a “male need” that “they just don’t understand”.

      I understand ladies are starting to use porn now too, but since mainstream porn is still very gendered and objectifying of women in particular, I find that men who sound like they REALLY ARE sexist and objectifyers of the female body feel like women just need to sit backand understand because it’s a need men have and women don’t.

      The explenations my non porn viewing friends give for why their male partner justifies porn use they are uncomfortable with tend to sound problematic to me. I guess I just “don’t get” how objectifying real people, a STREAM of people you don’t know, to be more precise, is a need– or why I have to date someone who has that need or else I am “controlling”. It would seem our sexualities are so incompatable if someone needs to use a stream of people they don’t care about or care to know apart from using to have an orgasm– I’m not sure why I should be forced to date them or how that would actually make them happier to be with someone like me who thinks that kind of sexuality is hurtful and not sexy.

      1. Flowerpuff
        Flowerpuff August 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm |

        By “forced” I mean forcing myself to stuff my feelings so as not to be “controlling” if I date on the recommendation of social pressure to be a “good partner”.

        1. Flowerpuff
          Flowerpuff August 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

          Also I think when you say a person is an abuser for having an ultimatum you essentially ARE saying that person should force themselves to ignore their needs and continue dating on terms that make them miserable. (If any gets what I’m saying there and can phrase it better feel free.)

        2. Flowerpuff
          Flowerpuff August 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |

          Ugh– my use of the word “you” was meant to be generalized in reference to some things said upthread about people agreeing to no porn use as innately controlling or harmful.

          I think ultimatums can be used abusively, but I think they are frequently totally valid. It’s all very subjective– again thanks everyone for the awesome perspectives, it’s something I’m still working my views on out.

        3. mamram
          mamram August 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

          I think a lot of people here are seeing this in the context of two people in a very long term relationship, one of whom has suddenly and arbitrarily started berating the other for discreet porn use. To me, it sounds a lot more like a veg*n who doesn’t know a lot of other veg*ns, would like to meet new people and date, but doesn’t necessarily want to end up in a long term relationship with an omnivore. Which I imagine is tricky? Because while you don’t want to lead with “Meateaters: please don’t waste my time,” it’s also not fair to let somebody get seriously emotionally invested if you know you may be fundamentally incompatible. BUT, I feel like really, if it’s something that’s important to you, it will come up in conversation naturally, as part of figuring out if you’re compatible generally, rather than as an ultimatum years down the line.

          tl;dr: I don’t see how this is such a big deal that there’s some moral imperative on you not to date at all.

        4. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm |

          Meateaters: please don’t waste my time

          I know that I would appreciate that as a lead. It would save my time, and their time.

        5. mamram
          mamram August 8, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

          I totally see how preferences would vary, but I think there’s some wiggle room on when you have to reveal things like this before it becomes a moral question. Thare’s certainly enough space for someone with this concern to date people, if they wanted.

      2. feministlibrarian
        feministlibrarian August 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm |

        I’m noticing a lot of language here that signals you’re feeling super pressured to ignore your boundaries on someone else’s say-so:

        I’m not sure why I should be forced to date them or how that would actually make them happier to be with someone like me who thinks that kind of sexuality is hurtful and not sexy.

        NO ONE should be forcing you or making you feel you “have to” be in a relationship you don’t want to be in.

      3. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |

        I understand ladies are starting to use porn now too

        Er, no. Women have always used porn. They just didn’t talk about it.

      4. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm |

        See, that I understand. The characters in manga/anime/fanfiction, even if they were real people, would be much less objectified in their situations than the actors in the mainstream porn I have been exposed to.

        1. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

          Sorry, reply to Flowerpuff above.

      5. 30ish
        30ish August 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

        It’s definitely BS that watching porn is just a “male need”. I don’t believe all men watch porn, and I’m a woman who does.
        It’s OK to decide you only want to date someone who doesn’t watch porn. But I have to say I don’t understand the problem with “objectifying people I don’t care about”, if that just means watching other people having sex in order to get off. (I understand the problem if the people I’m watching might have been coerced or exploited, but not if that’s not the case). If it’s something you don’t personally like, fine, but why get into the discussion of whether it’s “a real need”? Some people just enjoy watching sex.

        1. feministlibrarian
          feministlibrarian August 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm |

          Along those lines, if Flowerpuff or anyone else is interested in a personal perspective on why porn can be positive, I wrote a post last year that talks about my own reasons for finding (some kinds of) pornography a positive exploration of humanity.

      6. Buttered Lilies
        Buttered Lilies August 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm |

        Ah. I think it would be controlling if you didn’t let people know fairly quickly, but just assumed that anyone you dated wouldn’t use porn without you saying anything, and then a few months after moving in together, *then* you let them know that this was a huge problem. Or, if you let them know that this was a dealbreaker, but instead of just breaking up with them, you screamed at them a lot for using porn. But not dating people whom you don’t have sexual compatibility with seems really fine, and a very appropriate way to handle this issue.

        You absolutely shouldn’t date someone you don’t really want to, and if you don’t want to date anyone who uses porn, then you shouldn’t. You do you.

        1. TomSims
          TomSims August 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

          “You absolutely shouldn’t date someone you don’t really want to, and if you don’t want to date anyone who uses porn, then you shouldn’t. You do you.”

          Very common sense advice!

      7. xenu01
        xenu01 August 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm |

        Just chiming in here to agree with those who say, as Kat so brilliantly does downthread, “let your boundaries hang all out.”

        I do also like mamram’s point about how the no-porn preference is tricky, like, “a veg*n who doesn’t know a lot of other veg*ns, would like to meet new people and date, but doesn’t necessarily want to end up in a long term relationship with an omnivore.”

        It’s funny, actually, that zie makes that particular analogy, because both the consumption of meat and the consumption of live-action porn are things which straight women are often pressured to take part in within the context of heterosexual relationships. I have seen several women (including myself, former vegetarian, and my sister, former vegan) go from eating little or no meat on their own to eating burgers and steaks within the context of a relationship.

        The point is this: own yourself. Own your likes and dislikes, your needs and your wants. You don’t have to introduce your boundaries up front, but as they come up, don’t lie. At some point, maybe after and maybe before you guys have done sexy things, there will be dialogues about sex in which you discuss what you like and don’t like, etc. That might be a good time to test the waters on the porn thing. The funny thing is, less guys are into live-action porn than you may think. You just really have to be honest about what you need.

      8. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 9, 2013 at 8:04 pm |

        There are men who don’t like porn – my husband despises it, for example. He thinks it’s degrading as well as uninteresting.

  23. HalAnon
    HalAnon August 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm |

    I want to suggest a thought-experiment to the LW (and everyone else)

    Let’s say the hypothetical partner (H) has pornographic pictures of an ex-partner. (X) These pictures were taken by X, voluntarily and consensually, and shared with H during the relationship. X is aware that H still has the pictures and has no objection to that. H has no romantic feelings for X, and no interest in resuming any kind of relationship with X. These pictures are akin to vacation snapshots, memories of a pleasant time in the past.

    The LW’s standard was “I will be unhappy with a man (or woman) who uses people they don’t know or love for their sexuality without knowing if the other person may be harmed by it, or care what circumstances and belief systems may be driving their participation in porn.”

    These hypothetical pictures would seem to meet this standard. H knew (and possibly loved) X, created those images without harming X, and was aware of the circumstances and beliefs which led X to creating those images. H is not viewing these images out of unrequited love or desire for X, but because they are images that ze finds arousing.

    I present this thought-experiment because it’s unclear to me if the LW is objecting to the ethical concerns in creating pornography, or has objections to consuming pornography, or both. The distinction matters; if the LW has an objection to consuming pornography, then the ethical concerns over how it’s produced are just misdirection. Objections to what others choose to consume can fall into the “controlling” category in a way that objections to how consumer products are made do not.

    1. Hrovitnir
      Hrovitnir August 8, 2013 at 11:40 pm |

      But this example… you never specified whether you mean H masturbates using these pictures. Whether or not they still love their ex, I feel comfortable saying you can’t masturbate to pictures of someone without fantasising about them.

      I consume (all sorts of) porn; so does my straight cis male partner. I actually see myself as poly-orientated, but he is very monogamous so we’re monogamous. I feel totally OK with the idea of him being sexually involved with other people; I feel totally not OK with the idea of any amount of sexual involvement that is hidden.

      I would be fine with him owning pornographic pictures of an ex; and yeah, you might look at them and and enjoy the nostalgia.

      I would be completely and utterly uncomfortable with him masturbating to a picture of an ex. The idea actually makes me feel a bit sick. Besides, I doubt many exes would be that comfortable with that (some would, of course).

      So there’s my data point.

      For the record my feelings on the OP are: you’re totally entitled to this dealbreaker; there are definitely people out there; you need to be open about it – restricting masturbation IMO is just crossing the line. Almost anything else is fair game (ie: media consumption) so long as it’s clear and not coercive.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 3:29 am |

      Someone masturbating (if that’s what you mean) to pornographic pics of an ex would be a total deal-breaker for me. It’s even worse, in a different way, than the general masturbating to live porn thing, because it suggests the ex isn’t nearly so “ex” in partner’s mind as zie might claim, or believe. It is still “masturbating to image of specific real person” with an extra dose of unfaithfulness alarm bells. The partner might not think of it that way, but I’d really, really wonder about someone persisting with that once they’re in a new relationship.

    3. Ms. Kristen J.
      Ms. Kristen J. August 9, 2013 at 11:32 am |

      *shrug* I wouldn’t care particularly given that the woman involved has stated she doesn’t mind. In that event it really isn’t my business.

    4. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

      I wouldn’t care either. If an it was an ex I particularly hated, it might bug me in that “I want everyone I like to hate everyone I hate!” way, but that’s hardly rational, so I would see it as immature and controlling of myself if I actually made a fuss over it over that.

  24. Kat
    Kat August 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm |

    As a person who’s normally fine with porn and uses it myself, I totally understand and want to validate Flowerpuff in having this dealbreaker. My partner watches porn fairly often, and it never bothered me until stress at his job led to our sex life together basically stopping, while he continued masturbating to porn at the same rate he always had. I immediately became jealous, hurt, and super not okay with things, and the worst part was the little voice in the back of my head going “Hey, don’t be an uncool girlfriend. You can’t possibly ask him to stop watching porn when he masturbates. He is a MAN, this is what MEN do. Don’t be an insecure GIRL! Let’s just try to repress these feelings now.”

    There is no space in mainstream culture for a woman who has a problem with her partner’s porn use. You’re automatically this buzzkilling, withholding monster in people’s eyes. It’s just absurd. It’s not really different from polyvangelist shaming of women as insecure prudes thing — just way more widespread. And it gets into your head, doesn’t it? Even for those of us who are fine with porn, there’s always this sense that we aren’t allowed to feel differently lest we be these unreasonable harpies, so make sure to stay within the sanctioned opinions, ladies! Ugh, I wish we could just dropkick all this shame we are supposed to feel as women with feelings and boundaries of own into space already.

    (As an aside, my story has a happy ending. My partner is not nearly as much of a sexist jerk as the little voice in my head is, so once I told him what I was feeling, he was like “Oh, I had no idea this was affecting you this way, why don’t I just put the porn away until I get more hours at work and my sex drive comes back and you feel better” and that’s exactly what happened and everything was fine. I don’t think men, or at least men worth dating, are as dependent on porn as an integral part of their sex lives as the shaming people would like us to believe. I think that’s just a scary story they hold over our heads because seeing women express boundaries they disagree with makes them uncomfortable.)

    So anyway, yes, let your boundaries hang all out. It’s not controlling to have “I don’t want my partner to use X type of porn” as a dealbreaker, as long as you’re upfront about it, give them an honest, no-pressure chance to break it off with you in response, and it’s not part of a more general effort to control people’s private sexual expression (like the people who forbid their parners from masturbating on their own, or fantasizing about anything other than themselves, etc.) You don’t even have to justify it to potential partners if you don’t feel like having that whole conversation, you can just present it as a fact of what it takes to date you. Which is exactly what it is. If people who really ought to be unconcerned with that give you a hard time for it, a good line to shut them up is some variation on “I literally just told you this was a dealbreaker for me. So why are you trying to talk me into doing something you know I don’t want to do?” in the coldest tone you can muster. Good luck.

    1. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie August 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

      I don’t mind being a harpy. There are worse things. And being alone isn’t so bad.

      1. Safiya Outlines
        Safiya Outlines August 9, 2013 at 8:44 am |

        Tinfoil – This is the only place I could reply to you, but I wanted to say thank for your comments.

        When you threaten to take away, limit, analyze – hell, even discuss – porn, dudes really panic.

        So, so, so true.

        I spend some time on a mainly female forum. There will frequently be posts by women deeply unhappy at their husband’s/partner’s use of porn (and no, it’s not manga comics, it’s the stuff with real live people in it) or visiting lapdancing clubs.

        These women are often made to feel “uncool”, “possessive” “controlling” for daring to object as “men have needs” and “boys will be boys” and then they might get a load of advice on how to get their husband’s attention back.

        That’s why I give such a side eye to “the women being cool about porn is so progressive”, because to me, it is too often a trojan horse packed with some decidedly unprogressive attitudes.

        1. yes
          yes August 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm |

          I don’t find it all that strange that men (and women) will “panic” when someone is trying to control them. Telling someone what they are and are not allowed to watch is controlling.

          I also think that the still lingering shame/offense/blahblahblah idea that at least American society holds about porn is part of the reason. We have an enduring puritanical, censor-friendly trend in west. You can’t discount that from the “fuck you” reaction people have over being told what to enjoy and not enjoy.

          Lapdancing is obviously another matter.

          In simple terms, I have a problem with people complaining about being bullied into not bullying other people.

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

          By that logic simply negotiating a monogamous relationship is controlling and bullying your partner.

        3. EG
          EG August 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

          Yeah, because women expressing unhappiness is totes the same as controlling or bullying men. Nothing misogynist to see here, nope.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

          Telling someone what they are and are not allowed to watch is controlling.

          Who’s doing that, then? I mean, someone won’t let you into their body if you watch X. Plz to tell me why you think you’re entitled to challenge the conditions whereby someone is willing to let you enter their body with yours.

          Creep.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm |

          I mean seriously, the entire context of this post is “I won’t sleep with men who watch porn”. Do you think that is unreasonable as a personal dating standard? Flowerpuff hasn’t said jack about forcing partners to stop watching porn, or demanding anyone to stop watching porn. Merely that she won’t sleep with someone who watches porn.

          Or is the underlying assumption that women aren’t allowed to have dealbreakers? Or that those dealbreakers are up for negotiation in a way that “I won’t sleep with someone who won’t let me watch porn”, a more stereotypically male position, isn’t? Why is not-watching-porn up for talks, but watching-porn is this inalienable right? Why is it so damn hard for people, apparently, to say “well, to each their own dealbreaker, sorry we’re not going to be bumping uglies”?

        6. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

          Telling someone what they are and are not allowed to watch is controlling.

          It’s a good thing you don’t have to date those people then.

        7. yes
          yes August 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

          It’s generally considered poor manners to respond to a short post before reading it, creep.

        8. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm |

          We seem to be on the same wavelength for sure, Safiya Outlines.

          As for you, “yes,” not everything men do is sacrosanct. It’s not abusive to refuse to accept hitting, for example. Porn is not just some harmless little entertaining lark created in a vacuum. So go ahead and pout about being “controlled” – that right there speaks volumes about your sense of male entitlement.

        9. yes
          yes August 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

          Please don’t project traits or statuses on me that you are entirely ignorant of.

  25. Ashley
    Ashley August 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm |

    I know plenty of guys who don’t like porn for their own reasons– because they feel it limits their imagination, because they worry about reinforcing patriarchal beauty standards in their own minds, because visual stimulation isn’t their thing, etc. etc… I don’t think this boundary means not dating by any means. It just means finding someone who already doesn’t like porn, or who doesn’t consider watching it alone a core part of their sexual identity.

    1. TomSims
      TomSims August 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

      It’s fair to say that men of the Christian Right don’t watch porn, or at least they will not admit to watching porn.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve August 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm |

        It’s fair to say that men of the Christian Right don’t watch porn, or at least they will not admit to watching porn.

        Surveys show porn use as highest in Bible belt areas.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        2. TomSims
          TomSims August 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

          “Surveys show porn use as highest in Bible belt areas?

          What surveys would that be Steve?

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm |

          “Surveys show porn use as highest in Bible belt areas?

          What surveys would that be Steve?

          errrr…the one I linked to

          #perplexed

        4. TomSims
          TomSims August 12, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

          “errrr…the one I linked to

          #perplexed”

          I missed that earlier Steve. No doubt the bible thumpers have had their share of sex scandals over the years. But I do think, none would ever admit they go to porn sites. And as the post I was replying to stated there are some men that don’t watch porn, and Christians popped into my mind. Of course there is a very small amount of male asexuals and maybe there are a few Christians that actually have never watched any porn. But IMO that has to be a very small number.

  26. mozmozmoz
    mozmozmoz August 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

    can still have problems with sex as an industry that feeds off human beings in a very uncaring way with money as a huge driving factor.

    I’m curious about how this plays out for someone living in an industrial society. Unless sex is somehow special, the exploitive and uncaring nature of most jobs would make life very unpleasant for the ethical consumer (starve or compromise). Forget having the money to purchase things, it’s a matter of having the time and energy to thoroughly investigate the particular suppliers of every single thing you buy. Was this fair trade banana shipped ethically?The international cargo shipping industry is a hive of exploitive practices at times verging on slavery… no bananas for you.

    If someone did respond “sex is special, I will happily eat food grown by slaves”… we have ethical differences that no amount of masturbation will resolve.

    1. Flowerpuff
      Flowerpuff August 9, 2013 at 11:44 am |

      Yeah, I prefer fair trade, ethically or locally produced goods myself. I HAVE to eat, and buy food as ethically as I can. I do not have to use live action porn to survive, or even have orgasms, so I feel the labor abuses carry a different level of cruelty and deliberation when porn happens in that industry.

      Just my personal feelings, I totally get some people have found porn they feel is ethical and totally think some varieties of porn cause limited or no harm to people in the making of it.

      This world is a cruel place and in living in it we are all tainted with the deeds of filling our needs. I am still guided by ahimsa in my attempt to do the most good and do the least harm with respect for each individuals experience wherever I can safely do so.

      1. Flowerpuff
        Flowerpuff August 9, 2013 at 11:49 am |

        “when porn happens in that industry. ”

        Sorry that should be “when abuses/exploitation happen in the porn industry”

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 10, 2013 at 3:22 am |

      Problem with that comparison is that food is essential, and not everyone is in a position to obtain ethically produced food, even in an industrial society (food deserts, for instance). Porn isn’t necessary at all.

      1. TomSims
        TomSims August 10, 2013 at 5:15 pm |

        “Problem with that comparison is that food is essential, and not everyone is in a position to obtain ethically produced food, even in an industrial society (food deserts, for instance). Porn isn’t necessary at all.”

        100% spot on

  27. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 12:40 am |

    Well said, Flowerpuff! I would absolutely not accept porn-watching in a partner.

  28. BroadBlogs
    BroadBlogs August 9, 2013 at 1:15 am |

    I can see a lot of potential problems with porn in terms of objectification and exploitation. So first, what is the porn like?

    Second, what is the couple like? If a couple chooses not to do porn for particular reasons, that seems completely legitimate. Some guys become porn addicts and may need to stay away from it the way alcoholics do, for instance. Who knows?

    I don’t think anyone should judge anyone else when they don’t know all the details of what’s going on.

  29. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 9, 2013 at 4:01 am |

    I think this is more about what you watch reflecting your attitudes as a person. If you think that someone’s viewing habits are an indication of their values, which the LW clearly does, then I don’t see how anyone can question the LW’s position.

    I may not want to have a partner who watches the 700 Club, or X-factor, or Big Brother, and there’s no reason I should have to give a detailed rationale for that.

  30. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova August 9, 2013 at 4:07 am |

    I think it’s very simple:

    We all have our dealbreakers.

    Having said that, I also notice in your post that you seem disturbed by the notion that someone may think you are an oddball, or undateable, or whatever. Don’t be.

    I mean, I know a guy who won’t date women who have pets – because he believes that it’s immoral. Plenty of people think that’s a bit weird, but it’s not as if he’s been lonely for these last few years. If anything, people with genuinely passionate beliefs will inspire passion in others. Or at least some grudging respect.

    I think it helps to make peace with the fact that we all have our own dating rules, or else re-examine the rule itself and see if it truly works for you or if you need to change it up a bit.

    But either way, it is not weird or odd to have you own set of standards. Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want.

    Also – a lot of people, even men, still watch porn on the sly and will never admit to it to anyone – not even their partner. I think it’s healthier to talk about it, but some folks have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” porn policy, and I guess it works for them. I’m not saying it’s a great alternative, but it’s one way some couples deal with the porn issue.

  31. AMM
    AMM August 9, 2013 at 8:53 am |

    Maybe this is off-topic, but it’s always unclear to me in these discussions what exactly constitutes “porn.”

    I say this because the closest thing to porn that I’ve watched was “the Devil in Miss Jones, Part II,” which I recall as being an explicit sex (I still chuckle over some of the scenes), but I once told a woman I was on a casual date with that I’d seen it and she scolded me at length for watching “porn, which exploits women.” (I’ve also heard “Barbarella,” which I watched and liked, called porn.)

    So: at what point does a movie (or story) with or even centered around explicit sex become “porn”?

    For me, this is relevant to the question of whether I could be in a relationship with someone who didn’t want me to “watch porn.” If “The Devil in Miss Jones” counts as porn, then it would be a deal breaker. On the other hand, I don’t watch internet porn (or much of any internet videos) and the descriptions I’ve heard haven’t made me want to, either, so I would have no trouble agreeing not to watch internet porn.

    1. Flowerpuff
      Flowerpuff August 9, 2013 at 11:34 am |

      I was discussing live action porn. I have known many women in sex work who claimed to be fine with it and then start drinking/drugging more and more and sobbing they want to die because they can’t handle it and then are back to saying they are fine with it the next day. I’ve been abused to the point I felt like I owed everyone sex and let men have whatever kind of sex they wanted even when it shredded my insides and I can’t believe I live in a culture where if that had been filmed (my willingness to consent to sex that was harming me based on men psychologically breaking me down and literally telling me I owed them these things)– that people would just masturbate to it and not care what lead me to that– I find it horrible and harmful.

      I feel like for me I was really dissociative about my feelings relating to sex and downplayed my own emotions so I just don’t at all trusted it can be ascertained who is really healthy doing porn work and whomight be harmed– and the level of destruction I’ve seen happen to people after being involved in different types of sex work leaves me wanting to protect people from this even if it means not using live action porn to get off.

      I also feel like, if one of those guys telling me what to do had told me to do porn, I can’t believe I would just have to live with people getting off to me enduring that and I would have no power to stop it even if afterwards I felt violated and hurt and wanted people to stop using my image. There are so many reasons live action porn- using real could be problematic–

      I just can’t imagine a world were if I object to that I’m innately controlling my partner or “anti-sex”. I’ve enjoyed threesomes and cuddle piles and nudy picnics and sharing fantasies with people, I don’t think anything about these concerns is “anti-sex”. I also think it’s fair as mentioned above to feel hurt by a partners porn use that involves only women with body types that are of a type the partner will never be– and to wonder if that signals an incompatability in knowing your partner wishes you were something you’re not. Maybe you could break up and they would have a chance to find a partner with a body type they actually like— OR you could find a partner who actually thinks your body is fantasy worthy.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 9:00 pm |

        Flowerpuff, I am so sorry people did such horrible things to you. Thank you for posting this. I am totally with you and give the huge side-eye to the idea that having boundaries about something could be called ‘controlling behaviour’.

      2. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

        Flowerpuff, I think youmhave a LOT of integrity. I admire you. You can meet a partner whose level of respect for you matches your level of respect for yourself. Stay strong.

  32. 30ish
    30ish August 9, 2013 at 11:13 am |

    I was once a member of a group of feminists who liked to read about & discuss a variety of issues, and the porn issue ultimately tore us apart. There were several women in the group who had moral objections to porn, and I think some personal had had bad experiences with it in relationships (like men pressuring them to try stuff that they watched). They came to the conversation from a position of having been shamed for speaking up about something they considered morally wrong and personally harmful to them. I and some other women, on the other hand, didn’t have objections to porn beyond coercion&exploitation in the actual production of it. My own personal experience was one of having felt shame for my own porn use and not daring to speak about it, and longing to finally share this experience with other women. Unfortunately, I think both sides felt misunderstood and shamed some more. It was hard for those women who objected to porn to accept that there are also women who are interested in porn & that there is no united front of women against porn. For me, it was hard to feel judged in my sexual preferences & habits, particularly because I felt I was clearly not harming anyone with them. I felt like I was considered a freak and complicit in the patriarchy merely for having some minoritarian (if that) preferences.
    What’s the point of this tale? There is more than one gendered aspect to porn. Some women suffer because they are ridiculed for their objections to porn, other women suffer because they don’t fit into the narrative of “men like porn, and women don’t”. I’ll add that I’ve also met men who were anti porn, and I’ve experienced conflicts around it that defied the gender stereotype completely. So I don’t think that a porn dealbreaker will mean “no dating men”!

  33. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

    I’m totally unfamiliar with the type of fan-based (slash?) porn to which is being referred upthread.

    Is stuff featuring sex with underage children (obviously not real ones, like drawings or even text,) considered taboo in these mediums, or is that too seen as merely fantasy by the average consumer of that sort of thing?

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

      Is stuff featuring sex with underage children (obviously not real ones, like drawings or even text,) considered taboo in these mediums, or is that too seen as merely fantasy by the average consumer of that sort of thing?

      It…depends…?

      Massive tl;dr to follow.

      Speaking personally, I’ve written two sex scenes that feature underage characters, one of the “17yos fucking each other” kind, as a giftfic, and the other of the “ancient fox spirit in a human body that is currently 16, fucking a demon who’s beetling toward his second century” variety (Youko Kurama, if you must to the google). Most of my fandoms tend to skew pretty older-reader and older-character, so even when I do encounter underage sex in fanfiction in Saiyuki (my main fandom) it’s usually written as rape/sexual abuse, and isn’t presented as, y’know. Morally A-OK. Which makes sense, because Saiyuki’s a show where pretty much all the protagonists have severely fucked-up pasts, and there’s canonical incest, rape, etc (none of which, thank fuck, is presented remotely positively). This isn’t to say that the fandom has no creepazoids – there’s one author floating around who basically just writes this one character getting raped all the time, which leaves me pretty much nauseated – but the creepazoid percentage is pretty much just that person afaik.

      I’m given to understand that there’s fandoms where incest of the parent-child kind is a pairing that people go squee over (I cannot eww enough, personally). Some fandoms have a, uh… reputation. I’ve heard some pretty ugly things about the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom, the Supernatural fandom and the Avatar: the last Airbender fandom, to take some random examples (I watch SPN, but you’d have to pay me five figures to make me dip a toe in that fandom). HP fandom also has a creepy reputation in some circles (I’m not going to name them. It’s the Snape/Harry circles – hey, I didn’t name them), and was pretty much the singlehanded engineer of Livejournal’s crackdown on fanfiction writers in general, which led to people getting banninated off the site for being in HP fandom even when they hadn’t written any underage sex; sometimes even when they hadn’t ever written sex period.

      If I had to make educated guesses about when a fandom skews more towards being cool with portraying rape/sexual abuse in a neutral or positive light, it would be:

      1) The fandom skews male
      2) The source text contains extremely creepy misogynistic subtexts (SPN fandom, I’m looking at you)
      3) The source text is aimed at older teens/young adults, who are still working through toxic internalised misogyny and thus more likely to write creepy shit into fanfiction
      4) The source text contains a large number of teenage girls. This is the one that makes me saddest, but it seems like these fandoms attract a particular kind of rape-fixated (charitably, I like to think, rape-fantasy-fixated) fanfic writer.

      So I guess, again, the tl;dr is that there’s creepy corners of internet fandom, and good corners of it, and that while portrayals of rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence etc are fairly widespread, there are fandoms where you can usually rely on them to be non-creepy. Sturgeon’s law applies liberally.

    2. Very Wordy Anon Slash Fangirl
      Very Wordy Anon Slash Fangirl August 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

      TRIGGER WARNING for just about everything under the sun

      There’s been a shift in slash fandom over the decades regarding this stuff. Long story short, initially it was very taboo, and these days, people will still argue over this stuff and judge other fans for it, but generally it seems that the rule of the day is YKINMKATIO, or Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That Is Okay, even with regards to extreme taboos like “chan” (fanfic involving underage characters; sometimes it means teens who are under 18, sometimes it means prepubscent children; sometimes it refers to teen/teen or child/child, sometimes it refers to adult/teen or adult/child). On the live-action/comic book/novels/Western media side of slash fandom, chan is proooobably the last kink it’s okay to look down your nose at, and even still it seems pretty much tolerated. The prevailing attitude is that the children depicted aren’t real, no one’s actually being hurt, some people are dealing with their own IRL abuse through writing/reading it, some people (sometimes the same people?) are identifying with the underage character in the story, not the older character, etc.

      From what I’ve heard, on the Eastern/manga/anime side, so many protagonists of manga and anime are teenagers or children (and often don’t act like realistic teens & kids), that stories about underage characters characters are seen as much less of a big deal. That said, I’m not sure if those discussions are referring to 16-year-old characters with same-age or older characters, or five-year-olds. Which… big difference there, clearly.

      (Personally, chan grosses me out — squicks me out, to use fangirl lingo — but whether or not I feel like it should all burn or it’s not hurting anyone depends on what side of the bed I wake up on.)

      In the 2000s, there were certain spaces where fans argued back and forth about the morality of writing and reading fanfic involving rape, “hurt/comfort” (a subgenre that’s just what it says on the tin: one dude being physically or mentally injured and another dude comforting him… with his penis), about BDSM, domestic discipline, etc., etc. Harry Potter fandom basically blasted all the taboos to pieces. It really mainstreamed a view of being non-judgmental about kinks and also mainstreamed a lot of outre stuff — incest, hardcore kink, rape, beastiality, you name it.

      Supernatural fandom then opened the door to what is now an even more intensely weird subgenre, Alpha/Beta/Omega, which involves dudes with knotted dog dicks and other dudes that go into heat and get pregnant and sometimes cis women have dicks and oh my God.

      So basically, a straight guy that watches the most degrading, gonzo porn out there would probably cry and hide if he saw what teen girls (and their moms!) are writing right now.

      The short answer: nothing is taboo anymore, not in slash fandom. But almost all of it is published pseudonymously or anonymously, for a variety of mostly obvious reasons.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

        From what I’ve heard, on the Eastern/manga/anime side, so many protagonists of manga and anime are teenagers or children (and often don’t act like realistic teens & kids), that stories about underage characters characters are seen as much less of a big deal. That said, I’m not sure if those discussions are referring to 16-year-old characters with same-age or older characters, or five-year-olds. Which… big difference there, clearly.

        Most of what Iève seen, thank fuck, is of the same-age kind. But maybe I just hang out in the non-creepy fandoms.

        1. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

          I almost didn’t write this, as I am not as educated on the subject as I should be, but…

          I wonder how much of this could be due to a large cultural difference. I know that for a long time the age of consent in Japan was 13 (I don’t know if it still is). Coupled with a pervasively recurring narrative of “sowing one’s wild oats” in the teen (14 to 19) years, and then settling down to pursue whatever is expected of you by your elders, it just seems like it is, maybe. I realize that not all manga and anime come from the same culture, and I am expressly talking about manga and anime, but I assume that fanfic would use said characters in the same contexts as they are presented canonically.

          Disclaimer: I am not, whatsoever, condoning, the sexual exploitation of underage persons, even if those persons are fictional.

    3. Alexandra
      Alexandra August 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm |

      When I was active in fanfiction communities, as a teenager, a lot of porn-y fanfiction that involved teenagers was written by other teenagers, iirc. I’m not a part of fandom any longer so I couldn’t say how it is any longer.

    4. feministlibrarian
      feministlibrarian August 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

      Steve, as another reader of fan fiction, I’ll chime in here and say that there probably isn’t a way to generalize about that. In my own reading, the “underage” porn is teen-teen relationships, the sort of situations covered by “romeo and juliet” laws in real life … two teenage characters technically under the age of eighteen (or within a few years of that divide — one character on one side, the other on the other side).

      An example would be Harry Potter fan fiction where pairings like Harry/Draco or Ron/Hermione might be found, with both characters under the age of eighteen.

      Basically, it’s like amateur YA lit — you can walk into a store and find plenty of YA lit on the shelves that features teenagers getting it on.

      There is also fan fiction that explicitly deals with adult/teen relationships or other relationships where there is a power imbalance of some sort (professor/student, e.g.). In my experience writers tend to grasp the bull by the horns on that front and wrestle with how to make the relationship non-coercive — sometimes even pointing out within the narrative that it may be impossible.

      In Archive of Our Own (where I write), you can identify “underage” stories explicitly in the metadata, so people who don’t want to even go there regardless of content can avoid it.

      I’m sure somewhere there’s “non-con” underage porn within a fandom; I just don’t run in circles where that occurs. And in my experience it’s pretty easy to avoid that type of narrative — just like you can avoid non-consensual or dubious consent narratives.

    5. Taylor
      Taylor August 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

      It depends on the fandoms you’re in, honestly, and the circles you run in when it comes to fandoms. I’ve found that the more children a fictional work has in it, the more likely you’ll find written/drawn versions of child porn. So something like Harry Potter has a low chance of having written/drawn child porn in it, unless you also count teenage fictional characters in your definition of child/underage, but something like…well, one of my own fandoms, My Little Pony, unfortunately has a lot of the stuff, where it gets routinely defended, because it is “just fantasy”.

      So, honestly, it just depends on where you go and who you talk to in fandom.

      (Also, slash only applies to same gender stuff, mostly m/m stuff.)

  34. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines August 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm |

    This is a response to Yes, upthread.

    The idea that women object to porn because of a prudish, censorious culture/cultural hang ups is just so much nonsense.

    Porn is nothing new. Also, it’s a false assumption that because porn is deemed socially liberal, porn is therefore socially progressive. Rather then the majority of porn consisting of mutually enjoyable explorations of pleasure, a lot it consists of women having rather uncomfortable things done to them for the sole benefit of the hetero male gaze – this is hardly progressive or liberatory.

    In context of the thread, for some, there seems to be some basic Feminism 101 knowledge missing with regards to how society discourages and makes it difficult for women to express and assert their needs and boundaries. This is basic, basic stuff that if you don’t know about, you possibly need to take a seat and do some listening for a bit.

    1. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie August 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

      Whew! Thank you!!

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm |

      Well said!

  35. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

    I’d like to address the really popular notion that all guys use porn, using Flowerpuff’s criterion – whether or not this porn could be being made off the rape or abuse of a living person – and really figure out if live-action porn being a dealbreaker is likely going to fuck with someone’s dating prospects or not.

    First off, if you’re turning 49% of the human population into a monolith, you’re probably wrong right out of the gate. So there’s that. So let’s be charitable and assume 90% of men use porn. Okay, cool.

    What’s the medium of their porn-watching? This thread’s proven conclusively that there’s lots of kinds of porn that contain no possibility of raping a person merely by existing. We’ve covered fanfiction, fanart, erotica of the written and drawn kind, animated porn, etc. Is it unreasonable to assume that some men don’t primarily or exclusively consume these kinds of pornography? Is it, further, unreasonable to assume that there are no men who currently watch live-action sex acts who could be quite content and fulfilled with some or all of these ethical options?

    It’s fairly evident that some people have fetishes and kinks that aren’t inherently involving sex(ual intercourse?). Shoes, for example, or charming elbows, or handcuffs. Hell, Val just reminded me about the guy who wrote in to Dan Savage about his huge and irrepressible thing for swimcaps. A well-thumbed Sears catalogue (for the discerning trenchcoat fetishiser) doesn’t involve possibly raping anyone, unless it’s changed in recent years. A lot of what people might describe as porn – or pornographic – is based entirely on consumer perception. Dating a certain kind of kinky person might actually give better results re: no real penchant for live-action porn viewing.

    Third. Is giving your SO pics/video/recordings of yourself Being Sexy porn? Because I know people who’re quite happy with that arrangement.

    1. Jamie
      Jamie August 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm |

      As someone who was basically raised in Fanfiction Nerd World, with all the porny stuff it creates and celebrates, I have to say, while fanfic gets shout-outs on tv and there have been mainstream articles and all that jazz, it’s clearly still not mainstream the way Live Action Hetero Dude Porn is. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most hetero cis dudes that are into porn, and a lot are, are into mainstream live action hetero dude porn. And because the industry caters to the need of hardcore repeat customers rather than casual viewers*, the more gonzo (read: violent, degrading**) stuff filters more and more into mainstream porn, since that’s what those repeat customers are into. I realize this is Robert Jensen’s thesis all over, but I’ve got two friends who work in the hetero-dude-mainstream-porn world, one behind the camera, one in front and behind the camera, and they confirm this.

      I realize there’s a lot of dudes out there into hentai, but hentai is not exactly a progressive paradise. I have this game when I go to Otakon: is there any girl on the cover of a hentai DVD that doesn’t look terrified or embarrassed? If yes, and you can count them on more than one hand, everyone gets a dollar! (That last part is a lie. I give out no dollars.)

      And even saying that… I think it’s safe to say that a good number of dudes consume porn, and the idea that most of it’s Snarry fanfic just beggars belief. Mac, you are awesome and I generally love your comments, but this honestly feels like a derail. We all know what kind of porn the OP is talking about and feels uncomfortable with. This isn’t a conversation about, idk, Non-Mainstream Porn Erasure.

      *Interestingly enough, a lot like Marvel and DC comics.

      **One person’s “violent and degrading” is another person’s “ooh la la,” and I don’t use those terms to shame or judge women that kink on “problematic” stuff — Lord knows my Id isn’t a pristine socially progressive wonderland. But for this small group of hardcore male audience members, the point is that it’s violent and degrading to women.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm |

        Mac, you are awesome and I generally love your comments, but this honestly feels like a derail. We all know what kind of porn the OP is talking about and feels uncomfortable with. This isn’t a conversation about, idk, Non-Mainstream Porn Erasure.

        Oh man. I guess I wasn’t clear. I was trying to offer the OP options and alternatives to bring to the table when negotiating with partners who might consume porn, not pretend that fanfic is on par with live-action porn in The Mainstream(TM).

      2. Jamie
        Jamie August 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm |

        Oh! My bad! I was reading fast, I may have misread you.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 10, 2013 at 12:10 am |

          Hey, no, don’t worry about it! I didn’t make myself terribly clear, on a second re-read…

      3. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia August 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm |

        Very interesting observation about the comics industry (at least the big 2).

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm |

      “Third. Is giving your SO pics/video/recordings of yourself Being Sexy porn? Because I know people who’re quite happy with that arrangement.”

      How is that relevant, mac? It’s the same two people involved, not one of them wanking to footage of other people having sex. It’s also pretty clear that’s not what the LW was talking about.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve August 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm |

        How is that relevant, mac? It’s the same two people involved, not one of them wanking to footage of other people having sex. It’s also pretty clear that’s not what the LW was talking about.

        She’s offering Flowerpuff an option, not an option that someone of my advanced age and waist size would take seriously, but it does fit FP’s requirement of being non-exploitative and would provide your partner masturbation fodder. Mac can correct me on this, but I just saw her comment as an answer to the question ‘What if I don’t want my partner to use porn due to potential consent issues?’ (Make your own sex tape)

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 10, 2013 at 12:11 am |

          You’re absolutely right, Steve! Though I can’t blame Kitteh for her interpretation, because on a second read-through I really didn’t make it very clear.

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 10, 2013 at 3:18 am |

        Sorry, mac, and thanks, Steve! I did totally misunderstand.

        As an option, that makes a lot of sense.

  36. feministlibrarian
    feministlibrarian August 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm |

    For what it’s worth, having just re-skimmed/read the thread to-date, I think there’s a distinction to be made between:

    a) Setting a boundary as a pre-condition to entering into a relationship (e.g. I will only be in a monogamous relationship; I will not date someone who is okay with using filmed, live-action porn) and selecting mates who agree with your life choices … mamram made the point upthread about veg*ns choosing to date other veg*ns. That’s not controlling, that’s just selecting someone who meshes well with your worldview. Since the other person in your partnership is presumably like, “Yay! Someone else who doesn’t enjoy porn, let’s get it on!” then all is well and dandy.

    b) Negotiating for non-porn (or anything else) within a pre-existing relationship were a value, activity, etc., which is important to one partner turns out to be upsetting — maybe even a deal-breaker — with the other partner(s). People change within a relationship, so maybe you both started out hating porn but one of you has decided to give select kinds of porn a try. Maybe in the beginning of your relationship you were totally A-OK with your partner jerking off, but right now you’re going through a period where that’s really scary. Maybe you got together on your shared loathing of procreation, but now one of you is starting you yen for pregnancy and parenting. Maybe you both agreed that the West Coast was where it was at, 150% … and then one of you got a dream job in Connecticut. Basically, in long-term relationships Shit Happens which we can’t predict and people change — and THAT is when we need to think about what our individual limits are, and how much “control” we can and/or should try to exert over a situation in which two or more people need to have non-coerced, equal say in what the outcome will be.

    I absolutely support everyone who has already said that voicing feelings of discomfort (or anger or injury or whatever feelings you have around a partner enjoying porn) is not inherently controlling. HAVING FEELINGS IS NOT CONTROLLING. It’s just having feelings. SPEAKING THOSE FEELINGS IS NOT CONTROLLING. It’s just voicing what is going on inside you.

    In the context of a relationship, if someone violates (or asks to change) a boundary of yours — decides they’re poly, for example, while you want to remain monogamous — then (in a non-abusive context) you have the ability to either revisit your objections to monogamy or decide the terms of your relationship have changed so much that you aren’t comfortable with the new boundaries. They’ve changed and so have you. If you both want to invest the energy and time into discovering whether you can still be compatible, then go for it … but if one or both people are at a point where that doesn’t feel like a possible or positive option, then you can decide to end the relationship.

    Within a pre-existing relationship, it seems to me that ideally pornography (and erotica fantasies of all kinds) would be a constant, open topic of conversation if it was part of the couples’ sexual intimacy or sexual selves. In that context, when someone’s discomfort comes up it’s not an “OMG I JUST DISCOVERED YOU WATCH PORN I DON’T LIKE,” but more like, “gosh I’ve been reading this book about the porn industry that disturbs me, can we talk about where we/you are sourcing our/your porn?” or “For some reason the fact you’re talking about watching porn while I’m away on a trip is bothering me today, can we talk about why and what to do about it?”

  37. zaebos
    zaebos August 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm |

    Totally fair and not odd at all to have that boundary. Trust me, it’s better to have a boundary than demanding people to change.

  38. Radiant Sophia
    Radiant Sophia August 10, 2013 at 11:10 pm |

    I think that if I was dating, most men would think that I’m incredibly controlling. No sex (with me, they can do what they want with other people, just not in the space I live in), no drugs, no alcohol. I’m not even sure that qualifies as “dating”, but those are the ground rules that I need to feel safe. Those are the rules my partner and I agreed on, and we are a few months away from a decade together. I think that there are probably (far) more men who would be o.k. about not watching live-action porn than would be o.k. dating me. I don’t think it is unreasonable, I don’t think it is controlling, I don’t think it is something “all men do”, and I don’t think it is something that you should be bullied into accepting when you are clearly uncomfortable with it.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm |

      I don’t think you’re controlling at all. Controlling would be, I dunno, marrying someone without stating that you have any of these dealbreakers, having a kid or two with them and then suddenly spring out how BETRAYED AND HURT you are that they’ve been having sex with you/drinking alcohol around you/putting ketchup on their grilled cheese sandwiches. Like I said upthread, I don’t think any condition that’s clearly laid out is controlling. I think stopping people from leaving if they don’t like those conditions is controlling; I think calling them cheaters or liars or evil for wanting sex/drugs/alcohol (while still being in a relationship with them) is controlling. You’re just healthy.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 11, 2013 at 1:07 am |

        Seconded, mac.

        (Though putting ketchup on grilled cheese sandwiches is EVIL.)

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 11, 2013 at 1:13 am |

          ;_; But it’s yummy!

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 11, 2013 at 3:31 am |

          KETCHUP IS EVIL

          ALWAYS

          /antitomatosaucist

      2. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia August 11, 2013 at 1:25 am |

        This is, I realize, completely off topic, but I need to apologize to the both of you (and Lola) about some things I wrote 2 weeks ago. You both know what and why. I was rationalizing and projecting my fear, and it’s not an excuse, but I was unmedicated at the time.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 11, 2013 at 1:43 am |

          Sophia, don’t worry about it, really, on my behalf anyway. The way I figure, we’ve all got some screwy notions about sex, and hey, it’s not like I haven’t been called out for shit here either. Please don’t fret; I don’t think badly of you at all.

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 11, 2013 at 3:34 am |

          Bein’ the mac echo chamber again here, Sophia – no need to worry about it on my account, either, meds or no meds.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 11, 2013 at 9:28 am |

          No worries, Sophia. I always find your contributions to the discussion interesting, even if we disagree!

  39. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 11, 2013 at 11:08 am |

    I look at porn regularly and my partner has no problem with it. Ethically, I’m a stickler for authenticity, so my preference is amateur stuff. The issues that make many people queasy always make me wince. Sometimes I come across very debasing pictures and videos, but I immediately delete them. If they are labeled with derogatory terms like “bitch” and “slut”, these too go into the trash.

    Being bisexual, I also appreciate gay male porn. I have found a couple excellent websites where queer men can submit their own sex videos. There are certain motifs in gay porn that make me uncomfortable, mainly the dominate/submissive dynamic. Feeling overpowered against my will, even if it is consensual does not appeal to me at all.

    But I will say that, in what I appreciate, these issues are the minority. I appreciate exhibitionists who consent to their nude images being placed online. There are never shortages there.

    I think that it’s important to not view all porn the same way. The stuff with fake breasts, plastic surgery, and fake lesbians I avoid like the plague. Sadly, for so many men, this is their introduction to sexual images and sexual content. Men get mixed messages about the sort of sexuality they are supposed to enjoy.

    I guess I’m odd. I can’t really ever see myself having sex with a Playgirl playmate or a Playboy playmate. All of the supposed imperfections of a random stranger’s picture are far more appealing to me than the gloss and distortion of a studio.

  40. Annie
    Annie August 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

    I dunno. Considering we live in a day and age where practically anyone can shoot and make their own porn, what’s to stop you from making awesome, ethical, sexy porn? Or is that also degrading?

    1. TomSims
      TomSims August 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm |

      “I dunno. Considering we live in a day and age where practically anyone can shoot and make their own porn, what’s to stop you from making awesome, ethical, sexy porn? Or is that also degrading?”

      Well stated. I was wondering if someone was going to mention this. I was watching TV a few months ago and they were interviewing mainstream porn producers and they said their biggest competition was from amateurs uploading free porn on line. And you’re right, I’m sure their will always be overly sensitive types that will be offended by people making a free choice to upload hardcore porn made by them and other consenting adults to on line sites.

    2. trees
      trees August 12, 2013 at 6:14 pm |

      I dunno. Considering we live in a day and age where practically anyone can shoot and make their own porn, what’s to stop you from making awesome, ethical, sexy porn? Or is that also degrading?

      Maybe she doesn’t wanna. So what?

      1. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet August 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

        Who said anything about “she”? There’s plenty of solo porn, and I’m sure there’s plenty of men that can get off to videos of themselves.

        1. trees
          trees August 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

          …what’s to stop you…?

          you = letter writer

          Or is that also degrading?

          Letter writer has issues with porn.

        2. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm |

          “You” can also be a general you. You never know :)

          Letter writer has issues with porn.

          Which are that women may be being forced/coerced into it.

        3. trees
          trees August 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |

          “You” can also be a general you. You never know :)

          Right, but the whole point of the post is that it’s meant to be feedback to the letter writer.

          “Letter writer has issues with porn.”

          Which are that women may be being forced/coerced into it.

          Up in the comments, I think the letter writer also mentions the possibility of being coerced into making amateur porn.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |

        Then she doesn’t…?

        I don’t see what’s wrong with the suggestion, personally.

        1. trees
          trees August 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

          Then she doesn’t…?

          I don’t see what’s wrong with the suggestion, personally.

          ’cause porn use and/or participation is already a cultural default.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm |

          Lots of things are cultural defaults though. Doesn’t make suggesting them (in the abstract) problematic.

        3. trees
          trees August 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm |

          Lots of things are cultural defaults though. Doesn’t make suggesting them (in the abstract) problematic.

          In the context of pressure to participate and prude-shaming attached to refraining, I’m saying it’s okay not to be into it. She already knows she can make her own since the culture is shouting that fact at her.

        4. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 12, 2013 at 8:21 pm |

          I…really don’t think making porn is a cultural default :/ Starring in porn is definitely not something society condones. Sure, it’ll push women into it, and use women if they’re unwilling, but women are also shamed for it, discriminated against for it (if they ever want to have a non-sex-work career it can be used against them, see the people that have been fired when their porn work was discovered by their bosses) and then there’s the whole hypocritical not-my-sister/mother/cousin/girlfriend/neighbor/best friend crap, even when they’re trotting over to the adult megashop an hour later.

        5. trees
          trees August 12, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

          I…really don’t think making porn is a cultural default :/ Starring in porn is definitely not something society condones. Sure, it’ll push women into it, and use women if they’re unwilling, but women are also shamed for it, discriminated against for it (if they ever want to have a non-sex-work career it can be used against them, see the people that have been fired when their porn work was discovered by their bosses) and then there’s the whole hypocritical not-my-sister/mother/cousin/girlfriend/neighbor/best friend crap, even when they’re trotting over to the adult megashop an hour later.

          Yes of course, all of that is also true. We’re talking about personal use of porn and the making of homemade porn.

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