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Monday, September 21 2020 @ 07:14 PM CDT

Is Masturbating to Porn Cheating?


by Em & Lo

Readers are always asking us this question, and the masturbator in question is pretty much always a man. Sometimes his female partner writes to us, asking if she's right to feel cheated on. Other times the man himself writes to us, asking why his partner can't understand how benign his porn masturbation habit really is.

For better or worse, we have a feeling that this problem is going to be less of an issue in coming years -- because most of the women who are concerned about their partner's porn habit didn't come of age in an era when pornstar memoirs topped the bestseller lists and prepubescent girls wore fitted tees adorned with the Playboy Bunny logo. In other words, women who have not yet learned that porn is not a mistress, it's just a business.

But for now, it remains a huge stumbling block for many couples. While we can sympathize with our sisters on this one, we're afraid we can't side with them. After all, very few sexually active women can say they've never entertained a sexual fantasy involving someone (or something) other than their partner -- and we certainly can't sic the thought police on those who have. What's "appropriate" is so subjective when it comes to sexual fantasy, and lines are difficult to draw. There's one's imagination. And then there's erotica. How about erotica with illustrations? Or sex manuals with photographs? What happens when you swap those photos for videos? And where does a website that offers sex toys and sex-related articles fit into the picture? We may like some of the above and abhor the rest, but who are we to say where the line gets drawn?

Now, this is not to say that every man should have carte blanche to ogle any kind of porn whenever and however he wants when he's in a relationship with a woman with strong opinions on the matter. Each relationship is different, and each man's relationship to porn is different. And there's a huge difference -- at least, most women would see a huge difference -- between rubbing one out to a Playboy centerfold and getting off on gang-rape porn. There's a huge difference between the occasional porn-supported wank and a true addiction that negatively affects his real sex life, his job, his ability to bathe and call his mama regularly.

But if both of the relationships -- the one between the man and woman and the one between the man and his smut collection -- are healthy, balanced, and mature, then we don't see what the problem is. So long as a man is not prioritizing porn over sex with his One True Love, and so long as it's not affecting the amount of sex he's having with her -- BFD. And most (well-balanced) men we know only indulge in porn when their partner is out of town or out on a ladies' night, so it's not like most women are ever going to walk in on their man wanking to a Web site.

That all said, sometimes a man's porn habit does affect his partner, and it can really damage the way she views sex with him. We don't think any man should have to sacrifice his masturbation habit (in the same way we don't believe a woman should have to give up her favorite vibrator once she's in a relationship), but we don't want any woman's sexual confidence to suffer, either. So here are five tips to help women understand men's relationship to porn. Ladies, read on with an open mind -- and gentlemen, feel free to quote us liberally when explaining your habit to your partner:

1. Have you ever ogled a movie star on screen? Men's "appreciation" of the women of porn is no different: just a fleeting fantasy. We're not going to say that Hollywood and the porn industry don't have underlying negative effects on collective body image issues or expectations about sex and love, but most intelligent people can differentiate between fantasy and reality. When it comes to porn, men don't wish you looked like any of the women they wank to -- part of the appeal is that they DON'T look like you do and most of the time they don't look like anyone they'd take home to meet their mama. (Sorry, pornstars, no offense, we're just trying to help out some ladies in distress here.)

2. It is possible to be an ethical consumer of porn, so feel free to ask your man to be one. This means being confident that everything on screen is consensual, of-age, and safe, and that no actual women were harmed in the making of the film. Seriously, most animals in Hollywood movies are treated better than your average pornstar, so make sure he's being a conscientious consumer (female-produced porn is often a safe bet). This may well be enough to ease your mind, you'll find.

3. Consider this: For most men, masturbation is basically just about scratching an itch. And most men need a little visual stimulation in order to scratch that itch.

4. Try the whole "walk a mile in his shoes" theory: YOU masturbate next time you're apart from each other, either alone or on the phone with your partner. You can practice by masturbating in front of each other first. We're pretty sure you won't feel like you just cheated on your partner, even if you think of Bradley Cooper while you do it.

5. Would you perhaps feel better if you were part of your partner's porn collection? Offer to pose for a few saucy photographs that he could peruse next time you're out of town -- or just at the supermarket. Or make your own home porno together -- you could always shoot from the head down if you're feeling shy.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: monogamy can be a long, hard slog sometimes, and if we could only cut each other a little slack in the fantasy department, we reckon there'd be a lot less infidelity in this world.

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