My false dilemma

Dr. Daley on Sex and Relationships

Dear Dr. Daley: As an “enlightened” male, I have a love/hate relationship with pornography. I realize that many porn “actresses” are forced into the business as a last resort, while others are pressured into situations and sexual acts that they would otherwise avoid simply to make money. Worse, many women in the sex industry are “acting out” as a result of previous sexual abuse, and I can’t help but worry that truly degrading pornography may contribute to a cycle of sexual violence. However, I also see pornography as a legitimate channel for my biological need to reproduce often and with many partners. It’s certainly less risky than actually having sex with multiple partners. And while pornography doesn’t solely prevent me from cheating on my wife, it doesn’t seem to hurt. What is your opinion of pornography as a tool to help maintain a focused, monogamous relationship? Or is pornography itself a form of cheating?

Ah, a smart boy! He knows just enough evolutionary psych theory to make him dangerous. For those of you who forgot to go to college, evolutionary psychology is our theory du jour, used to explain all our behaviors from boys’ promiscuity (enhances his chances of spreading his DNA across the planet) to girls’ scanning cute male butts for signs of fat wallets (shows her who’s got the goods to take care of her offspring through their long dependency period).

Dear writer, you’re in a big club. Nowadays everybody wants to justify their cave-child behavior using these big, unwieldy clubs. Let me ask you this: Since you are smart enough to know that a male’s ejaculation triggers some brain action very close to the sleep center (okay, now you have good excuse for passing out right after you get yours), does it occur to you that in evolutionary terms this gives your ovulating sweetheart an opportunity to audition other members of the tribe for their, ahem, mate potential?

In other words, don’t give us this “It’s in my genes” crap. You’re supposed to have more gray matter than brainstem by now. Or do we need to send you in for an MRI?

And “porn vs. cheating” is known in logic as a false dilemma. Look it up.

Folks have enjoyed visual images of people doing the deed(s) since we actually did live in caves. Right after the Gutenberg press made it possible for more people than ever before to read the Bible, what do you think was the second thing they printed? Words and pictures designed to get the juices flowing, and images of acts forbidden even among the truly sinful. Fornicating clergy was one very popular theme. Sex with children and non-humans. You name it. It’s an old art.

2007. The Internet provides you with thousands of sexual images, new ones every day, more than you can possibly get to. It’s jack-off heaven. Great. Have at it. As long as you can tear yourself away from yourself in time to earn a living, who cares?

Ohhhh. Your wife. That pesky little creature! Never horny, too busy working full time, taking care of babies, doing up the laundry and the dishes and the ironing and the toilet scrubbing and the grocery shopping (surely a smart boy like you knows the data about how much domestic help women are getting now that they have flooded the marketplace: pretty much none), and then bitching about how she’s too tired to pose naked for you at night. High maintenance bitch!

And here you are, too tired and too horny to help her with the drudge work, or hold her hand without pinching her nipples, or plan a whole date night single-handedly to wine and dine her off her feet. I guess all that siphoning off of your yang essence is wearing you down.

This is the thing – okay, there are a couple of things: One, porn and masturbation can become problematic when they detract from your #1 interpersonal relationship. Images on a computer screen never ask you to take out the trash, and every single one of them thinks you are the hottest stud on the planet with the hugest cock ever. They are always glad to see you coming, you great big monster you – especially when you’re coming all over their smiling, simpering faces. It is much more difficult to work out an adult relationship with another human being.

Two, this level of gratification and self-absorbed pleasure-seeking fits well within the model of any addiction. You like it, you want it, it feels good, you escape to it whenever possible, you do it even when you meant not to, you do it in secret, you do it when your sweetheart complains about it, you lie about how much you do it, you wouldn’t feel real great telling the people you love the extent of your habit, etc. You almost can’t help doing it! You decide it’s in your genes!

photo / Andrew Ratto Creative Commons licensed: Attribution 

Three, why don’t you ask a number of your female friends and acquaintances to check out the history section of your sticky little laptop and tell you what they think? Sure, lots of women in porn do it because they are celebrating their sexual freedom and enjoying their natural beauty in ways designed to increase the median pleasure level in this sad, war-torn world. We’ll call them the Mother Teresas of Crotch Shots. But a whole lot of women find pornography highly demeaning, objectifying, and exploitative of women, not to mention disrespectful. Repeated exposure to visual images can desensitize us to what’s being portrayed, whether it’s rape, other kinds of violence, or a nameless naked woman being vaginally and anally penetrated simultaneously while she sucks a giant dick and performs two hand-jobs at once. You begin to think of women as holes, and lots of women don’t like that.

How would you feel if those women were your sisters? Your mother?

Four, I think all committed couples need a masturbation policy. If your wife is perfectly happy for you to spank your cute little monkey all day and all night (thereby letting her off the hook), fabulous. Treat yourself to a pump bottle of Pink and live it up. Note: You should still do more housework.

But if your wife would prefer a little more time, affection, and attention from you even though warming her up sexually takes a certain amount of effort and interaction, I hope you will consider having some conversations with her about creating a happier sexuality for the two of you. Quality versus quantity, perhaps. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in relationships with actual people.

I sure would love to hear from some of the women who create these images. Not so much the ones who are paid for it; we all have to make a living somehow. I’m more interested in learning from the women whose images flood the thousands of websites men seem to be drooling over these days. What do you think?

About the author Dr. Nancy Daley is a licensed psychologist and adjunct assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at The University of Texas at Austin. If you would like to submit questions for her to answer in this column, please send them to drdaley at thatotherpaper dot com.

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Mrs. Bird's picture
reader | good comments

Did the writer send you a much longer letter? You seem to be responding strongly to the idea he doesn’t help his wife out much, or have any sexual relationship with her….anyway…

I think anything becomes “cheating” in a relationship when it takes the focus off the other person at the detriment to the relationship. For instance, if my guy hates it when I hang out with a male friend (platonically) and I go behind his back regardless of what agreements I’ve made, if I lie to cover tracks etc even if its platonic. I think I’ve been cheaterly or dishonest with him.
I agree that it has addiction components.
It seems like most anything can triangulate one partner away from the other, whether its working out, smoking, drinking, porn, livejournalling….if its something that keeps you from having an emotionally/physically intimate relationship, its probably worth looking into.
But if your wife doesn’t mind, then relax. My guess is she does mind. Or doesn’t know. Or isn’t into the kind of erotica you enjoy. Is their any erotica you could…um…share???
What a concept. Could porn or erotica actually be used as a tool to get closer, rather than farther apart? If so, then the “Mother Teresa’s of Crotch Shots” can rejoice in a job well done.
I’d say to find out what she likes, what men she thinks about (cause I bet she does) and share the info and the love.
Then you’ll really not be cheating, her OR yourself.
Mrs. Bird.

Anonymous's picture

Dr. Daley, but your sarcasm and reader berating gets a little old. I mean it’s amusing and you make good points, but these are kind of sensitive subjects after all. Not as annoying as Adam Corolla was, but does sex advice have to served up with a helping of snark?

Noid's picture

“a masturbation policy?”


Should a loving couple just get a pair of chastity belts and hold each others keys, as well?

Why do I get the impression where if you could live in some sort of matriarchy of talibanesque sexual repression, that you would be packing your bags right now?

The vitriol against sexuality here is very shocking. I can only imagine how much flack it would generate if were a male doctor admonishing a female patient for normal sexual desires.

Masturbation, like anything, can be done to excess - but to treat it with such open hostility is really odd.

Anonymous's picture

Dr. Daley,

I enjoy your column, and this one in particular. I think it hit the nail on the head for a lot of relationships, especially how easy it is to get & hide porn these days.

And I like your wit. Makes a sensitive subject easier to read and relate to.

Anonymous's picture

This is the first time I have read one of your columns, but I knew by the end of the second paragraph that you were an angry woman.

Sure we all need to be concerned with keeping our wives happy. But no matter how much laundry, dishes or cuddling I do, my wife is nowhere near as “interested” as I am on a daily basis.

Fact is, that women don’t start “ramping up” until we start the downhill slide. That’s why Viagra and Cialis are on the market. Where’s the female version of those drugs? Where? Oh yeah, there’s not one because it’s not needed.

Well, maybe by Dr Daley