I wrote an article last week about a husband’s great need, and right, to be respected by his wife. The article went fairly viral, so I was inundated with hundreds of emails in response to it. To my surprise, and for a refreshing change of pace, most of them were not angry or vulgar. But one theme seemed to emerge from many of the messages I received: a lot women have trouble respecting their husbands because their husbands spend so much time watching porn.
I maintain, porn or no porn, that husbands should still be treated with respect in their homes. But that does not justify porn, nor does it mitigate the impact it has on a marriage. A man who laughs at the very idea that he may be hurting his wife by watching porn only proves the point. He has become so intensely self-involved that his wife's needs are a joke to him. Even when she tells him that she is hurt by it, still, he blows her off and returns to the naked people on the screen. In this way, porn is even more insidious than a traditional, in-person affair, because it not only robs the wife of the fidelity and honor she is owed, but it even robs her of the right to feel angry and forsaken by her husband's infidelity.
Few men, unless they are outright sociopaths, would scoff at their wives for being upset at them for sleeping with the secretary. They are more likely to apologize (whether sincerely or not) and cry and beg for forgiveness. Neither party will deny that the issue is a big deal. But a man who watches porn, though he has committed a form of adultery, is much bolder when confronted. He will defend his actions and actually get outraged at his wife for being outraged. She is left feeling betrayed — and crazy for feeling betrayed.
But she is not crazy.
Her husband is turning — not just once, by the way, but every day — to other women to satisfy his sexual urges. He is cheating on her. There is no nuance to it. She’s right: it’s adultery. He whittles away hours a day sitting in a darkened room pleasuring himself while strangers have sex in front of him. He imagines himself in the place of a naked man on the screen so that he can have vicarious sex with a woman who is not his wife. It's a big deal. A very big deal. He is not really having sex with her, but so what? Perhaps he would if he had the chance, but he doesn’t, so he settles for the closest thing to it.
The whole activity is entirely selfish, of course. His wife does not exist while he watches porn. Neither do his kids. He blots them out of his mind as he plunges into the internet’s darkest recesses, looking to get his fix in increasingly depraved and exotic ways. He shrugs and yawns at his own unfaithfulness, demanding, almost self-righteously, that his wife just accept this “hobby” of his. "It's just porn," he says.
Notice that he would never allow his wife to use a similar argument against him. She could not run off and have a one-night stand with some guy she met at the gym on the basis that it's "just sex." But if porn is "just porn," then why should sex be anything other than "just sex"? A porn user certainly can't suddenly discover, when it suits him, a newfound appreciation for the sacredness and intimacy of the sexual act. His defense of porn is built on the very premise that watching two people have sex is no more morally significant than watching two geometric shapes bump together. But if that's all porn is, that's all sex is. Sex is merely two shapes bumping together. One body part inside of another. It's just a sensation. Just a romp between the sheets. Just a physical release.
Why get worked up that your wife experienced a temporary physical sensation with another guy? Don't overreact! It was just for fun! She didn’t love him! Calm down, bud. Why are you getting so bent out of shape? Sex is nothing special, anyway. Isn't that your point?
Oh, but it’s different when you’re watching, you say. But why? And how far does that logic go? Could you sit in someone’s room, two feet from the bed, and witness the act unfold? Should your wife be OK with that, too? Or is it only acceptable when there’s a screen separating you? OK, then stand out on the porch and look through the window. Is that something your wife ought to tolerate? No? So it must be a digital screen? The digital screen makes it all right?
These rules are rather arbitrary, and apparently designed to justify the particular and specific form of adultery that you enjoy. That doesn't seem very fair.
Meanwhile, as it erodes the bonds of trust that keep your marriage together, porn also ruins your wife's self-worth. It’s not hard to see why this happens. A woman will obviously begin to feel inadequate if her husband would dredge the depths of PornHub, searching desperately for literally any woman but his wife to satisfy his urges, rather than enjoy her. Again, a porn habit is arguably worse than a one-off physical affair in this way. After an affair, a wife only feels the need to compare herself to the one woman her husband slept with. If her husband looks at porn, however, she must compare herself to hundreds and hundreds of mistresses, who are all willing to do things she refuses to do and degrade themselves in ways that she will not.
And, as porn causes a wife to feel less attractive to her husband, it also makes her husband less attractive to her. Porn emasculates, and no woman desires an emasculated man. Porn is passive and self-involved — the exact opposite of masculine. A wife finds her husband most desirable when he is doing things, making himself useful, serving, protecting, providing for his family. If you want your wife to see you as a man and feel physically and emotionally attracted to you, go out and do some yard work. Help around the house. Bring home a paycheck. Read to your children. Kill a spider. Go downstairs in the middle of the night to investigate a strange noise. Solve a problem. Lead your family in prayer.
If, instead, you want her to see you as a selfish boy and feel repulsed by you, head to the basement and turn on some porn.