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On whether porn is cheating

A friend of mine (who knows damn well how to wind me up) sent me a link to a forum on which they were discussing the question “Is watching porn cheating?” to which the answer any sane human being would give is very obviously ‘no.’ On the thread women (and some men who are recovering porn addicts) argue that perhaps it is, and that it certainly feels like it is when a lady accidentally stumbles across her boyfriend’s internet history.

After a brief Google around the subject I discovered that rather than being a mockable minority, the people who believe porn is cheating are not only serious, but worryingly numerous.

I’m presumably preaching to the choir here, but I’d like someone to disagree with me so I can form my argument more fully than I have in this post, which essentially consists of me going “What the ACTUAL MENTAL FUCK ARE YOU ON ABOUT” over and over again.

My boyfriend watches porn and it’s like he’s fucking someone else

No. It’s not at all like he’s fucking someone else because it’s just some pictures on a fucking screen. You’re no more cheating when you watch porn than you’re a vampire when you read Twilight, or a member of the Secret Seven when you crack out the childhood Enid Blyton books.

You sometimes put yourself in the place of people acting in scenes in order to enhance your enjoyment of the material, but that does not mean you are actually there. It doesn’t even mean that were these people performing a live show right in your living room and getting their awesome porny juices all over your sofa, you would join in.

But it’s cheating in the mind, right?

No. Because what you’re describing there is a thought crime. If watching porn is cheating then writing slashfic is a form of rape.

I think this comes from female (and it is usually female – I’d like to see how men react to the idea that their girl watching porn is ‘cheating’) worries about not being adequate, and their partner being sexually interested in other people and things. It’s ‘cheating’ because he’s getting off to something that isn’t you, and that taps into a fairly primitive female jealousy about boys leaving their girlfriends for younger/prettier/thinner/more-willing-to-do-anal models.

Well, it probably sucks for these girls to hear this but he is interested in other people. Sexually. No matter how stunning or sexually adventurous you are, you are not the only thing that makes your man’s dick hard. Nice though you might think that would be, it’s not practical, nor even desirable. Many of his best moves have probably come from things he’s seen while doing some one-handed browsing during an idle moment.

But what he watches is so disgusting and degrading

Hahahaha.

Haha.

No, seriously, stop it – you’re killing me.

It’s so much easier to demonise men for the porn they watch because men tend to require more visual stimulation than women do to get off. In short – you can watch theirs too whereas yours is probably locked away inside your head. Saying that their fantasies are ‘degrading’ and ‘disgusting’ is really easy to do when your own fantasies aren’t exposed for all to see, at the click of a mouse on the 3 a.m. section of your Chrome history.

SECRET ALERT: Women’s fantasies can be disgusting and degrading too.

While John’s beating one out to a video of someone getting beaten on YouPorn, Jane might be having just as much fun imagining biting into her partner’s abdomen until she draws blood and he whimpers and comes into her red and ready lips. Or thinking about her old Geordie history teacher reaching into her open shirt while she finishes off her homework, squeezing her nipples and calling her a ‘good girl’ then dragging her to the front of class to finish the rest while sitting on his lap. Ahem.

I’ve never been as degraded, humiliated, used and spat upon as I am in my own fantasies. It’s extremely lucky for me that most exist only in my head and not on an easily accessible hard drive.

Porn and sexual fantasy is by its nature degrading because the people in it are there for one purpose – to get you off. Even if you’re rubbing one out to the thought of your ex (who you’re still hopelessly in love with, and have a deep and abiding respect for) touching you up until his cock throbs, at the moment you’re fantasising you don’t give a fuck if he’s real or unreal, alive or dead – all you care is that his fictional dick is hard and his fictional fingers are fumbling at your fictional crotch through your pretty, fictional, soaking wet knickers.

But it’s a violation – it just feels disgusting

Porn is disgusting. Your fantasies are disgusting. But that’s OK. We can wallow in gallons of misery and shame during frantic solo sessions and no one gets hurt – our relationships don’t get a fucking look in. You imagine some things in private that you wouldn’t dream of in real life, because it’s unreal – and the unreality of it is what allows you to abandon yourself.

Your wanking is your wanking – it has little to do with your partner or your ex-partners or the guy who delivers you pizza – it has everything to do with the things you think inside your head, or the things that happen inside your head when you’re watching the teeny screen people frig each other off for your delectation.

Wanking (whether to porn or to your own imagined depravity) is usually a solo sport – it wouldn’t work if we allowed others to scrutinise it properly.

If we start giving that the ‘cheating’ label to our personal fantasy life then monogamy is not just dead but hung, drawn, quartered, burned, then fired out into space to make sure it’s gone forever.

If wanking is cheating then no one is faithful.

26 Comments

  • blue_eyed says:

    I agree with all of this, and basically commented to show some love for your tags – especially the one re: porn with guy’s come faces. Yes please. More of that.

  • Curious Muse says:

    OK. So you asked for the alternative view. I don’t subscribe to it but I do try to listen because, like you, I wonder if one day my mind might be changed.
    I read a far more alarming mag article last year. It was about the male/ female view of cheating. For most woman respondents anything outside of 100% attention on themselves was cheating. texts, lap dances, flirting, tits mags, porn… the whole lot were rolled into one inflammatory assumption of infidelity.
    Like you I have written about the pleasure to be gained from knowing I’m with a man who has an imagination.
    For many women this is not the case. Think of a couple who have been married 20 years, there has been no sex for the last 7 years, she has put on weight after children, he never comments on her appearance, he notices other women. That woman is going to feel insecure. How much more insecure will she feel when she finds his browsing history. And is he aware of how insecure she feels? Does he feel neglected, taken for granted… I’ve had the conversations with husbands and wives. Both would rather share, neither know how to breach that gulf.
    This discussion has nothing to do with porn. It has all to do with a lack of openness and honesty in society about relationships. The great pretence that one man and one woman get together, have hot sex forever and never ever again notice a person of the opposite gender. It’s a false expectation. It feeds the insecurities of both parties. Men become secretive, women put themselves down, and wham! blame it on the porn. Useful scapegoat.
    These people shouting and yelling about their partners midnight pleasure should maybe be doing less campaigning and more open and honest communicating with their partner about what it is they enjoy, how it might be shared, how it makes them feel and listening to each others thoughts. Either that or get a divorce and marry someone else. Because it seems to me to totally lack respect in both directions if this cannot be openly discussed without hostility.

    • girlonthenet says:

      Good point, and I can see where the upset comes from if someone feels that they’re being neglected. But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with ‘porn as a scapegoat’ – perhaps more specifically ‘wanking as a scapegoat’.

      I wouldn’t want to make assumptions about why different people’s sex lives die – probably all kinds of reasons, many of which are understandable and extremely common. But yes, talking about things can frequently help, as long as the talking is done in a reasonably open-minded way. And it’s certainly better than midnight crywanking or angry accusations.

  • Curious Muse says:

    ‘wanking as a scapegoat’.

    You think? You see I don’t think women who scream infidelity over porn are thinking about the man’s needs and how he fulfills them wanking or otherwise. I think the focus, in that way women do, is upon the ‘type’ of woman they perceive that he has chosen over and above them. If the porn star were a fat ugly old crone or a titsy nubile blonde, the woman is making a comparison between herself and her supposedly morally deviant and predatory ‘rival’. There is the anger. A value judgement about the other woman. In porn as in life, the ‘other woman’ ignites the real pain. Not just the actions or choices of the man.

  • Sam says:

    Interesting article but there is something that might be a different point is “is it cheating when it comes to live webcam porn?”

    I’m not sure, but since it isn’t a passive viewing of someone else it changes things.

    Maybe it depends on the person, but what do you think?

  • Steve says:

    If porn is cheating, watching “The Notebook” must be too. Also there’s more emotional investment in the characters, so it would technically be worse cheating than porn.

  • Laura says:

    I love this rant on the subject from Coupling:
    http://youtu.be/vKGK2fplV_w
    Who doesn’t like looking at naked bottoms?

  • Totally anonymous username says:

    I think the trouble is that people confuse “my boyfriend/husband/etc watching porn hurts my feelings and makes me feel insecure” with “it is cheating”. Him going out for a drink with his mates when he’d promised to come home and empty the bins might hurt her feelings, but she can’t very well claim he’s cheating (well, I suppose she might assume he’s planning to pull someone else, but after the fact, when he hasn’t).

    If she has explained to him that it hurts her feelings and makes her feel insecure and he doesn’t care then that may be another issue. I’m not saying he has to stop watching porn, but obviously he should at least try to reassure her that he still thinks she is superfuckinghot and has no intention of actually running off with a porn star. It’s the *not caring* whether he’s hurting her feelings that’s the issue.

  • Dove says:

    See, it’s interesting that everyone assumes it is the males watching porn and females… well… at most, fantasising about it, in their minds, but definitely not watching it, right?

    Even here, you and your commenters are predominantly writing about men watching porn, not women.

    I am a woman. I have boobs, a uterus, big hips, a real love of romantic comedies and a constant desire for chocolate and bubble baths. I also watch porn.

    I actually love to double dip and watch porn at the same time as reading erotica online whilst touching myself.

    My current partner (who happens to be male) doesn’t really watch porn that much at all from what I can tell. He prefers to think of me. Which is a little sickening and weird and perverted… but y’know… to each their own.

    The only thing I’m not sure about is cybersex. I feel that if I am conversing with someone, saying what I am going to do, even anonymously, through text – that feels like cheating. So I don’t do it. He doesn’t say it’s cheating, I just feel like it is. But I guess that’s a different blog topic.

    • Totally anonymous username says:

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I wasn’t assuming that – I was assuming that the vast majority of people who consider watching porn to be cheating are women, which I am still pretty sure is true. I imagine there are plenty of men who are sufficiently possessive/controlling that it overrides the seemingly typical male response of “ooh, hot!” but I’d be amazed if they’re anything more than a sizeable minority.

  • Caramella says:

    I was talking to a friend recently, and he told me the following story:

    He and his girlfriend had just finished having sex when she noticed that he hadn’t come very much. He explained that he’d masturbated that morning, and she pressed him until he revealed that he had used porn. She then proceeded to cry for the next 3 hours.

    For the most part, I don’t care about my man’s porn consumption. I do care if it starts to impact on our interactions, or the quality of our relationship.

    But frankly, I think it’s great that my man can say “Last night, I got home, had a wank to some porn, and went to bed”. It doesn’t threaten me or make me insecure, any more than his 60-hour week threatens me, or his financial obligations, or the fact he has female friends, or that he has a man-crush on Bear Grylls. It just doesn’t fucking matter.

  • thatman says:

    So… watching porn is cheating. Unless of course you embrace the fact that your girl or man loves getting aroused… and that what he or she REALLY loves is getting turned on… and sharing it with you. Letting you know. That she’s in the bath… and thinking of getting licked by you. Or a girl. Or being watched… And there you are ( at work ) imaging in how much you’d love to be there. And it makes you relish how sexy it is that she’s touching her cunt… that beautiful wet cunt that only you know like you do… and she’s going to come. Soon. Fuck yes. Baby girl. Come for me. I’ll be home soon. Oh.. and then there’s the deliciousness of licking her… while she watches the screen… as another girl plays with herself… and then… well then… she stops watching the screen. Because she’s SO damn into what you’re doing. Don’t forget that. It’s called. Together. Mmmm Hm…

  • “You’re no more cheating when you watch porn than you’re a vampire when you read Twilight”

    – Brilliant. I shall store this in my quote bank for when some nobber makes the argument against porn!

  • On that some note, it would make fucking whilst watching porn an orgy, no?

  • N. Likes says:

    I tried to read all the comments; forgive me if I missed one that made this point, but I think cheating is whatever the fuck you think it is. If I think it’s cheating if you watch porn, then it is.

    Now… it’s also true that if I think it’s cheating if you watch porn, I’m a right fool.

    But cheating is about trust. You don’t get to define whether/when I feel my trust has been betrayed, and if I’m a fool enough to believe that it has been if/when you look at porn, then it has. Too bad for me, and my partner. But it has.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah, I’m afraid I can’t agree with you there. There has to be a line we draw (and it can be a reasonably fuzzy one, because everyone’s different) beyond which we can say ‘actually, it’s unreasonable of you to expect your partner not to do that.’ If we don’t then you could end up in a relationship where your partner things it’s unacceptable for you to look at other people, talk to certain people, have friends outside of the relationship, etc.

      Jealousy is a difficult and dangerous thing. I’m very prone to jealousy, and am fully aware that without reasonable efforts to control it I’d end up wanting guys to not talk to certain girls because I recognised that they were prettier/better in bed/more intelligent etc than I was.

      There comes a point where you have to deny your partner the right to feel jealous and betrayed when you exhibit behaviour or do things that are entirely natural and reasonable. You might disagree that watching porn is one of these things, but I hope you’d agree that there are some things for which this is definitely true. Just because you feel betrayed by something that doesn’t necessarily mean your partner should stop doing it – sometimes it means you need to get a grip on your definition of ‘betrayal.’

  • Andalya says:

    I think if he/ or she acts guilty when you stumble across their porn, it can be hard to not feel cheated on. I’m a-ok with it, but my current boyfriend made me feel a little rough by being SO embarrassed about it. I wasn’t when he found mine >.>
    I guess if they have a “favourite” that can be a little hard to handle as well. I have a tendency towards jealousy though, so I’m probably not your target audience for this particular article.
    Just to be clear though, I’ve never felt cheated on, more just a little hurt that he would be ashamed, making me feel like he’s done something wrong, does that make sense?

  • Charlotte says:

    You’re completey right, it isn’t cheating. From experience it’s easy to feel ‘betrayed’ by your man over porn, but whether or not it’s ‘valid’ to feel this way depends (in my opinion) on the discussions you’ve had about it. Like any other part of a relationship, if you talk to your bloke about porn, openly and maturly, express how you feel about it, how it makes you feel, and any compromises you can come to, if he agrees and then breaks your trust, that’s not on.
    I asked my now ex to try to remove links/browsing history that I might come across when using his computer beacuse it made me feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t videos that made me feel like this, it was the sites where normal girls post images of themselves. To me, it is far easier to feel envious of these girls, who you might catch him looking at on the street, than airbrushed or fake looking girls. Anyway, he said he understood and even admitted that he would feel the same if he knew I was looking at lots of guys dicks. We came to a compromise but unfortunately he broke it, and quite obviously so. He said he had a problem – that he looked out of habit and not for enjoyment.
    This is one example of how porn can really impact badly on a relationship. I said I didn’t have a problem with porn (I like it too) as long as it didn’t start to impact on us, and it did. I felt neglected, that he didn’t fancy me, but more importantly that I couldn’t trust him with my feelings or really listen to what I had said. I felt silly for trying to be ‘grown up’ about it when really I was strong to say anything at all.
    What I’m trying to say is, communication is key – I imagine if couples were more open about porn more women would feel alot better about it, have less to worry about (what’s he looking at, how often, does he still fancy me??) and that porn would no longer be such a taboo in some relationships.

  • P says:

    This is tricky… There was a point in my life where I couldn’t give a shit about porn… It was just a movie… To men watching porn is like watching The Lord of the rings trilogies… But then I found out the my spouse had actually cheated on me… On more then one occasion… Once 9 months after having my daughter, once while I was pregnant with our son… Now porn definatly makes me feel insecure when I find it… Like he still wants to fuck other ppl.. And believe u me I’m fifty shades of fuckong grey in our bed as is he, we’ve always been interesting, new and spontanieous… But the porn, the porn kills me… Especially after having 2 babies… I’m 110lbs… I’m not a slob… But seeing tight 19 yr old asses and perky everything, I dunno, brings back the feelings of cheating… Explain this for me…

  • Rosie says:

    I think it depends from person to person, couple to couple. Not everyone has the same type of relationship, so whereas in a conventional monogamous relationship cheating might mean sleeping with, or just kissing another person, in a more open one sleeping with someone else might be allowed, but going on dates and acting like a couple with them might not be. We already see so many labels such as “monogamous”, “polyamorous”, “dating”, “sleeping with”, “exclusive”, etc and each of these has a preconstructed set of rules.

    Although usually the “alternative” types are more open than the conventional ones, maybe there are couples who have less open relationships and would consider porn and flirting to be cheating.

    Therefore cheating is (in my opinion) not a specific act, but the violation of the agreement that the couple have made, whatever it may be, and what counts as cheating in one relationship is fine in another. Of course, you have to be able to agree what the rules are first, which I suppose is 99% of the problem.

  • Sarah says:

    Yeah, I find it interesting that you’re very against sexual judgement in any form, but here you’re mocking people and their very legitimate concerns, just because they don’t correlate with yours. If you want to pretend that porn is always an innocent way to pass a bit of time and load of come, that’s your choice, but I’m sure at some level you know that’s not the case. Porn can be harmful and damaging, to individuals as well as to relationships.

    Before my husband, none of my previous boyfriends used porn – I’d seen some, it was fine, I didn’t care for it. Mainly I was struck by the fact that lots of the women were evidently being damaged by what they were doing, so my objection was on that basis only (you may argue with this, based on the claims of current pornstars – just check out a few candid interviews with ex pornstars for the reality. It’s not nice and I don’t really get off on seeing people being slowly and gradually squashed, but that’s just me).

    My husband was very open sexually and about his use of porn from the start. I didn’t really like it, but our sex life was good and I wasn’t really exposed to it so it didn’t bother me too much…. Until the point where I was really in love with him. It’s one thing you or your partner seeing other human beings and thinking they’re attractive – it’s quite another engaging in actual sexual activity because you’re being aroused by another woman / man / person. If my partner saw a woman in the street and started frenziedly wanking over her, that wouldn’t be cool to anyone, but we accept porn. People say that porn isn’t cheating but that webcamming is, because the person can see them; or cyber is because it’s interactive. Wanking while someone fucks and getting aroused by their various parts is no different at all – you may have drawn the line there, but that doesn’t mean you’re right.

    We had a long and total sexual drought in our relationship due to my illness and medication. At least once a day, he’d go off to the bathroom with his iPad. It completely destroyed me – I would never tell him not to, since I wasn’t able to give him what he needed myself, but of course that made it even worse. I just had to block it out or it would have destroyed me. I couldn’t let myself think about what exactly he was watching, and he was hinting at watching really extreme stuff (sometimes while wracked with guilt and shame). I tell you, porn is as often a seriously negative thing as it is a frivolous bit of fun.

    When my sex drive came back, we were fucking on and off and in the lulls he would go back to his porn routine. When we finally opened up and had hours of discussions about sex, what it was he really wanted to do but could never admit etc etc, I told him how much the porn bothered me. I hated the thought of him getting not only aroused to completion by these women, but the fear that he might actually be more aroused by them, or might actually prefer it. He reassured me that he hated porn as much as I did, that it was a necessary evil for him, that he felt so morally awful about the women in it that all it did was fill him with shame anyway. He said that, given the choice, he would much rather be fucking me – or, when I’m in too much pain to have sex or be messed about with, to have a video of us.

    Since then, we’ve fucked pretty much every day (with a couple of exceptions). He’s gone from wanking once or twice a day to none. He hasn’t watched any porn (you may scoff at this, but we both work from home so I know). If he does need to wank (I’m due an excruciating week or so any day now), he now has some pretty filthy videos of me to make use of. You might not understand this, but this has given me so much happiness and confidence – in our relationship, in his respect for me and my feelings, in my own attractiveness and sex appeal. I don’t have to feel like I can’t compete with porn because it can’t compete with me or what we do together.

    I’m sure some people would call me a prude for this opinion (you wouldn’t if you’d seen the videos), but I can’t help how I feel about it – I’ve tried to address it logically, but fundamentally when my husband is apart from me, wanking to images of other women, that feels like a betrayal to me. He agrees that he would hate it if I were to be locked away in a room, frigging myself over other men. As it happens I don’t wank at all – there are days when I get super frustrated and he’s too busy / tired or whatever to take care of it, but I prefer to build that up until we can get down to it together. The best sex we have ever had was when we both abstained for a week while apart, and refused to wank, despite all the filthy emails and FaceTime close ups of rude bits. Had we both been relieving the tension each day, we would have missed out on something amazing.

    It amazes me when people can be really open-minded about sex but then completely shut down to other opinions or feelings on the subject. It’s odd to me that you can respect anyone’s right to label themselves as bi or not, or for men to use expensive single-use wank sleeves without prejudice, but you can’t respect someone’s right to feel aggrieved by their partner getting off to someone else. The human psyche is complex – what you feel is not what I feel. I don’t deserve to be mocked for that.

    As for drawing a line and saying it’s unreasonable for you to expect your partner to go without porn, what a joke. Wanking to sexual images of others isn’t a human right, and it’s most definitely not a necessity – not even for those who do it often (it may be a compulsion but it’s not necessary). Men and women are perfectly capable of wanking without porn. If you’re in a loving relationship and you have a serious problem with a non-essential thing that your partner is doing, then you should reasonably expect them to at least try to take your feelings into consideration and stop it if they can. What’s unreasonable is to expect a partner to put up with something that causes them emotional distress and pain, just because it’s something you like to do. Many women feel that porn use is infidelity, or a betrayal, or just unpleasant – and they have a right to feel that way. If it’s a real deal breaker for them, who are you to say they’re wrong? In that case, the partner has to choose what’s more important to them – if that thing is porn, then they have bigger problems, frankly.

    Oh, and seeing the ease with which my husband has gone from daily porn to none (not because I made him, but because he would rather not intentionally do something that hurts me when he doesn’t need to), just proves what a non-essential part of life it really is. Some may think I’m being a shrew, forcing him into things and making him choose between porn and me. It never even came close to that, it didn’t have to and I wouldn’t have pushed it that far if it had. The truth is, when being honest, he knew that it was unpleasant, upsetting to me and generally something he would rather not have in his life, because it was doing him harm and no actual good.

    So it’s all well and good to make porn out to be harmless, and the women who hate it to be uptight and stupid. Life is rarely that black and white, and it certainly isn’t in this case.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hi Sarah, firstly apologies that I’m not going to be able to reply to all your comments – woke up this morning to find all the comments left overnight, and thank you so much for taking the time to get in touch and give such thoughtful feedback on stuff.

      I should say that re: this piece in particular – I couldn’t agree more with you on tone. I think it’s shouty, judgmental, and unnecessarily cruel to those who do have issues with porn. It was written in the early days of my blogging, and I wouldn’t write it this way again. It’s one of a fair few that I cringe about a bit when I read it back.

      Having said that, I stand by the opinions on the blog (that I don’t think porn is – in and of itself – an unhealthy thing, and also that I would struggle to find justifications for people not to use porn/masturbate/fantasise etc when they’re in a relationship). I appreciate that you disagree with me, but ultimately I think that people being able to explore their sexuality on their own, whether that’s by watching porn, reading sex blogs, fantasising, etc, is an important part of their freedom, and isn’t something that I’d want to stop in any of my relationships. That’s not to say that everyone *has* to watch porn, or indeed that there aren’t huge problems with some aspects of the porn industry (or any industry that makes people horny, come to think of it, including e.g. erotica, some sex toy companies, etc). Sorry, this is a bit waffly, but basically I think it’s perfectly natural to have fantasies outside of your partner. I understand that can be hurtful, but personally I think that it’s pretty much impossible to get someone to stop stuff like this completely – maybe someone can stop watching porn, but can they switch off a natural desire to watch/think about/etc other people having sex? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that’s a judgment on either those who do it or those who are hurt by it.

      So yes, I’m with you that it’s not black and white, and I think I’d write this blog very differently if I wrote it today =) Probably based around the fact that I feel a bit sorry for my partner, whose masturbation life mostly consists of porn: mine’s far more fun, in my opinion, because it’s based mainly on the fantasies that happen inside my head. No one can ever police them, no one can ever feel hurt if they stumble across them, but they happen just the same.

  • Kathy says:

    I just read the article. I don’t think watching porn is cheating. My husband and I watch it together, but I watch it by myself some time’s. He knows that I watch it, I have picked out movies that way for us to watch together. Watching porn is just another way of fantasizing.

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