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In the fifth in this series of sex advice, Dr Karen Gurney, @thesexdoctor on Instagram, and director of the Havelock Clinic, answers one reader question...
Hi Dr Karen,
My husband is no longer interested in me and I fear that he doesnt find be attractive. He is also watching a lot of online porn. I checked his browsing history and he'd forgotten to erase it. Do I mention this to him? And do you think watching porn is making him stop fancying me?
Thanks Anon x
Dr Karen Gurney says:
This is a well timed question as I’ve been heavy on the porn posts on Insta this week for Sexual Health Week ’17 (the theme is porn- fantasy vs reality).
For some people, regular porn use can be a habit that can form like any other over time, and may not even be indicative of sexual desire. Just like getting home from work and pouring a glass of wine can start after a stressful week and turn into a habit of daily drinking, the same can happen with masturbation and porn. In itself, it’s not anything to worry about (unless it starts to interfere with other areas of life, like work or finances). Saying that, a reduction in porn and masturbation when it’s very frequent can often lead to an increase in desire in other ways (and help get back on track with partnered sex). I often advise clients to reduce it a bit, especially if it’s not triggered by desire, has become habitual, if they themselves feel it’s too much or their sexual relationship is not as they would like.
You mention that you feel concerned that he’s no longer attracted to you or interested in you sexually. It can be hard to know without a bit more info whether porn use goes up as a way of compensating for less sex together, or whether porn itself might be having a negative impact on his evaluation of the sexual relationship.
I posted this week about a study noting the correlation between increased porn consumption and dissatisfaction with the sexual relationship for the person watching. Once use becomes frequent (the study found more than once a month is correlated with a negative trend - in my experience people watch way more than this) the comparisons we draw to what our partner looks like/does/says/acts like during real life sex can make sex IRL seem less appealing, so this can impact on desire for real life sex.
It’s important to remember that porn often goes hand in hand (pardon the pun) with masturbation, and masturbation for all of us is a sure fire way of getting our sexual needs met quickly and efficiently. Part of paying attention to porn consumption can be about checking in whether sex with someone else is feeling effortful, awkward or stressful in comparison. You don’t mention how your sex life has been outside of porn but I would say it would be useful to address any problems or dissatisfactions also, just in case this plays a part.
There is nothing wrong with a person watching porn, and it’s not damaging to a person or a relationship in its own right. A change in porn use can be a symptom of a problem, or an attempted solution to another problem though, and so it’s worth considering if the change (is it a change?) in his consumption is linked with anything else. It can be really hard if you feel that your partner is choosing porn over sexual experiences with you, or if the content of what they are watching disturbs you. Remember that just like fantasy, porn can be a way of having a different kind of sexual experience than you might ever want IRL, and many men and women use it this way. This can be a positive form of sexual expression and a way to explore your sexuality in your own private time.
I’m a big advocate for talking (it’s the psychologist in me!) so I’d say your idea to raise it is a good one. To ensure the talking goes well I’d suggest that you put across that you’re not horrified by porn and not against it in principle (if this is true for you!), but that you wonder whether the amount has changed and if so how it fits in with what’s happening with the two of you and how. A frank conversation about what he likes about it, whether he watches it as he’s turned on or for another reason and how he feels the sex between you compares would be a great start.
Dr Karen x
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