Kendra's* ex-boyfriend watched porn all the time. "Even when he was at work," she told Flair. "When I'm not home he would watch it for hours; sometimes I would wonder what he was really doing online so much. If he was not watching it, he was trying to have sex with me." Many women have experiences like Kendra's, but according to Dr Heather Little-White, porn viewing can become addictive. "This practice could become addictive if the husband allows viewing pornography to take control of his life as with other addictions, like substance abuse."
She explains that the practice becomes addictive when it comes with distinct changes in one's social behaviour such as withdrawal, anxiety, depression and difficulty in maintaining family and social relations.
She also notes that viewing ponorgrapy (especially on the Internet) may result in the person getting little sleep, going for long periods without eating which could result in ill-health compromising the relationship.
For Kendra some of her boyfriend's pornography viewing actually helped the relationship. "It helped because sex was always great. We would try new things, but then it interferes because he always wanted to try some weird out-of-the-way things and I had to shut him down. Then there are times when he can't control it and he sneaks around and watches it at home and work."
The beneficial aspect is confirmed by Dr Little-White, who notes that if both parties agree to engage in the act it can enhance their sexual experience. "Porn is a turn-on for adults who seek adventure and excitement in bed. The illustrative content of porn videos and Internet sites encourages couples to mimic what is shown, so touching and intimacy is almost natural. Selection of the type of porn site or movie is important because hardcore ones, or those beyond the couple's interest like gay and sadomasochism, may be more of a turn-off than actually providing visual stimulation for each other."
Vendelagrees with the doctor about the aspects of pornography that are unappetising. He told Flair that his use of pornography on the Internet is completely situational. "It depends on how many times I'm having sex. If I'm having regular sex with a woman, I watch far less porn." He notes that 99 per cent of porn usage is for masturbation purposes. While he never uses it with his partner, he notes, "Porn is heavily geared towards what men want and not the reality of a relationship. It's dangerous when men bring something from porn into a relationship because some of it is very degrading to women." But he adds, "Every human needs sex. Biologically, men are interested in having sex with different types of women."
Little-White cautions, "Newcomers to pornography should view it with an open mind and as an avenue to greater enjoyment of sex as two consenting adults behind closed doors."
She highlights that some of the signs that your partner may be addictive to include:
Suddenly starts acting strangely, becoming withdrawn and less talkative.
Becomes more secretive, less sociable with little interest in socialising with family and others. This may result from an active habit of pornography but some partners find it difficult to pick up on the tell-tale signs and may feel betrayed when they find out.
Suddenly demanding more frequent and rough sex with heavy sexual language. But on the contrary, he may seem disinterested in sex even with your advances and being emotionally distant during sex.
Your partner is literally 'hooked' to the Internet well into the night and will try to cover up sites as you approach.
Dr Little-White notes that its important that couples speak openly about pornography. "As with any other issue, couples should talk about changes observed and the effect on the relationship. Solutions should be sought for the addictive partner, with the other partner learning about the nature of the addiction providing greater support. With the help of a counsellor, they can learn how to communicate to work through the pain, betrayal and lack of trust without criticising and being unforgiving."
*Names changed to protect privacy.