Internet pornography: Men watch it while their wives and girlfriends tend to despair that they do.
Sure, not all men watch it and not all women are upset about it. Still, when I talk about my own experiences with a mild porn addiction, and why men should consider giving it up, I inevitably hear more from women whose feedback ranges from bewildered to enraged to downright shaming towards men:
- “Why would he use porn when he has a willing partner in the next room?”
- “Something in him must be broken if he needs to use porn.”
- “It’s so wrong when a man uses porn knowing it hurts his partner.”
- “Men clearly just need more sex.”
- “Men are gross, selfish, depraved. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
I get it.
Women have long been hurt by men’s uncaring, dismissive attitudes towards their needs; by men overwhelmingly exploiting and using women’s bodies for their own pleasure and gain; and by men using porn (and other women) to avoid and escape intimacy.
The anger is legit!
The blaming and shaming, on the other hand, isn’t helpful to anyone. It certainly won’t likely lead to meaningful change.
Based on working intimately with men the last 8 years as a life coach, as well as my own personal experience, I’ve identified 9 core motivations a man may use porn. Many are secrets even to himself.
These may not matter to you; may even cause more discomfort and upset than comes with the current state of confusion and misunderstanding.
However, I do believe when a man understands himself better, his motivations for any action, he grows his capacity to make better choices that actually serve his life, and by extension the lives of those he loves. Whereas, when he persists in ignorance – or worse, shame – he may move a habit such as porn underground where it is likely to poison the soil in which a fulfilling intimate relationship could otherwise grow.
So in service of bringing awareness to ignorance, conscious choice to blind habit, and helping both men and woman restore vitality to the fertile soils of real human intimacy, here are 9 core motivations men use porn:
Note: This is oriented towards heterosexual men, and I do not account for childhood sexual trauma as a potential contributing factor to watching porn though it may indeed be.
Warning: This may be confronting.
1) In porn, women seem happier and easier-to-please than real life women.
Reality rarely beats fantasy. Actual human women are complex, infinitely-layered creatures. They tend to come with an impressively wide range of feelings and no operator’s manual. Though ultimately, truth is we men wouldn’t have it any other way, for we’re soon bored with a partner we don’t feel challenged by.
Nonetheless, many a man believes his self-worth depends on whether he can make a woman happy, sexually or otherwise. Yet most every man eventually discovers (or decides) he has no more power to change a woman’s hurt feelings than he has to make the sun shine on a cloudy day. (note: he has far more impact than he realizes).
On the other hand, women in porn videos occur for a man as fairly simple creatures. At best, they’re happy and thrilled to let a man do whatever he wants with them. At worst, even if they start off resistant or in a “bad mood,” they’re easily persuaded into the open, enthusiastically willing, turned-on stance that makes a man easily feel good about himself.
Until he discovers that he requires the challenge of a real woman, and learns how the power of his presence can more or less reliably open her heart, the fleeting embrace of a fantasy woman may seem a better option to him.
2) In porn, sex is more reliable and easier to navigate than real life sex.
For many men, actual sex tends to be less reliable (on-demand) and less consistently satisfying than porn insists it should be.
We men don’t generally understand that for sex to be deeply fulfilling, more than technique, frequency, and a willing partner are required: A felt sensitivity to the body’s subtle rhythms and needs (our own and our partner’s) is also essential for consistently enjoyable sex.
Yet many men, even with great intention, do sex in jarring, disconnected, outcome-oriented ways that lack sensitivity to their partner’s body, and to their own bodies, too.
For one, we tend to move too fast: an erection without lubrication doesn’t hurt a man the way a vulva and vagina without lubrication hurts a woman.
We also tend to perform outcome-oriented sex for our own pleasure and orgasmic release. Like using a brillo pad to scrub dirt off the fine paint-job of a luxury car, when we do sex for the goal of orgasmic release we may get the job done, but we can actually hurt a partner’s more sensitive body and further numb our own. When our attention is on the outcome – orgasm, or avoiding it for longevity’s sake – we lose sight of the body’s more subtle in-the-moment responses to movement, pressure, and presence. Our lack of attention to subtle phenomenon requires a partner to be more vocal about what she needs in the moment, which can delay her surrender into pleasure. Or, to avoid hurting a man’s pride, many women choose instead to just shut their feeling body down as best they can and hang on for a bumpy ride.
Either way, she may be less likely to enjoy having sex with us, and might need more time to warm up as her body learns it can’t fully trust his presence and sensitivity to her physical/emotional needs.
Some men may object, insisting they do sex with a passion for pleasing their partner.
I often find that intention is rooted more in making himself look good than in actually figuring out what truly pleases her. By imposing his focus on orgasm/outcome onto her experience – “I need to give her pleasure/orgasm so she’ll think good of me (and so I’ll think good of myself)” – he can again ignore the body’s preference for a more subtle moment-by-moment pleasure ride. (to be fair, many women insist on outcome-focused sex, as well, which may further heighten performance-anxiety for everyone)
Also, porn sex is cleaner (no wet sheets or crying), quicker (fore-what?), and always conveniently engaged on his own terms (never a need to negotiate timing or desire).
All this can easily add up to a man preferring the quick-fix fantasy of porn sex over the slower, more nuanced and intricate art of sex with an actual human.
3) Online porn requires minimal (zero) emotional investment.
For many men, like women and sex, intimate relationship is also far better fantasy than reality.
Most of us still know very little of emotional connection and sustained conscious presence – two things an intimate partner tends to want consistently from a man.
Yet online porn requires neither his presence nor any emotion. A man can be in and out of shallow intimacy within minutes, even seconds, and with nary a complaint nor emotional entanglement from anyone.
However, although it is an easy out for a man, it’s also, inevitably less satisfying. We weren’t born to play safe in love. If we’re ever to do relationship well – not to mention be deeply fulfilled in our lives – learning how to be emotionally connected and invested in relationship with others is essential.
4) It offers his primal body endless opportunities to procreate.
Love and pleasure aside, the purely genetic-level imperative of male ejaculation is to impregnate a woman for the sake of perpetuating humankind.
When a man watches porn, his DNA is feasted via his hungry dilated eyes with a smorgasbord of fertile women that would be the envy of the greatest harem palaces throughout all antiquity.
Obviously, he’s not actually impregnating anyone. Good thing, too, for very few men today could offer sufficient resources for the care and feeding of all those new babies! There’s also not a man alive who could provide the emotional support and attention even just a few of those new mom’s would surely want of him.
His DNA knows nothing of this, nor does it care. It only wants to see itself survived into another generation.
Porn is the ultimate DNA delusion of grandiose ambition, which keeps many a man coming (back) to it.
5) It quickly gifts him the experience of big feelings.
The mass consumption of porn exists in part because men are daily desperate to feel fully alive.
Modern man is largely bored out of his mind and disconnected from his soul. We live in a world designed to keep us numb, distracted from our deepest purpose, incessantly busy trying to succeed by someone else’s measures.
The very moment a man turns on a video of his preferred sexual act, his body turns on a pleasure cocktail of chemicals that light him up: dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, serotonin.
For this potent drug, a man is his own dealer, and his needle the phone in his pocket.
There ain’t much else in a modern man’s distracted, disconnected, oft-disappointing life that can consistently make him feel so good, so quickly, so reliably, and with such minimal effort on his part.
To overcome this reality, a man must be willing to forego a safe life of comfort and convenience for a courageous life in which he fully commits to daily seeking and living out his deepest authentic purpose. For it’s only on this courageous path of purpose that he can consistently feel the fullness of being alive without resorting to porn (or other feeling-giving addictions).
6) It offers his masculine-essence endless opportunities for adventure.
The second tragedy in a relationship happens the moment we think we actually know our intimate partner. (The first happens when we believe this mysterious new being will somehow “complete“ us.)
For the moment she ceases to be a mystery to us – physically, or otherwise – we lose curiosity towards her and our conscious attention wavers. We stop relating to the actual human before us and run off with our thoughts, dreams, and desires.
It’s a tragedy we inflict on ourselves, for the more masculine-identified one is, the more he (or she) will crave mystery and adventure. The expression of masculine essence in any person causes us to crave new perspectives, new experiences, new adventures; it compels us to penetrate into the unknown, to finally bring witness to whatever may be there.
This is why men (many women, too) have forever climbed dangerous mountains, sailed oceans to the horizon, crossed deadly deserts, and even lived quietly in monasteries exploring inwardly for God. It’s why we tend to love video games (adventure!), epic movies (adventure!), and attempting to solve life’s biggest problems (adventure!).
We’re easily bored without some intriguing adventure to occupy our time, whether into the world or into our selves. Diving deep “into relationship” with another can offer the greatest mystery adventure a man may ever set himself upon.
Tragically, it’s still the rare man that allows his partner to be an enduring mystery. Most decide she’s a mystery too difficult to bother with. Especially when he needs only to press his thumb to his phone for instant access to an endless variety of freshly mysterious women all-too-willing to let their bodies be used as a landscape for whatever adventure he desires.
7) Sexuality and Love have long been disconnected in a man.
Love and sex have little to do with each other for many men.
Most boys typically first learn to sexually pleasure ourselves with our penis in one hand and a magazine (these days a phone) in the other. Thus we learn we don’t need another body present to be turned on.
And that’s often even before puberty hits.
Around age 12 we suddenly get flooded with tidal waves of testosterone which begin to potentially inhibit our emotions (other than anger). Competitive peer pressure from other boys begins to intensify at this age. Many boys soon learn that intimate access to a girl’s pretty face and body can give him both status among the other boys and also really good feelings in his own body – even if he doesn’t have emotional feelings for or about her.
As adults, many men do learn to enjoy sex more with a partner they feel love towards. Men also do tend to feel more connected during sex, for our bodies release more of the “bonding-hormone” oxytocin through physical contact.
A man may even go watch porn in the bathroom to get his excited, with the loving intention of quickly bringing that freshly lit fire in his loins to the bedroom for the benefit of his partner.
Still, I regularly watch men express shock and confusion when they finally get that their partner rarely experiences the same level of connection during sex. Often that has little to do with his lack of fire or desire, and more to do with his lack of emotional presence.
8) Porn is most men’s sex-educator, and has been for a long time.
A boy’s onset of sexual feelings is typically confronted with a deafening silence from parents and elders who won’t (can’t) teach him about how to do sex well.
Or they get essentially useless advice. (my father’s only memorable advice on women was never order spaghetti on a first date because it makes for messy eating, and don’t date a therapist. Naturally, I married a therapist.) His brothers and friends are as ignorant and clueless as he is. Though they won’t likely admit it, particularly if they’re watching porn, too.
Naturally then, he’s gonna look to porn for insight, guidance, mentoring.
But online porn is like a “MadLibs Kama Sutra for Dummies Who Want to Stay Dummies.” It’s saturated with out-of-context encounters, body-desensitizing techniques, and self-focused aspirational sex that cares little for relating to a partner’s experience. Learning from porn hardly helps create mutually satisfying and connected sexual interactions with a human partner.
9. He doesn’t viscerally feel any negative consequences to using porn.
Tony Robbins famously said (allegedly), “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” (I have no idea his opinion on porn)
After coaching men these last 9 years, I find this to be overwhelmingly true, particularly for all things relationship.
I often find myself telling a woman – when she’s aching for some meaningful change in how her partner is showing up, yet she is contenting herself to stay despite his refusal to take any responsibility for the state of things – that he isn’t likely to change (his behavior) in helpful ways until he really gets that he will lose her if he doesn’t change.
When I suggest the same to men – that they may need to lose her before they’ll make any meaningful changes – they’re often quick to agree with me, if begrudgingly so.
When a man doesn’t believe, or accept, that watching porn hurts anyone, he isn’t likely to stop. His partner trying to convince him with words or hurt feelings rarely convinces him. He’s far too practiced at rationalizing away his impact on her feelings, and his feelings altogether.
If his porn use is truly hurting her she must communicate to him in clear and certain terms that she isn’t able to stay long in relationship with a man who won’t lean into deepening intimacy with her – which means being willing to face whatever challenges, dragons, or fantasies he’s given himself to that may be preventing intimacy from deepening.
Men need to be challenged. Always with respect. Never with shame. Challenge is what sharpens his consciousness and straightens his backbone. If he doesn’t feel challenged by his relationship, to grow, he won’t. If he’s enabled to love small, he will. Not because men are bad. But because we tend to need compelling reasons (that matter to us) to fully show up.
In my experience, inside the overwhelming majority of men lives a noble heart. It may be buried under lifetimes of wounding, pain, and misguided learning. But it’s in there. Most men never want to hurt anyone, least of all the ones they love.
In the end, a man watches porn because it’s easy to and it feels really good. He won’t likely stop until meaningfully negative consequences of doing so show up in his body, viscerally.
What does this bring up for you? Did I miss something? Do you think I got it wrong? Please let me know in the comments below (I read ‘em all).