Ask Wendy

Where’s the Line with Porn Use, Fantasy, and Sex Workers?

Friday, May 10, 2019
Hey Wendy,

Your column, Why Does My Husband Watch Porn, has raised a few more questions about men and porn use.

I agree that many men have normal porn use. However, I’ve known many married men that seek out prostitution to fulfill porn fantasy they watch, especially the humiliation stuff and they have told me their reason is because their wife is too special/pure to be treated like a dirty whore. It’s the Madonna/Whore syndrome. It’s not that these men are being turned down by their wives. Is this type of man a sex addict or secretly a poly type that should not pretend to be monogamous?

What are your thoughts on men that watch porn to an extreme in that it limits their sexual desire of their wife? Or puts her in one compartment of his sexual desire?

What is the fine line between sex addition and normal porn use that still maintains the man’s actual attraction for his wife/girlfriend without having to view porn to get off even during sex or having to fantasize about porn instead of focusing on sex with his wife during sex?

I also know of many men that eventually suffer the "Grip Dick" syndrome, in where their penis becomes so accustomed to their masturbatory hand that they don't feel sensation in their wife or girlfriend’s vagina and so they have to masturbate to finally orgasm/ can't orgasm/ or pre-ejaculate because they had to prep with porn use and masturbation before intercourse.

What do you think of all of this?

Maria P. – Online

Hey Maria,

Thank you for all your questions. The way these questions are written assumes that men who watch porn or men who hire sex workers are bad and/or wrong, and that sex is an addiction that’s harmful to both men and the women in relationships with them.

I’m not a recovery expert or a doctor, so I don’t know if this is a case of addiction or not. And I’m not a priest or clergyperson, so I can’t speak to whether this topic is considered morally right or wrong. What I do know about is men, and how women and men can live together in harmony. I’m just going to tackle these questions from that perspective, and also share with you what the men and the sex worker I spoke with had to say about it.

Before I dive in, I just want to say that I do this work to help women end their personal suffering—suffering in trying to find their love and suffering in relationships when their union isn’t a happy or healthy one.

Answering questions on sexual proclivities and what constitutes excess porn use would actually fall into my niche when you look at the long game. Ultimately, I want women to feel free, safe, fearless and uninhibited in their love lives. But to some readers, this article might be tough. So, heads up! Consider this a blanket trigger warning for the topic. Infidelity and porn are triggering as fuck for a lot of people, and you may feel uncomfortable as you read this response. Okay, here we go: I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting to work here.

I really took some time with these four questions. I’ve spoken to ten men and a sex worker who’s been in the business full-time for over seven years, and I did a ton of research (thanks, Google) and here’s what I’ve learned:

Question #1. What’re your thoughts on porn use that limits a guy’s sexual desire for his wife? Or puts her in one compartment of his sexual desire?

Ready for some good news? When I read this question, I was confused. In the seventeen years, I’ve spent researching men and porn, what I’ve learned is that porn doesn’t diminish the desire for sex with a partner, and thus the question didn’t land quite right. But I wanted to be sure, so I turned to ten men and asked them this very question.

In each case, the men admitted to, at some point in their life, watching waaay more porn than was called for. And in each case, when I asked how this may have diminished or limited their desire for their partner/wife, they either looked at me with confusion or they spoke up right away—porn did not diminish desire for their partner/wife, rather, it encouraged/enhanced/promoted/inspired desire.

When I asked about the potential for limiting the desirability of his partner, one man said, “If there’s a lack of desire for my wife, it’s not the porn that’s doing it, it’s something else in our relationship—a problem I’m having with her directly.”

Another man said, “Porn isn’t the cause of limited desirability, it’s the cure for it. Porn provides an escape without having to leave the house or the relationship to experience newness. Yet another man said that “porn is a friend to my marriage—it helps us stay monogamous.”

So, I’d say the answer to this first question is that, as long as there is understanding between partners about pornography’s place within a relationship, it doesn’t damage that union—in fact, for many it appears to enhance it. As with all things, your mileage may vary, but the men I spoke with uniformly stated that porn hadn’t diminished the quality of their relationships with the real women in their lives.

Question #2. What is the fine line between sex addiction and normal porn use?

As stated above, I’m not touching addiction in this answer, as the only personal experience I have with it is my current addiction to Bubbies Green Tea Ice Cream Mochi.

In my extensive research of men, women, and sex, what I’ve noticed is that porn use is often more a crisis for women than it is for men. Not that porn is for men only—there are plenty of women who watch it, too. But it’s usually the woman who wants her guy to stop, whereas a man is less likely to put a woman through the paces or threaten the end of a relationship over porn.

“A lot of that negative association between your porn use and your relationship quality hinges on whether or not you think it’s morally wrong,” Samuel L. Perry, a sociologist of religion and author of Addicted to Lust: Pornography in the Lives of Conservative Protestants said.

We might use this as a guide:

“Normal” porn use has those who consume it feeling, well, normal.

Porn compulsion, or excessive porn use (however “excessive” is defined for each individual), leaves people feeling depressed, isolated, disconnected, disappointed in themselves and their lack of willpower, and ashamed.

Porn use does not leave them less attracted to their partner unless their partner is behaving in a way that would cause them to feel less desire.

One man said, “Yes, I’ve watched porn to an extreme, but not my extreme—society’s extreme. And for the record, all of my girlfriends have watched way more porn than me.”

Question #3. What’s up with the dudes who pay prostitutes/sex workers to fulfill porn fantasies (especially the humiliation stuff) and are they secretly a poly type that should not pretend to be monogamous?

First, these dudes are not “secretly poly” because the definition of polyamory is an arrangement between more than two romantic/sexual partners where all parties are aware of and consent to said arrangement. There can’t be a secret poly situation—the term for this is “cheating,” and cheating is unfortunate—for everyone.

Now, for the guys who pay for prostitutes/sex workers to fulfill porn (and other) fantasies, I checked in with an actual prostitute, and she had a lot of information for us! Here’s what she had to say:

“Men will see me for a variety of reasons. A top reason is that he’s too ashamed to ask his partner. There’s a way his wife sees him and he doesn’t want to shatter that, i.e. wearing women’s panties or having submissive thoughts or wanting to be dominated. His wife counts on him to be the strong guy. And he assumes that she not only won’t want to do it, especially when it comes to acts like anal play, rimming, or kinks, but she won’t get over being asked, and won’t see him in the same way—the risk is too great.

Some men cheat because the two of them never had that strong of a sexual connection to begin with. The two married for reasons of strong partnership, not strong chemistry.

Some men cheat because their wife loses interest in sex.

Seeing me or any other prostitute does not change a man’s desire for his wife.

He wants to be having sex with his wife. Men will tell me, ‘It’s so beautiful when we have it, but it’s too infrequent.’

Some men say seeing a sex worker makes him a better husband because he gets the sex he needs, he’s less stressed, and more open, loving, and connected when everyone’s home. The resentment and hard feelings aren’t there because he’s not starving. And he doesn’t feel deprived and he’s not faced with the not-great alternative of feeling like he’s pressuring his wife when she doesn’t want sex.”

She wanted to leave you with one last thing: “Sex workers and prostitutes are safe places for marriages. We want to help you keep your guy in good shape so he can be his best for you. Of course, marriages are better off with honesty. I wish we lived in a world where people could express all of their needs, and a partner could opt in on what they do want to do and farm out what they don’t want to do. But society just doesn’t work that way today. You tell a partner what you want, and they leave you.”

Question/Point #4. I also know of many men that eventually suffer the “Grip Dick” syndrome, in where their penis becomes so accustomed to their masturbatory hand that they don’t feel sensation in their wife or girlfriend’s vagina and so they have to masturbate to finally orgasm/ can’t orgasm/ or pre-ejaculate because they had to prep with porn use and masturbation before intercourse.

The Grip Dick thing you speak of is called Death Grip Syndrome (DGS), and it is not recognized as an actual medical condition.

Dr. Richard Santucci, Chief of Urology at Detroit Receivings Center for Urologic Reconstruction, believes that DGS from masturbation is not that common, and he reports that the term misses too many potential causes outside of masturbation.

If you’d like a list of possible causes that contribute to DGS, the Mayo Clinic provides a list here.

That said, anyone can desensitize any part of their body based on the way they use it. You’ve heard of the Hitachi Wand, haven’t you? If you use that sucker like a jackhammer every day, there’s a possibility it will change your experience of everything from penetrative sex to masturbation, too.

Hot tip (not medical advice): The way to deal with the deep grooves carved from familiar, strong patterns is to change up that pattern. In other words, don’t stop masturbating—just do it differently for a different result.

I’d like to end with an open-ended question for you to ponder: What would life be like if we allowed people to be exactly who they are and exactly who they are not? What if we offered them the ability to be in relationship with us as their true, authentic sexual selves, and not in trouble for who they are as sexual beings?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could all just tell the truth? If we could, and no one got in trouble for being themselves, we could have all kinds of radical conversations!

People could sign up for monogamy and know that’s actually what the other person wanted. A person could say, “I want to try this thing really bad,” and their partner could say, “That’s not my thing. But if you want to try it really bad, you should be able to.” Then these two people could decide if this means a break-up, or opening up the relationship, or farming that specific act out to someone who’s really into it—whatever’s best for everyone.

Crazy, right?

One man I interviewed said, “How much does a woman get to own me, anyway? Do I get to think things? Or will she have a say in that, too? Does she get to own my body? Is it your body, your choice, but my body your choice, or what?!”

I’m not sure why we as a culture feel like we have the right to monitor and police each other in the area of sexual fantasy. It doesn’t happen when, say, we go to a nice restaurant. We don’t walk around monitoring who’s ordering steak and check if they’re over their red meat consumption quota for the week (at least, I really hope we don’t). Wait, how many glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon has that guy had? Is that two or three? And that chubby one over there just ordered a Baked Alaska, should we serve her? People overindulge with things like food, alcohol, shopping, Netflix, and even exercise all the time, but that’s not our business—we may approach someone we love out of compassion and concern if we think that they’re going too far, but overall, we see these things as personal decisions. Maybe when it comes to our private lives (yes, even in marriage) we shouldn’t have a say in what people can do with their bodies and minds in their private time. Sure, we can make deals with each other on things like monogamy or polyamory, what we’re into and what we’re not in bed, etc., but is using porn to fulfill sexual fantasies really being unfaithful to these kinds of deals with our partners?

And Isn’t that what feminists have been fighting for for years? My body, my choice.

Do you have a dating, sex or relationship question for Wendy? Send it to Wendy@WendySpeaks.com.