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Partner of a porn addict and my own painful history

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My partner quit porn last year after many years of porn addiction. I just couldn't deal with it any longer. I was at the point of emotional breakdown and self harm. My husband was shocked to discover me in such a state. He quit as much for his own reasons as he was suffering in secret and had tried to quit but found that he couldn't. He has been successful so far but I've had a lot of trouble coming to terms with how we ended up in such a negative rut.

Reading through Paula's book for partners I have had to face my own sexual history which began with a very traumatic sexual assault at the age of 12 by a group of youths aged about 14-17 years old. The grabbed me, stripped me, and intended to rape me one by one, telling me they'd kill me if I told anyone. Someone must have tipped off the police or witnessed it because two policeman came running past and the boys ran, with the police in pursuit. The two policemen ignored me, which at the time I was glad about because I feared my parents finding out and my school too. I thought I'd get into trouble. This was in the 1970s and I know from campaigns in the 80s that rape was not taken seriously and victims were not treated with respect in those days. I was not raped. There was no penetrative sex but I was sexually assaulted. Most of all I remember being in a state of shock. I went to my friends house and told her what happened, although I didn't quite remember that clearly because I was numb with shock. The following day I didn't go to school. I stayed at home whilst my parents were at work. I never told them. All I remember was that I was still in shock that day. I was just 12 years old. 

I grew up with this shameful secret. I've never told anyone in my adult life. My husband doesn't know. 

I have never liked porn. I have always considered it abusive, the gratuitous objectification is disturbing to me. I was really upset when I learned of porn categories like "teen porn" and "gang bang" and "rape" for obvious reasons. Even in social media, the abuse directed at women in the public eye, with threats to rape and murder is disturbing. 

My husband says he didn't watch "abusive" genres of porn, but to me, that whole realm of watching and objectifying and consuming women as commercial products is horrible anyway. Not only do I dislike porn for its objectification of women, I dislike the male attitudes to viewing consuming porn, and the normalisation of this porn culture. As a 12 year old, although this was before Internet and hardcore videos, I felt that I was reduced to the level of entertainment when I was sexually assaulted by that gang, a lot like being the subject of a "teen rape" genre of porn video.

I watched a documentary on sexism and "lad culture" which included references to online rape threats directed at women on social media. I found myself crying by the time the programme ended. I couldn't believe how violent sexual threats towards women were just like "hey, it's ironic" and complaints about sexism were dismissed as just humourless feminists who should "get over it". 

How what happened to me at the age of 12 ties in with my difficulties in overcoming the effects of my partner's porn habit on my self esteem and self image, I don't know. My reaction to his porn videos was visceral, like a physical blow to the stomach, and I felt traumatised by it too.

I don't know what to do now. I just want to cry. I can't make sense of my experience as a 12 year old and my experience as the partner of a recovering porn addict. 

 

 

Edited by Hannah
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Posted

Hi Hannah,

Thank you for so bravely sharing your story on this forum - I think that already shows what courage you have and how much you have moved forward from the shame and pain of that 12 year old.  Every partner has their own story, their own history.  And a partner's history will have a huge impact on how they feel about their partner's porn use and their recovery.  When partners have abuse and trauma in their history, regrettably discovering addiction can re-trigger those same old emotions meaning you get a double dose of pain.

Unfortunately addiction often bypasses morality and the value system that people hold.  Porn is addictive because it arouses dopamine, and what few people know is that the more shocking the porn, the more the dopamine levels are raised.  And high levels of dopamine, temporarily turn off the disgust response.  That means that many people with porn addiction find themselves viewing images that actually disgust them.  It's a bit like an alcoholic who finds themselves drinking whiskey even though they despise the taste. 

What happened all those years ago was about power and abuse, not about sexual arousal.  Although most would agree that viewing that kind of pornography is wrong, there is a difference between watching something that is fiction and engaging in the fact.  For example, we might enjoy watching films where there is violence or murder, but that certainly doesn't mean that we would do it or condone doing it. 

If you haven't already done so, do find a counsellor that you can talk to about this.  Being alone always makes life more painful.  Find someone you can confide in.  Preferably other partners who can share your story.  You've made a brave first step.

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Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate that you have taken the time to do so  

To my knowledge, my partner didn't watch violent porn, but he certainly developed a compulsion to use porn to the exclusion of our sex life. People would consider it strange that a couple didn't have sex for years but that's what really happened. It was a gradual process that happened over time, years not months. Initially I thought his internet porn use was just from the novelty and curiosity of being able to access it online for the first time but it became a regular habit very quickly and had an almost immediate effect on our sexual relationship, although it was subtle at first. What killed it off was his perennial loss of interest in having sex with me. 

I actually believe that the roots of his porn addiction go further back Without going into too much detail, he was primed for it to happen as soon as he had access to an unlimited supply. 

I sought counselling for myself as well as a course of CBT on the NHS, but it's really difficult because my recovery encompasses so many aspects. There's ageing, poor body image, low self esteem, loss of identity, a collapse in the trust I had for my partner - especially when I discovered how easily he could lie about it, loss of the ability to communicate openly with each other and the shame of being rejected for porn. 

Something else I want to say about porn: The normalisation of porn makes it very difficult for women to speak out about their partner's  porn use.  The most common reaction is "all men watch porn" and the reaction is either to get over it and don't be a prude, or alternatively or that we should pornifying ourselves to please our men, or watching it with him.  It's almost always about accommodating what the man wants.  But what about the man accommodating what the woman wants?  I didn't one porn as the third-party in my relationship, because that's effectively what it was,  but my husband didn't respect that. 

My objection to porn isn't necessarily on moral grounds, although I find the extent of objectification of women in modern-day porn absolutely abhorrent. Nor is my objection of porn because of my what happened in the past. It's because of the very negative impact of porn on my relationship. 

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Posted

Hey there, 

It doesn't matter why you hate pornography, you are entitled to hate it. It's your choice. I find it saddens me so much, because I know I would have to be desperate to have sex with people for money, and I think many women in pornography are the same. It's had a horrible affect on my relationship too. 

I want to tell you a little bit about my experiences as a young woman. I was molested at ten and at fifteen, my mother was abusive, my father died when I was small. There was a lot that went wrong in my life. But through counselling and through doing work on myself I now feel I have strength and fortitude. I still get hurt about things, but I know underneath I am a strong woman. And you are too, but you do have to come to that conclusion yourself. 

I would recommend that you work on yourself, that you treat yourself kindly. Watch how you speak to yourself; if you find yourself talking negatively to yourself then turn that around. For instance, I sometimes find I call myself silly. When that happens, I then correct myself and I tell myself that I am an intelligent woman who has made a mistake like everyone else. Talking to yourself kindly is a great place to start. 

I go to a site called psychologytoday.com and this has also really helped me to explore my emotions and feelings. 

I hope that might help. 

Take care, 

R

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