The following email was sent to all members of the Atheist Morality group. I've rendered it anonymous and posted it here with my response because the message program truncated it when I tried to email the response to the entire group.

I recently discovered that my husband has been watching porn on a regular basis for several years. We are Catholics by birth - I no longer consider myself a Catholic, a Christian, or anything - bordering on atheism but still open to the idea of a creator. He is still a believer in "God" and not sure really what he believes, but realizes that Jesus is a myth and the scriptures are human fabrications.

His problem now is a moral one, and he is confused about how one makes moral decisions without the "rules of religion" he seems to be unable to self-regulate without an outside force - this is a completely foreign concept for him, as he is a black and white thinker, very rational and a rule follower, and without the rules he is lost.

He is seeing a counselor who is Christian and suggested a CD series which is scripture based. This is not appealing to him.

Looking for resources to help with pornography addiction that are not religious-based. Ideas?

Hi, Matilda, et al.

Your husband’s problem, as you said, appears to echo from his and your days in the Catholic/Christian faith. So let’s back off a bit and look at this from a natural and humanistic point of
view.

First, all men look at pornography. Now that is, of course, not entirely true, but it is true enough that when in 2009 a University of Montreal research team was seeking 10 men who did NOT watch porn for a preliminary study on the effects of watching porn, they could not find them. Let me reiterate that: They were looking for ONLY TEN MEN (among a student body numbering 55,000, at a university located in a largely Catholic city and with a sizable religious studies department) who were not consumers of pornography. They could not find them. Every man they spoke with watched porn. Every … single … one.

So, what does that tell you? While it may surprise a couple that was raised in a church that demonizes sexuality and discourages open discussion of the topic, pornography and watching it is universal and natural. Your husband is asking himself to do something that is, in all likelihood, every bit as unnatural as remaining celibate. It becomes characterized as “a problem” when he and his religion-based counselor cast a moral judgment against this pervasive and instinctual part of life. He is left feeling guilty and mentally ill, when in reality he is just like every other guy in your neighborhood.

Now, this is not to say that pornography never causes problems. Here are some examples when it could:

- A man could ignore the sexual needs of his committed sexual partner, and instead indulge all his sexual energies in pornography.

- A man could spend unaffordable amounts of money to buy porn or access to pornography websites.

- A man could avoid his work or family responsibilities in order to compulsively devote more and more time to pornography.

- A man could use porn that involves the exploitation of children or of unconsenting adults.

If these sorts of problems have not arisen, then perhaps your husband does not have a problem with pornography at all. Perhaps, instead, he has a problem with anxiety about watching porn, and what he might want to do is relax and enjoy it in moderation.

Now, because this has risen to the point where YOU are writing, I will assume that you, too, are anxious about his use of pornography. I cannot know who you are or what you think about this issue, but others will read this, so let me take a moment to address those who, by virtue of being educated in a religiously conservative environment, may also carry some anxiety about their partner’s use of pornography.

Watching pornography neither constitutes infidelity nor in any way signals a rejection of you or of your marriage. Porn does not violate marriage vows. Pornography is, after all, simply pictures … most often of people your partner will never meet or even see in real life. Remember—while watching pornography, most folks never get anywhere near another real-life potential sex partner. Again, I will reiterate: He has violated not one syllable of his marriage vows, and he has given you no reason to feel abandoned or insecure. If you two have grown so rigid that you equate infidelity with the very thought of sex with another person, then that idea (not the pornography) will put your marriage at risk. Your vows mean only that, even though thoughts about sex with another person may arise, you have committed yourself never to act on those thoughts in reality.

(There are those who believe that men actually are more likely to remain faithful to their spouses if they occasionally watch pornography, but I have never seen a study that corroborates that assertion.)

Your religious upbringing prevented the two of you from learning about the normal and enjoyable variations of human sexuality, and you appear to have inherited from your faith a perspective that dehumanizes sexual morality. You are not alone in carrying those ideas even after leaving behind the other tenets of faith and morality. But perhaps you and your husband could say goodbye to the preachy counselor who is potentially ruining your marriage, and instead find a sex-positive marriage counselor who can help both of you break the rigid framework in which your religious upbringing tried to encapsulate you.

Tags: fidelity, marriage, morality, pornography

Views: 573

Replies to This Discussion

If I may be allowed to add... I have no experience, not being married, and all, but I do know some married couples who use porn as part of their sex life (they may watch a scene or movie and act it out, or they may simply use it as a means of foreplay).

Sex does not have to be the rigid, Biblical crap (no offense) that so many ultra-religious people like to adhere to.

If he has an interest, consider the possibility of using it in some way.

Just a thought...
Good point. The woman who sent the original email seemed a bit too conservative to consider this option, but other atheist couples may simply need permission to discuss possibly casting off the more unrealistic restraints they accepted in their church days.
Conservative Unrealistic restraints ? wow
I am offended - My sex life is not "biblical crap" is is 28 years of complete committment.

Why on earth would I want to engage in an action that degrades women - that is just absurd.
You shouldn't participate in an act that degrades women, but this interpretation is far from universal.

Perhaps you are unaware that there is a large group of feminists who support the use of pornography. Here's an article that describes their approach to the issue:

http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/mcelroy_17_4.html

Here's a quote on her perspective on how porn benefits women:

As a "pro-sex" feminist, I contend: Pornography benefits women, both personally and politically. It provides sexual information on at least three levels:

* It gives a panoramic view of the world's sexual possibilities. This is true even of basic sexual information such as masturbation. It is not uncommon for women to reach adulthood without knowing how to give themselves pleasure.
* It allows women to "safely" experience sexual alternatives and satisfy a healthy sexual curiosity. The world is a dangerous place. By contrast, pornography can be a source of solitary enlightenment.
* It offers the emotional information that comes only from experiencing something either directly or vicariously. It provides us with a sense how it would "feel" to do something.
a) I never meant to offend you. I apologize. That comment wasn't directed at you.

b) Do you know for a fact that it degrades women or is that just your personal opinion?
This "complete committment" you speak of (which doesn't seem so complete when taking into account your story) ... what precisely is the point of it? I'm serious btw... when you consider that life is finite, and you don't get another spin at it, what's the point in sacrificing yourself to someone else in such a manner? From all I've seen, the typical 100% monogamous paradigm of love really isn't that loving.
Very well said, NH Baritone.

My father is an atheist Catholic. He doesn't believe in God and self-identifies as atheist but his morals are almost all dictated by his Catholic upbringing. He's anti equal marriage, anti divorce, anti gay, pro life, and calls all non-reproductive sex "pseudosex" and claims it ought not to be engaged in. Needless to say he and I don't share a wavelength.

So even though my dad has been an atheist since before I was born, he is still stuck in the moral structure broadcast by the church.
Culture is often just as strong as the religion. The Soviet Communists, who were also atheists, had just as many sexual hang-ups as your average choir boy. Perhaps some day you and he can discuss how he justifies such rigid rules.
I'm the original poster - should have started this as a new discussion rather than email message - sorry, this is new to me.

I completely disagree with the first repy that there is nothing wrong with the occasional recreational use of pornography. Pornography defiles all humans by casting them as one dimensional objects of sexual pleasre. I suggest you do some reserach on the destructive aspects of sex addiction. Millions of marriages are being destroyed by this selfish behavior and the emotional damage it entails.

I am not "hung up" in my Catholic morality. i recognize that some actions are just evil.

Pornography - NOT the councelor or our "rigid upbringing" is the problem.
I'm sorry to have stepped on your toes. I tried to preserve your anonymity by changing your name from the original email.

Unfortunately you seem to have missed reading what I said about moderation and over-indulgence. Just as an occasional glass of wine with dinner cannot be equated with alcoholism, occasional use of pornography cannot be equated with sex addiction.

To cast occasional use of pornography as you have suggests intense pain on your part. Please understand that I did not intend to worsen that pain.

Perhaps you could benefit from listening to Dan Savage's podcast, "Savage Love." He writes a sex-advice column that is syndicated nationwide, and his insights may prove useful to you and your husband. You can find his podcast on iTunes.
That is a pretty religious take on it. And it is also your opinion which doesn't hold up to verifiable, evidence-based scrutiny. And FYI... for every one story of a marriage being "destroyed" by porn, there are many more of marriages being fulfilled by its inclusion. And also, if you ever read a story of a marriage being "destroyed" by porn, you might find many other factors (including dishonesty, lack of interest, and perhaps even actual infidelity) that most like contributed to, or maybe were the actual reasons for, the destruction of the marriage.

Keep in mind that you asked this question of an atheist community. We are not so close-minded to the possibility of different sexual outlets, porn included (and no, I am NOT suggesting you are).

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