Should Wives Be Porn Police?

21 01 2009

smp-imageIn preparing for “The Man Series” I’ve been reading a number of articles to prepare talks on Sex, Money and Power. This article by a Jewish Rabbi gave a fresh, honest and straightforward perspective. I think it gets to the root issue of sex, fulfillment and marriage for both men and women that is wildly missing in todays dialogue….

SHOULD WIVES BE PORN POLICE?

Why women have every right to insist on mental as well as physical fidelity. By Rabbi Boteach

About two years ago I agreed to debate the first openly Jewish Playboy playmate, Lindsey ****, in New York City. My purpose was simple: to uphold the dignity of Jewish women, which is not consistent with taking their clothes off for money. From the beginning, however, it was clear that I had lost the debate. The room was filled with mostly leering men who came armed with the November issue of Playboy, asking for Lindsey’s autograph. But what really disappointed me was all the women who came to cheer Lindsey’s courage in not being ashamed of her body. What sane woman, who isn’t motivated by financial profit, would support the portrayal of women as sport to entertain lecherous men?

Moreover, what wife is misguided enough to allow her husband to read Playboy?

Recently, we’ve seen the Kobe Bryant sex scandal and the publication of Hillary Clinton’s memoir, which regurgitated the Monica Lewinsky story. I believe that these and other incidents are warnings to wives not to be naïve about the dangerous effects pornography-and opportunities for adultery-can have on a marriage. And they must do something about it. While Hillary bore her husband’s betrayal with dignity, there is the legitimate question of whether she should have been keeping a far more watchful eye on her husband whose roving ways were well known, especially when he told her that he was spending time with an intern for the purpose of “guiding her life.” Shouldn’t an alarm have gone off in her head?

The idea of wives “policing” their husbands, of calling men to account for their behavior, might sound antiquated or petty, but I believe it is valid and, indeed, essential. When I’ve asked wives how they feel about their husbands looking at pornographic material, I’ve heard an astonishing range of answers. There are those who are quick to assert how “cool” they are with it and even claim to join in the viewing; and there are those who are utterly horrified but feel they have no right to object to their husband’s adult behavior. But women must wake up to the fact that they do have a right to nip this behavior in the bud.

Pornography is destructive not only because it is insulting to one’s wife, but because it takes one’s erotic focus away from one’s spouse. In this respect, the principal harm it inflicts is not radically different from adultery. When infidelity occurs, it destroys the marriage not only by causing hurt and humiliation, but by starving the marriage of attention, affection, and effort. The hurt that a husband causes his wife by being unfaithful is not, in itself, the deal-breaker in their marriage. The wives whom I have counseled through a husband’s infidelity are prepared to forgive him if they love him. The real deal-breaker is the fact that the wife is no longer the focal point of his sexual and romantic energies. When husbands and wives are not wholly focused on one another as the means of finding erotic excitement, they begin to drift apart. Initially, men believe that a little peek at another woman’s nudity is a harmless means of generating some excitement and certainly nothing as significant as an actual act of infidelity. But these “harmless” leers are the first symptoms of neglect.

There are so many ways in which pornography undermines healthy relationships. Excessive exposure to a variety of nude, female bodies contributes to the penchant for men to think about other women while making love to their wives. Indeed, 84 percent of men admit to doing just that (and they’re dumb enough to believe that their wives don’t notice). We can even go so far as to say that once you bring another woman into your bed, even if only mentally, you are practicing a form of mental infidelity and merely using your wife’s body for friction. I call it mental decapitation. The Torah, which is very concerned with fostering the mental and emotional intimacy that physical intimacy is meant to promote, actually calls men to task by deeming it a prohibition for a man to fantasize about other women while in bed with his wife.

Unfortunately, as I discovered at the debate, women today are so brainwashed into being manly and tough that few will admit to being pained at the notion that their significant other would be dreaming of another woman during their intimate moments. But fantasizing about another woman is a degrading act. It indicates that one’s wife is not worthy or thrilling enough on her own. Most men tell me that it is unrealistic not to sometimes think about other women during sex with one’s wife. Perhaps that is so. But there is no excuse not to resist it.

Furthermore, pornography desensitizes men to the female body. Instead of being automatically drawn to a woman as he should be, today’s man has seen too much to ever lose himself completely upon being exposed to a woman’s nakedness. The nature of erotic attraction, which should bring men and women together, has been utterly compromised, and neither sex is above evaluating the other according to the most stringent criteria. This impairs our ability to build deep relationships. Sexual intimacy is meant to bring a couple together on emotional and mental levels. Once a man feels removed enough to judge his wife by comparing her with other women, he loses some of his excitement for her and mistakenly believes that a more perfectly formed woman would provide him with the physical titillation that he craves.

The irony lies in the fact that a real woman is infinitely more exciting than the manufactured images that attract the consumers of pornography. Rather than being a one-dimensional experience, interacting and allowing oneself to be aroused by a live partner–despite her apparent physical flaws–is ever-changing and therefore consistently exciting. Ultimately then, pornography deadens a man’s attraction for his partner, which in turn deadens his ability to have healthy and sustainable passionate relationships.

The truly unfortunate element in the prevalence of pornography today is actually the acceptance that so many women silently or overtly provide by refusing to demand that their husbands (or serious boyfriends) turn off the computer and turn them on instead! Once upon a time, women were seen as and treated as man’s superior. Today, women have leapt off of their pedestal to say that they are equal to men. When we hear of women accompanying their partners to strip clubs, we see why men no longer feel they have to make themselves worthy of such a sidekick. You can’t convince me that women are actually enjoying the array of bras and G-strings while swigging back beers with the boys.

In her efforts to get closer to man, woman has lost her own uniquely feminine attributes, at a great cost to both genders. What happened to being a gentleman? Why isn’t the party line that a man doesn’t look at another woman because he doesn’t need to and has too much respect for his wife to ever degrade her by making such a comparison? Why not? Simply put, because women today no longer require their men to be gentlemen.

When I’ve asked women about why they don’t insist that their husbands turn off the cable smut or throw out the dirty magazines, the answers I receive fall resoundingly into two basic categories. The first is that many women believe that they have no right to determine what their husbands see or, especially, what they think. The second is a desire not to appear insecure, petty, or nagging. Yet it’s not petty to demand that your husband be with you and you alone when you are in bed together. It’s not nagging to show your hurt, your vulnerability.

How far we have sunk in our expectations of marriage and commitment! Once upon a time it was not politically incorrect to think of a husband and wife as belonging to one another. Today we are conditioned to think that independence is the be-all-and-end-all, and to be possessive is seen as an a priori sign of insecurity. Husbands and wives see each other as independent creatures who happened to be joined by the institution of marriage.

The staggering divorce rate is a symptom of this unfortunate conditioning. It’s easy to sever a bond that wasn’t that strong in the first place. But if you belong to one another, then you have a right to make demands of exclusivity in thought, speech, and action and to freely express that an action or behavior hurts you and to expect that your spouse, whose number-one concern is your happiness, to amend the hurtful behavior. When two people belong to one another, there is nothing they won’t do to protect that bond.

In Judaism we are taught that everything belongs to G-d. It is not degrading to be so possessed and, in fact, the kippah [head covering] worn by men is a reminder and a symbol of that bond. Thus G-d makes demands upon us and we, in our attachment to Him, ask for what we need. Our intimate relationships reflect this divine relationship. We should never hesitate to insist that our needs be met by our husband or wife. Remember, you are not only married in body, but also in mind, heart and soul.

Wives have a right, indeed an obligation, to police their husbands from going into the gutter to get excitement. Miss November and her fellow playmates are women like all others. One day they’ll marry and they’ll be just as hurt and insulted if their husbands turn to strangers for excitement.

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5 responses

21 01 2009
franceselizabeth

Wives should and do have the right to police their husband’s behavior. I did and when he didn’t change I added to the list of reasons why I should leave my husbdand. Eventually I left him. One of the reasons was his addiction to porn.

21 01 2009
Tim Kade

Frances,
I agree. I am so sorry about the betrayal of your husband and the hurt that it caused you. I believe that porn addiction is one of the biggest problems that is facing society today. It often start small like any other addiction (alcohol, prescription drugs, etc) and eventually rot a person from the inside out. I think it’s a powerful addiction that can destroy a person and marriage. What bothers me is that people think porn is a normal part of life. They think it enhances the marriage, when it’s actually stealing the emotional and physical oneness that God gave though sex. People don’t even see it as a temptation to be examined. Did your husband admit it was a problem he was trying to change?

5 02 2009
stephen

cool article, thanks for posting it!

14 12 2009
Josh

I am a newly married man that has an addiction to pornography (not easy to say). After reading this article I feel like my eyes have been opened. I knew that my actions were shameful but never thought about there implacations in my marrage. I love my wife immensely and would do anything for her. I pride myself in being the guy that holds doors for her and rubs her feet after a hard day but never gave much thought to my other actions. I feel horrible about the things I have done. My wife would never do these things to me and yet I didn’t treat her with the same respect. I’m going to change my ways because of the love that I have for her and because of the respect that I have for her and the vows of my marraige. I wish that I could take back the deeds that I have done but all that I can do is change my ways and be the man that she deserves.

14 12 2009
Tim Kade

Josh, Great move…Way to courageously and honestly face the issue that every man struggles with ! That one decision will make a huge impact in your life and marriage.

Here’s a couple next steps that I’ve found helpful…
1. Get a computer filter: Get a filter or accountability software installed on your computer (http://x3watch.com/)
2. Get some Running Partners: If your are going to make it to the finish line in the marathon of marriage, you need some running partners. We all need few other men to help us keep the promises we’ve made to our family. Men you can be honest with about your struggles and also who hold you accountable to the commitments you are making.
3. Rely on God: I don’t know where you are at spiritually, but Christ does want help, strengthen and empower you to follow through to be the man that you want to be. “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

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