Don’t try this at home

A few years ago a friend of our’s (let us call him Yossi) stayed with us the night before his wedding. We had become very close to him during his dating period and we would often spend late nights chatting about marriage and relationships — but the 2 AM conversation that happened the night before his wedding was on a different level.

In the dead of night, I heard a knock on our bedroom door. I opened it to find a very worried looking groom to be. “Whats wrong? Are you ok?” I asked.  “No” was his answer, “I need to talk to you about something.”

Seated on our couch, he proceeded to confide in me that for years he had been watching pornography. Now, the night before his wedding, he admitted to me “I don’t know what is real. Are all those images that are in my head from years of pornography the truth? And if not, how will I know how to please my wife?”  My friend had never been with another woman, just as many observant men and women abstain from premarital sex.  

The images of pornography that my friend enjoyed when single had stayed with him, adding a superfluous layer of difficulty and confusion to an already challenging situation. Being that every young religious couple not only has to learn how to please their partner at the same time they have to learn how to have sex. Yossi’s additional challenge was to reconcile the images he had see in the pornographic films with what would be his true reality.  

The one positive aspect of the situation that I was able to point out to Yossi, just a few hours before he would be charged with fulfilling the halachic obligation to please his wife, was that at least he had realised now that porn was nothing more than a Hollywood blockbuster without clothing and he should not enter his marriage taking sexual cues and fantasies from actresses who most likely fake the majority of their orgasms, and actors who take supplements to last for 45 min.

I have heard a wide range of opinions amongst therapists regarding pornography and the place it has or doesn’t have within loving relationships. Some say that it may be used to increase a couple’s passion, a source of ideas for couples stuck in a rut, and other opinions that clearly state potential dangers pornography can create for couples. Many issues we deal with at Better2gether relate to individuals watching pornography and the influence that has on the couple’s sex life.  Let me give you a few examples.  

Perhaps the issue people write to Better2gether therapists about most frequently is Premature Ejaculation. There are many reasons one may experience PE and one of them is pornography. I have heard therapists report, not all cases of PE are caused by pornography, but many porn users report experiencing PE. This is because they have unconsciously trained the brain to respond to stimulus very quickly, rather than enjoy the experience of arousal, thus creating a difficulty in lasting.  

We also hear from distraught individuals who cannot understand why their partner no longer seems interested in sex, or is always demanding sexual role plays or experiences from them that they feel uncomfortable with. In the book Porn and Your Husband, it states, “Pornography rewires the brain, training him to desire the hormonal rush from porn instead of sex with you.”

Now let me be clear: I am not blaming all sexual dysfunction or issues between partners on pornography, nor am I fully rejecting the opinion of therapists that promote the use of pornography to help couples. What I am saying is that one needs to understand the potential dangers this billion dollar industry can create for individuals, couples and families. One needs to comprehend that, like any form of entertainment, these explicit videos and pictures are intended to get people coming back for more. In fact, the obsession with pornography is much like an obsession with video games. Just as parents find themselves paralyzed when trying to pry their children from the controller, a spouse can find themselves equally at a loss in pulling their partner back from pornography. In fact, the producers of pornography can be likened to producers of another addiction that has poisoned the world — cigarettes.  But in counter distinction to the cigarette industry, pornographic movies have no warning labels. The least the porn industry can do is display a warning: VIEWING THIS VIDEO MAY BE HARMFUL TO YOUR MARRIAGE or DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME

About the Author
Natan Alexander has been in education and community leadership for 15 years. He received Smicha (Rabbinical Ordination) from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. He is the founder and CEO of Better2gether, a website that helps religious and conservative couples improve their physical and emotional relationship in a modest way.
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