Culture /// News & Politics x

The internet isn’t trying to steal your boyfriend.

via Wall Street Journal

Not everyone has the luxury of being cheated on—which grants a lifelong hall-pass for anger, bitterness, self-pity and otherwise unwarranted suspicion of any future partners. In the quest for this free ticket to perpetual victimhood, it can be tempting to condemn other behaviors as quasi-adulterous. This push for more accessible claims to infidelity has resulted in, according to some sources, no less than seven different kinds of cheating. These include, but are not limited to, the ever popular “emotional cheating,” “cyber cheating” and cheating via text, something Match.com insists is commonly referred to as “chexting.”

Meanwhile, there are also still some die-hard monogamists who insist that watching porn is cheating. Even those whose views aren’t necessarily informed by religious sexual mores often find that the idea of their partner watching porn leaves a bad their taste in their mouth.

These anxieties seem to stem largely from a common misconception that porn and masturbation are somehow a replacement for something missing in a person’s sex life with their partner. The thing is, an individual’s sex life with themselves is a completely different entity from their sex life with their partner.

Porn and other masturbatory fantasies can be a healthy part of an intimate and personal experience that has much more to do with an individual than their relationship. Solo sex is an important part of a person’s sense of self and their sex life that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice for a relationship. A healthy sex life with yourself doesn’t have to disappear to have a healthy sex life with a partner.

Why Are We Still Having Sex?

In a recent “Vice” article, Melissa Broder, a.k.a. So Sad Today, asks a question that ultimately highlights the related but separate natures of partnered sex and masturbation: “Why, with porn in abundance, sex robots on the horizon, toys that simulate cunnilingus, and a good pair of hands, do we still bother looking for ass outside ourselves?”

Broder and fellow contributors opine on the issue, suggesting everything from “millennia-old biological urge” to the incomplete capabilities of sex robots to engage in dirty talk. Ultimately, the precise reasons why people still seek out living, breathing sex partners isn’t as important as the simple fact that it does still happen. Even with the seemingly limitless sexual opportunities that the internet provides, porn and masturbation sill haven’t come close to replacing sex.

Similarly, just as good masturbation doesn’t eliminate the need for good sex, neither does good sex eliminate the need for a good solo session now and then. Masturbation and its corresponding fantasies are an important part of an individual’s relationship with themselves, one that predates a relationship with any romantic or sexual partners. In Broder’s article, author Alissa Nutting explains the intensely personal and individual nature of a person’s solo sex life, one that often exists entirely independently of their partnered sex life: “It can be nice to just have your weird solo stuff. And maybe there’s some or total overlap between your weird solo-stuff and your weird with-another-person stuff, but I don’t think there always is. What gets you off alone can be really different.”

Masturbation and fantasy are never a replacement for sex, no matter how convenient that would be. Similarly, although society continues to compare the two acts and often prioritize one over the other, sex does not always satisfy the same set of needs as masturbation. They are related, but ultimately separate, entities, and the presence of one does not and should not eliminate the need for the other.

Man vs. Machine

There’s a famous episode of “Sex and the City” in which Charlotte, the gang’s usual hopeless romantic in residence, discovers the joys of the rabbit vibrator and temporarily swears off men.

Ultimately, however, her initial dismissal of Miranda’s theory that “in twenty years, men will become totally obsolete” holds true: “A vibrator does not call you on your birthday, a vibrator doesn’t send you flowers the next day, and you cannot take a vibrator home to meet your mother.”

The same holds true of your boyfriend’s internet search history. PornHub doesn’t kiss him goodnight, take care of him when he’s sick or give him any good dirty stories worth bragging to his friends about. At the end of the day, porn gives him little more than an orgasm, and he knows this. You are more than an orgasm, and you shouldn’t feel threatened by his laptop.

Of course, no one is immune from occasional feelings of inadequacy in bed. Allowing these insecurities to build to the point of feeling threatened by your boyfriend’s porn-viewing, however, is about as progressive as him feeling threatened by your sex toys. It’s not a replacement, it just adds to the fun of a complete, well-rounded sex life—something everyone is entitled to.

The Couple That Watches Porn Together, Stays Together

Just because sex and masturbation are separate, however, doesn’t mean they have to exist in isolation. Openly discussing sexual and masturbatory fantasies with a partner could help you both have a better understanding of what you may like to try in the bedroom. Like Nutting says, sometimes solo stuff is solo stuff for a reason, but other times it can be reflective of real life desires.

Exploring your own sexual fantasies, and allowing your partner to do the same, can also contribute to a better, more satisfying sex life together. As they say, you have to learn to love yourself first.

If you really want to have a role in your boyfriend’s masturbatory life, many sex blogs and magazines encourage couples to watch porn together. This can be a good way to help remove the feeling of secrecy that may contribute to discomfort surrounding your partner’s porn-watching habits. But be warned, there are some things you may be better off not knowing. You don’t want to know how a hot dog is made, and you may not want to see what your boyfriend is stroking it to, either.

Whether or not you want a front row seat to your partner’s PornHub queue, it’s important to remember that their sex life with themselves is rarely a reflection of their sex life with you. It’s a personal part of their relationship with themselves that they have a right to, just like you. Of course, pornography addiction is a real thing that can have negative effects on a relationship, and if you worry that either you or your partner is suffering from it, it may be time to get help.

Otherwise, as long as your boyfriend is a reasonable human being who can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, deep diving into his browser history just isn’t worth the stress.

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