Your Husband Watches Porn

As the online porn explosion goes mainstream, more women are finding out about their hubbies’ late-night, clandestine meetings with the soft blue glow of the family computer.

I wish I could say that upon returning home, I didn’t immediately place the kids in front of Phineas and Ferb and grab Thad’s laptop. I also wish I could say that I didn’t start to hyperventilate when I realized that it was password-protected, or that I didn’t accost him the moment he walked in the door, possibly with a finger in his chest, and demand: “Have you watched porn online?”

“What?”

“Do you watch porn online?”

“Seriously, Vicki? When would I have time?”

It was a strong point. We have three little girls, and the youngest is eight months old. Thad leaves for work at six and gets home at six. We go to bed at the same time, and I’m the lightest sleeper on the planet, i.e., no sneaking down to the computer at 3 a.m. for a little … what, exactly? I didn’t even know.

I’d never checked out any online porn, nor had I inadvertently landed on any when searching for, say, “BJ’s” (as in “Wholesale Club”) or “beavers” (as in “small woodland creatures that build dams”). If I ever had, I’d surely have panicked the way my friend Lynn did when a site popped up at work. (“I kept hitting the back arrow, but it wouldn’t let me out!”) I just figured that once it was in my search history, everyone would know, and I’d be visibly dirtier, with a Pig Pen puddle of porn swirling behind me for the rest of my days.

I certainly have friends whose husbands watch it. I know this because after Jen asked me on the playground, I started asking other women, as if inquiring whether or not one’s husband watched online porn was catchy, like a yawn. A few swore their husbands didn’t, that they’d said they tried but “didn’t get a charge out of it, and I take him at his word.” One argued, “He will pinkie-swear to me that he doesn’t, and he holds the pinkie-swear sacred.” When I posed the question on Facebook, a high-school friend shot back: “I don’t understand why men feel the need to look at porn if they’re married or in a relationship … it just doesn’t make sense.” “Her marriage is DOOMED!” a guy friend chimed in, messaging me privately. “Can women really still be this clueless about how men think? If most women had any idea of what men fantasize about sexually, they would defenestrate themselves.”

Still, for as many friends who declared their husbands porn-free, just as many admitted to watching with them. Obviously, they embraced the notion that “men are aroused by visual images.” Among the most popular varieties? Cheerleaders and cougars (the latter known as “Granny Porn,” a phrase that alone could cause me to fling my 41-year-old self through the sunroof). Or so say two computational neuroscientists who basically analyzed all the porn online and who watches it.

But even these friends made excuses: the “We’ve been married 17 years” one, or the “We watch while on the phone because he travels” one, or the “It’s never anything illegal” one. There seemed to be a collective need to defend why it was okay now for us to watch when back in 1989 we were sporting flannels instead of mascara while shouting “Porn exploits women!” after Women’s Studies 101 done got us all fired up.

Porn has come a long way.

Maybe.

Those neuroscientists discovered a couple of other things, too. Most porn today, they learned, contains the same storylines once found in the back room at the video store, protected by those ever-present saloon doors, which swished and squeaked so loudly that heads in every aisle popped up like prairie dogs to see who was going in there. But 20 years later, it’s available online 24/7, and mostly for free. It also is cool. Or at least it’s cool to say you’re cool with it. And even cooler to say you’re cool with your husband watching it.

“I know Steve does. I couldn’t care less,” Anne said as we sipped coffee with friends at Ponzio’s in Cherry Hill. We’d all first met when our seven-year-olds were babies, meaning we’d just survived the life phase when our sex parts had been temporarily repurposed into Child Processing Plants. Everyone at the table acted shocked by Anne’s confession, but I suspect we were more in awe: How secure Anne must be! How progressive! How lucky that she gets to go to bed and sleep right away!

“Well, I know Chris doesn’t,” Sandie announced defensively. “I’ll bet Jill’s husband doesn’t, either. Of all our husbands, they would be the least likely, don’t you think?” The least likely? Meaning Thad would be in the realm of “likely”? What did that mean? I wondered as I drove home. That he looks like he might mount a poplar? That I was cold-fishy? And dog-faced? And porn-inducing?

Before I could figure it out, Sandie texted: “I asked Chris if he looks at porn online. He said, ‘Of course.’” Another mom replied-to-all; she’d asked, too. Same.

In fact, weeks later, while chatting on the phone with my pal Paul, I asked what percentage of men he thought looked at online porn. He didn’t hesitate: “One hundred percent.”

“No way!”

“Way. They just lie. They don’t want to deal with their wives going ballistic,” he explained, then went on to describe a “guy’s night out” a few months before where he did coke and then came home and logged onto PornHub.com, one of the most popular YouTube-esque porn sites. His wife caught him at both, and was furious … about the porn. “Guys just know how to use the ‘clear history’ button,” Paul said. “If he has an ‘Automatic Clear History,’ he’s a fucking porn addict. Who does that? Unquestionable.”

In fact, researchers at the University of Montreal wanted to compare men who looked at porn with men who didn’t, but they couldn’t find any who didn’t. At all. Zero.

So I circled around for a second inquisition. “Thad, have you ever watched porn online? Paul says all guys look at online porn.”

“Well … you know … I have, clearly … because … you know … but … it’s been forever.”

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