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.

It didn’t go so well when Jen’s husband finally found the dirty photos she’d hidden on his computer. He texted her from work: “Thanks for the porn, babe!”

She was mad. In fact, she was so mad that she didn’t delete the text for almost four months, just so she could remind herself how mad she was whenever she thought she was over it. Except she wasn’t clear on what exactly she was mad about.

“Didn’t I deserve more thanks than that?” she fumes. “I spent the whole day. And I got ‘Thanks for the porn’? Like, ‘Thanks for folding my underwear’?”

She waits a second, then amends the thought: “Not that it was a gift. I wanted him to know I saw his porn. Because he looks at porn.”

When she confronted him and he realized the situation had turned into A Situation, he got mad.

“He didn’t talk to me for two days. He was pissed that I searched through his things,” she says. “Honestly, I’m embarrassed that I care about the porn at all. But I care.”

“Women who say they’re cool with it are full of shit,” says my friend Shelly. They have no idea what they’re up against, she claims, and she should know. Every time Shelly turns on her computer, she wonders if this might be it. Will a disturbing icon pop up on her desktop? Will the spyware she and her husband installed pick up a visit to a forbidden site? Because they both know—there are no more second chances.

She’d already watched it play out in her best friend’s marriage. The husband secretly watched porn every chance he could and showed no interest in sex, but was adamant that he never, ever watched porn. Even so, his wife would wake up and find the telltale sign: a pile of balled-up tissues in the office garbage can. She finally divorced him.

The same thing happened with a friend of mine. She was plus-sized, and discovered her husband looking at porn starring rail-thin women. “It made me feel that if I wasn’t a size-two sex kitten, then I wasn’t good for anything,” she says. She confronted him about it, but he simply learned to better cover his tracks. She uncovered them. Now she’s in a relationship with a man she knows looks at porn, and often does with her. She’s okay with that.

Shelly would probably have been fine with that, too. It was the sneaking and the lying—that’s what destroyed her.

“When we’d discuss porn or kind of joke about it, he would act like it was the most disgusting thing,” she says. After seeing a few strange links in their search history, she did some hunting. (He thought he’d deleted his trail.) She took it personally: “I figured he didn’t think my body was sexy, so he had to look elsewhere.” He denied that was true, but why should she believe him? She offered an ultimatum: porn or us. They flew to Colorado for a week-long intensive counseling session with “as seen on Dr. Phil” sex-addict reformer Doug Weiss.

“I feel we have this under control,” Shelly says now. But she still worries, partly for her marriage and partly for her nine-year-old son: “I don’t want him to take this on.”

And that’s when it hits me. Buries me, really.

This grand inquisition over husbands and porn? It seemed so exhilarating when Jen first mentioned it, so fun and porny and harmless. And it can be. But not always. It can get serious. And scary. Because everyone’s lying, to a certain extent. Everyone’s full of a little bit of shit. “I don’t care if my husband watches porn.” La-la-la. “My wife doesn’t have to worry because I would never watch porn.” La-la-la.

We’re the ones living in the fantasy world.

Because online porn? That’s the real world. Over a million sites’ worth of real. If we could go from Playboy in the dresser drawer to this in barely a generation, what will those sites morph into over the next 10, the next 20 years? And guess how the boys my daughters will date will learn what to expect from sex?

I hadn’t thought about that.

How had I not thought about that?

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