Join relationship coach Dr. Kimmery and I as we wrap up our relationship sequence and delve into the sensitive and complicated topic of pornography and relationships. We discuss how pornography use can impact a person’s desire for their partner, whether it’s an addiction or just an interest, and more.
Some of you are concerned about your own pornography use and how it affects your desire. Some of you wonder if this is an addiction or overuse, versus just an interest in watching pornography. I have people come to me with the belief that certain things are the equivalent of having an affair.
I believe that each person has their own individual philosophy when it comes to pornography use, and it truly depends on the person, their preferences, and their partnership. Dr. Kimmery and I are exploring this multifaceted topic and showing you some different ways to think about it. If you’re worried about how pornography has impacted your relationship, this is the episode for you.
You are listening to The Midlife Sex Coach for Women™ Podcast episode 138.
Welcome to The Midlife Sex Coach for Women™ Podcast, the only show that combines a fun personality, medical knowledge, sexual counseling, and life coaching together. To create unique sex coaching that helps busy women awaken their libidos, address intimacy issues, and learn how to express their sexuality for the rest of their days. Here is your host, certified life coach and sexual counselor, Dr. Sonia Wright.
Hey, Diamonds, how are you all doing? Dr. Kimmery and I are here to talk to you about relationships specifically. We’re going to be wrapping up the relationship sequence that we’ve been doing and talking to you around pornography and relationships. I think most of you know I have a relatively neutral stance around pornography. It’s not necessarily good or bad but it’s also fiction, it’s not reality, this is kind of how I see it.
If people specifically have a concern about pornography then I suggest people look at ethical pornography because then you know that the people, everybody that’s involved in the production and the recording is getting a fair wage. No one’s being coerced or forced to do this work. This is what they want to do. Usually there’s people that are advising around health and STIs and things like that. So that’s where I stand in terms of pornography.
But I do understand that Diamonds have come to me asking for assistance with coaching questions and concerns that pornography has impacted their relationship in one way or another. And so I wanted to talk to our relationship coach, Dr. Kimmery about pornography as it relates to what are her thoughts in general about pornography. And then specifically as it relates to relationship and some of the different concerns that my Diamonds have brought up to me and just have a conversation around this.
So, Dr. Kimmery, it’s so good to see you again. And thank you for coming into the podcast so we could talk about this.
Kimmery: Thank you so much for having me. This is a definitely needed conversation so I’m glad you’re having it with your Diamonds.
Sonia: So I just want to ask you about what are your thoughts, if we’re dealing with ethical pornography and we’re not bringing in some other concerns, that are definitely concerns. But if we’re just talking specifically about ethical pornography, what is your thoughts around pornography?
Kimmery: Well, I think each person has their own individual philosophy when it comes to pornography use. And I think you’re right when you say, if you’re going to use it, make sure that it’s from sources that know that the people involved are being taken care of. It’s kind of like we want companies who use clean energy or who don’t use hormones, genetically modified hormones or things like that in their foods. We want organic foods. And so it’s kind of the same thing when you’re talking about pornography use, just to make sure there’s no exploitation of the people involved.
But it really, really truly depends on the person and their preferences and their partnership.
Sonia: So it’s kind of like organic pornography or clean sex living.
Kimmery: Yeah, it’s good, I like that, clean sex living, yes. Yes, very good. I like it.
Sonia: So do you coach around pornography, has this issue come up in your practice?
Kimmery: Yes, for sure. There are people and I’ve had women also who have talked about pornography and its effects in their life in relationships. And so I think it’s important to note that it’s not just the male presenting partners who have issues with this but there’s also females who have questions about themselves and their partners mostly in heterosexual relationship setups. Their partners are the ones who are concerned about their use and how it affects their desire for them in the bedroom in particular.
Sonia: Well, let’s talk a little bit about use. Some people use the word ‘addiction’. I don’t necessarily like the word ‘addiction’ but some people use overuse. There’s different terminology that is out there and sometimes different fractions like be it religious organizations or whatever, may label something as an addiction where other people and the like maybe would not necessarily label this as an addiction. But it comes with a lot of shame and a lot of just feeling bad about themselves and maybe because they’re choosing to watch pornography or something like that.
So how do you know when something is an addiction or overuse versus an interest that people have in watching pornography?
Kimmery: Well, it’s interesting you ask that question because in some communities the word ‘overuse’ is another word for addiction but it’s just a nicer word that people use. And as far as addiction is concerned, for those who don’t know, I’m also a certified sex addictions treatment provider. And so this is an area of expertise that I carry as well. But as far as addiction is concerned just in general, an addiction is something that affects your daily life. So if you are watching pornography at work and not completing tasks that are supposed to be completed.
If you are watching pornography at home and not interacting with your family and your family is noticing that there’s some problems because you’re away, you’re at home but you’re away, that’s an issue. If you’re using pornography as a way to substitute for your interpersonal connection in your relationship, that’s a problem. If you’re using pornography to treat any type of sadness or grief or anything that you feel emotionally off about then that is also considered an addiction.
So the addiction is something that affects your everyday life. If the use does not affect your everyday stuff, I’m not talking about things that are [inaudible] like you don’t get enough sleep or that sort of thing, that could be a part of it. Because sometimes when people don’t get sleep they don’t go to work. But I mean your family, it’s affecting your relationships with people. You’d rather watch pornography than to go out and hang out with friends or to go to dinner with your family.
It’s something that you need as a way of self-soothing when you can find that soothing in a more healthy connected way when you have a partnership. So I hope that explains what I’m saying.
Sonia: Yeah, thank you, I appreciate that. That is definitely helpful to think about in terms of it’s interfering with your everyday life. Is it like a dopamine hit thing, is that what we’re talking about here?
Kimmery: For some people it is. It definitely looks at that reward center. If you’ve had an argument with your partner and there feels like there’s no resolution and you’ve been using pornography as a way to deal with that type of pain and you get that dopamine hit. It can bring your mood back to stability, doesn’t necessarily create harmony in your relationship but it can bring your mood back to stability. There are also different situations where the pornography use can be a substitute for any type of relationship activity that you’ve done previously that has caused you to have that dopamine hit.
You replace it with the pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with pleasure, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it. But if the pornography use is the dopamine hit that you’re needing to get from being with your kids or the dopamine hit that you’re receiving from spending time with your partner, then that’s when we have a larger conversation. So all that to say yes and a substitute.
Sonia: And that’s a substitute for those?
Sonia: Okay, that’s helpful. So yeah, I do get a number of Diamonds coming to me and they’re dealing with a partner that is in the other room with pornography for two or three hours in the day and not spending time with them and not interacting with them. So that sounds like that is an addiction or overuse as the other term is.
Kimmery: Absolutely, yes.
Sonia: So how do you help a couple if they’re dealing with this situation?
Kimmery: Well, there are a number of ways that they can be helped. The main question though is does the person who is participating in the pornography overuse or addiction as some people call it, want to change? Because if they don’t want to do anything differently, this is just like with people who have substance abuse. We can call it alcohol overuse and that’s just a different word for alcoholism.
And so if the person really wants to do something differently, the partner who is not using pornography as a way of relating can go to therapy themselves and they can make lots and lots of different decisions about how they want to be in their relationship. Or if they want to be in their relationship anymore, but it largely depends on the other person wanting to work just like with any other type of relationship issue. Both people must be willing to participate in the betterment of the situation, if that makes sense.
Sonia: Yeah, that does make sense. What if you have a situation where it’s one partner is labeling the other partner as addicted or the individual’s labeling themselves as addicted but it’s just use? But because they may be coming from a religious background or something where no pornography use is tolerated at all. So it’s from this place of shame and they label themselves as addicted but maybe they just use pornography 15/20 minutes a day to relax or just to enjoy themselves for pleasure.
What do you do when somebody comes to you and says, “I’m addicted to this”, and then they describe the situation and you’re like, “Doesn’t exactly meet the normal criteria”, is it just based on what a person decides that they’re addicted or how do you address that?
Kimmery: Yeah, that’s a very good question. When I told you I had women coming to me talking about that, I actually have some who just have used it in the past and that’s what comes to their mind when they’re having sex with their partner and they think they’re bad. But to address your question, it really is a matter of perspective. And so we talk about in mindset stuff and in coaching all the time. And so if you call yourself addicted then you’re probably going to act as an addict which is, there’s a lot of shame. There’s a lot of secrecy. There’s a lot of guilt. There’s a lot of withdrawal.
You may not increase your activity with the pornography use but you still have those feelings. And then there are situations where they do increase because they’re like, “Well, I’m already ‘addicted’ anyway.” And so the time that they spend doing it increases. But as far as what do you do when someone comes to you, what I do is I have them define addiction themselves. What do they mean by addicted?
And we talk through that, talk through what their mind tells them, talk through what religion tells them, talk through whatever it is that’s influencing them to feel like they need to call themselves addicted. We talk through that and we try and parse through all of the language that causes the stress. If they don’t fit the criteria, meaning it’s not affecting their everyday life adversely, they’re not missing work, they’re not losing money, they’re not destroying their relationship with their intimate partner. They’re not isolating themselves from their children.
They’re not doing any of that stuff. Then we say, “Hey, this is what the definition says, this is what professionals say. Do you fit this criteria?” And so we talk about the label because often the label is where people get kind of shook up. And so if a person is using pornography as a way to just relax, do the relaxation as you talked about, as a way to unwind, as a way to spend time with themselves. Hopefully they’re doing it with an ethically verified source. We’re going to keep putting that in there.
But if they’re using it for that purpose and not to replace their relationship, then we deeply, deeply have to examine the rooted beliefs in the shame. And so being able to have those conversations, potentially inviting a partner in to see what their thoughts are about it or even ask if their partner even knows about it, because that could be a part of the shame cycle too. So we’ve got to figure out where the definition is coming from. And then make movement and treatment from there.
Sonia: So good, thank you, I appreciate that. I did have another question along those lines. I have people come to me and they have this belief system that certain things are the equivalent of having an affair. Either their partner’s engaging or they’re engaging and watching pornography, and they then go, “Therefore… this is an affair that I’m having because it’s in some sort of sexual intimacy or relationship or sex is involved in some way with pornography.” And they do not make any delineation.
They’re like, “If it’s not with my partner.” And I see this come up around masturbation too. If it’s not with my partner this is kind of an affair. And I see them say, “My partner is watching pornography so therefore they’re essentially having an affair.” Or, “I like to watch it every once in a while but I know that this is the equivalent to having an affair.” So what do you do and how do you coach and talk around that area?
Kimmery: Yeah, that’s also very common. And there are people who stand firm in that. They’re just like, “If they’re looking at pornography and having some type of arousal or receiving pleasure from that and I’m not there then they’re having an affair.” Even if it’s say a virtual affair with characters that are doing a performance because that’s what it is. It’s like you said, it goes back to that. It’s not real. People are acting. This is a performance. And some people stand firm in that.
There are other people, we have two people involved a lot of the times and one of the people is like, “This is not addiction.” That’s usually the person using it. Or, “This is not an affair.” That’s usually the person using it. But it depends on the level of violation and it depends on, as we go back again, what is the definition of affair? Because people have two different minds when it comes to an affair. And so for some people, any type of stimulation that you receive outside of your main intimate partner relationship in a monogamous relationship is considered cheating.
There are people who will consider emotional affairs an affair. And so if you have a deep emotional connection with someone other than your partner, it’s not just like a friend that you share with every now and again. But someone who you’re sharing deep things with that you’re not talking to your partner about, there are people who consider that to be an emotional affair. So the definition as we go through all of this, as we work with people, having them define for you what that means for them will greatly, greatly improve the odds of having an outcome that is pleasurable for everyone.
Sonia: So is it more like trying to get people’s thoughts to meet more in the middle or what is it, just kind of making sure each person defines what their thoughts are around it and have a conversation in the relationship? How do you actually coach on that with relationships?
Kimmery: Yes. Yes.
Sonia: And do they come to a place of resolution over it or it’s more focused on what the definition of an affair in the context of watching pornography if they decide that it’s acceptable or not acceptable. But some sort of agreement is the important aspect of it?
Kimmery: Yes and no. Yes in the sense that okay, now I understand what you mean by that when you say affair, I understand that. That makes sense to me. Or I understand because that’s what you told me but I still don’t understand how this is an affair. And so the goal is for there to be a mutual understanding of where each other’s coming from. And then you have kind of an even ground that you can work off of.
If there’s still one partner who’s like, “I don’t care what you say. I don’t care how you define it. It’s not an affair. I’m not telling you what my definition of an affair is. So no, this is not an affair. I’m not pulling down my clothes and sticking anything in anybody else or letting anybody stick anything in me. I’m watching something and I am producing my own pleasure.” So it really just depends, it really depends. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to say so that’s why I say yes and no in that sense.
Sonia: Alright, so another question that a number of my Diamonds will ask me is that they think pornography is fine. They’re like, “My partner likes pornography, I like pornography, this is not an issue. However, my partner needs pornography all the time to engage in sexual intimacy. They want to have it on all the time, or in order to start the initiation process, they have to always watch some pornography first.” What do you think about in that or what do you say to help them with this area?
Kimmery: This is a matter of preference. And so each partner has their thing that they need. And then there are things that partners need that cause insecurity. And so it’s a respect. It’s a respecting the desire. And so this is where you do the meeting in the middle type of thing. Maybe there’s you’re scheduling time to have intimacy, sexual intimacy. And your partner’s like, “Okay, I need to use this to get myself ready.” But that means that partner may not have the spontaneous libido that you talk about. They may have the responsive one.
And so figuring out ways if people are onboard with it but figuring out ways to have the responsive libido person do something else. Or if the partner can help the responsive libido do something other than watch pornography then that would be a meeting in the middle. If the partner who is more spontaneous in their libido response can have an understanding of why their partner is doing that, then there’s a very likelihood that they would be okay with their partner doing so knowing that it’s not a replacement. It’s just this is how I get started.
And so if there is a way to put a different practice into place for the preparation for sexual intimacy then I think that if both partners are willing to pursue that, then there definitely is something that can be had.
Sonia: That’s helpful. And then along those lines, what if you’re both fine with pornography but the type of pornography that your partner prefers is not something that turns you on at all, not something in a million years that’s going to get you excited? And in fact it kind of, it gets them excited and they’re ready to go and you’re like ugh. And so it completely turns you off. So what do you do in that regard?
Kimmery: Yeah. And that’s something that’s really common as well, that satisfaction with both people. Yeah, pornography is great, but that bullshit that you’re looking at, that doesn’t pull nothing for me. And so I think the thing that really can be helpful in this situation is if there is a way for the partner who does not appreciate the type of pornography, to have the type of pornography that they used one time. And then the next time that person’s other part has used. And they both not focus on the viewing and what’s on the screen.
But they focus on listening to the pleasure that their partner is receiving and allowing that to be what provides them with the stimulation that’s necessary in order to engage in the sex act together, to share that type of intimacy together. And so they take the focus off of the pornography and put it on, wow, my partner is really experiencing something beautiful right now and I’m watching it and it’s great. So it’s kind of almost like some mutual masturbation thing that can happen.
And it can be mutual masturbation if you want to do that but the other person is getting themselves prepared too because they’re hearing the pleasure that their partner is receiving. And it may be that they watch, each partner who has different types of pornography they like, watch their pornography in a different room but are very vocal when it comes to experiencing the pleasure associated with it. So the other person is in the bedroom or wherever preparing for them to come and experience that sexual intimacy together.
So they’re hearing their partner experience pleasure but they’re not necessarily having to hear what’s on the screen, if that makes sense.
Sonia: Yeah. I’m even thinking about, okay, you put it on your phone and each of you have your little individual earbud in. And at some point in time you drop the earbuds and the phone off. You’re like, “I can do it.” [Inaudible]. Okay, I want to switch gears completely, not completely because we’re still talking about pornography but we’re not specifically talking in terms of relationship. It’s more like because I have you here. I want to talk a little bit about pornography and kids. We are both parents.
The literature and the studies out there show that by age 10 most kids have come across some sort of pornography. They’re Googling something and the next thing they know they are down this rabbit hole and they are in the section, they don’t know how they got to it. And they’re like, “Aah.” So there’s some exposure. And then as they get older, it used to be in the teenage years, it was magazines and things like that. But now it’s a whole scenario on the TV screen to show you exactly how sex should be.
Now, we understand that this is just fiction, this is just a story but we have a whole generation that also now has a concept around sex and sexuality defined by pornography. Which does not necessarily focus on women’s pleasure and does not necessarily depict foreplay and touching the clitoris. It’s a lot of pounding and penetration and things like that. So how do you think this may be affecting the younger kids and just what can we do as parents in this regard if we come across this situation where our kids have accidentally gone down a rabbit hole?
Or not as accidentally, maybe a friend’s like, “Hey, dude, look at this.” So what do we do or [crosstalk]?
Kimmery: Yes, everyone. Well, I think there’s two things, there should not be a discovery of something. There should be a pre conversation already had about it’s coming.
Sonia: For sure.
Kimmery: And you can decide together how this is going to be approached. And the hope is that you’ve created a situation, an open environment where your children feel comfortable talking to you about things. They may be like, “Mom, why are you talking to us about this? This is gross, I don’t want to talk to my mom about this.” But they don’t remember that shit. And they’re going to remember that you said, look, Tommy or Joey or whomever is going to bring that shit.
And when they bring it, let me know and we can talk about what you saw and what your thoughts are about what you saw. Or you can bring it to me and show me. Show me what they gave you so that we can talk about what it is you see here. And we as the parents can say, “Okay, baby, this is not something that I want you to participate in regularly or any of those things. I can’t control what you do but here’s what I want you to know, that this is not reality. These are people acting just like you watch your movies that don’t have this in it. These are people acting, playing a part.
This is not how sex really goes. So when you’re ready for those questions and you’re ready to have that conversation, we can definitely talk about what that looks like. But just know that this is not real. And so it’s better to not fill your mind with things that are fake. And it’s better to fill your mind with things that are informative and that you can verify as real, so just keep that in mind. Keep it in mind.” So you have a conversation ahead of time knowing it’s coming.
Then when it comes the hope is that they heard you when you said, “You can come and tell me when this happens and we can have more of a conversation about it.” So that they’re not feeling like it’s a secret or they’re feeling like the shame is building up or they feel like they’ve got to use it to replace something. Or when they get mad at you they go and they look at the pornography to feel better. You give them space and you give them knowledge because the knowledge is if it hasn’t already come, it’s coming. And it may not be inadvertent.
It may be inadvertent and it may not be inadvertent. So that’s the hope that you have the conversation. That you go ahead and talk about it because it’s coming, if it hasn’t come already.
Sonia: Yeah. And I like how you say, to separate the shame from it. You have a conversation, you let them know this might be coming down the pathway, they might encounter this at some point in time. This doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them or they’re bad or something like that. This is just what the environment is that we live in right now. And there’s certain feelings or thoughts that are going to come up for you. And let them know they’re not in trouble, that they can come and talk to you no matter what it is.
And if they need to say, “Hey, mom, I need to talk to you about something, but I want to make sure you’re not going to get mad at me.” Then honor that because the fact that they want to come to you means that you are a trusting place. And they just need to reiterate that it’s going to be okay for me to talk to you about this. So you [inaudible] the request and take a deep breath if you need to and know it’s going to be okay. But what you’re doing is you are providing that safe place for your children, which is the most important thing.
And you’re also able to influence them from a young age to let them know that if they happen to be a girl, that this is not what it looks like. And their own pleasure is important and they have a clitoris and they need to be aware of that. If it’s a boy, this is not what it really looks like. You’d better find the clitoris and it’s not all about having if they’re non-binary. This is not what it looks like so it doesn’t matter the gender. This is not reality here. And this is not exactly what it looks like. This is a form of entertainment.
And as long as you understand this is a form of entertainment and not reality. And we can have a conversation about this. And then also you can have a discussion about respect for human beings and this looks respectful or doesn’t look respectful and what that should look like. Because if we allow our children to learn this is what sex is, there’s going to be even more problems in our society. Not that I’m saying that pornography is bad in itself but the concept that this is what is really what people want can lead kids down a path where they could get in trouble.
And they wouldn’t recognize that. They’re just like, I’m just doing what they did in this scenario and I didn’t realize that that’s not acceptable. They don’t talk about consent anywhere in there and so they need to understand these concepts, definitely.
Sonia: Anything else to add before we wrap this up?
Kimmery: I want to add one more thing to the children part of it. This is where we hit it off at the pass. This is where we kind of cut the snake off before it becomes venomous. If we don’t address it with children, if we don’t address sexuality with children or we don’t address reality around sex with children then we create people who more than likely, not always, because we can generalize. But we create teens and young adults and adults who have a tremendous amount of shame around their sexuality and around the expression of their sexuality.
And I think that that is the disservice that we do to the next generation. And so the generation before with the magazine and that sort of thing that they find or the VHS tapes that happen to be in the VCR still, an accident, they want to watch a movie kind of thing. That generation has done a great disservice because it was all seen as shameful and in private. And they have also done a disservice because it was not explained that this was not real.
And so when they got in relationships where this was not acceptable as far as the actions of that, not necessarily the viewing of the pornography, but the actions of the pornography were not seen as cool or acceptable by their partner. Then they couldn’t understand why that is and then may not be able to maintain healthy consensual sexual relationships too. So all that to say, let’s communicate. Let’s talk to our kids. It’s scary. We want to believe that they will be non-sexual people their entire lives, but that is not true. And let’s have the conversations. Let’s have the hard talks.
Sonia: Definitely. Okay, thank you once again, Dr. Kimmery. I always appreciate your insights and I always love having you as our relationship coach in all the programs that we are involved in, so thank you so much. And, Diamonds, I’ll be seeing you again here next week, same time, same place. Dr. Sonia and…
Kimmery: Dr. Kimmery out.
Hello, hello, hello again, Diamonds, it’s Dr. Sonia. I have some questions for you. Do you feel like you’re missing out on passionate intimacy and amazing pleasure even though it looks like your life is pretty good from the outside? Or maybe you feel like sex is an obligation, a duty, something that’s on your to-do list right after taking out the trash. Perhaps you would love to get rid of the story that’s on replay in your mind that sex is shameful.
Maybe you just want to know all about the toys or maybe you want to want to want sex and intimacy again. Maybe you feel like your libido is dead or missing in action never to be found again. Well, Diamonds, Dr. Sonia and her team, we are here, we hear you. We know what’s going on in your lives and we want to make a difference. There’s a lot of things that are going on behind the scenes and that will be happening over the next few months with The Midlife Sex Coach for Women™ organization. I am so excited about this.
So make sure that you’re on our email list to get all the updates as soon as the information is available. So if you’re not on our email list, click on the link below and get on that list. And in the meantime you’ll get your free intimacy guide. It doesn’t get better than that. Okay, Diamonds, talk to you soon. Lots of love.