First Chapter – Relationships

07/30/2008

As a guy trying to write something that is intended to read by a dominantly female audience, I know that women are into relationships. So I thought that beginning there would be a good jumping off point. The point is that when guys view internet pornography it changes the relationship… (wait for it!) …with their computer.

 

I see two possible responses here.

 

Jim has done a bit of gaming, he knows how to check his stocks and mutual funds online, he has a friend who blogs, he’s got two e-mail addresses and he’s looking into switching his long distance from a standard carrier to VOIP on cable. Then he discovers the internet’s darker side.

 

Dawn, his wife, asks him to check her e-mail for a message from her mom, and from nowhere, she hears his voice answering her, “I’m not going anywhere near that thing.” He walks out to the patio and shuts the door.

 

Dawn’s understandably bewildered. Why doesn’t he want to check it? She opens the door, asking, “What’s the matter, did it bite you? Did you get an electrical shock off the keyboard?”

 

Around the block lives Rick. He loves to play the 300 variations on Solitaire he bought online, has a few friends he e-mails, likes to read articles from major newspapers online, and subscribes to a few comics to brighten the time when he gets home from work. Then a friend sends him a link to a site he thinks Rick will ‘enjoy.’ His eyes grow wide as the first image appears onscreen. His friend sends links to other websites.

 

Rick’s wife Alicia is unable to ignore what’s happened in the last few weeks. Rick has suddenly become an expert on all things related to the online world. He knows ‘search’ like never before, he’s suddenly an expert on downloading all manner of things, and it’s getting harder and harder for her to get any time online. Sometimes he’s up an hour early in the morning, and sometimes he’s up an hour late at night.

 

Alicia has entertained some suspicions, but anytime she walks by the screen all seems normal enough. But there’s no doubt in her mind that her man has suddenly transformed himself from a casual computer user to a rabid computer nerd. Or something.

 

Two guys. Two similar family dynamics. Two computers. But two entirely different responses. In the one case aversion, in the other case, immersion or saturation. One guy is treating the computer the way he might treat the family dog if it bit him. The other guy has suddenly become a handy guy to have around if you have any computer questions.

 

The point here is that those same reactions – aversion or immersion – can also affect the dynamics in a family. For sake of simplicity let’s ascribe the same reactions to couples with the exact same names.

 

Jim is suddenly cold toward Dawn. She doesn’t know why he doesn’t find her appealing anymore. She gets her hair styled, but he doesn’t seem to notice. There are fewer hugs. Fewer intentional touches. Jim’s aversion could be because he’s finding sexual fulfillment online. Jim’s aversion could be caused by the fact he simply feels guilty and suddenly finds sexuality – even sensuality – for lack of a better word, dirty.

 

But over at Rick’s house, Alicia couldn’t be happier. Jim has come alive sexually in ways she’s never seen before. Secretly, she wonders where he’s getting all these new ideas. But things are far too exciting to stop and think about it. She figures that maybe he read a book or an article in a newspaper. At any rate, she’s not going to complain.

 

Within the context of happy marital relations, Rick and Alicia’s situation would seem to be the better of the two, but what is Rick thinking – or pretending – while all this is going on? And what would a psychologist say about the fact that of the two men, Rick is the one who appears to be ‘acting out’ on his newfound interest?

 

The ‘acting out’ question is critical here because if exposure to internet pornography changes the relationship dynamics between a man and his wife or his girlfriend, could it have consequences for his daughter, his sister or his mother? Don’t be too quick to discount any of those, because when you see the recurring types of sexuality, and the themes that are dominant on the internet, you soon discover that there is a fine line between using the ‘net to stimulate healthy sexuality between a man and woman who are in relationship, and more overt perversity.

 

Furthermore, it’s a slippery slope that I’m certain leaves some guys saying, “I never thought that could happen to me.”

 

I would submit that almost from the first minute of viewing, that exposure to internet pornography is going to change the way the guy – any guy – looks at any female, from strangers to women in close proximity. I would submit that for most guys, if the escalation of interest in online erotica continues unchecked, there would come a point where ‘acting out’ would be considered, if not actually carried out. (In other places of course, you can read stories that indicate just about all the perpetrators of sexual crimes trace their behavior back to exposure to pornography. Logically, that doesn’t mean the story will end there for every man, but it means that with those for whom it did end there, its beginnings are undeniable.)

 

Even if nothing criminal ever happens, the consequences could be huge. One silly off-the-cuff remark to a female coworker could end a longtime career; a remark that wouldn’t have been made if certain thoughts hadn’t been planted in his head. One indecent suggestion to a friend’s wife, a cousin or a neighbor’s wife could totally destroy families, friendships and neighborhoods; a suggestion that would never have been vocalized if the person didn’t think that such behavior could be considered normal.

 

Someone once compared the things that enter our thought life to what happens when farmers sow seeds and later reap the harvest. The little verse goes:

Sow a thought, reap an action;

Sow an action, reap a habit;

Sow a habit; reap a lifestyle.

 

One thing is certain, whether there’s aversion or attraction, interpersonal dynamics are changed. Someone has said, “You are what you eat.” You certainly are what you read or view on television or your computer screen.

 

I don’t think anybody who stays connected with pornography is the same person.

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