What are men unconsciously seeking in internet porn?

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“The soul often manifests itself in the sexual areas of life.”

Thomas Moore

Internet porn is an increasing issue among the male, heterosexual clients I see, and one that can cause a lot of shame as well as impacting on intimate relationships.

Some couples and individuals may have a comfortable relationship with porn and it may be something they enjoy making a part of their sex lives. But for many men it can become something secretive and taboo, which they turn to not simply because of the pleasure it offers but also as a way of escaping difficult feelings.

The easy and free accessibility of internet porn (and the range of sexual activity one can view) means that it can quickly become an instant hit for men who are not feeling good about themselves.

When the need for that ‘hit’, for that escape, becomes a regular way of handling difficult feelings internet porn use can become a problem both for the individual and his partner if he is in a relationship.

For me the interesting part is not just what a man may be escaping by using internet porn, but what he may, unconsciously, be seeking.

To explore this one must ask the individual what he is drawn to in the experience, how he actually feels in the midst of it. Male clients tell me they feel excitement and passion when they are lost in internet porn, that they enjoy the secretive and rule-breaking atmosphere.

Some also feel they are giving themselves a treat or reward and even that they feel somehow nurtured by or attended to by the women they watch engaging in sex.

For some men there is also a pleasure in seeing women treated in a dominating, or even humiliating, way sexually and this may be tapping into unresolved angry feelings towards women that go back to childhood.

Part of the work with these clients is about exploring with them what the porn gives them and whether that is a sign that there is something missing from the rest of their lives and relationships. If they feel excitement and passion using porn, is there a boredom or flatness in the rest of their life or relationships? If so, how can they bring some excitement into other areas of their life?

I would be interested in what might be holding the man back from bringing these energies into his life. Did he grow up with the message that it was somehow not ok for him to express excitement or passion, for example?

If the man feels somehow looked after or attended to by the women in porn videos, does this mean he feels that is lacking in his other relationships with women? Can he ask for these needs to be met in other relationships and can he begin to look after or attend to himself in healthier ways?

For the man who is aroused by women being dominated or treated in a humiliating way I would be interested in how he felt his childhood excitement, anger and sexuality were treated by women. Did he feel those parts were not acceptable and did he feel humiliated by his mother or other females when he showed those energies and emotions?

What I’m aware when I hear the stories of men who have problematic relationships with porn is how the activity, as well as an escape is also a movement towards something.  This ‘something’ is often about feeling alive, connected to one’s excitement, feeling connected to and accepted by a woman.

Even the man who is drawn to porn that demeans women is, in a distorted way, trying to establish a connection with the feminine. If those feelings of anger and powerlessness, with regard to women, can be made more conscious they can then be worked with.

As psychotherapist and author Thomas Moore says, in his book The Soul of Sex, many of the people who came to see him had sexual concerns, “which eventually were revealed as containers of the central mysteries of the person’s life.”

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6 thoughts on “What are men unconsciously seeking in internet porn?

  1. Although I am not a man and have no expertise to support my observations, I see many men these days as passive, or passive/aggressive. No wonder as they are receiving many double messages from the culture.

    Perhaps enjoying porn is easier than resolving the conflict inherent by practicing being more present in one’s life. Enjoying a dominance online is easier than trying to get their own authentic power back that they are giving away in their relationships to flesh and blood women and even to other men.

    Debra

    • Hi Debra, I think your comments are very perceptive. For many men feeling ‘powerful’ through online porn is attractive because they can avoid the more challenging nature of a real relationship. When using porn the man is always ‘in control’ – he avoids feeling any vulnerability but also misses out on an authentic connection. Patrick

  2. Pingback: What Others Had To Say This Week | Awen Therapy Blog

  3. This is an interesting article, but why leave out 50% of the porn-watching populous?. Women, too, can have healthy and unhealthy relationships with pornography, including that which demeans women (and men).

  4. > For the man who is aroused by women being dominated or treated in a humiliating way I would be interested in how he felt his childhood excitement, anger and sexuality were treated by women.

    So, I’m a male sadist. I’m aroused by women being dominated or humiliated.

    Is it possible that this stems from something in my childhood? It’s *possible*. My mom had NPD. Being raised by her was a constant power struggle and one that I usually lost.

    On the other hand, I can trace my sadism clearly back to at least as early as 10 or 11. And the kind of women I’m attracted to are exactly the opposite of my mom. So I don’t really take the idea that this stems from childhood anxiety seriously.

    A word of advice. S&M people perceive themselves to be part of an orientation, not a disorder. An orientation that they did not choose, that they practice only with consensual partners, and with significant sociological consequences, similar in all three dimensions to homosexuality. Also like homosexuality, it has a history of being “treated” by psychotherapists, except in our case much more recently.

    I suspect that one of the real major reasons for “S&M porn addiction” is the same as for “gay porn addiction” among straight couples–the person has access to the “wrong” kind of sex for their sexual orientation. For someone with a real sexual orientation in the S&M sphere, that orientation needs to find expression in order for them to be sexually satisfied. If that orientation doesn’t find expression in the bedroom, whether due to an unwilling partner, or an actor who knows his partner won’t enjoy that side of his orientation, then it will find expression somewhere else, possibly in porn.

    • While not necessarily judging it as “wrong” and acknowledging that this is a complex area, I have some discomfort at the idea of sadism/humiliation of another in one’s sex life, particularly men hurting women given the history of violence and control towards women down the ages. I would be interested in exploring what complex emotions might lie beneath this behaviour, for the person concerned. Where did they experience being humiliated? Also, does this humiliation of others show up in other areas of their life or just in sex?

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