ASK A SEX THERAPIST: How To Talk To Your Husband or Boyfriend About His Porn and Masturbation Habits

Porn and masturbation can enhance your relationship, and they can detract from it.

Jun 23, 2014 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten since starting to write for xoJane has been how to talk to a boyfriend or husband about cutting back on porn and masturbation. It seems like there are a lot of you ladies out there who feel like your sex life has been invaded by dirty movies and self-pleasure.
 
These are tricky topics to discuss because it can be really easy to seem anti-pornography or anti-masturbation. I’m actually a fan of both. I’m also realistic about the incredibly varied effects they can have on intimacy. Porn and masturbation can enhance your relationship, and they can detract from it.
 
In my experience, the determining factor is frequency. Occasional enjoyment of some self love or a skin flick doesn’t usually land a couple in my office. Excess does.
 
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The death grip

 
Too much of anything isn’t good for you, and porn and masturbation are no exception. Watching an enormous amount of pornography makes it logistically and emotionally difficult to engage in real-world intimacy. Using the so-called masturbation “death grip” can lead to erectile difficulties and orgasmic problems. Ditto for masturbating using the same technique every time. 
 
If you want to talk to your partner about his habits, the first step is to get clear on exactly what is upsetting to you. Identify the specific feelings that are coming up, and what they are in reaction to. Are you feeling insecure because of the perfect porn star bodies your hubby is enraptured with? Does your dude watch porn that contains certain sexual acts that disturb you? Do you worry that his specific way of masturbating makes intercourse more challenging? Do you feel left out by his routines?
 
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Searching for busty cougar MILFs.

 
Next you’re going to want to figure out exactly what to ask of him. The vast majority of men watch porn and masturbate, and have been doing so for decades. These aren’t habits that most men want to give up readily. See if you can find some middle ground. Maybe you’d like to ask him to watch female-friendly flicks. Perhaps you’d like to request that he spend less money on his subscription webcam services. Or you might want to ask that he vary his masturbation technique.
 
Some of you might feel the desire to ask your man to give up porn or masturbation altogether. It’s your right to delineate your boundaries in your relationship, but keep in mind that he has a right to deny your requests. 
 
When deciding what to ask, I’ve found that it can be useful to try putting yourself in his shoes. Women don’t watch pornography as frequently as men do, but we masturbate almost as much. Additionally, women use sex toys during masturbation far more often than men do. I’ve actually worked with a great deal of men who felt uncomfortable about their partner’s vibrator usage. A lot of men feel like vibrators set up unattainable expectations for them (sound familiar?). Imagine what it would be like for you if your dude asked you to stop masturbating or using your vibrator. This little thought exercise will go a long way in helping you decide what you want to ask for and how to talk about it.
 
Now it’s time to share your experiences with him. Bring it up during a neutral time when things are relatively calm between the two of you. Give him a heads-up that you want to talk about a sensitive topic, and ask him to help you try to communicate effectively. Be mindful of the fact that these kinds of conversations can bring up intense shame. It’s easy to feel embarrassed or defensive when your partner wants to talk to you about something as personal as your porn and masturbation habits.
 
We all know about the benefits of “I” language, but it really can be helpful here. Talk about your perspective, and try to be as gentle and respectful as possible. Say something like, “I start to feel inadequate when I think of all the things women do in porn that I don’t feel comfortable doing.”
 
If can also help to put things in the context of your relationship. Sometimes guys honestly don’t realize how much their habits affect their partner. For example, “I would like to have sex with you more frequently, but sometimes it feels like you’d rather masturbate than sleep with me.”
 
Next, solicit his feedback and ask for his opinion. Give him some time to think if he needs it. Listen to what he has to say. You may be surprised by some of his thoughts and feelings about his masturbation tendencies and porn consumption.
 
Try to talk about using masturbation and porn in ways that will bring the two of you together instead of drive you apart. You each have the right to a private relationship with your own body, but there are a lot of fun ways you can play around with porn and masturbation together. Find movies that appeal to both of you (search for “female-friendly porn” or “feminist porn” if you’re particularly porn averse). Teach each other your favorite masturbation techniques. Film your own naughty movie. Masturbate in front of each other. 
 
Finally, a quick word about the meaning behind your guy’s habits. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned from some of my male clients is that porn and masturbation aren’t always about sex. Many men engage in these activities for relaxation purposes, stress relief, or simply out of boredom. A lot of the time they’re merely self-soothing or enjoying the alone time. I remember being really surprised the first few times I heard this from a client.
 
It’s a good dynamic to keep in mind when you’re feeling sensitive. You may be worried about porn and masturbation damaging your relationship, when the reality might be that the private time and relaxation he gets makes him more open to intimacy with you.
 
To ask me a question, email me at sextherapist@xojane.com.