Considering Porn as a Secondary Sex Life

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Keep in mind, I’m probably older than you. And a therapist. Read into it what you want. I mostly work with men, and have what I believe to be a smaller practice, though other therapists have told me otherwise. But they don’t balance my books. All this is a polite way of saying, I see a unique, though representative, slice of people’s lives. A parent copping heroin coming back from Disneyland with his wife and kids in the car. A wealthy housewife who has intimate conversations with stars in the entertainment industry. So, a range.

Apparently every man does look at internet porn. I mean more so now, because it wasn’t like this, even 5-10 years ago. Little of this is based on what they talk about clinically. You can tell what’s clinical-material, and what’s therapy small talk. Mainly it’s the latter; like they’re talking about what they watch on Netflix. But I nod cursorily, and listen, picking up on euphemistic details around tastes, frequency, even places and degrees of risk. I could see how dropping a few common tactics of espionage involved with porn, could be a telling form of ice breaker.  You cop to a little, they cop to a little. Yet without actually honestly copping. Done subtlety, it could work beautifully. Plus it leaves wiggle room in case the person reacts negatively or their spouse within hearing range and brings it up later.

So far this probably doesn’t seem like news.

But I think people (men more, women less, which isn’t news) now have two separate sex lives. One with partners, and another with porn. Maybe it’s the New normal, or a “safe” version of having an open-relationship, but pending uncertainty whether it’s just convenient technological benefit, or accept part of life, regardless of relationship status. But, in the meantime, at least, still potentially deletable. It’s not polyamory–Although admittedly I’ve never come across an example of polyamory that was believable, realistic, or didn’t sound like a discourse by Jaques Lacan. What similarities Porn and polyamory share regarding either nature or nurture, aren’t shared with the expectations of committed, monogamous relationships.  

Just so we can continue, let’s be realistic: if having two sex lives included choices, given the candidates, hands down, porn’would be a shoe-in.

I’ve heard clients describe it as being an escape, a tool of practicality, similarly, a mastabatory expedient, an option, a no-no, a form of payback, one’s, or another’s, degree of freak, obviously a release, sometimes initially not obviously a compulsion, and recently a way to regulate “looking,” or lusting at co-workers, friends, and whatever hotties come into our path.


As with anything potentially habit forming, Porn has an element of Russian Roulette. Although metaphorically, the risk mitigated by there being a few blanks, unfortunately, in the excitement of the moment, it’s easy to forget these blanks are mixed in with the live ones in the box. Compared with an affair though, porn has a higher blank to bullet ratio.


However, porn’s not without risk. Compared to a lot of things, porn ordinarily doesn’t completely fuck up relationships. It probably no worse than a flirty snap-chat with a work-crush, a secret medical marijuana card, or sexually fantasizing about a partner’s younger sibling. On the other hand, having a secondary sex life with porn, provides a channel to release these.

With relationships porn offers a means for either to level the playing field. For those times, metaphorically, the opposing team heralds from a better league. Like when sex is less of a priority for your partner. Porn’s can be an option, way to balance, or way to recoup, some of your loss. And, better yet, still collect a door prize. Getting to pursue an alternative sex life. Ok, by proxy. But maybe things or people you probably wouldn’t risk pursue even if you were single.

Although porn doesn’t eradicate arguments, forced relationship talks, or otherwise replace the instinct to have relationships, it offers a viable, though perhaps unspoken, option to an argument, or the talk. Although there’s always potential for consequence, why not avoid a slap on the wrist, for a more preferential slapping. No need to do it old school, enduring drama for make-up sex, dangled like a carrot, after. If an argument seems badly timed, Porn, is the option for politely declining.

So what’s the risk? Simple: Porn’s really really easy to access. Simpler, it’s a really really easy go-to. There are just no free lunches, and that’s what makes it complicated. It’s easy to register it’s 3AM and you have work the next day, after already circumnavigating the web multiple times, in desperate search of a worthy money shot.

It’s easy to blame, yet who, gets complicated. But try though.

Start with schooling. When we start looking at porn the first few times, we begin learning how to respond to it. So, each time we go back, we not only get a refresher course, but practice improving responding. Just like any thing we learn, we progressively reinforce our previous knowledge by practicing any skills acquired. Only here it’s porn, and instead of becoming easier, you just become more desensitized to it. The challenge isn’t being motivated, but getting stimulated. You need to explicitly jack it up a notch. Like stuff you would’ve clicked-closed before. Stuff even you’re aware you are rationalizing watching, or convince yourself of having a pass, based on reasoning nearly as embarrassing.  On another hand, If this were math, it’s like you’re going from adding and subtracting to algebra, with the goal of geometry, calculus, physics. And porn genuinely wants to help you achieve your goal. You can always say: If porn is the forest and dopamine the trees standing in our way seeing, why not include the entire view?

You can blame evolution, but need to be more specific. Like, try neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form neuro pathways to learn new experiences, while also continually reforming existing pathways, automatically assigning preference to which more quickly retrieved.  It’s doesn’t do this with every experience. Just the important ones. Here’s the funny thing, the brain does this regardless of an experience being actual or simulated, but the reaction the mind, person, has to it. As if it’s actually happening. It may be pleasing, but it be deceiving.


Now, pleasure is a good thing, however. In fact so good, the brain has two systems dedicated to it. The first one scans for pleasure and, when finding some, releases dopamine as anticipation rises, stimulating everything in its path.

But not if it doesn’t get to.

 Being stimulated, without release, completion, is like ordering sushi and served tuna in an open can.

Chasing dopamine can be dismissed as a first world problem, or one that’s biologically all too-human. Let’s cut to the chase. What’s the real problem with drugs? They aren’t easy to get (think outside weed, Holmes), increasingly require more, and always run out. Like clockwork–just when you got used to them.


The difference between dopamine and drugs is perhaps irony. You don’t have to have cash, leave the house, or deal with a middle man, yet you still require increasingly more, and run out. Part of this irony is an evolutionary added safety feature–too much dopamine can cause mania and put the “organism” at risk, so the brain, mistaking this for a survival threat, shuts down dopamine production. However, because we know it’s only pron and, not to be detoured, we up the ante. Even if it mean clicking on weird shit you wouldn’t have dared to click on previously.


But that’s just a temporary set back.  Porn releases a buttload of opiates, dopamine–and serotonin shutting down fear and anxiety, and intensifying sexual euphoria, leading up to orgasm–and it’s release of Oxytocin, Vasopressin and endorphins, providing that after-orgasm calm. However, these happen to be the very same hormones evolution relies on to form attachments. Between humans, though, not internet porn.

But now imagine going from all this, to sex a partner–or worse a spouse. It feel like settling for the first site on your search page.

You can always recall a money shot, while hiding that you are. If they don’t realize you’re not being into it, by now your body has received just enough training to recognize what’s a treat. But if your partner doesn’t buy your being limp is a singularity, prove it by flipping on the lap top.  

What’s the Point? Nobody can stop anybody from looking at porn. What makes porn such a sticky-wicket is the absence of any actual we, but on your own, being lead adrift in a current of pleasure, without anchor or accountability. All of us need a we from time to time.

A friend of mine–also a therapist had a unique way of working with couples around porn. If one of them told him their partner was using porn, he’d ask, “Have you watched it with them?” If they said no, he’d then ask, “Have you asked them what they like about it?” I thought this was brilliant. It turned a commonly presumed expectation on its ear, and separated it out for the couple to decide upon together. He was able to reframe what had previously been limited by opposition, as an opportunity have a more open, honest, and mutual sexual relationship. But even more importantly, he introduced an opening for the awareness of both porn’s presence, and it’s offering the opportunity for mutuality. It would be wonderful if couples went home after and played with porn, but that wouldn’t necessarily be as important as having established the awareness of it. If we’re only as sick as our secrets, honesty and honest acceptance–limits, understanding, concern, are the best preventative medicine.

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