It’s often difficult to escape pornography. Some forms of porn are ubiquitous on television, social media, and even public billboards. Stay-at-home orders from coronavirus in many states could also be increasing porn usage and exacerbating addictions for many people stuck at home with extra free time for browsing.
For the spouses and significant others sharing a home with a porn addict, the past few weeks of home lockdown has brought to the fore the magnitude of porn addiction and the secrecy, deception, and heartache that often accompanies it.
The partners of porn addicts have little recourse at the moment and some describe in harrowing terms the effects that their partner’s addiction has on them: dwindling and non-existent self-esteem, hopelessness, and distrust. All of the following women’s names have been changed to protect their identities.
Christy lives in California with her domestic partner and infant. She told the Daily Caller that her partner knows she’s aware of his addiction to porn. They’re confined to their home together and she said it’s been “torture” for her — “I have him watching porn and being extremely sneaky with his phone more than he already was.”
She discovered his porn addiction after moving in with him and becoming pregnant, saying he began withdrawing from her and becoming secretive. He switched to a private browser and regularly wipes his search histories. Christy said he pretends to be sick and spends multiple hours in the bathroom, claiming to be vomiting when she is certain he’s watching porn.
“Why do you need your phone to throw up? He said he puked 5 times, but I heard nothing,” Christy said.
Alexa is married with a child and tells the Caller that the secrecy within her marriage because of her husband’s porn addiction has recently grown.
“He watches it in the car when he leaves,” she said. “I’m not sure if he is driving while watching or parked. All the porn sites are giving premium or whatever, and we’re stuck in a house together. It’s all completely destroyed my self-esteem.”
Since the onset of coronavirus, traffic on porn sites like PornHub has increased exponentially, according to Insider. The company offered free premium membership to users in France, Spain and Italy during their lockdowns. (RELATED: Pornhub Offers Quarantined Italians Free Premium Porn During Coronavirus)
Millions of people in the U.S. are unable to leave their homes due to mass closures intended to stop the spread of coronavirus, and many are working from home or have lost their jobs. With few options for recreational or leisure activities outside of the home, many people have turned to porn for entertainment or pleasure. Some partners of porn users and addicts say it’s not without adverse effects and severe consequences.
“It makes me feel like he is more numbed and less passionate towards me because of what he’s seen, or that he’s comparing me to other women that he has seen” Madison, 24, from California told the Caller about her boyfriend’s addiction. “I even mentioned in our argument last night that I’ll never be or look like those women because those are unattainable standards. He agreed, saying no woman can live up to that. He didn’t intend that to be mean, but more like it isn’t me that’s the issue, it’s the porn industry and society.”
Before social-distancing measures, Madison said she found her boyfriend’s porn usage more justifiable because they weren’t spending the entirety of the day together. She said he’s been watching porn since childhood. Now that they are spending entire days at home with one another, he’s been secluding himself in a separate room.
“That’s when the pain sets in,” she said. “I’m hoping once quarantining is over he can get therapy, which he’s open to.”
Kelly, who’s been married to her husband for three years, had initially also made concessions for her husband’s porn use. She asked him to transfer naked photos of women he had compiled from Tumblr and other websites into an app instead of storing them in the same photo albums on his phone where family photos are kept.
“I told him, I do not want a picture of us [on] our date next to another woman’s breasts,” she said.
Kelly made a series of requests to her husband to no avail, and began comparing herself to the pictures he had saved. Their sex life suffered.
“After months of this I confronted him because I felt I wasn’t enough anymore,” she said. “I wanted to know why we were still married if he wasn’t finding me sexually attractive anymore. What was wrong with me that he denied me time and time again and kept downloading pictures of other women and watching porn?”
The accounts of porn addiction destroying relationships or at least planting the seeds of distrust and diminishing self-esteem often echo each other, as the stories of the women in this piece seem to. Diana Hafzalla, a counselor at Seattle Christian Counseling in Washington State, tells the Daily Caller that she’s familiar with these themes — porn addiction, she says, is one of the biggest reasons people seek counseling and even turn to divorce.
“About 40 million Americans struggle with porn addiction,” she told the Caller. “It can start as early as age 6 or 7, through games, media, pop-up ads.”
An American Psychology Association study found that the average age of first exposure to pornography was 13.37 with the youngest exposure as early as 5. Often, for American children, it’s not a matter of “if” they’ll be exposed to porn, it’s more a matter of “when.”
Tara, a 24-year-old woman living with her boyfriend in Colorado, told the Caller her boyfriend must’ve been around 8 to 10 years old when he began developing an addiction.
“It only strengthened as he got older. I felt betrayed thinking that I knew who he was. As someone who is already self-conscious, I grew more insecure and the trust was broken,” she said while describing the role of pornography in their relationship. “Truthfully, things haven’t been the same.”
Various studies report that between 50 and 99% of men watch porn, with 30 to 86% of women doing the same. Some of the symptoms of porn addiction include becoming more secretive about watching habits, dissociating from physical relationships, and becoming angry, irritable, or depressed when porn isn’t available, according to the APA.
During coronavirus lockdowns, the urge is especially heightened, according to Hafzalla.
“Isolation causes temptation,” Hafzalla said. She adds that partners of porn addicts may go through periods of denial, shame, and lowered self-esteem.
“Often the woman tried to hide the shameful part of their relationship. The sex life suffers, and the man tries to fit her into his fantasy world, which isn’t true because it’s not reality,” she said. “They immediately disconnect in their physical and emotional relationship and it causes anxiety. They run the risk of divorce after all of the anger and stress.”
If someone with a porn addiction chooses to seek therapy after stay-at-home orders have been lifted, Hafzalla says they also need to acknowledge the long road to recovery, which often requires not only the therapy for the person with the addiction, but also the partner or spouse.
Hafzalla uses an analogy to describe the healing process for couples: “Imagine the couple is in a car, and he’s the driver, and they get into a really bad accident. It’s his fault, but she got injured and she needs to do her physical therapy like he does to be able to function. You need to realize you’re injured to be able to function.”
The Caller reached out to Pornhub for comment and will update the article if and when a response is received.