Many victims of emotional abuse and betrayal worry that, if they choose to date again, they will enter another abusive relationship. Often, women asked their abusive partner early on if he was a pornography user, and their prospective partner lied.

This betrayal can leave victims unsure of their own ability to decipher the safe, honest, and monogamous men from abusive men who lie.

Jessica Skybar, anti-pornography activist from Culture Reframed, continues her conversation with Anne on the free BTR Podcast. Jessica gives 3 tips to help women who are preparing to date protect themselves from porn users.

Tune in to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

Tip #1: Set Dealbreakers: Non-Negotiable Boundaries Before You Begin Dating

My boundary in the relationship is set because I’m really black and white about it. It’s a dealbreaker for me.

Jessica Skybar, Culture Reframed

Before entering or re-entering the world of dating, women can be empowered and protected by holding immovable non-negotiable boundaries, also known as “dealbreakers”.

These dealbreakers may look like this:

  • Because I want my potential partner to only have sexual experiences with me, I do not date men who masturbate.
  • I do not date men who use pornography, ever.
  • I do not date men who don’t know exactly how they feel about the pornography industry because I know how despicable it is.
  • I do not date men who pressure me to have sexual contact with them before I am ready.

Tip #2: Watch for Red Flags (When He Debates Your Boundaries)

I don’t mind having the conversation if the tone of the conversation is one of inquiry and listening and learning and wanting to be a better person. If it’s a debate, I usually shut that down.

Jessica Skybar, Culture Reframed

Jessica shares that while she has had relationships with some men who have “debated” her anti-pornography stance, she didn’t commit until they were completely on-board with her non-negotiables in a self-actualized manner, rather than simply conforming to her boundaries and secretly resenting her.

Women can be empowered by identifying a red flag: If he is debating your personal beliefs, he does not have united sexual core values and may not be the person that you want to be in a relationship with.

Tip #3: Does He Honor Your Safety Requests?

Men who are sexually healthy are willing to make sacrifices for your relational comfort. It is a promising indicator of a safe man if you are able to communicate your needs and desires without fear. Equally promising is his safe, loving, and consistent response to your safety requests.

If he doesn’t have a problem, an addiction, if he’s sexually healthy and sexually functional he would happily give up watching certain TV shows. I just feel like it’s not a big sacrifice to make your partner feel like, “You’re the one and you’re safe with me.”

Jessica Skybar, Culture Reframed

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Emotional Abuse

At BTR, we know how terrifying it is to re-enter the world of dating after an abusive relationship.

Infidelity, pornography use, and other sexual acting-out behaviors in a partner that you trusted is devastating and excruciatingly painful.

Victims deserve a safe space to process their trauma and receive validation for their worries and fears. Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone, to offer women the support, love, and empathy that they deserve. Join today.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

I have Jessica, from the board of Culture Reframed, back on today’s episode. If you did not hear her last week, please join us there first, so you can get her bio and learn about her, and then meet us back here.

Thanks For Supporting BTR

Before we get to Jessica, just a personal note. I am struggling, like many of you, through this COVID-19 crisis. We had hurricane-force winds in my neck of the woods recently. I live in the West, so our air is full of smoke, and it’s just a really hard time right now.

My children are not in school because of the COVID-19 restrictions, they’re going part-time, but not five days a week, so it’s been a really hard time. I really appreciate the reviews that you’ve sent that talked about how appreciative you are and the comments you’ve put on the website and social media; we’re on Instagram and Facebook under Betrayal Trauma Recovery.

BTR Supports Victims, No Matter What Is Going On

I really appreciate the support, and I’m 100% sure that you need support right now too, and I will just continue podcasting in order to support you but know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and me and with all of us. Most of us are in these really difficult situations compounded by more difficult situations and it’s hard.

One 5-star review on Apple Podcast says:

“BTR calls the behavior we’ve seen from our addict partners for what it is, abusive. A friend told me about BTR, and I listened to a podcast. It was hard for me to hear, at first, and still is at times, but I’m grateful for the education and support these great women are offering. For anyone going through this very difficult process, I would recommend this podcast.”

Support BTR: Write a Review

Thank you. If you haven’t already, will you please go to Apple Podcast or your other podcasting apps and write a review. Every single review means so much to me. Also, it helps isolated women find us. We also appreciate when women post about us on Facebook or Instagram or any other way, just word of mouth, because women are telling us that when they found us it made all the difference. We really appreciate you helping us spread the word so that women can get to safety more quickly.

In Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, it’s so nice to be around women who understand it, and when women join, they get unlimited live support online both from our coaches and also through this amazing community of women. To check out our daily session schedule go to btr.org. You’ll see that we have multiple sessions each day, in every single time zone, and we hope to see you in a session today.

Now we’re going to continue the conversation with Jessica Skybar.

Identifying Porn Users When Dating

Anne: I want to ask you something. In my culture, where I live and who I would date, no one has ever set me up with nor has anyone who is agnostic asked me out. I would go, but I’m just saying that nobody has. All the people that I’m in contact with are quite religious.

From my point of view, if I talk to them, they’re always going to say of course not. Always. I’m never going to get the response, “Oh, I do use porn.” I might get a, “I used it in the past, but now I know it’s bad and I don’t anymore,” but I’m like, “I don’t believe any of you guys.”

For you, where you’re dating people who may not be religious or you’re introduced to people like that, and maybe you’re not, but when you bring this up and they are porn users, how do they react to you? Does it go well? Does it go weird? Can you talk about some personal examples you have?

Society Normalizes Pornography

Jessica: Yeah. That is such a great question, because most of the people I have dated have been not religious. It’s been really difficult because—I almost think it’s more difficult because you are dealing with a culture and a population that has conflated sexual liberation with anything-goes kind of thing, boundarylessness.

I would say 99.9% of the time when I talk about my stance on pornography and the sex industry in general, that most non-religious people are taken aback. They want to know why. Like, “What is the problem, what’s the deal? Isn’t it about choice and personal empowerment and if a woman decides?”

Porn Is Anti-Feminism

They usually try to flip the script to this whole choice argument, like, “If you’re really a feminist or you really care about women, you’re going to let them do what they want.” We talked about that so, your listeners can go back to the other podcast I did with you about this topic.

Anne: Are they arguing with you on that point or are they like, “Okay, but I respect you and if I’m going to be in a relationship with you, I will stop using porn,” or do they try to talk you out of your boundaries?

Jessica: In my dating history, the person says he’s on board with respecting the boundary. That’s first and foremost, like, “Yeah, I can do that. I’m on board with respecting that boundary I don’t need to look at porn.” “Okay, great.”

Establishing Dealbreakers Early On

However, there is, historically, a lot of arguing about the topic. My boundary in the relationship is set because I’m really black and white about it. It’s a dealbreaker for me, and so when I have that conversation about, “We’re going further in the relationship, I want to be committed, let’s be monogamous. What are your dealbreakers? What are your non-negotiables?” We have that conversation and he shares with me and I share with him what those are.

They could be the same or they could be different. There’s usually some sort of philosophical debate or argument because, culturally, he’s coming from a perspective of—and there’s also a lot of projection—if you’re anti-porn and you’re that black and white about that issues you must be religious. You must be conservative. You must be this.

Porn Is Abusive, Whether You’re Religious Or Agnostic

There’s all this stuff tied to it and there’s this whole thing about prudishness and sexual repression. There’s this idea, from a lot of non-religious people, that if you take a firm stance about this topic then you must be coming from a pious or religious or moralistic perspective.

Anne: You have that philosophical argument, but how does it go in the actual relationship? Does it end up falling apart because he doesn’t believe you or because he’s lying? What happens next?

Anti-Porn Activists Can Educate Others

Jessica: There does end up being a lot of explanation and a lot of what I would call psychoeducation. I’ve had to psychoeducate every man I’ve ever known or been close to or been with, romantically, about sexual objectification of women, pornography, what it does to relationships, what it does to a person’s sexuality, and their brain.

There is so much depth to this and, honestly, I don’t mind having the conversation if the tone of the conversation is one of inquiry and listening and learning and wanting to be a better person. If it’s a debate, I usually shut that down. I’ll say my piece and then be like, “I’m not interested in debating this with you, I happen to have a lot of expertise in this area. I have the data.”

Anne: With the debate guys, do you end up having sex with them?

Jessica: I have ended up having sex with them after the debates have gone away.

Anne: So, after you’ve said, “Hey, I’m not debating with you anymore, let’s have sex?”

Jessica: Well, not that quick. It’s almost like coming from different world views. I’m coming at it with this firm and I have all of this information.

Anne: I understand. What I’m looking for is what’s the end result?

Establishing Boundaries Around Who You Will Be In a Relationship With

Jessica: The end result is that I end up with somebody who’s on board with learning about it. I hate to use this word but converting. Basically, if somebody is going to listen to what I have to say about porn with an open mind and an open heart and trust me, they’re not going to think porn is okay anymore. You can’t. If they did, it wouldn’t work out.

They wouldn’t want to be with me, and I wouldn’t want to be with them. Once that has been put out there, and I really try to do it in a way that is educational, because the truth of the matter is this is the culture that we live in. Most men have absolutely no idea.

Read Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne: I’m going to take a little break here to plug the book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. It’s a wonderful way to share what you know about how pornography is abusive and the lying and deceiving around it and the sexual coercion with someone that you care about. Maybe someone that you’re dating or maybe family members or people who don’t really understand this issue. You can find it on our books page, btr.org/books, or you can go directly to Amazon and search Trauma Mama Husband Drama there.

I appreciate all the reviews there. Your reviews really help bump up that book in the Amazon algorithm. Even if people don’t buy the book, when they find the book, they can read the description on Amazon, which helps them find us and the podcast, which is free to everyone. When you buy the book, please also make sure to do a verified review and help us to get the word out. We really appreciate that.

Men Can Learn To Be Anti-Pornography

You’ve been dating the same person for four years, and he has been converted to this?

Jessica: Yes. Absolutely, and actually, he’s not only been converted but, in the beginning, even though it was foreign to him because of the world he grew up in, the culture he grew up in, he wasn’t a big porn user anyway, I could tell that right away. He wasn’t coming at it from I’m-defending-my-behavior-and-I-need-to-protect-my-porn-use way at all.

He was coming at it from this, “Well, shouldn’t people be free to do what they want to do and what feels good to them?” That’s where he was coming at it from. He was also coming at it open-minded. If anybody is going to fall for me and my belief system, they have to be.

Taking An Anti-Pornography Stance Is Counter-Culture

I’m very counter-culture on this topic, as you know, and I know you are too. For somebody to stick around with someone who has this counter-culture perspective, says a lot about them as a person anyway. He obviously had to get on board for it to work.

Anne: That’s why I think the whole religious situation is irking me. I’m so irked because I am very religious, which is fine, but at this point, I’m like, “I don’t really care if the person I’m dating is religious or not, I am.” The reason I feel like that, currently—maybe when it comes down to it, because I don’t drink, I don’t watch R-rated movies, so maybe when it came right down to it and how my lifestyle is, it just wouldn’t work, I don’t know.

Lying Is Abusive

I would much rather have somebody who was like that than someone who purports to be like, “No, of course I don’t like porn because everyone in our culture doesn’t like it and everyone in our culture is supposed to be monogamous,” and all of that and then lies to me about it.

That is the worst, and that is happening throughout the religious culture at exponential levels; the lying and the manipulation. It is so bad, and it is annoying. Not just bad and annoying, it is sexual coercion. It is abuse.

Jessica: It is abuse, and there’s so much denial happening. It’s so subverted and underground that there is no real opportunity for healing in that. At least, if you’re talking to somebody who is not religious but is interested in exploring the topic to get to that place, but if you say and believe it’s wrong, but you’re doing it anyway

Anne: Where do you go from there?

Pornography Is Sexual Slavery

Jessica: Right. “I believe slavery is wrong but I’m going to have a slave.” Where do you go from there?

Anne: Let’s talk about the manipulate-your-sexual-template issue because I was talking with a friend yesterday and she said, “Do you know what you don’t explicitly every say on the podcast? I was like, “What?”

She said, “You don’t explicitly say that a lot of the abuse that women are suffering in their homes, like the names they’re being called or the way they’re being treated, is actually what the men are viewing in the pornography. The reason that they don’t know where it comes from is because the victims aren’t watching porn.”

Abusive Men Act Out Pornographic Material

If they had seen the porn, and in the porn, they said, “Come over here, you saucy wench,” and they’d never heard that statement before but they saw that in the porn, the next day he says to her, “Come over here, you saucy wench,” and she’s like, “Oh, where did that line come from?” Because she’s not watching it, she doesn’t know that these behaviors may have come from there.

I think it’s important to realize that, and this is just what you said, that what you are watching is altering your sexual template. It’s altering what you are attracted to. We’ve got that happening a lot, where men are no longer attracted to their extremely attractive wives or girlfriends, because their sexual template is being edited or altered by crazy depictions of women that are just not realistic.

Masturbation and Pornography Use Alters The Sexual Template

Jessica: It’s being altered by unrealistic depictions, as well as what goes along with the viewing of those unrealistic depictions. In other words, masturbation.

We’ve talked about that before too. The arousal and the orgasm that happens when they’re viewing this takes it further. We’re all conditioned. I have cultural conditioning around what I think is attractive and unattractive. For myself as a woman, I was conditioned to be hairless and wax my legs. We all have cultural conditioning around that and we’re always comparing things to what we see in the media and all this.

Pornography Use Kills Intimacy

The idea, obviously, is that relationally, when you meet somebody is to go beyond the superficial and actually have true intimacy, which is beyond hairy legs or non-hairy legs or whatever. That’s the work that all couples need to be doing, finding intimacy that goes beyond what the media has been feeding us. With pornography, it takes it to the extreme and I think this is why people like you and I don’t think porn viewers really have a chance.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be masturbating to these images–now we’re not just talking about unrealistic images, we’re talking about violence, degrading, hateful types of scenarios and images, and this chemical concoction in the brain and what that does neurologically to the brain. There is no argument for a net benefit of pornography because you will always be doing something. Because of that orgasm piece and that arousal piece, you’re up against a lot.

“You Can’t Unsee Pornography”

You can undo it, but to undo it is much harder than, let’s say I had McDonald’s five years ago and it’s out of my system. I don’t have to worry about McDonald’s anymore. But with porn, it takes more time to get that out of your system and you can’t un-see things. We know this, and sometimes you don’t ever get rid of it, so you manage it and you deal with it, and what you do is, what I believe in, is you replace it.

Let’s say that I’m a recovering porn addict and I’m literally in recovery and I want to now forge a healthy sexuality and healthy relationship with a man. What I have to do is I have to work at replacing my sexual template with a new healthier version of sex. That’s going to involve a cocreation of intimacy with that other person. Not some outside influence, not some image or some message or somebody else’s version. That’s all white noise that’s undermining all the other stuff we’re trying to get at in a relationship.

Secret Masturbation Without Pornography Use Is Still Toxic

Anne: It doesn’t have to be porn. You could be fantasizing about your neighbor. It could be anything, so that masturbation piece is really important because some people think or some addicts will say, “Well, I didn’t use porn, I just masturbated.” It wasn’t a connected sexual experience with his partner.

People are like, “You guys are so prude because you think masturbation is bad or whatever?” I’m like, “Well, if you’re a wife who’s continually harmed by her husband’s infidelity, and when I say infidelity, I mean he’s taking his sexual energy elsewhere, then masturbation is going to hurt your feelings.”

Jessica: It is. Just for the record, I’m not anti-masturbation, but I am anti-masturbation in a relationship where there are two willing partners who are willing and wanting to have sex with each other and one person’s going off in private or in secret and masturbating.

Setting Sexual Boundaries With Your Partner

There’s a big why? There’s a big question mark there. That needs explored and also within the context of these conversations that couples have, talking about that. “Is that okay with you? Is that not okay with you? When is it okay with you?” Is it okay if I’m present while the person’s masturbating? Is it okay if they masturbate but they’re not using porn?

Let’s say we’re on a long-distance trip. We’re separated because I’m overseas for two months and we feel like we want to masturbate not using any imagery or prompts and it’s just us, the other person’s not there. These are conversations, and they’re not black and white because there are all these scenarios, right. I’ve thought this through a lot in my head, what is comfortable for me and what’s not comfortable for me. I express that to my partner, and he expresses what’s comfortable for him, and sometimes it’s not going to match.

“Similar Core Values Around Sex”

I believe you want to have similar core values around sex. We’ve talked about this before, you and I, sometimes people just have different values around sex. A lot of people may decide, “I’m not going to be in a relationship with somebody who gets off on pain.” That’s a different value system. I don’t think pain and sex go together blah, blah, blah. You determine that and then, if you have enough of the same values around sex and other things, obviously, there are some nuances that can be worked through.

I know that what triggers me sexually is not the same thing that triggers my boyfriend sexually, and it’s about respect. I feel like a guy, if he doesn’t have a problem, an addiction, if he’s sexually healthy and sexually functional he would happily give up watching certain TV shows. I just feel like it’s not a big sacrifice to make your partner feel like, “You’re the one and you’re safe with me.” I would rather have my partner say, “I’m not okay with that and this is not going to work,” than, “Okay, I’ll go along with this,” and then resent the hell out of me for it.

Abusers Will Lie To Appease Your Sexual Core Values

Anne: Right. I think that is actually the biggest problem right now because, like with me I said, “This is what I want. I want this type of monogamous relationship, masturbation is not okay with me like ever,” that’s my thing. “Never, it’s never okay, and these are my boundaries.” He said, “Absolutely,” and then didn’t do any of it and lied to me.

That is the scariest part of it and that’s where the abuse and the manipulation, and the lying, and the sexual coercion comes in, because that was so abusive. It would have been fine with me if he would have been like, “You know what—well, it wouldn’t have been fine with me but let’s pretend we get married and a month in he’s like, “You know what, I thought I didn’t want to do porn but I actually do and I’ve been doing it. You said that was a boundary.” I would’ve been like, “Oh, that stinks.” The thing was, he acted like he wanted to change and all of that stuff.

Critical Analysis Vs. Indoctrination

Part of the problem is I don’t think, at least in the religious community, men know themselves very well. I think they know that they’re supposed to act a certain way, so they act like that, but I don’t think they’ve really come to grips with, “I don’t actually act the way that I say. I don’t act according to my values. I’m not doing the things that I’m supposed to do, and I need to be honest about that.” They just go with the flow and say what they’re supposed to say. They’re just not very self-actualized and that’s what’s irking me.

Jessica: I think you bring up a really good point about what I would call critical analysis. It’s really important that people come to these values through a critical analysis versus just indoctrinated or this is how you’re supposed to be, and this is wrong, and you know right and wrong and all of this.

Beliefs When Not Self-Actualized Become Harmful

Even non-religious people obviously have a sense of morality and right and wrong and ethics and all of that, but the way I came to it being a non-religious person was through a lot of critical analysis. I would say that you have every right to feel annoyed and upset that you’re seeing this trend in this population.

Maybe those men who are religious could go dig a little bit deeper to become self-actualized and understand the why. Come to it through a real, critical lens. What that takes is a lot of free will. Like, that takes a lot of, “I know this is bad because my culture told me it’s bad, but I want to understand why it’s bad for me.”

Anne: Actually. instead of just trying to stop and just failing and feeling bad about themselves, because that’s what they do, instead of doing that, actually start being honest with yourself and with the people around you.

Jessica: Sure.

BTR Is Interfaith And Interparadigm

Anne: Jessica is amazing. I love having her on. I also really appreciate her perspective because at Betrayal Trauma Recovery we are interfaith, but we’re also interparadigm so people of no faith or people of whatever paradigm are welcome here, so I always love having her on to have a different perspective, so thank you.

We will have her on again, just for an update about other issues. Jessica, thank you so much for coming on today’s episode.

Jessica: Thank you so much, Anne. It’s just sometimes nice to have this support and having these really difficult conversations. Thanks for having me.

Anne: If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Go to btr.org, scroll down to the bottom, and click on Support the Podcast.

Support BTR By Coming On The Podcast

If you are interested in coming on the podcast and sharing your story, women really benefit from sharing their experiences and talking about what this experience was like for them. If you’re interested in coming and sharing your story, please email my assistant Kari, at kari@btr.org. We’d love to have you on the podcast.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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