When women discover their partner’s pornography use, they may feel devastated, shocked, and deeply hurt. Understanding that pornography is a human rights issue may validate the depth of their trauma.
Dr. Gail Dines of Culture Reframed joins Anne on the free BTR podcast to take a deep dive into why porn is a human rights issue. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Pornography and Violence Against Women
We need to see pornography as a harms-issue and not a moral issue. That pornography was happening to real women and it had real-world consequences on women both in the industry and outside the industry… we began to see the relationship between pornography and violence against women.
Dr. Gail Dines, Culture Reframed
Understanding that pornography often depicts graphic violence against women can alert us to the reality that pornography is a human rights issue. As Dr. Dines stated above, there is a distinct relationship between porn and violence toward women.
White Privilege and Pornography
The more privileged a woman is and the further away she is from ever having to be in pornography in order to put food on the table for her kids, the easier it is to endorse it as empowering. It’s a very privileged white position to say pornography, and I have to add in there prostitution because a lot of the same women who are pro-porn argue that they’re pro-prostitution, it’s a white-privilege position because most of those women who have the argument are so far away from ever having to be in porn or ever having to be in prostitution.
The first rule of feminism is to do no harm to women and pornography is one of the most harmful forms of visual representation that we have that delivers to men’s brains, a very clear image of misogyny.
Dr. Gail Dines, Culture Reframed
Victims of the pornography and sex trade industry are often impoverished minorities who have been preyed on and oppressed by perpetrators who use white privilege to their benefit.
All women can rally together to defend our sisters who have been targeted by this insidious industry by calling pornography what it is: a human right’s issue.
Sexual Coercion As A Human Rights Issue
Sexual coercion doesn’t have to include violence, in fact, many women are being sexually coerced by their partners and may not realize it:
At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we see it as a consent issue with wives of porn users. That they are unaware of what is going on and so they are not technically able to give their consent in that situation because they’re being lied to in their most intimate relationship. So, it is an abuse issue. It’s an emotional abuse issue. It’s a consent issue. It’s a human rights issue. We’re trying to help people understand that so that they can really view pornography use with the lens of severity that it actually deserves.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
The Porn Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know It’s a Human Rights Issue
Porn promoters have a multi-billion-dollar well-oiled PR machine to perfect these lies. So first of all, they argue that it’s harmless, no one is getting hurt, it’s a victimless crime, it has no effect, lighten up, if you don’t like it’s your problem. This is the discourse that the pornography industry has really sold to women and to men, but specifically to women, but if you don’t like porn then there is something wrong with you. That is the utter gaslighting of women.
Dr. Gail Dines, Culture Reframed
There is power in women understanding that pornography is a human rights issue. By seeing the truth and labeling porn for what it is, women can be armed against the tactics that the porn industry uses to gaslight women into submission.
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Only women who have been betrayed and abused can truly understand what it feels like. Victims deserve a safe space to share their feelings, process trauma, and create lasting friendships with other victims.
Attend a BTR.ORG Group Session today.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I am so excited to have one of my absolute heroes on today’s episode. Her name is Dr. Gail Dines. Dr. Gail Dines is a Professor of Emeritus of Sociology at Wheelock College and has been researching and writing about the porn industry for well over 25 years. She is a recipient of the Myers Centre Award for the study of human rights in North America and the author of numerous books and articles. Her latest book, PornLand: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality has been translated into 5 languages.
Dr. Dines is the founding President and CEO of the non-profit Culture Reframed. Dedicated to building resilience and resistance in children and youth to the harms of a hyper-sexualized and pornified society. Culture Reframed develops cutting edge educational programs that promote healthy development, relationships, and sexuality. An internationally known speaker and consultant to governmental bodies, Dr. Dines has been described as one of the leading anti-porn scholars and activists in the world.
Dr. Gail Dines
Dr. Dines is a regular guest on television and radio shows including ABC, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, CBC, and National Public Radio. In addition to her TedEx talk, Dr. Dines’ work is the focus of a film by the media education foundation called PornLand: The Documentary. Her latest project is serving as Chief Consultant for the Steven Soderbergh documentary entitled Tsunami: The Impact of Porn. Welcome, Gail.
Gail: A pleasure to be here.
Anne: I’m like starstruck right now. I’m so excited to have you on and grateful for the work that you do. You can find information about her non-profit at culturereframed.org.
What Does Pornography Have To Do Feminism?
So, let’s just jump right into this. Gail, why is pornography a feminist issue?
Gail: It was really the feminist movement, especially the radical feminist movement, that first began to really understand that we need to see pornography as a harms issue and not a moral issue. That pornography was happening to real women and it had real-world consequences on women both in the industry and outside the industry, and that it really grew out of the radical feminist anti-violence movement. Where we began to see the relationship between pornography and violence against women.
Anne: Some women are still kind of uncomfortable with the word feminist. I am trying to get everyone to be extremely comfortable with it and to sit in it and realize that it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing. Do you have any advice for women who are a little uncomfortable with the notion of a feminist?
“I’m A Feminist”
Gail: Well, I would say for many women it’s actually can be quite scary to call yourself a feminist because you open yourself up to all sorts of criticism, ridicule, because really in this society to be a feminist is to fight back against male power, and whenever you take a position where you’re resisting being oppressed, then of course, the oppressor class comes after you. So, I do understand why some women are nervous and anxious about that, but if you really want a full life, if you really want to feel like you have power in the world, and sisterhood, and the capacity to change the world then the answer to that women is be a feminist and a proud one at that. Hold your head up high and wear that term with pride.
Anne: I agree. I’ve taught my little 4-year-old daughter to say: “I’m a feminist,” very definitely and also my 6-year-old and my 9-year-old son. It kind of makes me a little teary to think about when they say that. It’s so cute and I’m so proud of them.
Why Is Pornography Anti-Feminist?
Why do some feminists or some women who call themselves feminists support pornography?
Gail: I used to teach a whole 14-week course on this so let me try and get it into a couple of minutes. So, when you think about the feminism that grew out of the 1960, 70, and 80’s it was a given that if you called yourself a feminist you were anti-pornography. There was no question. Then what happened around the 90’s is that there was a sort of new movement which we often sometimes call the 3rd wave, where really what we called feminism right or foe-feminism was the idea that somehow if you embraced pornography (because the argument was we’re never going to get rid of it so let’s embrace it) and use it in ways that empower us.
I would argue it really was a capitulation to male power and to the porn industry and what’s happened is over the years this view that somehow pornography can be empowering has taken hold. Especially in academic circles.
The First Rule Of Feminism
I really think I need to say this, that the more privileged a woman is and the further away she is from ever having to be in pornography in order to put food on the table for her kids, the easier it is to endorse it as empowering. It’s a very privileged white position to say pornography, and I have to add in there prostitution because a lot of the same women who are pro-porn argue that they’re pro-prostitution, it’s a privilege white position because most of those women who have the argument are so far away from ever having to be in porn or ever having to be in prostitution.
The first rule of feminism is to do no harm to women and pornography is one of the most harmful forms of visual representation that we have that delivers to men’s brains, via the penis, a very clear image of misogyny.
Anne: Absolutely. Why do you think they don’t realize they’re hurting other women?
How Does Pornography Contribute To Rape Culture?
Gail: I think for a lot of them, when I would teach an upper-level feminist theories course, a lot of the students would come in with kind of pro-porn views but it didn’t take very long to really get them to see the violence that was going on in porn, the impact on the women in porn, the impact on women who were not in porn but were having to date or hook up with men who had been watching porn and got their sex-ed from porn. So, I have to refer to this whole pro-porn 3rd wave ideology of feminism as a house of cards. It doesn’t take much to knock it down.
Really when you think about it, who for a living really wants to be penetrated on camera by any number of men in ways that are violent, brutal, and in ways where you lose rights to your image, to your bodily integrity, to your bodily privacy? So, you know I asked my students to just think about it would be like if this is what you had to do in order to survive financially?
Often, I think what happens is we can theorize and theorize but there is something to be said for just plain, simple empathy. Put yourself in that position and say would I want that for me? Would I want it for my friends? Would I want if for my daughter? My sister? My mother? The chances are that the answer is no.
Mainstream Porn Is Hardcore Porn
Anne: Yeah, absolutely. The men who support this stance just simply lack empathy. Do you see it’s easier to persuade women to this stance than men?
Gail: Yes, because when women are looking porn they’re identifying with the women in porn. So yes, in that way you’re getting a visceral bodily reaction to what’s happening to her. But I have to say that when I go and give lectures to high schoolers, middle schoolers, university students, a lot of them young men, all of whom by the way have seen mainstream porn which we have to say very clearly mainstream online porn today is hardcore. That’s the only porn you get to when you paw into Google or when you get to paw through Instagram or Snapchat or YouTube.
This is what porn is today. Mainstream porn is what pre-internet was considered very hardcore porn. It was hard to find in porn shops. You had to know somebody who had that kind of porn. Today it’s free, accessible, it’s anonymous, and it’s 5 seconds away.
How Are Human Rights Damaged By Pornography?
So, the shift from 2000 when the internet became domesticated to today is absolutely remarkable. What happens is very interesting. So, I’ll go into say a college campus and when I’m speaking, there are hundreds of students because if you put porn in the title of the talk you’re going to obviously attract students, and it starts off with these male students who you can feel their hostility towards me. It’s actually coming off them in waves and they’re thinking: “What the hell does this woman, this middle age women, know about porn?” and I’m standing on the stage and I’m watching their body language and as I start to talk it is amazing to see the changes.
“Porn Is Very Much Like A Spider’s Web”
Suddenly they begin to relax, they begin to really reach out, and I often say if they could reach out and touch me they would. Why? Because I think a lot of these young men have been dragged into porn. Porn is very much like a spider’s web. It lays out a web to catch young men through algorithms and all sorts of ways of dragging them into the porn so that they get to see images that they themselves probably would not want.
I do not believe that when a 12-year-old puts porn into Google he for one second thinks he’s going to see a world of brutality, a world of violence, a world of sexual torture. He’s probably thinking he’s going to see maybe breasts, maybe a vagina, maybe people having sex. He’s not prepared for what he’s going to get catapulted into.
Pornography Is Anti-Male
I would argue that the porn industry is traumatizing a generation of boys and a lot of these boys who grow up into young men who I’m meeting in colleges, a lot of them feel deep shame about what they’re watching. They want to stop watching it. Some of them are habitual or addictive users and they are so grateful that someone has come in and said: “Is this who you really want to be? A guy who gets aroused to images of violence against women?” I would say for many of them the answer is no, they don’t want that.
They’ve just been pulled into this trap that this predatory industry has laid for them and I think to suggest that boys or men are on the hunt for violent misogyny as a somehow biological imperative of masculinity is really to lower the bar about men. It’s to say that: Really boys this may be a hiccup in masculinity that they want violence, and I would argue that’s anti-male because I truly believe that men do not want this. Our boys certainly don’t want this.
Humanity Does Not Benefit From Pornography
I believe that men and boys are born equal to women with all the capacity for humanity and empathy and I believe that as a Sociologist and as a feminist and most profoundly as the mother of a son. My son was not born violent or with a desire for sexual violence. This culture certainly wanted to turn him into that, but I know he was born with all the capacity for love, empathy, and connection that women are, and if my son was born that way then your son was born that way. So, really, we need to think as feminists as men’s best friends. The ones who say to men: “We have faith in your humanity and we will fight for that humanity” because the porn industry is about destroying it.
Porn As A Moral Issue
Anne: Absolutely. So, that brings me to my next question for you. Can you talk about why pornography is not a moral issue? I mean it can be a moral issue for people but why is really at the heart is a human rights issue?
Gail: First of all, I think there is a moral issue, and this is coming not from a religious position, this is coming more from a feminist position, that it is a moral issue because of the way it harms women physically, emotionally, and sexually, and in every way. So, I don’t think we need to say it’s not a moral issue, but what we also need to add in is that it is at its very core, a civil rights issue because it undermines the civil rights of women.
You cannot have a society that is based on equality if you have a porn industry, a huge porn industry that we’ve got today, because what pornography does is teach men that women are a subhuman category, that women exist to be used and abused, and that women are just sex objects to be discarded when you’re done with.
Really the civil rights of women cannot be fully achieved when men are being trained by pornography to think of women as subhuman.
Accidentally Brave By Maddie Corman
Anne: Uh huh, and we see that with our community. Our community is all wives of porn users who have been abused by their husband’s behavior and they are being harmed significantly because of their husband’s abusive views. I like to think that these men were born as empathetic, good people and that through their excessive porn use have become unable to empathize with their wives and because of that in many ways their behavior becomes abusive and it’s scary.
Then we have to set boundaries around that behavior. It’s hurting families and it’s hurting women.
Gail: Oh, absolutely, and I mean studies show in fact that women who are partnered with men who are porn users actually feel a greater level of betrayal then if their husband was having an affair. So, the level of pain, humiliation, shame that women feel when they find out that their husband is a porn addict is just profound and nobody’s speaking about it. I’d like to say now, there’s actually a play out called Accidently Brave by Mattie Corman and it’s off Broadway, and I would recommend everybody who has ever partnered with a man who is a compulsive or habitual user of porn should go and see.
“It Just Imploded And Exploded Her World”
Maddie Corman is married to Jayce Alexander, who was a director of Law and Order, well-known actor and director. Maddie herself is an actress and basically one day she gets a phone call from her daughter who is hysterically crying over the phone saying the police are here taking all our computers because it turns out Maddie’s husband, Jayce, was actually looking at child pornography.
Now the interesting thing here is, this is where the play is brilliant, because it’s all about Maddie’s story. It’s not Jayce’s story, it’s Maddie’s story on what it felt like and the way her whole life just imploded. What’s interesting here is she’s still with Jayce, and she explains in the play the pain of that but how much she still loves him although he did watch child abuse images.
She herself offered in the play is amazed that she’s still married to him, but she says you know he’s a wonderful father, I love him, and he has a sickness that dragged him into this, and he’s got his story to tell of how he got there. She does not tell that. She makes it clear that’s his story to tell.
I would say if any of your listeners could go and see Accidently Brave, it’s in New York and it’s on until the middle of July, and it is I think the first time ever that a woman has spoken out publicly about what it feels like to discover just what’s going on in your husband’s secret life. It just imploded and exploded her world and the world of her family of course.
Pornography Use Involves Abusive Behaviors
Anne: Uh huh, yeah and the level of trauma isn’t just from finding out about that one thing but also knowing that there are years of lies around that. It’s just mind-blowing.
Gail: It was a family of toxic secrets. What’s interesting is that I meet many, many women wherever I go (I can have my hair being blown out, I can be sitting on a train, I can be interviewed) and so many women I speak to tell me about their partner’s everywhere and what it feels like, and that now once they realize what’s going on and they look back (we always say you know hindsight is 20/20) they saw ques but didn’t join the dots.
I would say, first of all, there are many ques to look for. The first thing I would argue is that when you’re living with somebody in a relationship there should be no password protected devices that you don’t have access to. That’s a really big clue. If you cannot go onto your partner’s cell phone or computer or laptop and don’t know the password, that’s a red flag.
Pornography Is An Abuse Issue
Also, if suddenly his interest in sex starts to wane or he’s asking you to do stuff he’s never asked you to do before. Many women say: “I began to feel something was different in him. He acted differently, he felt differently, he spoke differently,” so looking back they realize all along there were clues but of course, they didn’t pick up on that because it didn’t really occur to them because they weren’t aware of just how big a public health crisis this is.
Then of course comes the enormous pain that this man that you lived with, loved, probably have children with, has this awful, awful sub textural life that you did not know about but that has actually been poisoning your own life, relationship, and family.
Anne: Yeah, and that’s why we here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery actually see it as a consent issue with wives of porn users. That they are unaware of what is going on and so they are not technically able to give their consent in that situation because they’re being lied to in their most intimate relationship. So, it is an abuse issue. It’s an emotional abuse issue. It’s a consent issue. It’s a human rights issue. We’re trying to help people understand that so that they can really view pornography use with the lens of severity that it actually deserves.
Porn Is Violence Against Women
Gail: Yeah, and first of all I don’t think there should be any concern because I don’t think any women should consent to her husband using porn. You know what’s really interesting is that many that I speak to say: “Well, you know we watch it together and we don’t watch the violent stuff,” and I say: “Well, that’s what he watches with you, but he watches completely different stuff when you’re not there.”
So, I would say first of all even if you watch it together and you think that’s a way to make sure there are no secrets, there’s a ton of secrets behind that because when you leave that house or when you’re not there the porn he’s watching is very different to the porn you’re watching together. Even if it’s not hardcore, still the question becomes why does he need to watch porn in order to have sex with you?
Pornography Use As Sexual Coercion
Anne: Right. Yeah, absolutely. When I say consent issue I don’t mean it in that context. The context in which I mean it is that you expect the relationship to be free or porn and he is using porn and he’s not telling you about it and so there’s the consent issue.
If he said to you: “I’m going to use porn whether you like it or not, even though you say I don’t want this in my relationship. He’s going to disregard it and say: “I’m going to do it anyway secretly behind your back.” Then she would be able to give her consent to be in the relationship, right. She would be able to say: “Humm, I don’t want to be with a man like you, no thank you.”
Pornography Is A Consent Issue
But when they lie to her face and say: “I’m not using porn. No, I would never do that” and they are, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s a consent issue. Men don’t realize that when they lie to a woman about pornography they are not obtaining her consent.
Gail: And they’re betraying everything.
Anne: So, that’s the context in which I brought that consent issue up. Let’s talk about the lies that the pornography industry tells people in order to gaslight them. Can you talk about what types of lies they are using to manipulate and gaslight people into viewing pornography?
“The Utter Gaslight Of Women”
Gail: Oh, well they have a multi-billion-dollar well-oiled PR machine to perfect these lies. So first of all, they argue that it’s harmless, no one is getting hurt, it’s a victimless crime, it has no effect, lighten up, if you don’t like it’s your problem. This is the discourse that the pornography industry has really sold to women and to men, but specifically to women, but if you don’t like porn then there is something wrong with you.
I mean there are even male sexologists who write for Psychology Today and different outlets who say: “If your husband or partner is using porn and you don’t like it, you have to ask yourself what’s wrong with you, what’s your problem?”
That is utter gaslighting of women. That it’s your problem that you don’t want your husband masturbating to images of violence against women and you’re the one with the problem? It’s insane, but the whole culture is kind of pro-porn now. It was recently in Teen Vogue a whole discussion about how to do anal sex and how to look at porn.
The Teen Vogue called it sex work, I would not call it sex work I would call it prostitution, said it’s a choice for women. That is coming from the teen magazines. Then you’ve got films, you’ve got shows on TV.
Pornography Is A Money-Centric Industry
Everywhere you go you’ve got this consistent message that somehow pornography is part of being hip, it’s part of being woke, it’s part of being cool, and that you; you prude you, you’re the one who’s got to figure out why you’re so, and they say “anti-sex”, and in actuality I can’t think of any group that’s more anti-sex then the pornographers. They hate sex. They’re not into sex. They’re into profits.
I went to the porn convention in Las Vegas and when you go to their workshops, we got passes to get into the workshops, and no one is talking about sex. Everyone is talking about money. I went to one, like unbelievable boring session about what’s the best: bulk emailing versus targeting emailing. It’s as if they were selling toothpaste. This was interesting because it was downstairs, it was 2 different floors, so downstairs is where the pornographers have their meetings and talk about how do you sell porn, like any other business, and upstairs were the fans.
How Does The Porn Industry Objectify Women?
So, I was going upstairs and downstairs and I was interviewing both groups. The fans kept saying to me: “You know it’s just fun, it’s just lighthearted” and I wanted to say to them: “You know what, come downstairs with me and sit in these seminars because no one is having any fun. They’re all just thinking about ways to get as much money out of you as possible.” This is not about fun. This is about profit and if you took the profit out of the porn industry it would collapse tomorrow.
No one is doing this because they love sex. No one is doing this because they want us to have a fun sex life. They’re doing this in order to maximize profits and the result of their maximizing profits is really a bankruptcy of emotion, of connection, of intimacy, and of really what it means to be human.
Pornography Is Sex-Negative
Anne: Yeah, I love how you say that. It is so degrading to humanity in general. So, let’s talk about what you said: “You must be opposed to sex.” We know that people who are opposed to porn are not sex-negative, but what word would you use rather than sex-positive because today if you say: “I’m sex-positive” people think that then you would say: “Oh, okay, then I like porn and hookups are good. Describe what that means. Sex-positive and how that may be helping or hurting people.
Gail: Well, the term sex-positive has been coined by the pro-porn crowd and I think it’s a real problem because that means that those of us who are against porn is by definition sex-negative. What I always say is I am pro-sex and that’s why I’m anti-porn. You can’t be pro-porn and pro-sex. You have to pick one and I’ve picked being pro-sex, and when I say pro-sex I am pro a healthy, creative, fun sex that you are the author of. Not sex where a group of creepy men who are out to maximize profits is deciding what is the best sex act that can degrade and debase a woman in order to maximize profits.
Why Is Pornography Not Sex-Positive?
We’ve got to think of pornography as an industry and like all industries it will do whatever it takes to maximize their profit and if it takes completely destroying a women’s body (which they do all the time), if it takes giving her I don’t know how many STD’s, (because we know from studies that women get gonorrhea of the eye and chlamydia of the anus), all things you don’t normally hear about from porn. If you think about what porn does to women’s bodies, then how can you possibly call it sex-positive? So, what we want to talk about is what does it mean to be the author of your own sexuality?
What does it mean to have fun experimentation, creativity, and really that is none of my business what is of interest to people in what their sexuality is, as long as, of course, it’s not hurting anyone, it’s done consensually, and it doesn’t involve violence then people should be able to develop any sexuality they want.
“Consensual, Nonviolent, Based On Egalitarian Sexuality”
Often when I go into lecture people say to me: “Well, if we don’t use porn what should we do?” I say: “Well, look if I was coming here to speak against the fast food industry you wouldn’t say to me: “What can I eat?” and I wouldn’t give you recipes because I don’t know what you want to eat. You go out and figure out what you’d like to eat. Figure out what flavors you like. Figure out what you want to cook.
You go and experiment but don’t ask me to tell you what to eat. Same thing with sex. I don’t know what’s going to interest you, but again as long as it’s consensual, nonviolent, and based on egalitarian sexuality, go and have fun.
Anne: (laughing) I love you. Thank you. I really hope that the women listening can gain more confidence in knowing that there are so many people in the world who are behind you. Who supports you and say: “Porn is wrong. You do not have to put up with it in your relationship.” In closing Gail, do you have anything else you want to share with our listeners?
What Does Pornography Trap Men?
Gail: Yes, I want to say to women is that I understand that women have been completely in a way caught in this net of porn. Just in a way that men have but for women it’s often worse because you often have a family with this guy, you have a mortgage to pay, in a way you’re very trapped in this. So, I want to say to women, first of all, is that you cannot live with a man who is a porn user and have a sense of bodily integrity, a sense of loving your own body, a sense of healthy sexuality. The two just don’t go together.
So, you have to really figure out how you’re going to deal with this and one way, which is not always so great, is to figure out therapy with the guy but often a lot of sex therapists make it worse rather than better because they will be on his side. You have to be very careful who you go to as a therapist.
If your partner is not willing or does not see this as a problem, then you really cannot stay. You can’t do that to yourself. You cannot give up that part of yourself that says: “This is wrong” because you will look back in 10, 15 years, 5 years and you’ll look in the mirror one day and you’ll wonder: “Who am I and what have I become and what is my life?”
Pornography Damages Healthy Sexuality
You don’t want to do that and plus if you have kids you do not want your kids around this toxic life of a man using porn in the home. First of all, it puts them at risk and secondly you want for your kid’s a healthy sexuality and if their father (or whoever the man is their living with) is using porn ultimately it is going to seep into their lives on every level about who they are. The girls are going to have a whole set of messages about what it means to be a girl. For boys a whole different set of messages.
Kids are very observant. They pick up things that we think they don’t pick up on. They know when this is going on so my argument definitely to women, or my advice would be, as difficult as this is and I understand, ultimately you have to do what is right for your moral compass which is not living with a man who is a porn user, and if you have children your first and most important commitment is that you bring up healthy adults and you cannot do that in a toxic porn home.
Anne: Thank you. I love hearing this from you as a feminist. It feels different and it sounds different. It sounds so much more empowering then I would say the typical church talks we get about love, forgiveness, and service.
Are Human Rights Hurt By Porn Use?
Gail: I have to say what really bothers me is this whole notion of the recovery movement. It’s been hijacked by some groups that are questionable, but I’ve been at conferences where I’ve spoken to some of these “recovery teams” and one of the things I’ve noticed first of all (especially at conferences where they all had their materials out) is as I was going along speaking to them and a lot of them had their arms firmly planted around their wife like she was kind of a prop here and they would say: “We’re in recovery” and I would say: “Okay, I’m just bit confused here so who was using porn?”
He would say: “I am” and I’d say: “So you mean you’re in recovery and she’s recovering from you using porn? Let’s be very clear here who’s doing what.”
“Wives Were Being Used As A Prop”
It felt disingenuous. It felt like their wives were being used as a prop and the questions that they were never addressing is that if a man has been using porn the answer is not simply just stop using porn because that’s not enough. That’s like being a dry drunk because he’s still got in his head all of those images, all of those notions of what it means to be a man which is power over women, which is the key message of porn. It’s the hotter the sex the more power you have over her or rather the whole power you have over the hot of the sex. So, I don’t believe in that forgiveness.
If he is truly sorry and been through a journey and really understands the pain he’s caused and also the women in porn; he has to make amends with all of those women who he has basically supported an industry that has destroyed women’s lives as well as the women in porn, not just the women he lives with. But to just jump into this notion of forgiveness is a too easy out and it doesn’t really get to the core of the problem of what he has learned in his many years of using porn, which believe me is not a sexuality that you want in your life.
How Do Feminists View Pornography?
What you’re hearing here is a much more feminists analysts coming from a non-faith-based position, and this is not to criticize a faith-based position, but to say it’s not enough to say that you believe in God and forgiveness or whatever. You need to see from your partner serious change and commitment to this because otherwise, you’re just dealing with somebody who’s sexuality has been defiled by pornography even if he’s not looking at pornography.
Anne: Absolutely. The same abusive thought processes: entitlement, feelings of superiority, are going to remain and that is very dangerous. What we’re seeing right now is so many men claiming to be in recovery yet they’re still exhibiting these abusive behaviors: lying, manipulation, anger. I don’t know whether the porn has stopped or not, right, because the lying continues, but at the very least we can see that the abusive behaviors are continuing.
Gail: And even if they are not looking at porn, they’ve got porn tapes in their head.
Pornography Is An Abuse Issue
Anne: Right, that’s why I here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery we see it as an abuse issue. As women start to wrap their head around that it makes it a little easier to know what to do: “Okay, instead of loving and serving and forgiveness, what I really need to do here is protect myself. What do I need to have a safe home and to live a safe life?” I’m going to work toward my own personal safety and the safety of my children.
Gail: And a joyful life. Your joy is important, just as is connection, intimacy and love, and all of those things that make life worth living. Safe is obviously the most important but we want much, much more than that and we deserve more than that.
Anne: Right now a lot of my listeners are just trying to get to safety. That is the first base, so to speak, and they’re not there yet. When you’re in that abuse it is so overwhelming to even think. It’s like “All I want is peace, please just get me to the shore.”
Victims Can Choose Peace & Joy
Gail: I totally understand that, but what I say as well and why I bring in joy is that because your life is often so steeped in misery in this position, it’s hard to ever think you can ever feel joy again and it’s really important to look to the future as well as to what you want for yourself and in that future has to be joy and you deserve a loving connected relationship. One that has absolutely no porn in it because as soon as porn gets into your relationship then it becomes toxic.
Anne: Dr. Dines, thank you so much for spending time with me and coming on today’s episode.
Gail: It was a pleasure and thank you for asking me, and it is wonderful work that you’re doing.
Anne: Thank you.
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