Sorry this is so long, but I'm really glad that someone posted about this because I have a few things that I want to get off my chest.
I recently (accidentally, while he was sitting next to me at the computer) found evidence of my boyfriend's porn use. I guess I should clarify an important point so no one gets angry at me first:
I personally don't like porn for a number of reasons but I realize that it's really none of my business if other people star in it or look at it (as long as no one gets hurt, I guess).
So I'm not trying to be the porn police here. I tried not to think about my boyfriend's possible porn use because frankly, the thought disgusted me and I didn't feel like it was my business. I never asked him about it or went looking for it.
That said, when I did find evidence of it and he admitted to looking at it, I was devastated. I was so ashamed of my own body as it compared to the unrealistic porn actresses' bodies that I didn't even want to shower because it meant that I would have to see my own naked body. The thought of him pretending to fuck other women made me cry, made me feel like I wasn't good enough and that he had to fantasize about others to be able to stay with me.
I know that those thoughts are unreasonable. I know that for most people porn and reality are two very separate things. But I can't get over it. I'm not a bad person. I'm not crazy, I am not sex-negative, and I am not a bad feminist. I am not trying to regulate other people's actions or beliefs. I guess you could call it a personal problem, and it doesn't seem likely to change.
What hurt me the most about my boyfriend's porn use is that he went out of his way to make it seem like he didn't do it. Like I said, I never asked him about it, I even told him that I'd rather not know. He almost always agrees with me when I point out examples of sexism, blatant objectification, and body shaming in the media and often points it out himself. I would have felt less betrayed if he had disagreed with me (or even just kept quiet if that would have embarrassed him) instead of going out of his way to make me think the opposite. That made it feel like a lie instead of just a secret habit.
I didn't ask my boyfriend to stop looking at porn. In fact, I actually told him that he should keep doing it (as long as I didn't have to see it). But when he saw how upset I got and how much of a hit my self-esteem took he told me he would stop looking at it. He said he didn't need it, and I'm sure that if he DID need it like some people seem to do then we would be in a very different situation. He said it was just a habit he started when he was a teen and that he never questioned it. He did say that he knew that it would upset me but he did it anyway, which makes me feel crappy, but whatever.
We even talked about the aspects of porn that concerned feminism and the treatment of women. He admitted that he knew that the women he masturbated to were just objects to him. He told me that he didn’t want to be that kind of person anymore, and I admire that but I know that I don’t have a right to expect it.I guess I just wanted to say that it is possible to dislike porn when it affects your personal life while at the same time realizing that it's not your place to control how other people act. If other people are fine with their partners watching porn (or with watching it themselves), then that's fine by me. However, nothing says you HAVE to be pro-porn, which is the vibe I'm getting from some of these posts.
I want to make two things clear from go:
I do not think this person's reaction is godawful or worthy of mockery or bad. Nor do I think she's horrible for not being able to get over it; there are plenty of things that others might consider petty that are very upsetting to me personally.
So I am not intending this as judgment-passing, and I think it was brave of this person to share her feelings. And that she's very reasonable and compassionate here about something that bugs her a lot, and I think that's very admirable.
But I don't share this... feeling of helplessly comparing my body to the bodies of actresses in pornography. Yes, I have body insecurity and body shame of various kinds too, and I wouldn't be surprised if once or twice, yeah, looking at porn and a man's reaction thereto might have triggered them. But this sense of being devastated, of being punched in the gut because my body doesn't look like that is foreign to me.
I don't know why it is.
It may just be that, for all my flaws (more body hair than most women, huge eyebrows, random zit breakouts that didn't end with adolescence, a small bit of tummy-paunch that some people notice and others don't), I'm thin and that counts for a lot. I'm used to people finding my body generally attractive and I know it because they tell me so with some frequency, which may be all the difference right there.
It may be that I'm genderqueer, and therefore see the typical hyperfeminine body and look of the porn star as different from me and something I am not.
It may be that, again because I'm genderqueer, my body image stuff tends to hit me hardest seeing other people's muscles, not their breasts or their butts. (This is why my stomach makes me insecure, and why looking at photos of Britney Spears' rock-hard stomach used to bother me.)
And I was, originally, insecure about my first partner's porn use, so I can't say I never was upset by any of it. Though even there, I think a lot of my reaction was much more "I've always heard that that stuff's 'degrading' and people who use it respect women less. Now that I know this dude I'm into has an enormous stash, I have to watch him to be sure he doesn't hate women. Fuck, that's annoying. He seems so nice to me. Crap, what's he hiding? Seems like nothing, but... shit, everyone says... damn, *nervesnervesnerves* ... Oh wait, now that I've seen it, I like it too!"
So I just wonder. I hear so many stories of women feeling so absolutely horrible about this. (There's a bit in The Price of Pleasure propagandamentary where another woman mentions her total devastation about Other Bodies, too.)
And I just wonder why Other Bodies hold so damn much power. I understand the pressures, and feel them, but this "I'm not that woman and therefore I'm bad" I just... can't quite parse.