By Marilisa Walker
Following a heart wrenching break up of our nearly 11-year marriage, and after he ran our Chamber of Commerce award-winning businesses into the ground, stole all my money and drove off in our only car on a sizzling hot summer afternoon in August while I was taking a nap, I experienced “an overwhelming and overpowering feeling of not being able to make sense of it”—which is what I logged in my journal four months later.
Throwing myself on the kitchen floor and sobbing uncontrollably, while these antics provided some emotional relief but horrified my dog—yet was I still left with an irreconcilable quandary.
If I could only make sense of what happened between my husband and I, then I could understand it.
If I could understand it, then I could deal with it.
In the same way a patient sees a doctor for a distressing physical symptom, the doctor is rendered powerless to treat that disease unless a DIAGNOSIS is first given.
What are we dealing with, exactly?
My dilemma seemed to be rooted in, why, why, why when we seemingly had so much going for us, could our relationship and life end up in such shambles?
True, I can never go back in time insomuch as to restructure a nanosecond and change even one singular event for the better—or force a different outcome—yet it is my conviction that if I understand the dynamics of what happened: I can have an insurance policy shored up AGAINST that future time in which the same scenario will likely repeat itself—”I just met this wonderful man”—leaving me devastated and heartbroken with the proverbial rug pulled out from under me yet again!
I, justifiably, have a real fear and concern I might inadvertently find myself years from now, in the same unpleasant situation. After all, I have racked up two husbands now—both addicts.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Einstein was certainly one of the sharper knives in the drawer and his take on a situation is fairly reliable.
“Many women do not evaluate themselves or their relationships,” says Dr. Joyce Hamilton Berry, a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area. “Consequently, they do not recognize the similarities that attract them to certain types of men.”
Dr. Berry explains that when a woman repeatedly chooses the wrong man, those bad choices attempt to fulfill “needs” that sometimes go back to the woman’s childhood.”
Furthermore she asserts that “People seemingly are drawn to a specific character type; until you learn what it is that keeps you boxed in, you are never going to be able to extricate yourself.”
So this examination—diagnosis—on my part is born out of judiciousness, rather than sentimentality.
It is not out of longing for the relationship to be restored, for to restore such a twisted relationship would mean that I have no self respect at all—thinking I am no better than to be lied to, stolen from, and psychologically abused—this is emphatically not the case!
Our relationship was like an endless game of “go fish;” in vain did I try to match the other cards up to the face card that was showing—an impossible task.
The face card that was showing was “what he said,” the other cards that never matched were “what he did.”
What he SAID and WHAT HE DID were not congruent.
It was as if you looked outside to determine the weather, finding a snowstorm of unprecedented magnitude, you opted for sandals and shorts!
So, doctor, what then, based on your stringent findings, would you say is the diagnosis?
Pornographic Projected Objectification
This is a term I have coined myself, to the end that other women might get a handle on what, exactly, went down—because my situation is by no means unique and there are countless woman, girlfriends, wives, children, and employers left scratching their heads as to what in the world is wrong with this guy?!
It is my contention that Pornographic Projected Objectification is so prolific as to be staggeringly common. You know, similar to air—everybody pretty much breathes it.
If you expect me to escalate my theory of PPO to the tenor of a puritanically snubbed wife, with nothing but theological arguments against the wrongness of porn and a few dog-eared Bible passages (although I certainly could, having graduated from Moody Bible Institute School of External Studies—“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9) consider these facts from SafeFamilies.org.
- As of 2003, there were 1.3 million pornographic websites; 260 million pages (N2H2, 2003).
- The total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the United States; $97 billion worldwide (Internet Filter Review).
- U.S. adult DVD/video rentals in 2005: almost 1 billion (Adult Video News).
- Hotel viewership for adult films: 55% (cbsnews.com).
- Unique worldwide users visiting adult web sites monthly: 72 million (Internet Filter Review).
- Number of hardcore pornography titles released in 2005 (U.S.): 13,588 (Internet Filter Review).
- Adults admitting to Internet sexual addiction: 10%; 28% of those are women (Internet Filter Review).
- More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month (comScore Media Metrix).
- More than 20,000 images of child pornography posted online every week (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 10/8/03).
- Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children (National Center for Mission & Exploited Children).
- 100,000 websites offer illegal child pornography (U.S. Customs Service estimate).
- As of December 2005, child pornography was a $3 billion annual industry (Internet Filter Review).
- “At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said the Internet played a significant role in the divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half such cases. Pornography had an almost non-existent role in divorce just seven or eight years ago.” (Divorcewizards.com)
I am, at my very core an entrepreneur; a business person.
Two very obvious things jump out.
- There is a DEMAND for pornography.
- There is a SUPPLY of pornography.
Yet it is neither demand nor supply that is of any consequence.
Instead, I am interested in the effect of its use.
When one is a heroin addict, no one delves deeply into the molecular structure of what heroin is comprised.
We are merely concerned with heroin’s effect on a life—and not the heroin itself.
Effects of pornography’s use
In a well balanced, thoughtfully written piece for the United Kingdom’s The Guardian, writer Edward Marriott investigates, Men and porn.
First Marriott lays the traditional groundwork of proliferation:
In the US, with the pornography industry bringing in up to $15bn (£8.9bn) annually, people spend more on porn every year than they do on movie tickets and all the performing arts combined. Each year, in Los Angeles alone, more than 10,000 hardcore pornographic films are made, against an annual Hollywood average of just 400 movies.
Marriott further writes:
There is a widespread sense that anyone who suggests pornography might have any kind of adverse effect is laughably out of touch. Coren and Skelton, former Erotic Review film critics, focus on their flip comic narrative, scarcely troubling themselves with any deeper issues. “In all our years of watching porn,” they write, in a rare moment of analysis that doesn’t get developed any further, “we have never properly resolved what we think about how, why and whether it is degrading to women. We suspect that it might be. We suspect that pornography might be degrading to everybody.
As for the extent of my own husband’s addiction, he once told me that he’s been evicted from his home choosing to spend his last money on pornography, a want, and not shelter, a need.
Obviously this thinking is not born out of sane logic, but of irrational logic, as addicts are not known, by their nature, to be bastions of rational thought.
Please bear in mind that I am not talking about a person who has a casual relationship with porn. I am talking about an ADDICT.
What is an addict’s most pressing obsession? SUPPLY.
Anything, and I do many anything, that stands between an addict and his supply, must be what?
Must be SACRIFICED.
So if I had money that could keep the supply coming, he stole it.
If I had assets that would boost consumption, he borrowed against them—secretly.
If I had employees that needed to be paid, he rather, paid himself first and wrote them hot checks.
If I had clients deserving a service, he instead, took their money but called on the date of the event to tell them, graciously, that he “could not be there,” but would be “by on Monday to refund their money. According to the Better Business Bureau’s complaint, Monday never came.
Wife, kids, job, business, reputation—does not matter. All will eventually be placed on the sacrificial altar of “supply.”
One third of the way through his article, Marriott drops the big bomb on every one’s mind:
Yet what about the millions who consume pornography, the men—for they are, despite pornographers’ claims about growing numbers of female fans, mostly men—who habitually use it? How are they affected? Is pornography, as most these days claim, a harmless masturbatory diversion?
In a moment of candidness, the writer provides us with a vulnerable glimpse of his own use of pornography:
For most men, at some point in their lives, pornography has held a strong appeal and, before any examination of its effects, this fact has to be addressed. Like many men, I first saw pornography during puberty. At boarding school, dog-eared copies of Mayfair and Knave were stowed behind toilet cisterns; this borrow-and-return library system was considered absolutely normal, seldom commented upon and either never discovered by the masters or tacitly permitted. Long before my first sexual relationship, porn was my sex education.
No doubt (though we’d never have admitted it then) my friends and I were driven to use porn through loneliness: being away from home, we longed for love, closeness, unquestioning acceptance. The women over whom we masturbated—the surrogate mothers, if you like—seemed to be offering this but, of course, they were never going to provide it. The untruths it taught me on top of this disappointment—that women are always available, that sex is about what a man can do to a woman—I am only now, more than two decades on, finally succeeding in unlearning.
It is safe to say that men who are addicted to porn find themselves vacillating between two lands—the reality of what a woman is—one who has hopes and dreams and parents and ate two pieces of toast with strawberry jam for breakfast that day, is worried about keeping the electricity on and earning enough money for her children’s daycare—and the antithesis porn—fantasy woman has no such affections, silly you, and is but hot n horny and ready to please.
Women then, in this fantasy world, must first be dehumanized before they can be used; and it only stands to reason, men who use them, must first be dehumanized as well.
It is clear to me that my husband was himself, first a victim—after which he then victimized me; a trickle down effect, if you will.
Victims are victimized themselves, the abused become the abusers; hurt people, hurt people.
In a most shocking interview, a male porn star, no longer in the industry, was asked to describe ways in which he was treated while on the set.
As he explained the humiliating regimen that he was subjected to go through to produce the all important climax shot at the end, a distinct and palpable change came over his countenance. This poor man was visibly reduced to holding back bitter tears.
“I was treated like an animal,” he said softly.
It’s all too easy to see the humiliating effects of pornography on women, to the exclusion of the suffering on the part of the men.
Everyone is dehumanized. Make no mistake. Everyone.
Embracing the lie
Marriott goes on to make a revealing point:
Pornography, in other words, is a lie. It peddles falsehoods about men, women and human relationships. In the name of titillation, it seduces vulnerable, lonely men—and a small number of women—with the promise of intimacy, and delivers only a transitory masturbatory fix. Increasingly, though, men are starting to be open about the effect pornography has had …
Willful suppression of the truth only then leaves room in one’s life to then, predictably, embrace the false.
Is it really any great surprise that the rest of the addict’s life is merely the living and acting out of that requisite untruth?
This can explain how, as the cycle continued and became ever more central and necessary, lie upon lie had to be told.
First there is the lie—are you looking at porn again?
And then a lie had to be told about the lie, and so on and so on.
It’s as if the addict begins to see himself and those around him, in an endlessly distorted, maniacally cruel, fun house mirror. The horrible paradigm shift is complete.
“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” Socrates
One of the most damaging aspects of our relationship, which I had told him in many a fight regarding his use of porn and the financial disaster that would surely follow was:
“How could you look in my face day after day and lie?!”
And I also stated, “For me to stay in this relationship with you means that you are asking me to believe lies!”
Looking at the world through the murky lens of porn
Marriott makes his conclusion:
Even when in a loving sexual relationship, men who have used porn say that, all too often, they see their partner through a kind of “pornographic filter.” This effect is summed up eloquently by US sociologist Harry Brod, in Segal’s essay Sweet Sorrows, Painful Pleasures: “There have been too many times when I have guiltily resorted to impersonal fantasy because the genuine love I felt for a woman wasn’t enough to convert feelings into performance. And in those sorry, secret moments, I have resented deeply my lifelong indoctrination into the aesthetic of the centrefold.”
This is my point exactly—Pornographic Projected Objectification
I view it—the pornography. I project it—the pornography.
I look at nothing, not cognitively, not even consciously, without donning my porn goggles first.
Let me be blatantly honest—if you were to ask a woman what it’s like to have sex with a porn addict, they would tell you that there is a “disconnect”‘ during sex. While their partner is present in body, they are simultaneously elsewhere, for in the porn addict’s mind, the retrieval of pornographic images is a must. They have literally chemically conditioned their sexual response to ultimately only obey that stimuli.
Pornography’s chemically altered brain
Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful, $100 billion per year brain drug that is changing human sexuality by “inhibiting orientation” and “disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere,” especially through the internet. I believe we are currently struggling in the war against pornography because many continue to believe two key fallacies:
Fallacy No. 1: Pornography is not a drug.
Fallacy No. 2: Pornography is therefore not a real addiction.
In the center of the brain is the nucleus accumbens. This almond-sized area is a key pleasure reward center, and when activated by dopamine and other neurotransmitters, it causes us to value and desire pleasure rewards. Dopamine is essential for humans to desire and value appropriate pleasure in life. Without it, we would not be as incentivized to eat, procreate, or even to try to win a game.
It’s the overuse of the dopamine reward system that causes addiction. When the pathways are used compulsively, a downgrading occurs that actually decreases the amount of dopamine in the pleasure areas available for use, and the dopamine cells themselves start to atrophy, or shrink. The reward cells in the nucleus accumbens are now starved for dopamine and exist in a state of dopamine craving, as a downgrading of dopamine receptors on the pleasure cells occurs as well. This resetting of the “pleasure thermostat” produces a “new normal.” In this addictive state, the person must act out in addiction to boost the dopamine to levels sufficient just to feel normal.”
As the desensitization of the reward circuits continues, stronger and stronger stimuli are required to boost the dopamine. In the case of narcotic addiction, the addicted person must increase the amount of the drug to get the same high. In pornography addiction, progressively more shocking images are required to stimulate the person.”
These facts deeply wound the spouse. How can she even begin to compete with very real chemical changes in her partner’s brain, let alone ignore the intense level of betrayal and subsequent rejection? The answer is, she can not.
Towards the end of our relationship, my husband could not even bring himself to have sex with me because he had already gotten all his pleasure and chemical fix from porn. A real woman doesn’t “do it”‘ anymore.
According to one website dedicated to helping those effected by the partner’s use of pornography, a hallmark sign of addiction is this:
Your sexual life has dwindled, or is dead. You may find that your partner is no longer initiating sex.
“And, last we checked,” writes a woman regarding her husband’s porn use, “being committed to a relationship meant finding ways to exercise your independence in a way that didn’t make your partner weep.”
As for me, I am resolved to no longer cry on a kitchen floor.
Marilisa Walker is a strategic consultant and staff writer for House 61, a shelter that serves those who have experienced sexual abuse, domestic abuse or are human trafficked.