New initiative sheds light on pornography's impact on families

DMC launches 'Out in the Light: women uniting against pornography'

Published: Sunday, Sept. 19 2010 1:19 a.m. MDT

She didn't tell anyone about his behaviors. "I felt betrayed. I felt used. I felt alone. I felt crazy because there was nothing out there to justify those feelings," she said.

She lost 40 pounds. "I thought, 'Maybe if I lose weight it will fix the problem.'"

Ultimately, she spent hours sitting in the closet of her small apartment and dreaming about running away. "I was so miserable," she said. "I felt worthless."

She stayed for their two small children. "I struggled," she said. "I felt like a bad person because I hated him. I hated him. I hated him with a passion so deep it was as strong as the feelings when I loved him."

Into crisis

Dorothy Maryon, a licensed professional counselor with the LifeSTAR Network in Salt Lake City who specializes in counseling the spouses of those who compulsively view pornography, said it is a betrayal for women to discover their partner has been looking outside the marriage for sexual gratification — even on a computer screen.

"I can't overemphasize the trauma part of it," said Maryon. "It changes the way they view their partner. The damage that has been done changes the way they view themselves."

Maryon said the vast majority of the women she works with have multiple symptoms of trauma.

"It creates a relationship for her that feels very unsafe," Maryon said. "She wonders what is real. She doubts her own intuition, her own judgment. ... It throws her faith into crisis. She views her body differently. She asks herself, 'How can I compete?' "

Maryon said most women don't distinguish between an affair, an escort service, and pornography. One client, trying to help Maryon understand the scope of her husband's betrayal, said she knows of men who have only "been with one woman." Then she added, "My husband has been with thousands."

'Someone imaginary'

Looking back, a Midvale woman said she never saw it coming. She had to read a letter confessing her husband's viewing of pornography and visiting sex parlors over and over again before she really believed what she was reading.

She immediately called his parents. Her father-in-law's words were biting: "You don't understand men and their needs," he told her.

In a desperate effort to solve his problem, she posted pictures of herself and their children in his car and at his office. She tried to make herself more attractive. She received breast implants.

"The thing about pornography that is so bad is that he is cheating on you every time with someone imaginary," she said.

Worse yet, she added, "It makes you feel like you are nothing, that you are just an object for another person's desires."

Sexual, emotional, spiritual betrayal

Jill C. Manning, a marriage and family therapist in Colorado who testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on the harms of pornography in 2005, said when a North American woman — who views herself as her husband's equal — learns he has been viewing multiple images of other women, it is a sexual, emotional and spiritual betrayal.

"We have ceremonies called weddings that give witness to the exclusivity of that relationship," Manning said. "We are to cherish and honor one another. The sexual relationship is the one thing that makes that relationship different than any other relationship."

She said pornography use is not just a bad habit, but something that has systemic rippling effects.

"We know that pornography is intricately linked to organized crime, prostitution, sex trade, sex tourism and it forms an evil web of oppression and abuse and crime that too often we don't discuss because we're uncomfortable associating — linking — this pornography use to those wider spheres of effect," Manning said.

At home, she added, it destroys families.

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