Pornography 'grips you with claws'

Published: Monday, Sept. 20 2010 10:00 p.m. MDT

Now, instead of using her time deciding whether to frost her wedding cake with fondant or Viennese buttercream, she's learning to deal with a broken engagement in therapy sessions with Dr. Bernell Christensen, co-founder of Candeo, a Utah-based website for fighting sexual addiction anonymously, CandeoCan.com.

"Her life had turned into a nightmare of fear, confusion and doubt," Bernell said about the young woman's profound feelings of betrayal and rejection when she found out he was addicted to pornography. Her now ex-fiancé had gone from a caring, spiritual guy, to a blaming one, Christensen said. He would get angry when she didn't allow him to take the relationship to new physical levels before marriage.

Those same feelings, a common byproduct of being in a relationship with someone who seems to care as much about porn as his partner, may be more common in the future. College-age women are increasingly accepting of pornography, according to Larry Nelson, a BYU professor who surveyed 813 students from six campuses across the United States about pornography with researchers from BYU and East Coast colleges Loyola and McDaniel.

"By way of comparison, emerging adults were much more accepting of pornography than their parents were, with daughters even reporting more acceptance (48.7 percent) than their fathers," Nelson said.

William didn't talk to his wife about his pornographic past before they got married. In fact, a spiritual leader suggested maybe he shouldn't, because he had confessed and completed a repentance process.

So, he didn't tell her.

It's a decision he regrets deeply today.

He blames himself for not being honest up front, because he says he believes if his wife had known, she could have recognized future behavioral signs and pushed him into getting help sooner.

"At the time, I thought getting married would cure me," he said. "Oh no! ... I couldn't have been more wrong."

In the first five years of marriage, William pressured his wife to get breast enhancements, wear shorter skirts and higher heels.

That wasn't enough — it never was. Not for him. He was used to experiencing new stimulating erotica as fast as he could turn a page or click a mouse.

"She became vanilla," he said.

In a desperate attempt for more sexual excitement, William concentrated his efforts on introducing her to his world of pornographic training. Perhaps then — finally — she would learn sex etiquette ... her exact role.

For years, William said he tried to "groom" his wife to watch pornography by arguing it would make them a closer, more intimate couple.

He started visiting strip clubs behind her back and eventually had a long-term affair to feed his insatiable, still-secret addiction.

One evening, though, after paying for sex at a massage parlor, enough guilt seeped through a decades-old callus on his heart, and he decided to tell his wife. That night, he returned home, sat her down and broke her heart

"All that time, my wife had become an object for my enjoyment," said William, who's now nearing the completion of his first year in sex addiction therapy.

But it doesn't take a sex addict, nor a completely nude female for men to think of women's bodies as objects, according to research by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton.

Fiske showed that men regularly objectify provocatively dressed women in less than a single second. When viewed under a brain scan, the area of a man's brain associated with performing actions and handling tools routinely lit up when researchers quickly flashed images of women in bikinis. There was a lack of activation in the social cognition area, a place were people ponder other's intentions. Fiske said her study explored how men think of women — in the context of near nudity — as a means to an end.

"It's fulfillment of a bodily biological drive rather than anything to do with a relational state," Jennings Bryant told the Deseret News. "It's like the Tina Turner song, 'What's love got to do with it.' "

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