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Second-hand porn: the spreading circle of damage

Published: Monday, July 8 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Lili Bee founded PoSARC.com — Partners of Sex Addicts Resource Center — after she discovered her partner of many years was addicted to porn. Through her website, and also her work as an ordained interfaith minister, Bee talks about the dangers of pornography and reassures partners of addicts that they're not alone and it's not their fault.

Provided by Lili Bee

Editor's note: The following story deals with sexually-themed subject matter that will not be appropriate for some readers. Discretion is advised.

This is part two in a four-part series. Read part one: "Ubiquitous assailant: The dangerous unasked questions surrounding pornography". Read part 3: "Why laws to fight pornography aren't being used." Read part four: "How couples break the cycle of addiction."

NEW YORK — The keys jingled in her hand as Lili Bee walked up the steps to her apartment. The New York air was warm and the trees along her street were finally showing traces of spring.

"Hello!" Lili called out as she shut the front door behind her, not wanting to startle her cleaning lady, who was in the master bedroom.

"Here, I want to show you how I organized the walk-in closet," the woman said, motioning Lili to follow. "Here's his tennis racquets, his record collection, his hammers, tools."

The woman then grabbed a garbage bag and handed it to Lili.

"And here's his pornography collection," she said casually, turning toward the next shelf.

Lili was stunned. She had no idea the man she considered her soul mate viewed pornography. In fact, each time they walked by an adult video store in Manhattan he shook his head in disgust.

In that moment she felt betrayed, and sick to her stomach. She ran to the bathroom.

“Oh honey, you shouldn’t be upset by that, all guys do that,” her cleaning lady called through the door. “Some of us even do that.”

Even years later, Lili can still remember the sinking feeling that her boyfriend was living what felt like a double life.

Lili wasn’t alone in feeling betrayed. In a 2003 survey published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, of 100 women surveyed, 26 percent said they considered viewing pornography on par with adultery, while 39 percent said it negatively impacted their relationship. Nearly half said habitual viewing of pornography by their partner made them feel insecure.

“People aren’t aware of how extremely harmful (pornography) can be,” says Wendy Maltz, psychotherapist and co-author of "The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography." “We’ve allowed this product that shows sex in a particular way and trains sexual arousal patterns in ways that can limit positive sexual expression. People are developing a sexual relationship with it that is superseding human relationships.”

Maltz and a growing number of scholars and therapists are becoming concerned about the effects of pornography on relationships, the way it commercializes sex and normalizes violence under the guise of fantasy.

"If there's one thing that enrages me it's people downplaying this," Lili said. "That makes me so angry. There's a world of pain out there around this, and if we keep sticking our head in the sand it will grow until it blows up in our face. As far as I'm concerned, it already is blowing up in our face."

The dangers of commercializing sex

Jan Meza walked up the stairs already drunk, her stomach in knots, despite the variety of pills she'd been given that morning to help her relax.

As a prostitute-turned-porn-star working in California's San Fernando Valley, her normal scenes involved one or two men. But this morning in 2006, 25 men would have sex with her.

She agreed because the paycheck would be $5,000 for an hour. It would pay the rent and keep food on the table for her three young children back home with grandma, who thought she was in California doing plus-sized modeling.

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