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My Boyfriend Watches Rape Porn—This is How It Impacted Our Relationship

Porn plays a role in normalizing sexual violence, which can have devastating real-world consequences. This story is just one example.

By September 14, 2018No Comments
Photo by Andre Benz. 8 minute read.

Trigger warning: The following post contains descriptions of abusive situations.

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

We recently received this true story from a Fighter that shows how relationships are twisted by porn, and how porn convinces consumers to believe that abuse can be sexy and arousing. Some stories, like this one, show how not all relationships can last through a porn struggle.

For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVIS to 1-866-331-9474.

Hey FTND,

I wanted to reach out with my story. It can’t compare to many of the terrible stories I’ve read about the ways porn has affected others but I feel compelled to share my story because it may be relatable to others.

When I was 17 I got into my first serious relationship. I grew up in a very conservative home without internet, so porn was never an issue or an option for me. My parents explained porn to my sister and I and told us it would be best to date guys who weren’t currently watching porn because porn is objectifying and exploitative. I accepted that and never had any issues. That was, until I fell head over heels for a guy during my junior year of high school.

He was a few years older than me, very fit and popular. We dated casually and then became exclusive shortly after. Everything was going great. But about three months into our relationship, Eli (name has been changed) explained to me that he was addicted to porn.

He was deeply ashamed but felt that it was important for him to be honest with me. I was immediately concerned and asked him to stop watching it because it was disrespectful to me. He explained to me that it wasn’t that easy and that he had tried many times before. But after opening up and talking about it with me, he promised that he really would stop this time. I believed him.

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Not realizing what wasn’t normal

He was older and attractive and had been so kind to me previously that I didn’t want to give him up, especially since he said he was willing to change for me.

Some time passed and it got to the point in our relationship where we started becoming more physical. I had never had a serious boyfriend before Eli, so everything we were doing was new to me. But soon I realized that the way he touched me and kissed me wasn’t intimate or naturally affectionate. He was very possessive, aggressive, and demanding.

There were many times that I asked him to stop whatever he was doing and he would ignore me. Sometimes he would pin my arms down, pull my hair, grab my body too hard, and I constantly had bruises up and down my back from him pushing me against a wall. At first, I went along with it but soon I realized I was really uncomfortable with everything we were doing.

My best friend was the only one who noticed the bruises and was beginning to ask questions. I found myself making excuses for his behavior. He had told me he stopped watching porn for me, after all, so I felt like I owed it to him. However, when I really thought about it, I saw the contrast. Our relationship had started out with him kissing my forehead and holding doors open for me to him literally pinning me down and forcing kisses on me.

But it wasn’t all bad, we still had a lot of fun together and could always find something to laugh about. And it’s important to note that I’m no fool when it comes to abusive relationships; my dad is a police officer, so I had always knew the red flags and how to spot a victim.

I knew it could happen to anyone, I just never thought it could happen to me. Especially not with a smart, kind guy who had my parents and friends fooled.

I guess I failed to recognize that I, myself, was a victim.

Related: Does Porn Really Decrease Rates Of Sexual Assault?

The truth finally came out

Finally, one day I had enough and told him I needed to slow things down between the two of us. He then used his porn addiction as leverage and told me that if I wouldn’t see him, he would watch porn instead.

I was stuck trying to protect him from himself and trying to fix our issues. Porn had completely warped who he was and how he viewed women. I was a mere object of his pleasure, but I still thought I meant something to him. I stuck around to try and help him.

This twisted web continued until my best friend walked in and caught him in the act of starting to choke me while pinning me down. He had never done that before. Luckily, that experience served as a wake-up call.

After that, I had had enough for good. I told him we were done. He was very apologetic and cried, and that’s when the truth came out that he hadn’t ever stopped watching porn. In fact, his problem was much worse than he let on before.

According to him, watching porn started out as softcore nudity that “wasn’t bad” but as he became accustomed to the images and acts depicted on screen, he needed more. His habit consumed him until the things he regularly watched were not enough. That’s when he discovered rape porn and violent porn. He was watching real rape videos behind my back.

He confessed to me that his porn habits had escalated and that he would watch porn for up to four hours a day. In my naïve mind, I had thought that porn was simply two people having sex, and it wasn’t until Eli shared his problem with me that I realized there were all different kinds of demeaning and violent porn. It made me sick to my stomach.

Now, I wish I had never learned. Because of his addiction to rape porn, his issues with sex and violence were much deeper than I had imagined. He confided that he had been watching this kind of porn for years and when he had been with his ex-girlfriend, he was only able to be aroused during sex if she was in serious pain or agony.

Fortunately, I had never had sex with Eli, because I’m fairly certain that his twisted view of sex would have cost me more than just my virginity.

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He is unwilling to fight, unwilling to change

I knew Eli was struggling and I wanted to help him but I also knew I couldn’t remain in that relationship.

We remained friends and he even told me that he did not want to be romantically involved with me again because he said I deserved better and he no longer wanted to subject me to his disrespect. He realized that his porn addiction had deeply affected his ability to have a healthy relationship.

Related: How Porn Can Promote Sexual Violence

While I no longer see or speak to Eli often, I’m quite certain he is still heavily addicted to porn. I hoped he would seek help, but the last I checked he still hadn’t dated anyone since me and had even told others that he had sworn off love. It broke his heart and mine to realize what porn had done to his mindset. He has since apologized to me, but the damage is done, unfortunately.

Our relationship ended and not in a pleasant way. Even though I know he feels sorry, I also know he is unwilling to give up screen time with fake depictions of cheap sex even if it costs him love and even a family one day.

The lingering effects of Eli’s twisted “love”

I eventually met an amazing man and fell in love with him. He is soft spoken, kind, and most importantly respects me as well as himself. He is passionately against porn and we wear our Porn Kills Love shirts together all the time. But my past relationship still has left me with some emotional wounds. There have been times that have triggered emotional outbursts from me—an accidental pull of my hair, passionate kissing where I couldn’t catch my breath, etc. But through it all, he has always held me while I cried and understood my trauma and issues.

Really, it could have been so much worse and I’m lucky that I got out of that relationship before things got more serious.

Telling this story is hard. Reading these words as my own story seems unbelievable that I could have ever been so stupid and so foolish to stay with a man whose love of pain trumped his respect for me. But I want any person who is reading this to know: abuse knows no stereotype, no gender, no rules. It can happen anywhere at any time and from any person.

Do not be fooled, the act of viewing pornography is directly connected with a person’s view of their significant other, and in my case I was treated as a sexual object with little more importance than a screen. Please, I urge you to choose real love instead of porn. Believe me, sex is complex and beautiful and so much better than the warped images on a screen.

Choose to love a real person who can love you back and fight for a future instead of temporary pleasure. Love is worth it.

– S.

Porn and sexual violence

Not all partners who watch porn will turn abusive, and not everyone who watches porn will become violent.

Even so, this story illustrates how pornography can warps a consumer’s perceptions of what real, and their understanding of what intimate sex and love are like. Was Eli into “rape porn” because he had violent tendencies, or did he have violent tendencies because he was into rape porn? There’s no real way to know, but either way, research confirms that violent content can have an impact on viewers.

Even by the lowest estimate, more than 1 in every 3 porn videos depicts sexual violence or aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY  In fact, according to a study that analyzed porn titles alone, 1 out of every 8 titles suggested to first-time users on porn sites described acts of sexual violence.Vera-Gray, F., McGlynn, C., Kureshi, I., & Butterby, K. (2021). Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography. The British Journal of Criminology, azab035. doi:10.1093/bjc/azab035COPY 

While the amount of violence shown in porn is troubling, what is perhaps even more disturbing is the portrayed reactions to that violence. One study found that 95% of the targets of violence or aggression in porn appeared either neutral or appeared to respond with pleasure.Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C. & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065–1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866COPY  In other words, porn is sending the message that sexual violence is just a part of sexual pleasure.

So how does this normalization of sexual violence affect porn consumers? Well, according to neuroscientific studies, with repeated exposure to porn, consumers can become desensitized to some sexual content and may need to consume increasingly extreme content in order to get the same rush as before.Banca, P., Morris, L. S., Mitchell, S., Harrison, N. A., Potenza, M. N., & Voon, V. (2016). Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of psychiatric research, 72, 91–101. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017COPY 

By watching scene after scene of dehumanizing or violent content, it can start to seem normal.Daneback, K., Ševčíková, A., & Ježek, S. (2018). Exposure to online sexual materials in adolescence and desensitization to sexual content. Sexologies, 27(3), e71-e76. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sexol.2018.04.001COPY Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860COPY 

In fact, research indicates that porn consumers are more likely to sexually objectify and dehumanize others,Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058COPY Skorska, M.N., Hodson, G., & Hoffarth, M.R. (2018). Experimental effects of degrading versus erotic pornography exposure in men on reactions toward women (objectification, sexism, discrimination). The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 27, 261 - 276.COPY Zhou, Y., Liu, T., Yan, Y., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography use, two forms of dehumanization, and sexual aggression: Attitudes vs. behaviors. Null, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2021.1923598COPY  more likely to express an intent to rape,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY  less likely to intervene during a sexual assault,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault. 18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY  Foubert, J. D., & Bridges, A. J. (2017). What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention. Journal of Adolescent Research, 32(20), 213–243. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558414547097COPY  more likely to victim-blame survivors of sexual assault,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY Foubert, J. D., & Bridges, A. J. (2017). What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(20), 3071–3089. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260515596538COPY  more likely to support violence against women,Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2016). Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 955–964. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0644-8COPY Seabrook, R. C., Ward, L. M., & Giaccardi, S. (2019). Less than human? media use, objectification of women, and men’s acceptance of sexual aggression. Psychology of Violence, 9(5), 536-545. doi:10.1037/vio0000198COPY  more likely to forward sexts without consent,van Oosten, J., & Vandenbosch, L. (2020). Predicting the Willingness to Engage in Non-Consensual Forwarding of Sexts: The Role of Pornography and Instrumental Notions of Sex. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1121–1132. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01580-2COPY  and more likely to commit actual acts of sexual violence.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY Rostad, W. L., Gittins-Stone, D., Huntington, C., Rizzo, C. J., Pearlman, D., & Orchowski, L. (2019). The association between exposure to violent pornography and teen dating violence in grade 10 high school students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(7), 2137-2147. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-1435-4COPY Goodson, A., Franklin, C. A., & Bouffard, L. A. (2021). Male peer support and sexual assault: The relation between high-profile, high school sports participation and sexually predatory behaviour. 27(1), 64-80. doi:10.1080/13552600.2020.1733111COPY Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, Facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058COPY 

In 2016, a team of leading researchers performed a meta-analysis of quality studies on the connection between porn and sexual violence. After analyzing relevant studies on the topic, they concluded that the research left “little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.”Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY 

Research also suggests that increased pornography consumption is associated with the enjoyment of degrading, uncommon, or aggressive sexual behaviors.Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860COPY  Another study indicated that teens often report trying to copy porn in their own sexual encounters, and that the pressure to imitate porn was often an aspect of unhealthy relationships.Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). 'Without Porn… I Wouldn't Know Half the Things I Know Now': A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of sex research, 52(7), 736–746. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908COPY  And according to a UK survey of over 22,000 adult women, 16% reported having been forced or coerced to perform sex acts the other person had seen in porn.Taylor, J., & Shrive, J. (2021). ‘I thought it was just a part of life’: Understanding the scale of violence committed against women in the UK since birth. VictimFocus. Retrieved from https://irp.cdn-website.com/f9ec73a4/files/uploaded/Key-Facts-Document-VAWG-VictimFocus-2021a.pdfCOPY 

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Porn can have a real effect on consumers

Now, we want to be very clear again in saying that porn does not automatically turn consumers into rapists—porn consumers are not necessarily going to go out and sexually abuse someone just because they watched porn. What we are saying is that porn plays a role in normalizing sexual violence, which can have devastating real-world consequences.

Regular porn consumers might tell themselves that they aren’t personally affected by porn or the toxic messages it perpetuates, but research suggests otherwise. There is no guarantee that porn won’t affect a consumer’s attitudes about sex in unhealthy ways.

A significant portion of the porn consumed by millions of people every day reinforces the message that sexual violence is a normal part of what “good sex” is supposed to be, making it more challenging for many young people to prepare for healthy sexual relationships where their consent and boundaries are respected.

As our society continues to reckon with rape culture and the things that perpetuate it, it’s important that we start to recognize the role that porn plays in normalizing sexual violence. Saying no to porn and its problematic narratives helps to build a healthier world.

For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVIS to 1-866-331-9474.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

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