There’s no question that porn can potentially be a destructive force within a marriage – but is it adultery?

For some couples pornography is okay, while for other couples, the use of pornography is a deal breaker and is considered a form of infidelity. As I promised in my post from Monday, our discussion topic for this week will focus on the question as to whether or not pornography use is a form of adultery.

First though, let me give you a little food for thought based on some information I found around the web.

The Merriam-Webster definition of adultery as:

 “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband.”

Of course, religious and legal interpretations of what constitutes adultery vary widely, but based on this definition, it would appear that porn users have been let off the hook and would not be considered adulterous. Though intercourse involves a physical aspect that the internet, Penthouse or a DVD player cannot provide, does our view change when we consider what’s going through the heart and mind of the porn user?

Dan Savage, a popular Seattle-based sex columnist wrote:  

“All men look at porn … The handful of men who claim they don’t look at porn are liars or castrates. Tearful discussions about your insecurities or your feminist principles will not stop a man from looking at porn. That’s why the best advice for straight women is this: GET OVER IT. If you don’t want to be with someone who looks at porn … get a woman, get a dog, or get a blind guy … While men shouldn’t rub their female partners’ noses in the fact that they look at porn—that’s just inconsiderate—telling women that the porn “problem” can be resolved through good communication, couples counseling, or a chat with your pastor is neither helpful nor realistic.”

 Here are a few reader comments on the subject found around the internet:

“It doesn’t really matter what the public thinks about it, or even what the husband thinks about it. If it hurts your wife, if you hide it from her, if you are ashamed of it…then you shouldn’t be doing it. You might think it’s not a problem but if your wife has a problem with it, then it’s a problem.”

 “When a wife discovers that her husband is viewing pornography, she often has feelings of rage, repulsion, disappointment, and mistrust. Her feelings of anger and hurt are intensified if he prefers viewing porn over having sex with her.”

“Some women regard this pastime as tasteless but essentially harmless. Some claim it makes them uncomfortable because they believe that their husbands compare them to the images on the internet and find them less attractive. And there are some who regard it as a form of illicit sex and regard it as a betrayal equal to any affair.”

Sam Margulies PhD, Esq. in Psychology Today

“I am unaware of any state court rulings that found that these non sexual interactions were adulterous. But they are clearly having an effect on the psychological definition of infidelity.” uses the term virtual infidelity and says:

“Think of virtual infidelity as anything—images, wood pulp with words on it, chat rooms with words in them—that replace your current spouse with someone else in the recesses of the undisclosed regions inside you, where discontent grows and festers into a new, ugly, and unintended creation.”

So, in your opinion… Is Pornography Use a Form of Adultery? Why or why not?

Leave your comments below and please feel free to reflect on any personal experiences in your response.

See also  She Says Porn Viewing is Cheating. He Disagrees. You Decide!


Linda & Doug



    28 replies to "Discussion – Is Pornography Use a Form of Adultery?"

    • chiffchaff

      I don’t think I’d go as far as to call it adultery.
      I’m also not against its use per se.
      It when, as the article includes, it starts to damage the relationship in some way because the use has become excessive or it’s being used to avoid dealing with some other problem, then it becomes a problem in itself.
      My problem with my H’s use was that he was ashamed of it and so hid it completely. His getting away with hiding it, and then getting away with using it at work, meant he started to get blase about getting away with lots of things. His use of it was just one part of an array of his own issues and immaturity in dealing with them.
      He cannot talk about sex. He cannot talk about his needs. I have always wanted him to be able to talk to me about this for mutual benefit and he has always got abrupt, rude, dismissive or defensive about it. I was brought up in a very open family and sex was discussed from an early age. So his use of it is an escape from reality in the same way that his computer game use has always been. Escape is always the answer for my H whereas confrontation and addressing things is the answer for me.
      I don’t know what the answer is but I don’t consider it to be adultery in itself. It was a precursor to my H going on to shag some random woman while at a conference but it didn’t cause it.

      • 2nd Time Around


        I agree about the damage it does to the relationship and that it is not a problem as long as the person viewing it is honest with their spouse.

        Finally someone who understands exactly what I am dealing with!! The way you describe your H is almost identical to my H. He didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with me and I was also brought up in very open minded family. The more he used porn and got away with it the more he pushed the boundaries in other ways. My husband too used it as a form of escape and it too is always his answer. He does not do confrontation.

        Did your H fantasize about other women that he knows? That seems to be the progression of my H’s porn use. First porn pictures and videos, next came writing and reading erotic stories, and after that fantasies about women he knows, that lead to him flirting with these women.

        We are only 7 weeks passed D-day and new information is still coming out. At this point I am not completely sure if he ever did cross the physical line but with everything I know so far it is hard for me to believe that he hasn’t. He still does not believe he had an EA since he didn’t share personal information about me or our life with these women.

        Did you have any of these same experiences??

        • M

          Hi 2nd Time Around…

          I know your question was for chiffchaff (and you asked in 2014) but I understand what you’re saying.
          My husband has an avoidant personality sometimes, too. He will shut down rather than tackle difficult subjects.
          He also seems to have a bit of a gambling problem that I’ve noticed…in addition to the possibility of his having affairs. With these types, they find ways to “escape” rather than deal with problems in a healthy way.

          You asked if anybody else’s husband has fantasized/flirted with other women he knows, and if it might stem from porn.
          I believe this is the case with my husband. He is a teacher and I discovered that he had been looking up “hot naked teachers” online. Which makes me wonder if somebody at work had caught his attention, or there was a coworker he might be involved with.
          It seemed weird that he would search for that specifically. He works with mostly females, so I have become more concerned in recent years.

          Also, early in our relationship before we married, he would constantly talk about his friend’s wife in ways that bothered me.
          He seemed to find her attractive…in reality, she is just average, but she is blonde and he seems to prefer blondes.
          I am brunette and prettier than she is (it’s the truth) but I’m not white or blonde.
          To some men, an average blonde is better than an attractive brunette. I think that he probably fantasized about her just like he fantasizes about every other woman that isn’t me.
          I’m often bewildered by what he considers “hot” too…some of these women are extremely plain or almost masculine-looking. Not saying that I am perfect, but these women are homely.

          I think a man can find other women attractive sometimes, but it becomes a problem when he acts distant and escapes into porn, fantasies, gambling, shutting his wife out, etc.

    • Greg

      My answer would be a qualified yes. If it is being hidden or the partner doesn’t like it and it hurts them mentally I think it ranks up there with an EA in terms or what it does to the marriage. If it is done openly and both partners are fine with it then no. I think a major problem for is how both partners are raised to view it. Guys are taught that it is OK and even somewhat cool while women are raised to think it is vulgar and disgusting. This attitude difference can be a cause for fights that neither side can understand the others point of view. My viewing of porn was offensive to my wife but because of my attitude toward it I discounted her feelings about it and then took the wrong path of hiding it more and more. Every time she caught me I just hid it better and continued on. Sounds like an EA fantasy that can’t be let go to me?

    • Healing Mark

      Labels, labels, labels. Sheesh! “Pornography”. “Adultery”. Whatever. If it harms in some way your relationship with your wife or girlfriend, whether because it is simply being viewed or because of the frequency of its use or because of the effects it may be having on your ability to be intimate with your wife or girlfriend (or husband or boyfriend, although for this to be the case we would probably be talking about erotic novels), then it should be stopped or reigned in, as appropriate. That is, unless you want to do something that harms such a relationship.

      Porn use, like a lot of other relationship matters, is something that couples should discuss and come to terms with before they get married. Adultery is often not something discussed prior to marriage, as religious convictions or actual wedding vows tend to address this and couples then have some idea about whether or not sex with another person while married to your spouse is or is not an acceptable behavior. But if monogamy is not something you want to practice while married, few people that feel this way (I know, people can change, in which case if the change is a new desire to open up a marriage, the fact that problems arise should not be a surprise) are not going to bring this topic up before getting into a serious relationship, and persons desiring a monogamous partner can then move on to another potential mate. In a way, the same can be said for porn use. If it’s something that you engage in and plan to continue to engage in, but not in a manner that diminishes your ability to be intimate with your partner and otherwise function in life, and this is something that your potential wife or girlfriend has problems with, then you either work it out with the other person so that they no longer have any problems with it, you stop viewing porn (or decrease use to an acceptable level) and continue your relationship with the other person, or you end your relationship and find somebody else that has not problems with this extracurricular activity. I feel sorry for guys who date chicks who, prior to getting married, have no problems with porn viewing or topless bar outings, only to pull 180’s on these after the honeymoon.

    • justbecause

      Anybody have any thoughts about a guy looking at male porno? How about chatting with other men.

      H says he was just curious. Liked the attention, feeling on the edge….I don’t get it.

      • Doug

        Perhaps he is just having some latent homosexual curiosities or something like that. Or, perhaps he is gay or bisexual. A few years ago a friend of ours discovered that her husband was having an affair – with another man. He apparently had a feeling he was gay all along, but for some reason never wanted to admit it. They were married for over 20 years and have 3 kids. His affair partner was also married with kids. Both are now divorced and the two men are still together. I’m certainly not saying this is what’s going on with your husband, but it does happen.

    • justbecause

      I also know of situations such as you describe, Doug. So guys out there help me out. In your opinion, is it a sign of something serious – more of a problem then looking at female porno? Do some men also look at male pornography to get excited, curiosity? The chatting part is more problamatic for me. It seems he would contact men online and get a response from them and then end correspondence. Like talk about meeting but then end chatting before making specific plans, finalizing the meet.

      I am not sure how much this occured. All EA actions occurred when H was still drinking and started before he started seeing a psych Dr and getting on meds for bipolar disorder. All inappropriate behaviors have stopped for 6 months. I’m thinking I should discuss this with our counselor – first in private.

      Guess he could be bisexual and still love me. Wow. Don’t know if I’m up to handeling this concept.

      • Healing Mark

        justbecause. A good source for possible answers to your questions would be Dan Savage, and check him out at Savage Love. He might even answer your questions in his column, but I believe that others have written him with similar questions that have been answered by him on his blog. But it seems to me that before you try to get answers to your questions, you need more information from your H and I suspect that conversations between you guys about the topics before you will be awkward at best. To ensure that you get honest answers from your H, you likely will have to convince your H that you are not going to be judgmental and are not going to freak out at any honest responses, but will be judgmental and will freak out if he lies to you and you later learn that he has done so.

        I believe that the concesus is that any guy that looks at male porn to get erect and otherwise sexually excited (or for some reason looks at it without an intent to get excited but then does so, but not so sure about this one) is either gay or bisexual. For what it’s worth, I have two friends who I love very dearly and trust who dated only girls, married and had children, and later divorced to begin pursuing relationships with other men (and each now has a fairly long-term male partner). One has sworn to me that his desires for other men developed after he got married and that if he had identified as anything other than heterosexual at the time he got married, he would have discussed this with his ex-wife. The other admitted that he was conflicted about his sexuality at the time he got married, did not discuss this with his ex-wife, and regrets not doing so to this day. Finally, I have many male friends who have admitted (always after consumption of copious amounts of alcohol) to have viewed male porn out of curiosity and all have reported no sexual excitement occurring (no surprise, I admit).

        As to chatting, I agree with you that such actions are more problematic than viewing porn. I get the ego boost that getting men attracted to your H would create. But it seems to me, that the ego boost would only occur (or would be much greater) if the person becoming attracted to your H is one that your H would actually like to hook up with. Otherwise, why work to make the person agree to meet and possible start a relationship? In any event, whether male or female, the chatting behavior should stop if it bothers you. Same for the viewing of male porn, but if I were you and wanted to maintain a relationship with your H, I would try to keep and open mind and only as a last resort insist that such viewing stop. Instead, I would treat this like any other porn viewing, which is to say that as long as it does not negatively impact the level of intimacy between you and your H, and any other aspects of your lives (honestly, he can’t be spending excessive amounts of time viewing any porn to the detriment of his other life responsibilities), it is an ok activity but one that I would ask my partner to keep to themself.

        Finally, and perhaps one of the better reasons for porn to exist, is the fact that many people use porn to vicariously experience sexual acts/experiences that they can’t or for whatever reason don’t experience with their partner. This does not necessarily diminish the level of intimacy they have with their partner, nor the enjoyment they have with their partner while having sex. So one angle you might consider when approaching your H about his male porn viewing is that such viewing, in and of itself, is not likely to be a deal-breaker for you, even if your H’s reason for viewing it was more than just curiosity. However, if such viewing is not something that he is willing to voluntarily discontinue (I would not insist that my W not view lesbian porn, at least not without me there and assuming that this would actually bother me, not so much because I felt that I could convince myself to not continue to be bothered by it, but more because, human nature being what it is, I would not want to set my W up to potentially fail on something like this unless her viewing rose to the level of having an affair), you might then explain to him that such viewing, as a supplement to your sex lives, will be tolerated, but as a replacement or detriment to the same will not be tolerated.

    • justbecause

      Healing Mark – Thank you very much for your response. It was very helpful. I will certainly check out the Savage Love site.

      Im glad I had this site to go to and seek some opinions. While I have talked about the EA with my sister and one close friend, I have not discussed the male porn/chat issue. I think I’m afraid to bring it up to my H again. I don’t want his angry response, maybe I’m afraid of what I’ll learn . . .

      Thank you so very much.

      • Amanda

        You mentioned “maybe I’m afraid of what I”ll learn.” I think you should prepare yourself mentally before you talk to him again about this. If there is nothing to this, then at least you will know. However if there is, your going to need a support system for yourself. My heart goes out to you.

    • Disappointed

      My H has always liked to incorporate some porn periodically into our sex life. Since his EA he uses it more often. It is starting to trouble me and make me feel like it is no longer about being with me. I believe he is bipolar/manic depressive and wonder if this is just more disassociative behavior. He is severely depressed and stressed out as he cant make up his mind about us. The I love you but not in love with you speech. Says how she put him first with texts of “I cant believe you take time to talk to me” made him realize what was missing from our relationship and every relationship he had before ours.

      • Gizfield

        I guess he found his ideal needy girlfriend to boost his ego. I can see why so many of these women go after married men. If a woman was to tell a man who was actually available “I can’t believe you actually take time to talk to me” he would drop her ass like a hot potato, and warn all his friends to stay away from the insecure, clingy chick.

        • Disappointed

          Gizfield – She is married with 2 kids. Amazing he says I am too needy and I would never have written him that. None of this makes sense to me.

    • justbecause

      wow – That Savage Love site is a little out there… Seems to be a pretty complex issue I’m dealing with. I do plan on visiting with our counselor aabout it. Will talk alone with him before talking with H.

      Disappointed – your comment about disassociative behavior is so on the mark. Since my H has quit drinking, on meds for bipolar, seeing psych he seems to be back. Again, all contact with EA partner and other “questionable” online contact has stopped. I just have to figure out how to get around all this (Note I did not say get OVER this).

      Do I need answers to all may questions? Do I need to to quiet the questions in my head? How to do this …

    • Broken2

      I think porn is nasty and I think it is just another way our society hurts woman. Nothing will ever change. I think if a partner doesn’t want their spouse to view it then they should have enough respect to stop. When they hide it…delete the browser history etc….its just another lie….more sneaking around just like the EA. Woman can never live up to the images men look at and I believe it can make a woman feel even more inadaquate after an affair is discovered. Having said that I dont think there is a man on the face of the earth that hasnt looked at it and if they say they havent….they are lying.

    • Lynsey

      I do believe that when a person looks at porn and makes every attempt to hide this fact by lying about it by omission or outright, being sneaky, deleting history, etc. it IS another form of cheating, and at least for me, hurts as much. My H refuses to let me see what porn he views, so my assumption of course is the worst…that it is very nasty & disgusting. He does not want to talk about it. This fact, combined with a prior confession of him also looking at male porn makes me very uncomfortable. I have ignored this for quite awhile as I have been focusing on healing from his EA (with a woman). We are making good progress in dealing with the aftermath of his EA. I love him, and want our marriage to work out, but the porn and bisexual thing could be a deal breaker for me. Thank you for this post. It forces me to consider the whole package with my husband, not just the EA that nearly destroyed me.

      • justbecause

        Lynsey, I am also needing to consider the “whole package”. How long ago was your D day? It seems we may be in similar times and have some similar situations in dealling with the EA of your H’s.

        I wonder, is my H bi, is this part of his being an alcoholic, is this part if his escaping to an EA? I am certain his alcholism did cause him to be a different person. I am a believer in the “alcoholic brain” theory. What came first- the alcoholism or the behaviors? Is my H trying to escape from thoughts of being bi-sexual? Oh jeese…

        We are also doing well. Do I let it go? Wait and watch? Dig in to it further? What are you going to do?

    • Lynsey

      Just Because, the first D-Day was in Feb. 2012. He maintained contact and lied to me everyday until D-day #2 in April, when contact finally ended and transparency began. Your questions are intriguing as my H has addiction issues in many areas, as well as low self esteem. I believe that is why the affair was on and off again over a span of 12 or more years. Because we are now doing well, I plan to wait and watch, digging in further if and when I feel the need. My first priority is to get over the EA, and strengthen our marriage. I know that it is still very early in recovery for us. My H is being very patient with my emotional roller coaster, and does try to help. I do feel he needs to do more work on himself and become better at communicating his needs and emotions before I make any final decisions. Keep in touch, Just Because, i do agree that we may be in similar situations.

      • justbecause

        Lynsey, Thanks for the reply. My D-Day March 29. H stopped drinking March 31. His EA lasted about 20 months but other actions i.e. chatting with women, men, viewing gay porn had been going on …I don’t know – 3, 6, 10 years? He did buy his own laptop in 2009 and this formerly very untechy guy got pretty good at setting up accounts, chats, etc.

        I think giving the situation more time, working on ourselves, our marriages is a good idea. I also plan on talking to our marriage counselor without my H, about my concerns. My H sees a psychiatrist as well. I will ask the marriage counselor his thoughts on my contacting the psych MD with my concerns.

        Hhhmmm…reading this over I note what I didn’t mention. That is my H and I working on communication. As we hear over and over, he just wants to bury it. Says we need to move on. Had a big fight a couple weeks ago when I brought up contacting men issue. (I brought it up after finding a man had contacted his secret e-mail. It was a guy that he had talked to from a M4M site on Craigs list I guess. I do not think he met any men or women but maybe I’m a fool. I looked at his e-mail because on Sept 12 I had sat in my car outside the OW’s workplace and got out and stood by my car as she parked and walked in. This was my first time seeing her in person and her seeing me. It was her birthday. I had just sent her my “OW letter.” I’m glad I did it. I’m quite sure I ruined her day – hope so. Anyway, woke up in the middle of the night thinking, maybe she contacted my H after our confrontation.) He said I am never going to get over this, that I don’t want to get over it. I think he is to defensive. How do they say it …”Me thinks thou does’t protest too much.”

    • Lynsey

      Just Because, I’m glad you are working on communication. It’s so important. I am lucky that my H will answer my EA questions as they arise, but I do notice that he will not voluntarily offer information as to the affair or what he is feeling at the moment. (A guy thing I suppose) But anyway, I wish he would be more forthcoming as to where his head is at. As for the porn issue, my H is very uncomfortable talking about it. He may be ashamed, but he needs to realize how in my mind, this is another form of affair, and because of his addictive personality, this could progress into something worse as he’ll need more and more to get his “high.” I recently read that sex or porn addiction can be linked to a childhood where one feels left out or not nurtured enough by a parent. This was certainly the case in my H’s childhood. I think I will discuss this with our marriage counselor, and also how scared I am that his porn use and bisexual interests will drive him to go to Craig’s list or any of the other skanky sites that are out there. Gosh, how I hate the internet sometimes! You mentioned that your H thinks you will never get over this….you will, but only when he helps. Affair recovery will only go so far unless both people do the work. I hope for you that your H will realize this soon. Glad you ruined the AP’s birthday. If she did try to contact your H, will he let you know? For me, if that ever happens and my H doesn’t tell me, all of our progress will be erased. I cannot and will not ever tolerate lying overtly or by omission. I have told him that it hurts as much or even more so than the affair. I hope he gets that. As always, good luck to you!

    • justbecause

      Lynsey’s question: If the AP contacts my husband, will he tell me? I think so. If he doesn’t and I find out (and I will), I am out of here. Does he realize this? Again, I think so.

      Think . . . not a very strong word. I KNOW I will discuss this with him.

      Thank you Lynsey

    • Lily

      My husband was having an EA with a woman at work and although he insists he did not have sex with her, he was not having sex with me… for almost a year… he always looked at porn but it never interferred with our sex life. But during the EA he would get his ’emotional needs’ met by this woman at work, and then come home and spend the evening in the basement infront of the computer. After the EA was discovered, he admitted that he was using porn to get his physical needs met, and to avoid being physical with her (becuase that would be wrong)… and to avoid having sex with me, because at this point, I’m fat (pregnant) and getting fatter, and then post partum fat with excess baby weight. I looked at the stuff he was looking at and felt extremely inadequate, these woman, like the OW, are fake, body parts all around. And they were doing things that I would never do, and he was taking care of himself, while I sat upstairs by myself wondering why he didnt want to spend any time with me, let alone make love to me.
      I think porn is a problem when it interferrs with your relationship… as it did mine.

    • Disappointed

      The first thing my H did was go and get a new cell that I could not access. No chance for transparency here. Saw my husband’s inbox briefly on his phone an hour ago. Message with subject “Quickie” from Dalilah Shenanigans. This just gets worse and worse…

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