Many women pull back from having sex for a while once they find out about their partner’s porn use. The sense of betrayal, distrust, loss of respect, and their own sexual inadequacies and anxieties can combine to create a strong deterrent to physical intimacy. “Even though David and I shared an incredible sex life before I discovered his porn use,” said Fran, “now sometimes I find myself not wanting to have sex with him ever again.”

Hana lost interest in having sex with her husband, Ricardo, not be­cause she felt sexually inadequate, but because of a continuing lack of trust and faith in him. In spite of growing evidence to the contrary, Ri­cardo kept denying his porn use and refusing to talk to her about it. “My trust in him was broken down by his continuing lies and denials. It spilled over into our physical life together, and I pulled away from him sexually. Just thinking about his whole cyberspace porn thing turned me off. His sexual world was not based in reality. It was so bizarre, like he was addicted to Pokemon or something.”

When sexual relations do occur post porn discovery, they are often less enjoyable and provide less lasting pleasure to partners of porn users. Many women begin to wonder what their partner is really thinking about during foreplay and sex. “To have sex means getting naked,” Darlene said. “But whenever I take my clothes off, my boyfriend leers at me like I’m on display. It makes me feel cheap, not cherished.”

Debbie concurred. “Now I don’t trust that Roger is not thinking of pornographic images while he’s looking at me or being sexual with me. I fear that he holds those images in his head long after he’s seen them. Sometimes in the middle of intercourse I suddenly realize he isn’t there, isn’t connecting. His body is there, he is physically engaging with me, but it feels like in his head he’s someplace else. It makes me feel I’m not excit­ing enough for him or worth relating with other than as a warm body.”

This feeling of not being the one her partner is thinking about during sex can be devastating to a woman, crippling her openness and sponta­neity. “I feel a thousand times more inhibited,” said Karen. “I don’t want to be associated with what my husband has seen in pornography when we are making love. I get suspicious when he suggests we do something different in sex. He’ll request something that would normally be per­fectly reasonable for a husband to ask of his wife, but I immediately start wondering whether this is something weird he saw on some twisted site and wants to do with me. I have a hard time just relaxing under these conditions.”

Knowing he had looked at a lot of porn, Paula became increasingly sensitive and critical about the way her husband would approach her and act in bed. She said, “There were times when Brad would grab me inappropriately during the day or ask me to do some things in bed that I really wasn’t comfortable doing. I wondered what made him want to do that. It registered in my mind that he might have seen this in porn and wanted me to act it out. I hated it. It made me feel like an object when we had sex. Sometimes I’d intentionally avoid being near him.”

Some women become less interested in sex because they interpret the porn use as meaning that their partner does not honor and respect sexual union in the same way they do. Debbie said, “Roger has taken the most intimate gift he has to offer our relationship, his sexuality, and shared it with countless fantasy women. I thought our sexuality was meant to express the bond of love between us, just the two of us, in private.” Simi­larly, Fran felt David’s porn use insulted the special intimate connection she had assumed they shared. She said, “I felt humiliated and shamed, like our sex, which I had seen as so special and sacred, had meant noth­ing to David.”