“Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women”

Eunjung Ryu published her research paper, “Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women: Koren Women as an Illustration”, in Journal of Feminist Family Therapy 2004 (Vol.16 No.4). The complete article is available from The Haworth Document Delivery Service.

Ryu examines the impact of porn on sexual attitudes, relationships between couples, and the special challenges faced by Asian American women when their partner uses porn. Here are selected excerpts:

…[Pornography] is…readily available to males at a very early age in the privacy of their homes. One study indicated that the average age of first viewing pornography was 10 years-old, with a range of from 3 to 18 years-old (Jensen, 1995)… Another study of male students conducted at a university reported that 56% of the male students gathered information about oral sex and anal intercourse from pornography and 33% obtained information about sexual attractiveness from the same sources (Duncan, 1990)…

Not only are myths about women in general bolstered by pornography [e.g. perfect body, always ready for sex, no demands for commitment, very interested in pleasing a man], myths that separate women along racial lines are pervasive. For instance, Asian women are frequently depicted as sweet young lotus blossoms or objects of bondage, or pliant dolls, not unlike toys; Latin women as sexually voracious yet utterly submissive; and black women as dangerous and contemptible sexual animals (Leidholdt, 1981; Rave, 1985)…

Cramer and McFarlane (1994) examined the association between battering and pornography use and conducted a non-experimental survey. Results indicated that 75% of the [battered] women were shown pornography and asked or forced to enact related acts, 64% had pornography described to them and were asked or forced to perform the acts, 31% had been asked to pose for pornographic photographs, and 81% reported rape. Of these men, 63% were reported to read pornographic magazines and 63% to watch X-rated videos. As indicated above, the study found a strong association between men’s use of violent pornography and the physical abuse of women (Cramer et al., 1998). Therapists can infer from the high numbers in these studies that the effects of pornography use by male partners on women needs to be explored routinely as an integral part of assessment when women respond affirmatively to abuse…

Many female participants in the study by Bridges et al. (2003) noted a diminution in their partner’s sexual desire for them and believed that their partners had come to prefer the pornographic models to them… They reported a decline in the intimacy of their relationship, a diminished sense of their partner’s commitment to them, strong feelings that their partners failed utterly to respect them or understand their emotional distress concerning the pornography, and lastly, a sense that they were living a shameful lie by presenting themselves to others as a loving and committed couple… More often than not, the woman blames herself for losing her partner to his pornographic interest. She believes that if she were a ‘good’ enough woman, she would have been able to keep her husband’s attentions and affections and her loss would never have occurred…

Despite their personal struggles and reappraisals of their relationship, most women do not express their negative feelings strongly. Shaw (1999) illustrates that, in some cases, women accept the use of pornography by partners as long as it is ‘discreet,’ denying what they were facing in the relationship. In other cases, women do not feel entitled to their opinions and feelings of distress, believing that the use of pornography is a matter of freedom of choice and individual rights. This de-legitimization of the women’s views was also associated with their fear of being considered a ‘prude,’ old-fashioned, or as ‘anti-sex’ (Shaw, 1999)…

I will present some observations witnessed in my clinical practice. Increasingly, Asian American immigrant women report concerns about spousal use of pornography… Since hardcore pornography is more readily available in United States and on the Internet, women are confronted with having to tolerate their partners’ consistent and ready access to these materials. Women report a loss of intimacy when their partners engage in Internet pornography, as well as being in severe conflict and feeling “unclean” when asked to perform sexually debasing acts…

[Asian women] frequently blame themselves for not being able to provide what their husbands want [e.g. bold lusty blond women] instead of feeling entitled to challenge their husband’s misogynistic and dehumanizing choices. They fear that their refusal will echo loudly through the extended family and bring shame and dishonor to their own families. As intimate relationships in this culture are based on hierarchy and not on equality, male partners often construe any dissent on the part of their wives as a lack of dutiful partnership or as outright disrespect.

See also:

My Boyfriend Loves Porn – What Should I Do?
Women internalize the man viewing porn as if there was something wrong
with them. It is not true. You are fine… You appear wise by not
wanting this in your life. I would be highly cautious having a
relationship [with] this man if porn has been such a part of his
life… You do not want to marry a porn addict and then suffer the
consequences for years to come.

Salon: Porn Isolates Its Users, Erodes Civility and Love
Dear Vicky Victorian,

I have gotten many, many letters from women over the last year or two with questions similar to yours…

you approve of porn in theory or not, its effect will be to displace
you. Like crack, it tends to take over, to push out other hungers that
tend to nurture the human community by making us dependent on one
another. Since we are dependent on each other we must be civil and
loving. If we are not dependent on each other then we needn’t be civil
and loving. We needn’t have community and family. That is the way in
which any drug breaks down family and community by isolating its user.
Porn isolates its users also, meeting their needs outside the social
compact. The social compact becomes a commercial compact between
anonymous people, while those in the actual human community are
relegated to bystander status. It introduces a third party into the
erotic economy of a relationship…

Laurie Hall, An Affair of the Mind
Over the years, I’ve spoken with other women who have had similar
experiences. They tried extra hard to be attractive to their husbands;
but the year-after-year battering of constant comparisons with other
women and the continual attack on their desirability as a sexual
partner wounded their spirits to such a point that they gave up and
became the exact opposite of the firm, gorgeous, beautifully made-up
women their husbands kept trying to force them to become. Ironic, isn’t
it, how pornography creates the exact opposite in real life of what it
promises in fantasy life?

Statement of Rev. Susan Wilhelm: “…the sex became especially abusive after he started using pornography” (explicit language)
He exposed me to the pornography, too. Once we saw an X-rated film that
showed anal intercourse. After that, he pressed me to try it. I agreed
to once, but found the experience very painful. He kept trying
periodically. He told me my vagina had become as sloppy as an old sow’s
and he could not get pleasure any other way. He also used to pinch and
bite me. When I said “it hurts,” he would say, “no, it doesn’t.” I
became numb. I lost track of my own feelings. One time, he said in
reference to himself sexually, “it’s supposed to hurt.”

Testimony in Minneapolis: Porn and the Death Spiral of a Marriage
…we would have incredible arguments with each other. I
would tell him I loved him, I only wanted to love him, I wanted to be a
good wife, I wanted our marriage to work, but I didn’t want to be with
these other people. It was he I wanted to be with, and no one else. He
told me if I loved him I would do this. And that, as I could see from
the things that he read me in the magazines initially, a lot of times
women didn’t like it, but if I tried it enough I would probably like
it, and I would learn to like it. And he would read me stories where
women learned to like it.

Lizzy Borden: We don’t shoot “all the lovey-dovey stuff that there’s not a big market for” (explicit language)
“Yeah. She’s really going to get hit. She likes it. It’s good.
Sometimes, it makes you more horny when you’re getting hit. It makes
you more, like, more tingly down in your genital area. You should try
it. You should hit your wife a little bit…”

Testimony in Massachusetts: My Experiences with Men, Porn and Domestic Abuse (explicit)
He made no secret of needing these magazines to get turned on enough to
touch me. I was forced to participate in a bondage episode that he read
about. He forced me to pose nude for a photographer, playing with
myself, in Rhode Island for money, all of which he kept because he
could not keep a job at this time. He collected these magazines
religiously and hurt me if I moved, touched or acted wrongly in any
way. I was beaten so severely while I was pregnant by this man that I
miscarried and had internal damage and bleeding because I was no longer
attractive like the girls in the pictures. They had flat stomachs, I
was told.

Testimony from Northampton Shelter for Battered Women: Half of Abusers Use Pornography as a Part of the Abuse (explicit)
We have recently begun to formally ask the battered women who call us whether the abuser uses pornography and from this we conservatively estimate that at least 1/2 of the abusers use pornography as a part of the abuse. Battering is based on an issue of power and control, with the abuser using all kinds of methods to continually assert his power and control over the woman. Throughout, he is persistently working to deny her of her ability to make informed decisions about her life and through threats, coercion, and continual terror succeeds at clearly establishing himself as “in control”. We frequently hear a woman say that she feels like a prisoner in her own home, and in fact, she is.

Everywoman Center Coordinator: Porn Damages Women;Porn Addiction
Stacey Roth, coordinator of an educational outreach program at
Everywoman Center, a women’s advocacy group at the University of
Massachusetts, said that, based on accounts of area women speaking
about their experiences with domestic abuse, she agrees with recent
arguments that pornography damages women.

“Typically, a woman will say that her boyfriend is into very violent
forms of pornography and likes to act out specific aspects of that, and
she doesn’t know how to stop it,” Roth said, “or a battered woman might
perceive a connection between the pornography in her household and the
bouts of violence…

“In no other case [of media communications] are people so quick to
discount the argument about the human cost, which I think reflects how
low protection of women ranks in our priorities. We’re quicker to
protest media (material) that depicts the mistreatment of animals than
of women,” Roth said. “A society does need to make choices about what
attitudes it wants to condone.”

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