Men, Sex, and Shame – Part 1

“Men are visual, right? So I have a hard time believing my husband when he says pornography is not about the makeup, firm bodies, and sexy lingerie. And I just can’t compete with that.”

While it is true that men are wired to be keenly aware of visual clues, their desire to see often goes deeper than the surface physical appeal. A previous post spoke about the unapologetically sexual nature that many men desire and pornography offers. It was suggested that the temptation to view pornography might be more about the freedom to fully embrace our sexual natures than about viewing any particular images.

Shame also plays a role in many husbands turning to pornography, and many wives reaction to it.

For many wives, the issue of pornography might be about their own feelings of inadequacy in appearance and/or sexual expertise. If I were prettier, skinnier, or sexier my husband wouldn’t turn to porn, the thinking might go. The fear of not being good enough can keep many wives from embracing their own sexuality and more likely to be contemptuous toward their husbands if they discover his porn use.

Husbands, please know that your porn use deeply affects your wife. She feels betrayed and that you no longer cared for her heart. Instead of devoting your sexual energy to bring more life into your marriage, your regular porn use essentially tells her she’s not worth the effort. And this rejection is deeply painful.

At the same time, it is the fear of rejection or not being good enough that leads many men to turn to pornography.

While some men become good at posing and appearing confident, sex for many is at least mildly terrifying. To initiate sex feels like their life and masculinity is on the line. Does my wife truly love me? Does she care about me? Does she want me? Am I important to her? Am I good enough? Even when men can intellectually understand why their wife might not be in the mood, they might still battle feelings of shame when sexual advances are declined. Even the softest and gentlest rejection can still leave a man feeling like he doesn’t measure up. Rejection is also deeply painful for men.

[Enter pornography, stage right]

The allure of pornography is that men do not have to risk the shame of rejection. They are able to enter a fantasy world in which women are always inviting and seductive. Pornography provides men with an illusion of being desired, important, and enough, even if just for a fleeting moment.

Wives, please hear that the issue of pornography is often much deeper than the makeup, firm bodies, and sexy lingerie for your husbands. He wants to feel desired by you, loved by you, and connected to you. For many men this is experienced through frequent and passionate sexual contact. A weak or broken connection here might leave your husband feeling unloved, which makes him more vulnerable to the lies of pornography.

In the end, we must move beyond defensive reactions to pornography and address the deeper heart issues, issues such as shame, feelings of rejection, and not being enough sexually. Pornography is often a symptom and rarely the problem.

Work toward building an intimate marriage by opening your heart and your mind to what is really going on within yourself and your spouse. It takes courage to live passionately. Be willing to do your part.


Check out Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly for more on shame and the courage to be vulnerable in relationships.

As a counselor, my passion is to help others reach their full God-given potential relationally, sexually, and spiritually. I do this by creating a personal space for individuals and couples, free from the demands of others, to thoughtfully attend to the important and sensitive areas of their life. I work as an ordained Christian minister, licensed marriage and family therapist, and certified sex therapist in private practice in Suwanee, GA.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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