Is Porn Cheating? The Answer Will Shock You


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Read an Edited Transcript of the Show:

Craig Perra:
Welcome to Sex Afflictions & Porn Addictions. I am your host, Craig Perra from www.themindfulhabit.com. I’m the founder of The Mindful Habit, the world’s number one online at home program for men struggling with sex and porn addiction and their partners. And this program is to help you create healthy sexuality and a great life. And I have a very exciting topic to talk about today and we are going to answer the question, is porn cheating? Is porn cheating? And I’ve got a very, very special guest with me today to help me answer that question. With me is Sandy Joy. She helps me run our partner empowerment group here and works with women all over the world. She is a, ready for this, registered psychotherapist, certified clinic counseling supervisor, clinical traumatologist and early intervention field traumatologist, compassion fatigue specialist, certified coach in The Mindful Habit system. And there’s more. I just wanted to cover the big things, specializing in trauma and grief therapy and compulsive behaviors and helping partners find themselves after betrayal. Welcome, Sandy.

Sandy Joy:
Thank you, Craig. Thank you for having me. It’s an honor.

Craig Perra:
So we get this question a lot, and before we dive in, I want to start with my own personal, is porn cheating? And as someone who physically cheated, I want everyone listening to know that my opinions to this question have evolved over the years. And there was a point in time where the answer to this question was absolutely not, this is cheating, this is not. Porn is something that has been part of my life since I was a child. It has been my thing.

Craig Perra:
What impact does it have on the other person? Oh, well, we’re going to talk about that impact today, and hopefully, and I don’t want to answer the question for you. I don’t want to answer the question for you. I want to give, Sandy and I want to give you something to think about so you can answer that question. Because we see all the time, is it cheating? Yes, it is. No it isn’t. Yes, it is. This back and forth and back and forth. And for you brothers who are listening, I want you to hit the pause button on that defensiveness and just open your mind and try to understand why the person you love, the person you’re closest to in the world thinks the exact opposite of what you do and feels that it might be cheating. So yeah, let’s jump in, Sandy. What do you got for us first? I want to hear this Fight the New Drug piece that you picked up on.

Sandy Joy:
Okay. So much of my research is through Fight the New Drug because all of their articles are research-based, it’s just fantastic. There’s a lot of information on fightthenewdrug.org. I would recommend that everyone check it out for empirical researched information, okay?

Craig Perra:
I agree, I agree. And just one point I want to make there friends, fightthenewdrug.org is the domain. Clay is a personal friend of mine. I have lectured to the Fight The New guys in their program, a great organization, love them dearly. And I’m glad we’re talking about them today. And you should get out there and support them. Thank you, Sandy.

Sandy Joy:
Yes, yes. So this first thing I’m going to read is directly from their site. So I just want to be clear, these are not my words, although my belief, okay? My opinion, my belief as well. So I want you to picture this. You’re in a happy, seemingly healthy relationship with your partner. You both love spending time together and understand each other in no way that anyone else does. You have, pardon me, something really special, and you feel really confident in your relationship and secure in your partner’s love for you. One day you find your partner looking at naked, explicit pictures of another girl or guy in your friend group. Pardon me. Suddenly you might doubt your partner’s love for you. Your world has just turned upside down. You may think, “Why are they looking at her or him? Am I not enough? Why are you going outside our relationship for sexual satisfaction? Why are you cheating on me?”

Sandy Joy:
Most of us recognize that finding our partner looking at pictures or videos of a naked friend would be cheating, at least in some small way or in some way. That person becomes the other girl or the other guy that drives a wedge in the close, exclusive connection that you’ve had in the romantic relationship. Yet somehow in our culture, looking at porn is “normal,” even though it means sharing your time, your affection and your sexuality with someone outside of your relationship. Even though it means specifically seeking out another person, strangers on a screen, for sexual gratification.

Craig Perra:
I think when you look, and that’s what we want to do today, when you look at it from that perspective, and it is, I’m fumbling over my words because I’m trying to grasp the right ones. But I remember talking to Dr. Harry Fisch, and if anybody here has been listening to my podcast since the beginning, I had the distinct privilege to interview Dr. Harry Fisch. He was recognized as the world’s best urologist. He had appeared on Oprah, Champion for Men’s issues and helping men. And he said, and this isn’t a quote, but this is essentially what I took from him. He said, “Listen, it’s not the love languages. It’s not the I feel language. It isn’t who’s using who to communicate and blah. It is the sexual strength of their relationship and that is the primary predictor of longevity and happiness. And when you are directing that energy to pornography and that energy is not going to your partner, you can understand, or at least when I think about the impact of that, I can understand.”

Craig Perra:
And this is how it first started for me. Instead of fighting with Michelle over, is it cheating, is it not cheating? Because again, I actually cheated. I violated that sacred trust, and porn was actually at some point in my recovery it was like the lesser of two evils. You know, I mean, Michelle was like, “Oh, at least he’s not doing the crazy stuff.” But then I came to realize that sacred, and appreciate that sacred bond, that sacred connection, and that energy is it’s either moving in one of two places. It’s either moving towards your partner, or it’s moving away from your partner. And that energy is so powerful. It’s so powerful. Look at the impact that it’s having on men and couples all over the world, destroying children’s sexual expression. Impacting over 50% of the marriages that are dissolving today, porn is listed as a major contributing factor. And so for me, brother, this is a call to arms. This is you need to honor and respect that powerful energy and be very careful where you put it.

Sandy Joy:
Agree, coming from the partner perspective or ex partner perspective if you will. When I found out about the, and the first thing I found out was about porn. And that’s when we went to marriage counseling, we were in marriage counseling for two years, little did I know that there was the outside affairs already happening. And however, when I found out about porn, I was devastated. We had had no intimacy in our relationship for years, and I was absolutely completely and utterly devastated and betrayed that I’m right here, I’m real, and I love you. And yet I was invisible, because the attraction was the pornography. The attraction was the hit of dopamine and so on. And I’ll get into that in a little bit.

Craig Perra:
Yeah, it’s I hope that you’re listening and why this person you love call it cheating. And that’s what I want you to understand, why your partner is saying that to you and throw away. Like, listen, because you’ve been doing it since you were a child. Because you’ve been conditioned to lie about it since you were a child, that doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t make it right. And this isn’t about, a lot of guys come out of this around they feel in control. And we’re going to get to some research and some findings that actually spoke to what the impact of porn on the partners, that sacred connection. It’s powerful. And when it’s not moving towards love, towards your partner, towards building something, creating something, I’ll never forget what Harry Fisch said.

Craig Perra:
And I did some research before coming on this call and listen, sex may be key to a happy marriage study finds. You are going to find thousands of articles out there, and you’re going to learn about love languages and all these other great, important things. But the studies have shown that when a husband and a wife connect sexually, there’s not only a release of chemicals that is binding them two together, that after glow lasts for days. And that after glow is so necessary, because there’s, nobody can hurt you like your partner. No one can touch the wounds that you have like your partner, and there’s no greater challenging relationship. And to have this outside entity being the recipient of all your powerful energy? I understand why a partner says it’s cheating. Let’s talk about some of that research that we were talking about.

Sandy Joy:
As you mentioned that porn can be destructive, right? It’s the moving away from the relationship, so it can be destructive to a relationship. And it can be destructive to many relationships, with colleagues, with friends, because pornography takes our time and attention, and we become, or those who become more addicted to porn, that is the focus. It’s about the pornography, rather than doing anything else with friends or your romantic partner. And it’s the disconnect is the relationship that’s happening is with a fantasy, with something that isn’t real. It gives the attention to something that is airbrushed, like an exaggerating act if you will that is on a screen. And it isolates the viewer from their real life relationships, and therefore affects the way the viewer sees their partner, views their partner if you will. It removes them, moves them away.

Sandy Joy:
So the viewers end up seeking sexual satisfaction through their screen, rather than with their partner exclusively. And it’s called intimacy abuse when that happens. When it’s exclusive, their sexuality, their sexual gratification is with someone on a screen, rather than with their partner they are denying their partner intimacy in a loving, supposedly loving, connected relationship.

Craig Perra:
Sandy, one thing I wanted to jump in and throw out there is, it’s a very selfish act. It is a very selfish act. And sometimes I’ll get a call from somebody and says, “Stop it, porn can’t be addictive.” You see the narrative, we hear it all the time. And then I say, “Well, then just be honest. Why are you hiding?”

Sandy Joy:
Yes.

Craig Perra:
I said, “Why are you lying? Why do you have to lie about it?” “Well, because.” “Because why, tell me why you think it’s a good idea to lie about it?” And the thing that I thought was really interesting, are you going to get to that?

Sandy Joy:
Yes.

Craig Perra:
The Bryant and Zillmann study? Good, good, that’s wild.

Sandy Joy:
Let’s go to the study. So these are two highly respected pornography researchers in the field, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann out of the University of Alabama, who have studied the effects of pornography and porn and media for over 30 years. So over 30 years of research. They’re not the only researchers that agree with their studies and their findings. That they have found that consuming pornography not only disconnects from a partner. So it makes the consumers or the viewers of pornography less satisfied with their own partner’s physical appearance, sexual performance, affection, sexual curiosity. But they also found that viewers are less committed to their partners, more committed to the pornography and watching porn, less committed to the relationship, less satisfied in their romantic and sex lives and are more likely to physically cheat on their partners. So there is a huge disconnect between intimacy, what is real intimacy?

Sandy Joy:
The thing that drives pornography, or people watching pornography, is that the viewers do not have to have any emotion. They don’t have to be vulnerable. There is no intimacy. They can just be, they are, turn on the screen, do what they do, and they don’t answer to anyone. It is a complete, it is a selfish act. It is a completely selfish act, and it’s harmful, and not only harmful to the relationship, but to self. And why this grows to eventual having sex outside of the, physical sex outside of the relationship is, if I ask you or ask you to think of about an alcoholic. A person doesn’t become an alcoholic by having a couple of drinks, but the couple of drinks feel really good and numbs them, or their worries kind of go away.

Sandy Joy:
Well pretty soon a couple of drinks doesn’t help. Now they need four, and then six, and then eight, to get the same feelings if you will, feel good feelings. And it’s the same with pornography. You watch pornography and now you need harder porn. You need more, you need, there’s all kinds of things that people can find in pornography and you need harder and more interesting if you will. And pretty soon that’s not enough. And they go outside to real people and try to act these pornography acts, they want to recreate them with strangers. And that’s what happens.

Sandy Joy:
Another main area of which is the disconnect is watching pornography actually can cause erectile dysfunction. Many studies have shown that they have actually a lower sex drive. They have erectile dysfunction and trouble reaching orgasm. The highest rate of erectile dysfunction, the population is in young men ages 18 to 25-years-old. Think about that. It’s not an elderly man. It’s not in obese or aging, medication.

Craig Perra:
The fastest growing population-

Sandy Joy:
Population.

Craig Perra:
… of men being prescribed medication for erectile dysfunction is 18 to 24-

Sandy Joy:
25.

Craig Perra:
25, 25 . And one thing I just want to echo before we go on is the findings of these studies, 30 years these folks have been studying the impact of pornography in medium. High consumers of pornography were less satisfied with their partner’s physical appearance, with their partner’s sexual performance. They connected less. See, because the reason pornography, one of the reasons why it’s so prolific is it becomes a primary numbing, coping and escaping approach. And it works. You want to get away from your problems. You want to disappear. You want to not think about things. You want to just lose yourself for hours, like you’ve literally transported yourself into a time machine. And six, eight, 10, 12 hours can disappear like nothing. And you get lost in this downward spiral. Porn does that. It works. It works. What we’re trying to say is it has a cost, like using magic and all the fairy tales. It has a cost and that cost is massive.

Sandy Joy:
Huge cost. And so we’re going to go into the secrets and lies that you mentioned a little bit earlier, if that’s okay?

Craig Perra:
Please.

Sandy Joy:
One of the things, regardless of what your opinion is, and it’s not an easy question to answer, is porn cheating? Is watching porn cheating? It’s not an easy answer and people have their own personal opinion. But I ask some questions. If you think about it, the majority of men and women who watch porn, and the majority is 80% men, they are not proud of viewing pornography and they keep it secret. They do not share that they’re watching pornography, especially with their romantic partners. Regardless of whether or not they admit it, most feel varying amounts of secrecy and awkwardness. And secrets are never good, especially in a relationship, secrets are always harmful, always harmful-

Craig Perra:
Always.

Sandy Joy:
Always harmful. If you have to keep a secret from your partner, you are damaging the relationship. Now, Craig, if your wife bought you a birthday present and said, “Hey, Sandy, I got Craig this, don’t tell him.” That’s not a secret. That is a surprise, because you are going to find out on your birthday what that surprise is, to be surprised. It is not a secret. It’s just, “I got this and I’m so excited and I can’t wait to give it to him. And so I just wanted to share it with someone.” That is a surprise, it’s not a secret. Secrets are always harmful and we tell ourselves lies. So even if people don’t want to admit that they’re watching porn behind their partner’s back, they have to admit that it is not the best thing for the relationship.

Sandy Joy:
Think about it. People don’t want their partner. People don’t wait until their partner leaves to flip open pages of a catalog. So maybe a Home Depot catalog or here in Canada it’s Canadian Tire. You’re watching, if you’re looking at a catalog, you don’t wait until your partner leaves to flip through it. There’s nothing wrong with flipping through it. Or you can be on your computer and watching your favorite comedian on YouTube. You don’t close the screen or delete your history from watching your favorite comedian. You don’t have anything to hide. And those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. If you have something to hide, it’s telling you. You are telling yourself in a subliminal way that it is wrong and it is harmful and you must keep it secret.

Craig Perra:
And to your point, Sandy, there’s a series of questions I ask guys. So I’ve worked with men who have cheated and the pornography isn’t a immediate priority, but it becomes a priority when we focus on creating sexual health. And we recognize that this power is incredibly powerful, how do we honor, respect, and nurture and grow this power? And so why are you lying? Fill in the blank. I have to lie to my partner about my porn use because, and examine those answers. Because it’s going to hurt her feelings. Well, why is it hurting her feelings? Well, because I’m not performing with her. Because she feels, it doesn’t feel like she’s a priority. She doesn’t feel safe knowing I have these secrets.

Craig Perra:
Like answer those questions literally, right? Put it in writing. I must lie to my partner about my porn use because. And what you are going to find is that you are going to find shallow, empty, poor answers that hopefully help illuminate why it’s so important to be honest about this part of your life. It is a major, major part of a relationship. It is a major part of you as a human being, and to have it grow in secret, it festers, it poisons, and it stains.

Sandy Joy:
And I ask this question, if you have to deny to yourself that it’s harmful, or it’s not hurting anybody and you’re saying it’s okay, then tell me why it’s done behind locked doors? Tell me why it’s done while your partner is sleeping or not at home? Tell me why you delete history? Tell me why your browsers are set on private? If it is something that is okay, tell me why they’re secrets? And then also tell me why you have to continue to tell yourself lies in order to keep doing it, to make it okay to do it?

Craig Perra:
Yeah. The rationale, the justification.

Sandy Joy:
It’s not hurting anyone, and I’m going to get into that as well. It’s not hurting anyone. This is something I do for myself. I’m just giving myself pleasure, it’s not going to hurt anyone. Are we able to go into that part, Craig?

Craig Perra:
Yeah, let’s do it.

Sandy Joy:
That it isn’t hurting anyone.

Craig Perra:
Let’s do it.

Sandy Joy:
All right. So we say, “Nobody gets hurt. It only has to do with me. This is my personal me time. That’s my thing.” Unfortunately that’s not the case. As we know, and much research has shown, all the women in the porn industry who are abused. What you’re watching is women being raped. You’re watching violence against women who are abused. They are drugged, or they’re coerced into shooting sex scenes on camera. You don’t see the blood. You don’t see the men being injected into their penises so they can continue having an erection. You don’t see the gore.

Craig Perra:
Well, and one thing that, so the response, “Well now wait a minute. That’s not everybody. That’s not, there’s a main stream, a population of porn performers.” The simple reality is, is that the majority, the overwhelming majority-

Sandy Joy:
97%.

Craig Perra:
… of porn performers don’t have a percentage of the backend. They get paid a one-time fee for these videos. And I will never forget my interview with Jessie Rogers. It changed me. Jessie Rogers was an A-list porn star. Had all the big contracts, did all the big movies, worked all the big studios. In my podcast she talks about repeatedly being sexually abused and raped by male talent. And that’s it. We can’t go any further than that. We certainly can’t mention, I’m not going to mention any names. A number of people on the chat section in the video on YouTube has speculated as to who it might be. And it is not the only sexual assault allegation made by women against men in the industry. These are the stars. These are the A-list talents making these allegations. These aren’t the poor women who are financially disenfranchised and are only turning to porn because their lives are so miserable and they’re at the bottom wrong, probably were sexually abused and had whatever, had challenges in their own lives, so-

Sandy Joy:
Manipulated. Manipulated of course.

Craig Perra:
Manipulated, and I really think, what I’d like to see an industry heavily regulated. I like to see unions. I like to see protections. When you’re dealing with something so powerful, it’s just, it is a cesspool. It is a dirty, disgusting cesspool as an industry. I’ve heard about green porn, I’ve heard about feminist inspired porn. That’s 1%, that’s 1% of a 99% industry and let those people do whatever. We’re not talking about those people. We’re talking about the majority of filth that you are watching that depicts violence against women, that is perpetuating, that male dominance and women love to be hurt. And it’s impacting your life. If you’re listening to this podcast, it’s impacting your life.

Sandy Joy:
Yes, your life, yes, absolutely. And of course we didn’t mention the human trafficking factor that’s in there that many women who have had porn made against their will. And so they’re all directly hurt by pornography and the porn industry. I won’t say that I’m a rad fem. And my goal is, follow Gail Dines, is to have pornography completely abolished. Because it hurts everyone except for the moneymakers. But I would think personality wise it’s not doing them justice. So not to mention then thousands of stories, and Craig, you’ve heard thousands of stories. I have heard hundreds and hundreds of stories. I have helped many women who have been human trafficked, who have been in the porn industry against their will.

Craig Perra:
Porn is always present. Porn is always present, don’t blame porn, but it’s always there. It’s always used to coerce, to manipulate. And just about every child sexual allegation porn was used to groom.

Sandy Joy:
And so-

Craig Perra:
Looks like poison to me.

Sandy Joy:
Absolutely, and it poisons the relationship. So when we say it doesn’t hurt anybody, ask your partner if they’re hurt. I bet you the answer is, “Hell yes.”

Craig Perra:
Yeah. And learn why, learn why. Ask those questions, why. Why is this hurtful to you? Why do my secrets cause you pain? Like really listen, ask the question and listen. We’re not, I’m not going to convince anybody if anybody doesn’t want to be convinced. And we’re just here, I want to give you questions and a framework.

Sandy Joy:
And the facts.

Craig Perra:
And the facts, so you can make educated, informed decisions. And it’s not, your sexual expression is not an afterthought. It’s not some insignificant part of your life that you can keep a secret and it won’t impact anybody. It’s a powerful part of who you are as a human and why you’re lying about it.

Sandy Joy:
Right. And if you have to lie about it, something’s wrong with it.

Craig Perra:
Something’s wrong.

Sandy Joy:
Is wrong with it. Okay.

Craig Perra:
Something’s wrong with it, something’s wrong with it.

Sandy Joy:
So we can go with the rationalizing argument that many, many people have had. It’s a healthy, natural release for me. Well, that’s not actually true. And this is research again. Pornography has been shown to change, to rewire a viewer’s brain, to rewire. And it is shown to do damage to the brain like cocaine does to the brain. So if your teenage son is watching pornography and you say, “Oh, that’s normal. That’s what boys do.” Would you say the same thing if your child was taking cocaine? Would you want your child to be taking cocaine? Pornography-

Craig Perra:
When you say it that way it’s funny.

Sandy Joy:
well, yeah, right. Because it’s ironic because it’s like it says, it sounds freaking crazy. We wouldn’t want our child to be doing cocaine. Why do we say it’s normal for them to watch porn? So it becomes addictive and it is addictive, highly addictive, and potentially it’ll lead to harmful life altering habits. The idea that porn is a healthy sexual behavior is perhaps one of the most twisted. These are from Fight the New Drug words. Rationalizations of our days, and one that science and researchers have continually proven otherwise. It’s like someone who chooses to cheat on their partner, watching porn doesn’t affect the one person doing it. There is a ripple effect that can happen from one action, one viewing.

Craig Perra:
Yeah, beautiful. Thank you so much, Sandy. I hope those listening. If you know, for some of you men who have cheated and you’re looking to create helping in your life, I don’t know. I mean, help me, email [email protected] and tell me how you see healthy and secrets in the category. Help me understand that. No, no, no, it’s okay, because she doesn’t need to know because … I just don’t know. The goal, the goal has to be sexual health.

Sandy Joy:
Yeah.

Craig Perra:
The goal has to be sexual health.

Sandy Joy:
Absolutely. So I just want to summarize-

Craig Perra:
Please.

Sandy Joy:
This is just more, just to have people thinking, that’s all. If a partner in a relationship is actively fantasizing about and getting turned on by the naked bodies of countless strangers, how does that add to the close bond and intimate connection in an exclusive relationship? So I want you think about that. How does it add? And here’s something else. When someone is viewing porn, a pleasure chemical called oxytocin, it’s actually there’s also dopamine, is released into the brain. And I’m going to use dopamine because oxytocin is also in an intimate relationship. So I’m going to use oxytocin for the intimate relationship and dopamine for the porn, because dopamine is not released in an intimate, secure, connected relationship. It’s a higher level of oxytocin.

Sandy Joy:
So the dopamine that it interacts with the pleasure center of the brain. The more we watch porn, not we, the more that viewers watch porn, the more the pleasure center is activated, the more the dopamine rises. Think of that as a sugar high. After eating a bunch of chocolate, we just had Easter, after eating a bunch of chocolate you get a sugar high, a sugar rush. And then there’s that fall, the blood sugar drops. The dopamine does the same thing. And then it’s like you feel awful. That’s where the shame and guilt is. That’s where the secrets lie. And then you feel so bad, it’s like you do it again. And the more you do it. So the dopamine and oxytocin is known to increase feelings of attachment, connection and trust. It shows, study shows that couples in a healthy relationship, in a well adjusted relationship exhibit much higher levels of oxytocin, then those that are in a distressed relationship or disconnected relationship. Because the hormone is naturally released during sex.

Sandy Joy:
So that’s what you were talking about at the very beginning, Craig, but watching porn triggers the release of oxytocin and dopamine as well. Effectively bonding the person to the screen rather than to their partner, to the screen, to nobody but fantasy. Meaning a porn viewer is bonding themself to a sexual experience coming from a computer screen, not from their partner. And we know where does the partner fall in, in this? So the definition of cheating is when a person is sexually bonding with something other than their own partner. Sounds a lot like cheating to me. What do you think, Craig?

Craig Perra:
Yeah, beautiful, Sandy. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. I’m really glad that we did this subject and we’ve got a couple of fairly neat subjects that are coming up next. And I’m really excited to bring that to you. And I hope, my intention here and Sandy’s is the hope we give you a different way to think about it. And some questions that you can ask yourself so you can create healthy. I simply cannot fathom an environment where healthy is in the same sentence as lies, cheating, sneaking, and a hijacking in a selfish, consumption of that most powerful energy that you should be directing towards your partner.

Craig Perra:
Now, Sandy, how can people get in touch with you if they’re looking for help? I know you do a phenomenal job with the women, whether it’s through the partner empowerment group. And there’s a way to learn more about that on the website, the mindfulhabit.com. You can click on learn about the group, but if someone’s interested in working with you, Sandy, what should they do?

Sandy Joy:
Send me an email. That’s the best way. Send me an email, [email protected]

Craig Perra:
Yep, and they could visit your website too.

Sandy Joy:
My website is www.sandrajoy.ca. Absolutely.

Craig Perra:
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Sandy. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed this broadcast of our effort to help you decide, is porn cheating. Embrace your power of choice, feed the right wolf. Catch you in the next episode. Bye everybody. Thank you, Sandy.

Sandy Joy:
Thank you.

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