A letter to my ex-husband who preferred porn to me
Published by The Guardian on
Porn ruined you. Ruined us. When people asked, shocked, how I could leave such a funny, clever man, father of my children – “a good earner” as my mother put it – what could I say? I said it was me. My fault. I’d changed. Only it wasn’t me. It was your love of porn that slowly diminished my love and respect for you and destroyed my self-confidence. I couldn’t tell them and I’ve never said it straight to you but you must know, you must remember those conversations. The rows.
I’m not a prude. ... And I love sex. Even children and the exhausting slog of being a working mother didn’t diminish my drive – though I had to bury it, pretend it didn’t matter.
We were about six months in when I found your stash and I picked it up smiling – “Boys will be boys” – expecting Penthouse Pets, Readers’ Wives etc but found women so mutilated by beach-ball, supersize-me, fake breasts that their eyes registered pain where their pouts pretended otherwise.
I felt it was mutilation. I wept. You shrugged off my arguments – “They get paid. It’s their choice” – and dismissed my arguments about exploitation as unchecked radical feminism.
So why did I stay? In the rest of our life you were funny, leftwing, Mr PC, cultured, creative; and we could talk forever about politics, 70s sitcoms, obscure 80s bands … Anyway, like the frog in the slowly heating water I didn’t realise or I’d have jumped out.
And, I told myself, sex isn’t everything, is it? Not when everything else is so right. I thought maybe, in time, we would learn together, maybe you will connect the emotion with the action. I tried to explain how it could be, but could only conclude that your lack of desire for sex with me was my fault.
When computers came, you got better at hiding it. You could no longer have an orgasm with me and blamed me and childbirth but I now know you had a case of the Prisoner’s Hand. Then your hints began. Could I wear more makeup? What about those white-tipped nails? Had I ever thought about breast implants? I hadn’t. Wouldn’t. You preferred my hair blond. What role play? Dirty talk? You liked these ideas and could see by my face that I didn’t. I tried. I didn’t.
There were words for what we did but it was never making love. And without the extreme visuals – you looking at them rather than me – you could never find satisfaction. So there could never be compromise. It made me feel that I was less than. There was never intimacy in what we did, and in the end I stopped wanting sex. Not that you wanted it with me anyway.
I just grew angry with you. Resentful of the “lie down” you would need when I knew what you were doing while I helped with homework and loaded the washing machine. So I threw my energies into gardening and our children, thinking that this part of my life was over and dead.
Then someone said something about me being a desirable woman. Me? Without blond hair and fake tan? Brunette me dressed in a tea dress and old Converse? And that was it.
What came next was not easy. Tears, guilt, divorce, kids shuttled between two homes, the shockwaves to extended family and friends. I’m in a relationship now. Our love is emotional and intimate, and I am enough.
You are still alone. People think it’s because you haven’t moved on. That you’re still in love with me. But I think it’s because relationships require effort and consideration of other’s needs, and the women you spend most time with ask for nothing. You are actually happier in your relationship with porn.