I chose radical feminism over my porn-using boyfriend and got my humanity back

porn use

He knew how much I wanted a daughter. He said he wanted one too. We had it all planned. He was ready to quit his job — something one cannot rebound from easily in his country — and move to the U.S. with me. I was going to go to school in Boston, and he was going to work for Amtrak there. We were going to marry in the Muir Woods in November.

That was all before I saw her.

Her face was contorted and wincing. I could have heard her voice with one quick tap, but I froze. She was the “star” of Korean Slut Gets Pounded By Huge White Cock.  I read it out loud in a quiet voice, almost too quiet to hear the tone of my own disbelief. He laughed nervously and said “no no no no no” and took back his phone, which he had given to me to Google something. I buried my face in my hands. He said he was sorry, but it was a defensive, fearful “sorry” — one of those “please don’t get mad at me” apologies.

I looked up and inhaled deeply. “I don’t understand how you can do that.”

He hesitated, then said, “It’s natural for men.”

I saw that response coming, but I did not retreat. “The women in those videos are being raped,” I said, my voice steady with disgust and anger.

The conversation went on. I don’t think he realized that with every weak line of defense he spewed, I became increasingly hurt.

I tried to be forgiving. I didn’t want to be difficult. He said he loved me, and I was grateful. I was so afraid of losing him that I told myself I needed to dismiss signs of a possible problem. When he admitted to having “man stuff” saved on his computer and cell phone, I laughed awkwardly. When he routinely turned down my invitations to hang out, I assumed I had demanded too much. When he said he didn’t enjoy having sex with me, I apologized for not doing what he wanted.

But seeing that video was a wake-up call. I knew I had to stand up for what was right, and I tried to help him stop. I sent him resources that I hoped would help him understand the negative effects of porn on users, their partners, and society. I said he wasn’t a bad person; he just had a bad habit. I said very plainly that it’s okay to jack off, but that the brain is the most powerful sex organ. I told him I believed in him, and above all, that I loved him.

“Give me a break,” he replied. He said that I didn’t understand, and later, that I sounded crazy.

The whole ordeal left me feeling devastated and nauseous. He clearly didn’t want to change his ways. I didn’t want to control him, though — I wanted him to realize why porn was bad, and then change on his own impetus. More than anything, I kept thinking about our future daughter. I couldn’t raise children, much less a girl, in a house where porn was consumed. I would not let any hands that sought out sexual assaults online at night hold my young daughter’s fingers walking to school in the morning.

When I left him two days later, he didn’t object. For one last time, he chose porn over me.

I missed him right away. I had trouble accepting that a man who was otherwise very kind regularly partook in the systematic filmed rapes of my fellow women. I cried for seven hours straight.

Once I could somewhat speak again, the first person I called was my mother, who mostly tried to calm me down upon a new wave of sobbing. The next calls I made were to hand-picked friends, each self-identified feminists. I expected them not only to sympathize, but also to reel in horror as I did. I wanted them to tell me that I made the right choice.

Sympathy I did receive. I got the standard lines: “I’m sorry,” “It’s okay to be upset right now,” “I know how much he meant to you.” However, the deeper understanding I’d hoped for around why I was so upset was surprisingly absent. When I posed the situation as an ethical dilemma, explaining why I wouldn’t tolerate his porn use, I was met with hums and awkward pauses.

The friends I called are good people. I want to stress that. They were caring and patient when I called them, and they tried their best to be helpful. Although their answers felt inadequate, I could not hold them at fault, for their responses were reflections of a much larger problem.

I blame a society that teaches women to tolerate all kinds of bullshit from men. We are taught to prioritize and strive for heterosexual love so much that the bar for men is almost at the floor. Many women dislike porn, but resignedly accept that their boyfriends use it. It is an embarrassing topic, discussed only in low voices, if at all, and only with one’s most trusted friends, lest an acquaintance write you off as prudish.

But porn is an insidious epidemic. The internet has made it easier to access and, correspondingly, more normalized than ever before. Discovering violent material on an older male’s computer (a brother or father, for example) is essentially considered a rite of passage now for pre-teen and teenage boys. It has become a common theme in comedies. After my aforementioned breakup, someone even said to me, “I don’t think you’re going to find any guy out there who doesn’t use it.”

Well, if all of the men I meet in the future believe they need porn to be satisfied, then to hell with them. Nobody is born with a penchant or need for porn — nope, not even males. It is neither natural nor healthy to find degradation arousing. These should not be controversial statements.

But a lot of people simply don’t question that. Challenging normalized injustices is scary and onerous. Once you realize there is a problem, you cannot snap your fingers and un-see it. We who challenge porn specifically challenge a core tenet of male supremacy: If males couldn’t subjugate females, what “opposite” class of people would they subjugate? Who could they control, objectify, and use? Is the answer “nobody”? Can we even imagine such a world? Sadly, it seems most of us can’t. Male-partnered women are, understandably, afraid of seeing their boyfriends and husbands as compliant in a system of abuse.

Social movements are a great source of stress and a surefire way to have less fun. If I had never read the works of Andrea Dworkin, Gail Dines, and other anti-pornography radical feminists, I might be happily married right now. But given the chance, I wouldn’t change a thing. I lost somebody I loved, but I gained something far more important.

Radical feminism gave me my humanity back.

I implore you to rediscover your own humanity as well. A profound kind of empathy lies dormant in you, buried under years of socialization.  Dig it out, if only for the girls and women who will come after you. Read. Think. React profoundly, unabashedly. Talk to other women, and feel for them. Fight: Do not be afraid to call out men’s crimes.

And to those of you who already see porn for what it is — a sinkhole of abuse, exploitation, and misogyny — today is a great day to stop tolerating it, even if it means leaving your boyfriend. There is no shame in demonstrating your humanity. Too much human dignity hangs in the balance.

Rose Meltzer is a graduate student based in Washington, D.C.

Guest Writer
Guest Writer

One of Feminist Current's amazing guest writers.

Enjoy fiercely independent, women-led media? Support Feminist Current!

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $5