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Boys Will Be Boys

Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

 The best college student comment on "Boys Will Be Boys" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, November 25th. Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.


Julia and Ricky have been dating for about a year now, and are completely committed to one another. All of their friends feel that they have a strong relationship with a solid foundation.
Despite this, however, Julia has been noticing a pattern that concerns her. Ricky regularly watches pornography, which she really doesn’t like. After ignoring it for a while, Julia mentions that it bothers her, and makes her feel like Ricky is cheating on her.
Ricky apologizes, but explains that it’s solely for “release,” and means absolutely nothing beyond that. Julia feels that pornography objectifies women in a way that undermines their relationship, and her self-esteem also suffers a hit when she thinks about the images that go across her boyfriend’s screen. Her best friend tells her not to worry because “boys will be boys,” and Julia reluctantly acknowledges that she knows that many college guys do this. She thinks that she may be blowing things out of proportion, but she can’t shake the feeling of betrayal.
Is Julia overreacting, or should Ricky change his habits to honor the relationship? Do the moral implications change whether or not Ricky and Julia are sexually active?
Photo by fb available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr. 

Comments Comments

Kathryn said on Nov 13, 2012
While the terms "regulary" and "committed" are unclear, I believe as a reader that if Julia does not feel it is right or that it is something she agrees with, Ricky should take her opinion and feelings into account and seek help or talk over this problem with his girlfriend. Him watching porn, while it may be natural or healthy, has created an issue in their relationship. No girl or guy should not feel good enough for their significant other at any stage of a relationship. - Like
Ana said on Nov 19, 2012
I believe that the issue of pornography has nothing to do with the current sexual attraction between Julia and Ricky. The morality of porn cannot be determined by this one situation. Instead, readers should focus on the real issue at hand. If Julia is as unsure of herself as to be made insecure by pornographic material, she may have a problem. This problem may stem from Ricky choosing to watch porn rather than be intimate with her, in which case the pornography has been made into an idol-something he chooses over someone he loves, in which case it would be reasonable that Julia demand Ricky cease watching porn. However, if this is not the case, Julia is over reacting and needs to bring her expectations down to a compromise with the reality of the world. - Like - 2 people like this.
Hadi K said on Nov 25, 2012
I think Julia is overreacting. Men need to recycle their sperm, and men do have a built in mechanism to take care of this (e.g. wet dreams). Its no surprise that the porn industry is centered around a male dominated viewership (the porn statistics image in the further reading), men and their relationship with sexuality is very different from that of a woman. I wonder, using a rights based approach, how Ricky would feel if Julia used porn and used the same "release" logic. Like if his actions were universalized, would he hate it if his girlfriend did the same thing? Based on Ricky's attitude, I'm not convinced that he would care. So long as the end is to foster a good relationship, Julia should not be so paranoid about how Ricky views porn women versus her. His means of seeking a release to make him better at the relationship may be a good thing ultimately. This is a utilitarian approach. The person he might be, may be worse for her. But that is ultimately an empirical question. Maybe they experiment. If he abstains from porn for x amount of time, is he better or worse off? They should try it but I think Julia is being unfair by forcing her moral preoccupations on Ricky who is probably trying to act morally. Its also unfair to jump to addiction and it might stigmatize him or make him self conscious when he may be ok in reality. - Like - 6 people like this.
Navila said on Nov 25, 2012
To answer the first question. I don't think Julia is overreacting because she is speaking from her experience. To her, she feels like she is being cheated. From a Virtue Approach framework, you could argue that Julia expects a level of honor and respect from Ricky in terms of the relationship. She thinks it's dishonorable for Ricky to be viewing porn while in a serious relationship. She wants him to respect her, her insecurities and vulnerabilities, which are part of who she is. If he respects her, she believes, he would honor her request to abstain from porn. To her, virtual women are no different from real woman, and Ricky "uses" these virtual women as a release. Secondly, from a Rights Approach framework it can be argued that Ricky is using people in porn purely as a means towards achieving a "release." Julia may not think about that specifically, but if virtual woman and real woman are considered to be human beings with equal worth, then it's wrong for Ricky to purely use people for his gain. In the same light, Julia may feel that this behavior is no different from cheating and a breach of an unwritten social contract (Fairness Approach framework). In sum, virtual woman and real woman are not different. Julia feels like she is being cheated by Ricky's "relationship" with virtual women. Ricky is doing something unethical. To answer the second question, I dont think the moral implications change, at least from Julia's perspective. There may be more of an expected obligation placed on Ricky to abstain from using porn, because Julia feels like that's cheating. As the article, "Porn predicament" and the image of porn statistics highlights, Ricky's behavior will lead him to lose Julia and destroy his relationship with her. However, if you try to understand the issue from the perspective of Ricky, there might be a different ethical understanding at play. He, giving him the benefit of the doubt, respects Julia and honors the contract that is his relationship. He doesn't understand why porn is such a big deal to Julia ("the porn myth" article refers to this) because from his perspective he is able to get rid of his sexual urges and focus. There might be biological mechanism at play that requires him to seek a "release" and he may also draw a distinction between virtual and reality. Where virtual is synthetic and a false simulation. He can't form a relationship with images, nor does it seem like he wants to. He values what he has with Julia. Some ways of resolving this is through a clear articulation of expectations and where each person is coming from. Another way is to try to get one person to change their mind with a better, sound argument. Using empirical data to show that one may develop erectile dysfunction may sway Ricky. In the "Porn myth" article, men also find real women less desirable and that is what Julia fears. If that is something Ricky cares about, he might abstain. On the other hand, the couple may use porn in a healthy way as the "Porn predicament" article suggests. In sum, a discussion about values is necessary. - Like - 7 people like this.
Big Q said on Nov 28, 2012
Congratulations to Navila, winner of this Big Q Contest! Thank you to all who submitted thoughtful responses, and please check back in January when we resume our bi-weekly contests! - Like
Tom said on Jun 19, 2013
I think Julia does have a valid concern. Porn does harm to the brain and can turn into a compulsion for many. The idea that men need it as a "release" is not completely accurate either. While some fluids do need to leave the body, porn is not the only answer to that requirement. Men will experience wet dreams if they do not masturbate. I would also like to add a website about how to quit porn: - Like - 3 people like this.
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Tags: cheating, love, porn, pornography, relationships, sex