Yes - there is a fundamental difference between the sexes when it comes to the issue of visual stimulation. In general, men are extremely visually based in their sexuality - thus, the proliferation of pornography, advertising, and media that is geared toward men. Women, are more swayed by the concept of caring and being protected (i.e. loved). That said, the majority of women's product placement (cosmetics, clothing, etc) is geared toward making a woman more appealing to the opposite gender (i.e. "sexy").
Of course, these are all stereotypes.
There are some women who are very turned on by pornography and some men who are disgusted by it. It really depends on the individual person and their likes and dislikes.
At it's healthiest, sexuality and love should be linked in a relationship. Sex is a deep and meaningful way of expressing love toward a partner. Therefore, I do not believe they should be separate, as you mentioned. However, I agree that there is a disconnect between sex and love in popular culture and, often, incorporated into a man's way of thinking. Many men believe that viewing pornography and looking at other women is healthy and normal and should have no effect on their relationship. In turn, many women feel hurt and betrayed. The best that we can do as psychologists treating individual couples is to help that couple come to an understanding about what is (and what is not) acceptable to the other partner. While it would be ideal to change the culture as a whole, it is probably a bit unrealistic.
Does this answer your question?
I completely agree with you. It sounds like your approach is quite good - that you allow for some differences, but that you have boundaries when it comes to more hard-core forms of pornography. I think this is healthy and balanced.
Yet, even when these boundaries are established, sometimes men approach women in ways that are more sex-related than love-related. It can feel objectifying and very much the opposite of love at times. I think there will always be a bit of a struggle there. Sometimes I have found in relationships that it's a good to discuss how such approaches make you feel (i.e. more like an object than a partner) and at other times (depending on how sensitive and receptive the man is) I have found it better to make it a point of negotiation (e.g. the man gets to approach sex with his partner how he wants to, but he is required to give her equal time cuddling or whatever she desires in terms of caring).
The gender split can certainly be frustrating, can't it?
Well, maybe. Although I think that some insecurities regarding this are normal and I wouldn't want you to completely deny how you are feeling just to care for his feelings (although I find it commendable that you are making this effort).
In general, I would want to work with him to fuse love and sex again. His time being single has maybe corrupted that link a little. The best way to do this would be to involve a partner, whom he loves (you) and involve her in some of his fantasies (to the extent that she finds it acceptable, of course). Sometimes men have an aversion to viewing their partner as a sex object because they think it's degrading (or the partner makes it known that she thinks it is). This can have the effect of pushing them in the direction of using only pornography or masturbation to satisfy their urges. While I don't necessarily think that this is the case with your partner, what are your thoughts on this?
I think you could be right in someways I think he is ashamed although not openly of some of his sexual feelings and maybe there have been sometimes where I shy away or express feelings of some activities being unacceptable to me. I think in this case I need to reassure him that he has nothing to be ashamed of and I understand even though at times it makes me feel insecure the way he thinks of women as sex symbols and I don;t think he thinks of me in that way although I know he finds me sexy but it makes him nervous and embarrassed? I will try what you are suggesting although to be honest I am not really sure how to go about it! I suppose to just ask what he likes what turns him on etc and if ok for me try to go with that?
That sounds perfect! Start slow (with something you are comfortable with and something he might be less embarrassed about) and try to include yourself in some of his fantasies. Eventually the effect should be that he begins to link his fantasies with the love he feels for you. In turn, you might begin to feel that his sexualization of you is actually one way in which he is expressing his love - albeit in a different way than you might.
Gosh, I think that you are approaching this in a healthy way and I hope that this works for you both. Best of luck!