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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience:  35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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My husband says that he can get an erection by looking at a

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My husband says that he can get an erection by looking at a naked woman in a movie (not a porn) this makes me extremely upset and even though he says that he has no interest in this person, it leaves me feeling cheated on. I have recently told him I want a divorce over this. Am I alone in feeling this way and do men have any control when it comes to this matter? Thank you
Seeking expert counseling is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.

Dear friend,

Imagine seeing a picture of your very favorite food, tantalizingly captured in a way that attracts you to it. It might just cause your autonomic nervous system to salivate. In a similar way, seeing the naked woman causes his autonomic nervous system to fire up and give him an erection.

He has as much control over that erection as you do over a sneeze or a hiccup. Threatening him with divorce must cause him a tremendous amount of stress for he cannot do anything about it.

I can assure you that you are conditioning him to react negatively to you when you do this.

Men are designed differently then women are. Men (and all male mammals) are designed to produce billions of sperms over their lifetime and to spead them so as to propagate the species.

Women, on the other hand, only produce a few hundered eggs during all of their lifetime and their instinct is to protect and nurture their young.

You cannot reasonably expect your husband to change his biological, built-in responses any more than you can change yours.

His reaction is normal, natural, unavoidble, and shows that he is still a functioning, virile male. If you have the inclination, this might be a good time to take advantage of his aroused state and show him how much you appreciate his virility.

I wish you the best in holding your relationship together.

Best wishes,

Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience: 35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
Elliott, LPCC, NCC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
really?? He has even gone as far as to try and tell me that seeing me with another man might result in the same thing. Is that normal....NO! If a man has as you say no control, then wouldn't it seem fair that he respect his wife and not even put himself in the position to be aroused? I've had him begging me not to leave him and hysterically you think this is easy for me? I love my husband, but if he's getting sexually aroused by another woman then in my book he can be free to have them. I feel your advice was not sensitive to my feelings whatsoever. I know for a fact I'm not the only woman to feel like this and maybe advice from someone who can even relate to a woman's feelings on the matter would have been MUCH better... seeing as apparently you can only sympathize with my husband. He has said that he has no interest, that he doesn't even want to see it, that I'm all he needs. That's not good enough for me. I need to feel trust and faithfulness from my husband...not that he's no better than a stray dog.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

I'll look at this with you from a more or less "genderless" perspective if I can. We can start with the premise that is normative to take wedding vows and agree to to be faithful and fully monogamous. To most men and women, this means that you don't socialize privately with members of the opposite sex if your spouse isn't present, and you certainly don't cheat on your spouse. HOWEVER, it is also normative for both men and women to emotionally and vicariously place themselves in romantic and sexualized situations through pictures and popular media. For example, many married women read highly sexualized romance novels or watch soap operas, and IDENTIFY with the women in romantic and sexual scenes (meaning, they empathize with the female partners and vicariously imagine themselves in that situation with the male character). In fact, if these scenes did not have this emotional pull and couldn't prompt people to strongly identify and vicariously 'experience' what the characters experience, the soap opera, or the book or TV show or movie, would lose money. Men do much the same thing as women. So humans are observational learners---meaning that we learn about emotions, feelings and love in great measure through modeling and observational learning. Research shows that people "feel" reinforced normally, when they see someone else get reinforced e.g., receive a hug, get an ice cream cone for positive behavior, or experience a sexual embrace. This capacity makes all of us fast social learners. Once we've observationally learned something, we re-experience whatever emotion was associated with the learning, when we are exposed to the observational stimuli in the future e.g., a picture or video, for instance.

What I'm getting at here is that most men and women really do, quite normally, experience the sort of thing your husband is reporting---even those men and women who are in 100% monogamous, high trust, high fidelity marriages. Men may see a nude picture in a museum; or women, a photo of a character such as Fabio, and feel some arousal or sexual excitement. Were this not the case, magazines such as Playgirl (for women) would never have developed or thrived; there would be no male strippers entertaining women. And, Playboy magazine would never have thrived----80% of male college students viewed playboy regularly while in college in the 70s for instance. Yet, a majority of guys are in quality monogamous relationships today; some aren't of course.

What to do about men and women, normatively engaging in vicarious sexualized situations via pictures, videos, romance novels, etc.? Well, most couples I've worked with over the years come to accept this sort of emotional reaction in one another's' spouses (and themselves) as "normal", but they put a very, very clear boundary between the occasional and often inadvertent viewing or reading of this material, and ACTING OUT. So most married women, feel they can trust their men so long as their guy NEVER acts out e.g., steps foot in a club where there is lap dancing going on or semi-nude waitresses running about---without their wife present at least. Many put a limit on PORN because it can become an "acting-out" addiction, robbing a relationship of a couple's time and attention spent together, and sometimes leading to online sex ting and blogging. Again, couples draw the line regarding trustworthiness at experiences involving overt actions or behavior, not the thoughts or fantasies that most men and women experience. My 70 year old mother, about 20 years ago openly talked about her emotional arousal and 'lust' for Michael Flatley when she saw him in Riverdance. She bought his videos and followed him on his tours via his website. But she would never, ever think of sleeping with him, if given the opportunity, because she vowed to be exclusively my dad's life partner. Now, this a my very conservative, Catholic mother who went to church every Sunday. Was her arousal normal? Yes, but the important point is that she didn't act out---she held deeply internalized values against acting out on her feelings. My dad never became jealous or concerned about this late-life event.

So one way of construing this situation you are in might be to consider that it is the acting out and excessive involvement with sexualized material that becomes a problem in a marriage in terms of trust, not reacting emotionally to pictures, or a story line. In fact, when I deal with couples where there is a problem with actual cheating (the behaviors), there is always a struggle for the spouse who cheated to figure out how to 'convince' his wife that he will be faithful in the future. Well, I tell him he cannot convince her. What he can do is sit down with her and review the BEHAVIORS he needs to engage in today, tomorrow, and long term, that will build trust, because words, intentions, images, promises don't matter---only behaviors build trust. So, we might agree on various "transparency behaviors"---e.g., no private cell phone accounts or lines, no credit cards the other spouse doesn't know about, no time spent on the internet reviewing sex-related websites; no memberships to any websites the spouse doesn't know about; no solo travel on non-business-related trips without one's spouse---clear actions and behaviors. This is the only way to rebuild trust. Again, emotional reactions to words, images, fantasies, etc. don't count, only trust behaviors count and rebulld trust. What I'm getting at here is that your husband is probably like many other men AND women in terms of physiologically reacting to visual stimuli; one is probably safe in assuming he is trustworthy unless you have evidence that his BEHAVIOR says otherwise; for example, if he has moved from an occasional, visual fantasy to acting out in some manner.

Now, you mentioned that he would get excited if he saw you with another man having sex. This admission might suggest that he holds different values than you do about the meaning of sex in a relationship. But all in all, based on your post, I would hypothesize that aside from this particular issue, there are other significant problems in your marriage i.e., you have actually had material reasons to question his trustworthiness because of certain behaviors; or you don't feel truly loved and respected by him because of his actions, etc. I wonder whether this other "stuff" or other areas of disappointment for you, if they exist, have accumulated a bit and causes you to react especially negatively to the sexual arousal issue you initially posted. so this is an educated speculation about what also might be in play here.

What do you think?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I hear what you are saying, and thank you for your understanding. The truth is that my husband has never given me reason to doubt his love and fidelity to me. He worships the ground I walk on and was devastated by my reaction to the off handed comment he made last Jan. He says that he doesn't even know for sure if he has even reacted to a movie in the six and a half years that we have been a couple, but just knows that he has before and doesn't want to lie and say it hasn't been since we got together just in case. I understand that I seem to be irrational and emotional to the extreme, but that is me and I can only be true to myself. My husband knows what a hot mess I am and the roller coaster ride he will always be on with me, but loves me because and some days in spite of it. He tells me that he has no intention of seeing anything (naked women) and will always look away from a scene in a movie that might upset me, even though he says that he feels nothing about it, and has no interest whatsoever, that it is no more important than any other part of the movie. I believe he's telling me the truth, but am having a hard time shaking the thought that if he ever did react to a scene in a movie, to me he is lusting after someone that is not me. The comment he made about me with another man was made in a fit of frustration. One in which he was trying to convince me that he could just get an erection without consciously thinking about something, as in no way would he want to actually see me be unfaithful. That this just happens to men and sometimes they don't have any idea why. You have been a huge help to me and my husband came home last night clinging to to idea that we will get through this and that I will not end our marriage. Again, thank you!
I wish you the best.