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Is porn breaking up Mumbai's marriages?

Porn is the new culprit. It's the "other woman", the cause of low self-esteem, depression and constant spats in marriages. So much so that seven out of ten Mumbai couples say that porn is causing their relationships to break down and want a divorce.

Sex and relationships, pornography and divorce

Prachi T, 25, (name changed) a professional from the health industry, was happy when her parents found her a suitable groom in 2007. A month later, she was married. Five months later, they had yet to consummate their marriage, and she found pornography videos on her husband's laptop. He said some friends had downloaded it but she later caught him watching them. He defended himself, saying, "Everyone watches porn. It's nothing abnormal." So she asked him why they had not consummated their marriage. This was followed by three failed attempts. She tells MiD DAY, "There was no intimacy, love or affection. We were strangers even after a year of marriage. Then all of these issues turned to fights. Now there is no other option. I have filed for a divorce."

Prachi is not alone. Psychiatrist Syeda Ruksheda, who is marriage counsellor at Trellis Family Centre, says, "Porn addiction is becoming a major problem in marriages and relationships. Pornography is causing a strain in seven out of 10 married couples that come here for counselling. The spouse of a porn addict usually suffers low self-esteem and blames himself/herself for not being able to satisfy their partner. Also, the issue here is why is a person's spouse attracted to other people?"

Porn or adultery?
Divorce lawyer Siddhartha Shah says, "Excessive viewing of pornography may lead to discord, but isn't a direct ground for divorce as per law. While filing a petition for divorce, the aggrieved spouse may state pornography as a cause for gross mental cruelty.

"Porn addiction leads to serious stress in a marriage and a neglect of obligations. Since watching pornography is in the conduct of infidelity, it amounts to an adulterous behavioural approach, but isn't technically adultery as per law. There is a rampant rise of cases where porn addiction causes family disputes. The law requires certain amendments, considering the virtual world and the times we are living in."

The need for an amendment in the divorce law is seconded by Neelofar Akthar, president of family court, Bar Association of Mumbai. She says, "We need many new amendments in the divorce act and one particular element is pornography. Currently, we are doing a study on the causes of marital disharmony leading to divorce pornography is one of the factors. We will bring this up soon and appeal for an amendment of the divorce law."

Living in a fantasy
The problem starts when the spouse gives more importance to virtual sex than the real relationship. Dr Hitesh Shah, sex therapist and marriage counsellor at Poornam Wellness center, says, "A person loses the ability to be satisfied through normal sex."

Since porn propagates stereotypes, it creates unnatural obsessions. Men start categorising women or get obsessed with sizes. Sharmee Bhuta, marriage counsellor and founder of Soul Search says, "Porn gives men the notion that women are at the mercy of men."

Even women get addicted and therapists warn that this creates an unhealthy obsession with fantasies most of which don't have any place in the real world of marriage.

Treatment needed?
Dr Anjali Chhabria, consultant psychiatrist of Mind Temple in Juhu that counsels couples, says, "In most cases, the husband is addicted to porn. Watching porn with your spouse is all right, but if you can only have intercourse with your spouse after viewing porn, than you have a problem. Addiction to pornography could lead to paedophilia and other unnatural sex addictions."

Most counsellors say that you can treat a severe addiction to porn by discussing the guilt and depression that comes from it and trying to curb it slowly and steadily. Therapists also say that patients should be made to get in touch with their emotional sides.

>>Brijesh Shah is a financially sound 38-year-old Gujarati businessman. But he can't go a day without masturbating and viewing pornography. He loves his wife but can't have intercourse, as normal sex doesn't stimulate him anymore. He is depressed that he can't please her and ashamed that he is not a good role model for his kids.
>>Carol D'Monte is financially and socially dependent on her husband who is a porn addict. She doesn't feel secure enough to divorce him, even though she has been tempted to. She found out about his addiction about nine years after marriage.
>>Ashish Nair (35), a TV and film director, has been married for five years. He had erectile dysfunction which caused conception issues. Pornography gave him an element of variety. This caused a strain in their relationship.
>>Aftab Khan enjoyed pornography and fantasy through sex chat, and was disinterested in intercourse with his wife. She created an ID and started chatting with him. She was shocked at his interest in sex with women over chat. She also found out that he had had affairs with some of these women.

(The names of patients have been changed to protect their identities)

>>It is not a crime to view pornography in India. Under the Information Technology Act, 2000 a person is found guilty only if they publish, transmit or cause to be published in the electronic form, any material that is lascivious.
>>At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said the Internet played a significant role in the divorces the year before the meet, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half such cases. Pornography had an almost non-existent role in divorce just nine or ten years ago.
>>A Duquesne Study in 2000 showed that men prefer visual erotica twice as much as women, while women favour chat rooms twice as much as men.
>>It also concluded that women had slightly lower rate of sexually compulsive internet behavior. Further, it stated 70 per cent of those indulging in pornography keep their habit a secret. 

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