Saturday, December 1, 2007

UPDATE: Disclosure

Those who know me well know that the closest thing I have to a religion is reading. And I read the online newsmag Slate with near fundamentalist zeal. So when Emily Yoffe posted one of her regular "Dear Prudence" columns, I wasn't hunting for anything in particular but rather following my daily ritual.

I rarely find anything of personal importance on her advice column, but read it to keep my ethical knives sharp. I often disagree with her, but I think that, too, is a big part of why I read her material - for the contrarian point of view she provides. She again provides that view in her latest column, where she writes about disclosure in relationships. (The pertinent item is the third letter down.)

Prudence/Yoffe receives this conundrum: boyfriend uses family computer and innocently discovers father's porn habit. Tell the girlfriend? Her response:

No, you don't tell your girlfriend everything. You don't tell her that the
blouse your colleague wore was really enticing. You don't tell her that the joke
she told wasn't funny. Even in the most open, healthy relationships, people
should and do hold things back from each other. (Snip) You accidentally
invaded the privacy of your girlfriend's father, so don't inflate the incident
by talking about what you discovered.

I definitely disagree with her process, and perhaps with her conclusion, as well. First, the process: I'm not interested in a hand-holding relationship in which I withhold stuff because it could be painful. Let's look at Prudence's two hypotheticals above: the hottie in the blouse and and bad joke.

There are two ways the cute co-worker situation could go. First, there are many beautiful people in the world, and they do not disappear when you begin dating someone. You shouldn't try and cut yourself off from the aesthetic when you commit to someone else, but you're making an observation, and hopefully your significant other has sufficient self-worth and faith in you as to not take offense. And the other possibility is that you might need to think about a different relationship, if you're sufficiently unhappy with your partner's aesthetic. Such an observation should lead to a conversation about what's wrong, and how to deal with it. Throwing it down into a hole and pretending it doesn't exist leads to an explosion down the road.

The bad joke situation isn't nearly as explosive, but important all the same. If your girlfriend tells a joke and you laugh when it sucks, well, she might tell it to someone else, who might say something about it. Let her know so she can retire the line from her arsenal. Even when you correct a mistake it is easy to do it all over again. Uncorrected mistakes beg for repetition.

Dealing with this specific situation - pop's porno, we'll call it - there are several issues to consider, and I think Prudence misses them all. The conflict is not between the guy and his girlfriend, but rather, between the guy and his girlfriend's father, methinks. But there is a lot of ground to consider.

First of all, what's wrong with porn? This question is hardly rhetorical. Specifically, what's wrong with a married man looking at pictures of naked women? (Or men.) The boyfriend doesn't know what the deal is, really. Maybe he looks at them with his wife. Maybe they actually belong to his wife. The point is that we should be honest about things. Lots of folks - lots of happily married folks, lots of happily dating folks, lots of single folks - use pornography frequently without serious detriment. Porn, close cousin to that oldest of all professions, is ubiquitous. And as people have been learning over and over again since the beginning of time, both porn and prostitution survive nearly any attack. There's a reason for that. I'm not a sociologist, but I'm sure that some significant part of the human condition does not want to be in a single-partner committed relationship. Now, perhaps such relationships' benefits outweigh their costs and are a good idea, but there is still a part of us that wants to mix it up. Porn would seem to be a way to do that without harming the relationship.

This consideration could go a whole hell of a lot deeper, but this is a pretty good first look at it. I don't think you have to tell anyone about the porn cache because it just isn't that big of a deal.

1 comment:

Lacey said...

Amen! Couldn't agree more! :)