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’My boyfriend won’t have sex with me, but watches porn and looks at other women. What can I do?

I’ve been with my boyfriend for several years and the relationship is great in most ways. Before me, he’d never had a long-term partner, only casual sex and has slept with nearly a hundred women. He watches a lot of porn and masturbates at least once a day. However, he has lost interest in sex with me. He looks at other women a lot, even when he is with me. He’s adamant he loves me, finds me attractive and would never cheat. He says the problem is because he associates sex with the ’thrill of the chase’. Do we have any hope for a future? I’m in my 30s and would like to start a family.

The power of you
I often wish that I had a crystal ball to see into the future. Although in this case I don’t need one and nor do you. Because you already have the ability to decide whether this relationship is right for you - and to end it, if it’s not.

Ask yourself: are your anxieties over your partner cheating or leaving trapping you in a relationship that isn’t working? If a friend told you about a similar situation what would you advise her to do?

Rather than focusing on what your boyfriend thinks, feels and does, could you concentrate more on your needs and confidence? Individual counseling could be beneficial, as could be writing out how you feel, or talking things over with trusted friends.

Problems with the past

You say that your partner has never been in a long-term relationship, but has had multiple, casual, partners.

In our culture we sometimes view casual sex negatively, usually equating it with people having low self-esteem, or an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections. Is this what worries you - or has he expressed unhappiness about his past?

Many people confidently and actively negotiate casual sex and experience it as meaningful. Some don’t enjoy all their casual encounters, but are not prevented from having happy long-term relationships just because they’ve had flings. Might that be the case for him, or has he shared details of his past sexual relationships to make you feel inadequate, or insecure? That would be worrying.

You also tell me that he watches a lot of porn and masturbates at least once a day.

Both of these issues need to be considered in relation to your next point: ‘he has lost interest in sex’.

Are you able to establish if he is simply doing something he’s always done without considering the impact on you? Or opting for porn and masturbation to avoid intimacy and hide a sexual problem? Do you feel his behavior is sexually controlling?

There are a number of different solutions. But they are only worth considering if they’re acceptable to both of you, rather than you continuing to accept a situation that makes you unhappy.


Continues with frequent masturbation - but not porn - so long as you have more sex together Continues with frequent masturbation and porn, so long as you have more sex together.

Reduces the amount he masturbates and/or watches porn in favour of more sex with you Stops masturbating and/or using porn completely Continues with frequent masturbation, porn use and infrequent sex with you - but with additional things enjoyed in your life together (e.g. more closeness, spending time together in other ways).

Be prepared that you may not agree on this. In which case, you have to decide where your limits are as regards staying in the relationship.

The thrill of the chase

He has told you that sex is about the thrill of the chase, which you say he doesn’t have currently.

I wasn’t clear if this is a conclusion you’ve drawn based on knowing about his past, or something he has said to you. If it’s the former then talking over what he wants from hereon in may be reassuring.

If it’s the latter, I would be more cautious and want to know the context of the conversations in which such a statement was made. If he is suggesting your relationship is not as sexually exciting as his previous casual encounters is he coming up with solutions you agree with to make your relationship feel pleasurable? Is he a poor communicator and isn’t intending to be hurtful, but saying tactless things nonetheless? Or is this another means of enacting control?

He looks at other women

Assuming you’re in a relationship where you’re both expecting each other to be monogamous, then this behavior - particularly if he knows it causes you distress - is troublesome. Again I’d be looking at the context. Presumably you know he looks at other women when he’s with you because you witness this. But how do you know he does it when he isn’t with you? Is this something you’re assuming happens, or is he telling you this? If so, what is he hoping to achieve by doing so?

Next steps

You say at the start of your letter that the relationship is ‘great in many ways’. But given the numerous problems you’ve listed is this a truly accurate statement?

If you could imagine a ‘great’ relationship what would it really look like? Can you contrast that picture with the one you have now? Try to think about if it’s worth trying to stay together (perhaps with the help of relationship therapy). Or whether you would be better off being alone and finding someone else with whom you’re more compatible.

Petra Boynton is a social psychologist and sex researcher working in International Health Care and studying sex and relationships.

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