Then I got a computer with internet capability, and my life changed. The internet has a treasure trove of free porn. Most free sites encourage the surfer to link up with pay sites, but I could satisfy my curiosity--which, I admit, is pretty tame--just with the free sites. No longer did I need to go out to buy videotapes or watch strippers. No longer did I need to spend money on my little pastime.
I am sure there are those who think that I am somehow acting immorally, that I am not "true" to my wife. I disagree. This is not the Victorian era. People have urges, and sometimes their mates are busy or tired.
I believe that cyberporn has curbed those who might go out on a hunt to satisfy their sexual needs with something illicit, immoral, and costly. I'll bet there was a lot more fooling around going on during the Victorian era. Or even my parents' era.
All of us have heard religious leaders say that pornography on the internet has become the newest scourge. I don't think this line of reasoning accomplishes much more than to push users further into hiding. And keeping a secret is the biggest danger of using anything--porn, alcohol, drugs, food.
I figured this out about a year ago, when my computer started acting funny. I panicked. I knew I had to take the computer into my company's shop to have it fixed. I knew enough about computers to know the possible ramifications. The help desk might be able to see the footprints from my visits to the porn sites.
I was embarrassed at the thought of being "caught." Then I was mortified at the thought of losing my job. How in the world would my family be affected? I frantically began to look through the list of files on my computer for anything that looked like porn.
About two weeks earlier, my wife had told me she read a computer self-help magazine with ways to free up more memory on the computer. While looking through the files on our home computer, she had seen that I had been looking at porn there. She asked if I had been surfing for porn on my company laptop. I said no. I did not want to admit I was doing something that, if not illegal, was unethical.
But when my laptop broke, I had to confess to my wife. Although I can't say she was thrilled, her tone was one of forgiveness. She said she would help me locate the porn footprints in my computer and erase them.
It turned out not to be necessary. The technician told me to save the files I wanted to save, then wiped out the old set of programs and put in a new set. I might have been the most relieved man in the world the moment I received my computer back, without a word of caution or even a "I know what you were looking at" wink.
But the close call caused me to do some serious self-examination. I slowly began to tell my wife about some of the shadier places I used to go. The process was extremely painful for both of us. I knew I needed to enter counseling.
My counselor and I, it turned out, talked very little about the pornography itself. He told me many people use porn, and for many different reasons. Porn, he said, is around to satisfy a demand.
I have not gone back to those adult-entertainment centers. I still satisfy my curiosity by surfing for porn--now only on my home computer, and with my wife's knowledge--like millions other Americans. But I've left behind the need to get a thrill from doing something secret and sleazy.
This is a middle ground that I think is moral.
Recently, I learned there are computer programs available to wipe out any evidence of surfing for porn. That is a problem, too. I realize that some spouses might not be able to handle the revelation of porn-surfing as well as my wife did.
And yet, I also know that nothing healthy is being accomplished as long as there are prudes telling us that all porn is evil and sleazy capitalists helping cyberporn surfers hide their behavior.