This letter had to be edited quite a bit for obvious reasons. Use your best judgment with comments so that you're not censored all day.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I'm a 31-year-old female. I've been in a relationship with a great guy for six months now. We met online. He's 32 and has a graduate degree and a great job. I've met his family and passed their test, and he's met mine and passed theirs. We live apart but spend three to four nights a week together at each other's apartments. So far, so good.
The other night was an unsettling experience to say the least. I was at his place for the night. I woke up at about 3 a.m. and he was not in bed. I could see the light on in his office so I got up and walked down the hall. As I approached the office, I could see him seated at his desk, enjoying an adult video on his computer. I'm not a prude – I know that this happens -- but what was unsettling was that he was viewing [extremely aggressive] material that was degrading to women, both verbally and physically. And what was worse, he was muttering to himself as if he were part of the scene.
Needless to say, I was appalled. He absolutely is not like that. He treats his mother and sisters with great respect. Our lovemaking is sweet and tender, almost too gentle. He's about the last guy on earth I would have expected this from. Now I'm concerned that he harbors some deep hatred of women that might work its way to the surface someday.
My question is, is it normal for a guy to view pornography that is way outside his everyday persona? Do pornography habits ever translate into action in real life?
– Not Sure What's Behind the Green Door, Weston
A: In college, for my women's studies minor, I did a thesis about feminism and pornography. It by no means made me an expert (in fact, I really phoned it in with that paper), but I was surprised to discover during my research that many feminists were open to pornography that on the surface appeared to be offensive to women. These feminists wrote that fantasy lives were separate from real-life behavior and that role playing was just fine. And for the most part, I now agree with the spirit of that philosophy. After all, we all know that I fantasize about a 17-year-old vampire high school student who lives in suburban Washington. If he actually existed, I can't say that I'd date him, let alone touch him. I mean, he's 17.
I believe that the answer to what's going on behind your boyfriend's green door can be answered with a simple conversation, NSWBTGD. Tell him what you saw. Ask him what he likes. Then ask him why. He'll either talk about it and explain himself in a normal way -- probably with some silliness and shame -- or he'll tell you something that will make you feel bad in your gut. Guts are important when it comes to this stuff.
And don't get me wrong, if the pornography you saw can be described as true violence against women, the answer is probably clear. But if it's just about role playing -- and you're OK with that as long as he's not some sort of secret misogynist -- then just talk to him. You'll get a vibe.
Because there is no normal. Some people are anti-pornography. Some couples watch pornography together. Some people's fantasy lives have nothing to do with what they actually enjoy when they're with another person. Only you can decide what you can live with. See how he reacts when you ask him about it.
Readers? Is this normal? Should she talk to him about it or just bail? Is it weird that he was doing this while she was there? What should she say to him if she has the talk? Does the "too gentle" thing bother you? Keep your comments PG.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.