Why Does My Boyfriend Look at Other Women?

man looking at other woman on the magazine

I am in a serious relationship with a man that I have known for many years but have only started the relationship in the past few months. Our relationship seems like a dream, we have always cared for each other, but I think our timing was never right. We had started a relationship at 20 and I subsequently broke his heart. He did not communicate his feelings for me which led me to believe there was no future for us and I moved on. Nevertheless, we continued to be friends and it’s now been 18 years. We have matured and grown and are better equipped emotionally to have a successful relationship, at least I feel that way.

You have far more to worry about than a nudie poster. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

He lives across the country, has a great job and is leaving it behind to come and start a new life with me at this point. We are buying a home together and are trying to start a family, but something still makes me feel doubt and insecurity. I had the chance to see his place, I flew out for a week vacation (he often visits me and I wanted to see him at his end) and saw his apartment for the first time. I chuckled at first, seeing that it was decorated with flags and beer posters and such but when I saw the detailed nudie poster of a woman signed to him with love hanging on the inside of his closet door I felt like throwing up. He is an intelligent man, very successful, very down to earth, is very respectful and caring in how he treats me, very loving, sensitive and has no problems sharing how much he loves me anymore… all those things a girl would want. But I am disgusted by that poster, I didn’t say a thing to him about it, I figured this is his place and who am I to throw my opinion in his face about his decorating tastes so to speak. But the whole time I was there that was all I could think about! It drove me crazy, I felt like it was a notch on his belt that he had to hide in his closet but yet had no qualms with letting me see it. I have a lot of negative feelings about this and I’m hoping that my perspective on this needs an adjustment. Hope you can put me at ease or help me deal with this in an appropriate way so we can move forward because I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.


Oh, Trixie.

You have far more to worry about than a nudie poster. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

First let me attempt to put you at ease with the concept of the signed (and detailed!) nudie poster. I know it’s easier said than done, but this one’s on you. There is absolutely, positively, 100% nothing wrong with a normal, red-blooded American man who appreciates the naked female form. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a man who turns away in abject horror when presented with the image of a perfect body.

Expecting men not to be turned on by magazines, calendars, porn and strip clubs is like wishing for the sky to be red — a pleasant thought, perhaps, but not one consistent with reality. As long as he’s not ADDICTED to magazines, calendars, porn and strip clubs, he falls in the healthy 80th percentile of men in the bell curve — stimulated by visions of unattainable women. Better to embrace that and use it to your advantage than to go crazy about a fact of life.

Expecting men not to be turned on by magazines, calendars, porn and strip clubs is like wishing for the sky to be red — a pleasant thought, perhaps, but not one consistent with reality.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss the many, many things that are wrong with this picture:

1)             He is an intelligent, successful, down-to-earth, 38-year-old man…who keeps a signed naked poster in his closet? Not to mention beer signs and football pennants? At best, he’s an overgrown frat boy who desperately needs a woman’s touch around the house. At worst, he’s a clueless delayed adolescent who has absolutely no consideration for how his décor makes women feel. I’ll let you make that call yourself. But, from personal experience, I had tons of posters of women — Paulina Porizkova, Kathy Smith, Kathy Ireland, Cindy Crawford — in my room when I was 15-18 years old. My mom continued to send me the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar for Christmas into my early-mid 20’s. I loved looking at it, but kept it hung in my closet out of embarrassment, until eventually I asked her to stop sending it. I could not possibly imagine how your guy has gone this long without realizing how this makes him look. Any ideas?

2)   He’s moving cross-country, you’re buying a home and you’re starting a family…and you’re worried about a freakin’ poster in his closet? I’d spend a lot more time visiting each other, trying to build up a sense of trust and normalcy, instead of signing on the dotted line and sorting it all out later.

Please, Trixie, for your own sake, slow down on the proclamations of love and marriage and future and babies — and try to figure out if you guys are truly a long-term fit. If you are a good fit, then a poster doesn’t matter. And if a poster makes you second guess the basis of your entire relationship, maybe it’s best that you don’t rush things.

It just seems that you’re putting things out of order, and by focusing on the minutiae, you’re missing the big picture stuff that will determine your success.

Best of luck.

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  1. 21

    Oh, hunter, sadly the poster is in a tube in a spare closet somewhere. I’m not sure I could find it in any sort of timely manner, and I don’t even remember if it’s ever been hung up…

  2. 22

    Oh good grief – every man I work with at an investment firm between the ages of 22-40 has a signed cheerleader Arizona Cardinals or Philadelphia Eagles lingerie calendar hanging up in their cubicle/corner office. They go out to strip clubs and watch porn. So does my husband. He’s not addicted and he’s not a frat boy. I think if I didn’t work with all men, I might have had a naive view of it all. But it’s just a locker room mentality and men turning into morons when they see pretty, big breasted, unattainable women. It has nothing to do with their real life relationships. I think getting upset by a calendar is ludicrous, unless he actually knows the women in it and is in real life communication with them. Then yah, that’s a problem.

    1. 22.1

      Well, if you think men are “morons” for responding to what they naturally find attractive, then maybe you aren’t as cool with it as you think.  

  3. 23

    Honey, your poster is in a tube, put away somewhere? How boring…

    Mara, I agree with your comments.

  4. 24

    Mara, not every man…
    I am in my mid 20s, and I am the only woman my age in a team of 20 men of my age. From the 2 years I worked there, I can see the immaturities vary with different guys. Fortunately, since our work is highly professional, it is absolutely a no-no to have such posters hanging in anyone’s cube/office. I have been to a couple of their homes and they looked just as neat (or neater) as my home.

  5. 25

    Uh…no, actually.
    I went the “well, he’s a man?” route when my ex moved his porn stash into our house. He wasn’t sitting around slavering or jumping over to the screen every other second. But I thought it was…sad, and abject, and totally not hot. Just sad. “Unattainable” is not at all the same thing as “poor dumb girls who have no idea what the men are thinking” or “down and out women used to being abused and objectified, with not a lot of anything to spare, especially brains”. I thought he should’ve been able to see that these poor women had no self-respect, were probably not that bright, maybe were used to abuse from childhood, and were being taken advantage of, whether or not they knew it. By him, now, too. I kept my mouth shut, thinking, “OK, he’s a man, maybe it’s healthy sexuality,” etc. I’d lived with other men and had never had this in the house before, but OK.
    What snapped me out of that was my male friends, who said, “He has what? Ew!” They thought it was gross, and sad, and abject, and a bunch of other things, too. Turned out they were right, and I was wrong.
    I wouldn’t date a guy who kept porn around and girlie stuff around or even found it sexy. Apart from my own experience, I have too many friends whose husbands had “healthy outlets” that somehow turned into hookups with 15-year-olds, near-rape experiences, and other sexual sicknesses. I think Trixie’s gut feeling about this is right on target. I also think you’re right in telling her to slow down.

  6. 26

    I think you are worrying about the wrong problem. Your boyfriend seems to be making all the right moves-relocating to be with you, buying a house together, starting a family, communicating his feelings. Unless there is another reason you don’t trust him, I see no reason to worry so much about the poster.
    I am curious to know why you can’t talk to him about it? Considering the problems that come up in a life together, the fact that you haven’t discussed it suggests that YOU need to work on discussing your feelings.
    I can’t speak for your boyfriend, but if my girlfriend were to espress displeasure at such a poster, I would immediately get rid of it with a sincere apology.

  7. 27
    Curly Girl

    Michael: It seems that all PEOPLE are “influenced” by the way other PEOPLE look. Most people are aroused by visual erotic material, according to certain studies (legitimate scientific studies on human response–you know, ones that adhere to accepted research methods–not just something that’s tossed about online).

    But we aren’t talking about attraction or arousal. We’re talking about a decision to seek out a certain type of stimulation absent any emotional connection to the presumed “partner”; a certain predilection toward fantasy that leads to an action without regard for the consequences of that action (in this case, how it might offend or hurt someone he presumably cares about); and the rather immature content of the photo.

    Red flags, if you want an equal, mutually satisfying physical relationship.

  8. 28
    Curly Girl

    Agree with Jenny and Amy!

    And Mara, no doubt there are male-dominated environments where this behavior goes unchecked. The question is, what woman WANTS to be in that situation? Hardly any, I would suppose, which is why those environments are male-dominated. As I said before, they are hostile toward women. That some (or even many) women go along to get along (as EMK and some other guys on here are advising Trixie) doesn’t mean that women like the stuff or wouldn’t prefer environments that are free of it.

    But here’s an interesting question for the defenders of this behavior: If it’s so meaningless and irrelevant and not important and no a big deal, then why not just get rid of it or not buy it, now that you know how off-putting it is to what seems to be a substantial portion of the female population?

  9. 29

    I re-read the letter and the OP indicated that her guy had 1 poster not a stash of porn. Moreover, he hadn’t brought it to “their house,” it was his house — a house, by the way, this woman was never going to live in. I don’t know why some people have assumed that 1 poster makes this guy a porn addict. I’d need to have more proof than 1 poster to declare him that.
    I don’t know if she should stay with this man or not, but if she loves him and he does everything through both words and action to indicate that he loves her, breaking up with him over a poster seems to be an overreaction. But sometimes, people don’t tell the whole story, so there actually may be something else that is bothering her about this guy. If that’s true, then she should slow down. She just needs to be completely honest with herself and if something is telling her he’s not the right guy, then he probably isn’t.

  10. 30

    The most shocking and disturbing part of this story to me has nothing to do with the poster, but rather that the OP was bothered enough by this poster to say that it drove her crazy the whole weekend, yet she could not bring her self to say anything about it and this is a man that she has known for several years, is in a serious relationship with, and is moving cross country to live with her. If she can’t even bring up this rather simple issue, i can’t see it boding well for the relationship. People shouldn’t be that scared to talk to their siginificant others.

    1. 30.1

      OMG Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head. There are serious problems with this relationship.
      In any healthy relationship, there are going to be things that you do that drive him crazy and things that he does to drive you crazy. The solution is COMMUNICATION.

  11. 31

    Boys will be boys? Harden up! This is nothing unusual.

  12. 32

    Personally, as a professional myself working with mostly men, I would leave the company immediately if I find anyone post anything sexually inappropriate in my workplace and the management tries to defend it. It is unlawful and it is an insult to my profession.

  13. 33

    I think worrying about a poster (which can be ripped off the wall) is silly. She’s allowing this minor situaltion to allow her to miss out on the other issues she needs to be attentive to. Hell, the man lives alone, he has a right to have a poster. It’s not like it’s his ex girlriend or something. Of all the complications that relationships can bring, a poster should be the least bit of her worries. You need to look at the bigger picture. Does this mean meet your needs? Is this man the type of man you see in your future? Is he a family man? Can you have children with this man? Does this man makes me feel like a natural woman, etc. Stop worrying about a silly poster that can be torn off a wall. And if you’re expecting to be with a man that’s perfect, that’s not going to happen. You want to go into a relationship with false notions. If a poster can bother you so much, then, perhaps, you have deeper issues. Or, perhaps, you have not come to realize that relationships in itself can be very difficult, and a poster is not even 1 percent of it.

  14. 34

    Or, perhaps, Trixie is jealous because she has low self-esteem and the nude woman in the picture look nothing like her. Hell, if my bf had a naked picture up and i know i look just as good, it would really bother me, because i am confident. Still, i think Trixie has deeper issues than that nudie picture.

  15. 35

    Kenley, the fact that he has and treasures the poster enough to have a look every time he opens his closet say something about what he finds appealing. And what he finds appealing is a young woman who’s willing to display herself in order to be the object of strangers’ lewd and often disgusting fantasies. She may have pretty boobs, but what does this say about her, the person? And what does it say about the person who finds that kind of person attractive?
    I can certainly understand being distracted by a bod, and appreciative of it. But if an interest in the actual person in the bod doesn’t show up very swiftly afterwards, I’d say something’s wrong.
    Most of my boyfriends — good, smart guys — have found this very frustrating. They see a hot woman — good! — and then very quickly realize that she’s terribly abject, or dumb as a rock, and they find it so sad or off-putting that they just don’t find her sexy anymore. Which is why they don’t have the posters or the porn files or the magazines. They’re just not interested in objectifying these women, find it a loathesome thing to do. What they want is a real, live, smart, funny, healthy woman in the bed. Or at least one to chase. That kind of fantasy they can live with.

  16. 36

    I don’t think sexually explicit material posted in a work environment is relevant to the OP’s concern. She found 1 poster in her boyfriend’s home in his closet — a location, where I suspect, he didn’t think anyone would see it there but him. It might even be the case that it’s been there so long, he doesn’t really even notice it anymore. I remember I read this book that recommended putting little notes of encouragement to yourself in various locations. So, I have this note inside my medicine cabinet reminding of my goal weight. The note has been there for about 3 years and I swear I only noticed again a month ago. If he’s like me, he might not really even notice it anymore.
    One of the reasons I may be more willing to than some women to cut men some slack on pornography is because for many years, I was a romance novel junkie. My addiction started as a teen and continued until I was about 40. Romance novels are a HUGE industry for women, and you know what, most of today’s romance novels are soft porn — plain and simple. Yes, I read the novels for the story but also for the stimulation and excitement — that’s why women read romance novels — to get turned on. And, romance novels also set up very unrealistic expectations about the relationships between men and women. The reason I actually stopped reading them is because when I started dating again in my forties, I realized that the idealized man in the romance novel just did not exist and my thought that he did was getting me into a lot of trouble. I think the biggest myth in romance novels is that when you have sex with a man, you are now a couple. As we all know, that is not true in the real world. So, I stopped reading romance novels cold turkey.
    I know some are going to complain that I am comparing apples and oranges, and I will acknowledge that there are differences. However, my boyfriends could NEVER measure up to the men in those romance novels — which is often the complaint women have about women in porn. At the end of the day, both are fantasies that are tailored to how each gender likes to be stimulated. If a guy is respectful to my wants and needs in every way both in public and private, I’m just not going to be bothered if he looks at pornography.

  17. 37

    I think you have a very interesting voice and perspective. I think, however, we just see the world differently. First, there wasn’t anything in the OP’s note that indicated this guy “cherised” the poster. As I indicated in my previous post, sometime things are hanging around for so long we don’t even notice them anymore. Like a few others have mentioned, why didn’t the OP ask the guy about it since it bothered her so much?
    Second, I don’t believe that every man who likes to look at a naked woman in a magazine has disgusting and lewd thoughts.
    Third, the notion that if you don’t want to get to know a person you find physically attractive, then there is something wrong with you, makes no sense to me. I see hot men at my gym and on the street everyday, and I don’t have a desire to get to know them as people. Does that mean there is something wrong with me? Why?
    Fourth, there is a difference between fantasy and reality. To suggest that a man’s fantasy can only be what his reality is seems oppressive to me.
    To me, what this all seems to boil down to is that women who aren’t turned on by naked bodies don’t want men to be turned on by naked bodies either. I don’t think that is fair or realistic.

  18. 38

    @Kenley #36 I tend to agree with you.
    I don’t consider looking at or enjoying erotic/pornographic material deviant (or even questionable) behavior for men or women.
    I do understand that on this board that seems to be the minority point of view though.

  19. 39

    Hi, Kenley,
    I’d say that if you go home fantasizing about the hot bods in the gym, and then come back and watch them working out for more hot fantasy, and it doesn’t cross your mind to wonder who these people are, then yes, that’s a problem; you’re using them, objectifying them. Turning them into sex toys. And they aren’t sex toys; they’re people. On the whole men don’t like being objectified any better than women do — it’s total disrespect and humiliation.
    On the whole, though, the guys in the gym aren’t dressing (or not dressing) for you. They’re doing it for themselves, and they’re dressed sensibly for their sport. Which is why I thought it was sad & prurient that people got all over Brandi Chastain when she ripped off her shirt after that big Olympic win. And men generally are not sexually vulnerable in the way that women are — although when they find that they’re in a vulnerable position, like when a straight guy finds he’s in a locker room full of gay guys on the hunt, I think you’ll find they get modest in a hurry.
    No, not every man who looks at porn and girlie stuff is thinking disgusting things, but you know that some of them are. And that the woman who’s done the posing is inviting that very kind of thing, because that’s the purpose of those shots. To be used. For her body, or body parts, to be used as an object of fantasy.
    You write:
    “To suggest that a man’s fantasy can only be what his reality is seems oppressive to me.”
    I’d suggest that imagination opens the door very wide. 🙂 Try again. A lot of people are hot, hot, hot — because they themselves, not this chunk or that chunk of the flesh — are hot.
    “To me, what this all seems to boil down to is that women who aren’t turned on by naked bodies don’t want men to be turned on by naked bodies either. I don’t think that is fair or realistic.”
    Or true. I just don’t want to be involved with a man who thinks it’s fine to separate body from person, and use that body for sexual pleasure.

  20. 40

    What I find unfathomable is Trixie has known this man for 18 years; he’s leaving a great job to move to be with her (in this economy); they are buying a house together and apparently trying to conceive and YET she can’t even bring herself to talk to him about a poster he had hanging, in his closet, as a single guy, she finds objectionable. WTF???

    I think the lack of ability to communicate is far and away the more serious problem than a poster hanging out of site. I think Trixie better stay on birth control until she learns how talk to this man about things that bother her. And he’s better off keeping his job and staying put until she does.

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