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Mary Feely: You'll give him an earful over leaving the cap off the toothpaste, so why not about his creepy computer porn habit?

We women aren't shy about opening our big gobs when our fellas do something that bugs us.

In your typical household, if hubby uses all the loo roll and doesn't replace it, wifey will give him an earful. If he snores, he's liable to be kicked out of bed. God help him if he decides to grow a dodgy moustache without consulting her first.

Yet normally assertive wives are buttoning their lips when they find proof of behaviour that troubles them far more: hubby's porn habit.

The same woman who'd bawl out a man for leaving the cap off the toothpaste can be tongue-tied when she discovers he has been ogling other women on their home computer.

Yeah, yeah, I know: some women regard pornography as a bit of harmless fun. Others shrug it off as one of those baffling hobbies that absorb men but leave them cold, like watching darts or rebuilding motorbike engines.

I'm not talking about those women. I'm talking about the wives who feel like their husband is cheating on them when he indulges in porn, even if he never lays a finger on another real-life woman.

They feel rejected and humiliated. They cringe at certain memories: that night they wore their sexiest silk negligee and waited in the bedroom, alone. A night when, it now turns out, he was getting his jollies in a different room, also alone.

Make no mistake, lots of women feel this way. So their next step is to confront the sleazy rat with all those hurt feelings, right? In an ideal world, absolutely. In real life, probably not.

Oh, they'll pour out their hearts alright. To a good friend, maybe, or to strangers through an online discussion board. But when it comes to telling the person who most needs to hear it -- the partner who's been dabbling in porn -- they're strangely hesitant.

They may be uneasy about their husbands looking at porn. But they're also uneasy about being uneasy.

It's as though, if they object to porn being part of their most intimate relationship, they're becoming born-again prudes, withered crones who'll next start ranting against wine and miniskirts and families who don't say the rosary.

Nonsense. If something's hurting you, it's hurting your relationship, because you're half of the relationship. Censoring your reactions won't help.

If this bothers you, get gobby about it. How else will your partner know it's making you sad? Give him the chance to put things right.

I've always been a bit dubious about adults using pornography. To me, it smacks of an adolescent stage of sexuality. You know, the look-but-don't-touch stage.

For those of us who moved from singleton to smug married in the 1990s, things were simpler.

Back then, porn-use tended to fall into a certain pattern. Lads bought mucky mags during their teens and college years. Women saw this as a regrettable sign of immaturity, like eating cold beans from a tin.

They expected the habit to be abandoned once a relationship moved from dating to setting up home. Fellas generally complied, give or take a little grumbling.

Fast forward to 2010, and every house is supplied with phones, laptops and desktops that can call up other people's naked bodies, at any time, with only a few clicks.

Maybe women have become so docile in this environment that they feel they have no right to call halt, even within their most intimate relationship.

But at what cost? Marriage counsellors say online porn is causing problems for more and more couples. Accord, the Catholic marriage counselling service, reported a 50pc increase in couples struggling with the effect of internet products such as cyber sex and porn.

You can be sure of one thing. For every couple wrangling about porn in a counsellor's office, there are umpteen wives brooding about it in silence.


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