Internet porn has changed relationships and marriages in more ways than a couples therapist can count. Questions on the pornography front are quite common. Is it okay to watch together? Is it okay to watch it alone? If so, how much is too much? These questions fall under the umbrella of decisions that individuals (and couples) must ultimately make for themselves. A skilled therapist can help navigate a meaningful and informed discussion, but clinicians should never be the gatekeepers when it comes to the freedom to make personal choices.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film, Don Jon, offers a surprisingly sophisticated and compelling examination of the questions today’s couples face when it comes to porn. Gordon-Levitt (who wrote, directs and stars in the film) plays “Don Jon”, a consummate ladies man who is addicted to porn. He prefers porn to sex, though he gets a lot of both, and prefers hook-ups to relationships. His world is turned upside down when he meets the perfect 10 — Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) — and tries to make a go of a committed relationship. Barbara inspires Jon to stop playing the field, go back to school and even introduce her to his family. Jon is all in when it comes to Barbara, but asking him to give up porn is where he struggles to draw the line.
What this film does best is to portray porn as one of many ways that we are socialized to fantasize about relationships –therefore developing unrealistic expectations about intimacy. Is a romance novel that tells women that a man will give up anything and everything for love really so different than the messages conveyed by pornography? Or are the two the flip side of the very same coin? While the trailer appears somewhat superficial and gratuitous, the film itself breaks new ground in the conversation about internet porn. Rather than getting caught up in trying to answer controversial questions about whether or not porn is okay, the film offers a poignant take on relationships, intimacy, sexuality, sensuality and love. Gordon-Levitt and Johansson are engaging, Julianne Moore is riveting and Tony Danza is downright hilarious.
If you are struggling with the question of whether or where porn fits into your life or your relationship, or if you feel challenged by questions about sexual intimacy in general, Don Jon is worthwhile — albeit nearly pornographic! — viewing.