When an engineer working in a multi-national company in the Middle East approached the Family Court here for divorce from his wife, a software engineer, on grounds that she was sexually dysfunctional and he was unable to consummate his marriage, the woman was shell-shocked.

She vehemently contested the claim and the judge asked for expert assistance.

Under psycho-diagnostic evaluation, the truth tumbled out. It was the man who was avoiding normal sex from day one of their marriage.

The reason: he was psychologically affected by watching pornography, leading to erectile dysfunction.

His is only one of many cases that the Family Court here is hearing: divorce cases set off by excessive or addictive exposure to internet pornography.

Some common facts are that men demanded that wives repeat what they see in hard porn videos, often played in the bedroom itself.

In some cases, unable to disclose this to anyone, and under pressure or abuse, women leave the matrimonial homes, setting the stage for disputes in courts. Experts say internet pornography addiction is now a silent epidemic that is ruining marriages.

As courts tend to view obstinate refusal to consummate conjugal ties as cruelty towards one’s spouse, the problem is passed off as ‘cruelty’ in divorce proceedings.

“In more than three years as a family court judge, I have seen a number of cases of porn-induced sexual dysfunction in men that resulted in unusual and unbearable torture, both physical and mental, to the wives,” says T.C.S. Raja Chockalingam, Judge of the Family Court here. He said wives were often uneasy with demands that they imitate acts done by porn actors. “When husbands insist on this, there is a devastating effect on the conjugal relationship. This kind of porn addiction is the bottom line in a number of divorce cases filed on the ground of cruelty.”

In one case, a husband in an upper middle class family sought divorce on the ground of cruelty on his wife’s part. After detailed evaluation, it was found that the husband wanted to tie his wife’s hand or whip her with a belt during sex.

Her refusal led to the divorce petition. In another case, the husband was averse to normal sex, but wanted his wife to repeat acts appearing on a porn video he played in the bedroom.

Addiction to pornography could lead to loss of concentration at work, withdrawal from close circles, loss of self-esteem and even sleep.

What are the symptoms of porn addiction? Says Dr. Narayana Reddy: surreptitious browsing, getting irritated at suggestions that they should spend less time on the computer, withdrawing from family circles, committing mistakes at work and over-spending.” Psychiatrists say the advent of internet has added elements like accessibility (at minimal or no cost), anonymity and interactivity (in some cases) to pornography, constituting a heady cocktail that has led to widespread addiction.