My Husband Is Turning Into A Dirty Old Man


    8 Min Read


    Most of us have heard the phrase dirty old man and likely have a mental image that comes to mind when we hear it. Something like an older, never married, lonely man who acts "creepy" around women by staring at or flirting with them, especially younger women.

    The truth is a lot of guys can act like this.

    Which begs the question - do you really have to be an old guy to be called a dirty old man?

    Nope. Age really has nothing to do with it.


    This derogatory label has become a catchall phrase for any man's inappropriate sexual behavior (or what a woman may view as not okay).

    With the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017 this term has taken on new meaning and encompasses much more than it used to in referring to actions that are inappropriate and disrespectful.

    Criminal sexual assault by men such as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby has now been associated with the behaviors of a “dirty old man.” In addition, the sexual misconduct perpetrated by other high-profile men like Matt Lauer, Al Franken, and Charlie Rose has added new faces to the image gallery of stereotypical dirty old men.

    What Is A Dirty Old Man?

    The label dirty old man is a stereotype and generally describes a man, not necessarily old, who stares, gawks, or ogles women.


    This behavior can occur in public settings like a café or shopping mall, as well as in private in forms such as watching porn on the internet or adult films On Demand.

    It's sexual behavior that because of a man's age seems inappropriate.

    While societally we expect younger men, particularly those in their teens and 20s, to have such overt sexual behavior, we assume an older man will have either grown out of that or learned how to show more restraint.

    We all know how this feels and believe me, we women, who are ladies do not like it when men act like dirty old men and do this to us, most especially when they are with their mate. I have given disapproving looks, went up to the lady and told her she deserves better and even told one man that he should have more respect for the lady he is with and if he loves her, he wouldn't hurt her with the stares at other women." -Angelina

    All heterosexual men notice and can be drawn to attractive women. This is true whether they'll admit it or not.

    How they go about doing it, or manage the temptations to do so, is often what keeps them out of the filthy old man doghouse with women like Angelina.

    While dirty old man used to be a societal description for older men who ogled younger women in public or had a collection of Playboy magazines, it can now also be used to refer to anything from sexual assault on down.

    However, most typically the phrase is used by women to disparage a man, usually their partner, who's behavior they don't like.

    Another common negative label that can be similarly used is "pervert."

    Regularly I get asked by women if there man is a "sex addict" because he looks at pornography, and what's really being implied by the question is the concern that he's some kind of sexual deviant or is abnormal.

    Ultimately, it's the person using these labels who’s creating the definition based on behaviors they don’t like or find repugnant.


    A man who talks about sex frequently, makes sexually suggestive comments, or appears to always want to have sex can be labeled a dirty old man.

    In the workplace this is considered sexual harassment. When it's done on personal time, or with a wife or girlfriend, it's easy to use one of these more derogatory terms.

    Why Your Man May Be Acting Like A Dirty Old Man

    There's nothing really new here. Men are visually stimulated, particularly when it comes to women and sex.

    At puberty, and sometimes earlier, boys learn that looking at women is enjoyable. The pleasure chemicals released in their brains reward this behavior and it quickly becomes a habit.

    As adults, most men (even older ones) still notice attractive women, but either manage their desire to look or are subtle about it. Yet there are other men who seem to have their head on a swivel and will make their looking obvious to everyone around them.


    Any man is capable of acting like a dirty old man. But most men are better behaved than that and are able to keep their behavior in check.

    The difference is in noticing, versus ogling or staring.

    The men who adjust their positions in order to get a better look, like turning around and following a woman, or changing their routine so they can cross paths again have crossed a line.

    Unfortunately, some men are just not aware of the habit they've developed. Since it's something they've done almost their whole life it's become an unconscious response.

    In addition to the influence of the natural chemical responses in the brain, this behavior can often be reinforced and praised by other men, as well as by our society in many ways.

    We often discount how media, advertising, and cultural norms can shape people's attitudes and behaviors.

    For example,

    • Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition that’s highly publicized each year

    • Victoria Secret's commercials and television specials (not around as much anymore)

    • Umpteen advertisements using scantily clad women to promote everything from burgers to cleaning products

    Are all ways men are encouraged to look at women for their “assets” and nothing more.

    Are you a dirty old man if you look at these?

    The majority of our society would say, no, but it's the same behavior, just in a more accepted form.

    Most people don't know it, but the influence of looking at women in public often comes from viewing porn in private.


    The love of my life, fairy tale style, is causing me some concern. What he does is uses a controlled substance of the stimulate variety, binge style, and the entire time he is high he has multiple pornographic movies going on one screen and masturbates for HOURS. I'm talking double digits in hours. The longest he was in front of porn it was at least 14 hours. So what is going on with him? I can't imagine why it is attractive to do a drug only to act like a dirty old man ALONE FOR HOURS AND HOURS. Other than that, our relationship has no complaints. So, what is going on? Our sex life has declined greatly, as well. This is the only complaint I have with our relationship, and it is pretty big. But he is not secretive at all about his filthy old man behavior." -Jasmin

    Learning how to act around women in a respectful way, especially if you're attracted to someone, is something that many men (me included) were never taught by our fathers or other male role models.

    Sometimes men may not be fully aware of the impact of their actions or the discomfort they’re causing the people – women – around them.

    They may laugh it off and deny it at first, but this is more of a defensive response to alleviate guilt so they can continue to do what they enjoy, more so than a genuine desire to hurt the ones they love.

    Sadly, there are a few men who simply don't care how their behavior negatively affects their partner or other women, but most men do.

    How Do I Stop My Husband From Acting Like A Dirty Old Man?

    I hate others seeing him as an old pervert. I also hate others thinking that I'm with the old pervert." -Angelina

    If you want someone to do something, like to stop acting like a dirty old man, the first thing you have to do is approach them in a more positive way.

    Most of us don't want to be labeled, certainly not in a negative manner, so using a phrase like “pervert,” “deviant,” or “dirty old man,” to describe him is a conversation and behavior change killer.

    Regrettably, these derogatory labels get used many times in the heat of the moment and are usually an emotional reaction to feeling hurt, angry, or disgusted (likely all three).

    They also can come from a lack of a true understanding by women of why men do what they do.

    As we've already discussed, these terms can refer to a wide range of behavior, anything from sexually assaulting a woman to simply noticing how attractive she's dressed. But not all situations are equal, and some, like genuinely admiring a well-dressed woman, don’t rise to the level of the label being used.

    I have been with my husband for nearly 30 years. I started looking through his phone every chance I got! I found that he was into teen porn!!! This is a man that ALWAYS found this repulsive and said so to anyone that would listen!!!! He said this is normal behaviour. Everything he looks at is legal, he says and the girls like it!! Who in their right mind could believe that?!? He wakes up every morning and watches this before going to work and every spare minute he has during the day!! He looks up things like: "my daughter's friends" ... I am now a loner that doesn't want my daughters OR their friends to come over!! I think my husband is a dirty old pig of a man and he is an embarrassment to me! ...I loved this man with all my heart right up to this started 3 years ago!! Now, he scares me to the very core!!" -Katherine

    Katherine and her husband are a good example of the conflict that can arise and derogatory descriptions that can be used around sexual behavior that partners disagree about.


    Her husband justifies what he's doing, and she demeans him.

    The more he defends and justifies, the angrier and more demeaning she becomes, and vice versa.

    Not surprisingly, this approach doesn't lead to anything changing.

    If she really wants her husband to stop looking at porn, Katherine needs to take a more understanding (but not accepting) approach than calling him "a dirty old pig of a man."

    If he were addicted to heroin would she be more empathetic?

    Possibly. I hope so anyway.

    Porn can be an addiction too.

    In order to get men to be willing to let us help them we need to not make them feel worse about themselves, otherwise we're just going to drive them more into that behavior for relief.

    What To Take Away

    It's hard being a man today and having sexually stimulating images, descriptions and people come at you all day long.

    And there's a bit of a catch-22 for men in that women want to be noticed and seen as attractive (as do us guys, but it doesn’t play out the same way). And men like looking. But looking for too long or in the wrong way gets them in trouble.

    If your husband is acting like a “dirty old man,” keep the following in mind:

    • Be careful how you categorize or label people. No disrespectful behavior should be accepted or allowed to continue, but each situation requires its own, thoughtful response.

    • Helping someone change their behavior and attitudes towards women requires empathy, understanding, and open communication.

    • When assisting a man in stopping the habit of ogling women and behaving inappropriately, it's crucial to approach the situation with understanding and non-judgment.

    • By engaging in a sincere and compassionate conversation, we can encourage self-reflection, helping him recognize the impact of his actions on you and others.

    • Emphasizing the importance of treating women respectfully can be effective in fostering a change in behavior.

    Ultimately, it's essential to create a safe environment where he feels comfortable discussing his thoughts and feelings, which will lead to personal growth and the development of more positive and respectful interactions with women.

    Sadly, the phrase dirty old man is most often used to embarrass and shame a man with the hope that this will change his behavior. It's a hurtful label that is used to hurt because the user is most often hurt. However, while it works to hurt, it rarely works to change.

    What are your thoughts on dirty old men - both the behavior and the label? Please share a comment below.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published January 16, 2019 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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