Porn

For a while, I’ve wanted to write about porn.  In March, I tackled the hairy subject of pubic hair and promised to blog about porn.  So, here goes:

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Porn is such a tricky subject to discuss.  Not only because for so many people it’s an awkward topic to talk about, but also because it can be so divisive.  And divisive not just interpersonally, but intrapersonally.  Some people hold strong views about porn, some couldn’t care less, some are blasé about it, and others will adapt their views depending with whom they are speaking.

Similarly, we can face an inner turmoil regarding porn; publicly condemning it to friends, before enjoying a private porn-fuelled wank in bed.  In their book ‘More Orgasms Please‘, The Hotbed Collective summed-up this inner struggle perfectly:

our body likes it but our brain does not.

Before we go any further, I must make one thing clear: I am not anti-porn.  I am an avid consumer.

I know porn can be a great way to open up conversations with a partner and to explore new things and discover what turns you on.  But we can’t escape the damaging effects of porn.  For most people who watch porn, we view it as a means to masturbate and enhance our sex lives; we can differentiate how sex is portrayed in porn versus how sex can be in real life.

And yet it’s not sexually-satisfied adults who watch porn to get their kicks I’m worried about.  I worry about the children!  Porn is the main source of sex education for many young people.  Many young people’s first exposure to porn is by an accidental stumble rather than deliberately seeking porn out.  And whether the porn children (yes, children) are viewing during puberty is accidental or considered, it is deeply concerning that they are growing up expecting sex to be a certain way and men and women’s bodies to look a particular way.

Mainstream porn videos enhance a particular (narrow-minded) body type deemed ‘beautiful’ and ‘sexy’.   It is awash with large, even-breasted women with small waists, slim stomachs, pouty lips and bald, ‘tucked-in’ labia; akin to that of a sex-year old.  Nothing jiggles.  Nothing wobbles (except the big boobs, of course).  We all know this perpetuates female insecurities and male expectations.  ‘And what of the men?’, I hear you cry!  All the men seem to have penises as long as my forearm and are either fat and old or young, six-packed Adonises.  I have never, nor would I want to, have sex with a man with an eight-inch penis.  Young men are growing up concerned that their penis is ‘too small’ and that a bigger willy will mean better sex.

As a woman of 27 years old, I feel pleased with my sexual history.  I am lucky to say I am sexually satisfied and know that what I see in porn doesn’t always reflect real life.  But if I were sexually uneducated porn would confuse me.  And some of it would frighten me.

Why is it hard to find videos of cunnilingus as a sex act in, and of, itself rather than a quick 30-second job before the woman spends hours sucking dick?

It’s so easy to find gagging, gang-bangs, depictions of rape, rough sex and punishment (any act that degrades women, really), taboo sexual encounters and bald vaginas with ‘neat’ tucked-in labia.  But you’d be hard-pushed to find a video of cunnilingus as an activity in its own right without it being a preface to an endless blow job or as an after-thought in the final 30 seconds of the video (after a man has ejaculated on the woman’s face, naturally).  We need to educate young people and remind ourselves that penetration is not the be-all-and-end-all of sex.  Foreplay is often more pleasurable for women and we need to train the narrative to accommodate sexual acts that aren’t about putting a willy in a hole.  The sex we see in mainstream porn sets a dangerous standard for young people who are learning what to expect from sex via pornography.

For the first time in 19 years, the sex education curriculum in the UK is changing.  Let me repeat that:

For the first time in 19 years, the sex education curriculum in the UK is changing.

In 19 years.  Even as an ex-teacher, this shocks me.  The last time the curriculum about sex was updated was at the turn of the millennium.  I was nine years old (I barely registered that my body looked different to that of my male friends, periods were a few years off, the sight of seeing grown-ups kiss was gross).  Now, I am 27.  I have had (possibly more than I’d like to admit) sexual partners, learnt what it is like to be bisexual, had enjoyable, consensual sex and sex that was not enjoyable and not fully consensual.  The sex-ed I received in my early-to-mid teens is the same sex-ed my cousins (who are 13, 14 and 15 years old) are receiving now.  And they live in a totally different world to the one I grew up in.  Everything is sexualised now.  In the 90s, pop music was all about girl power and friendships, now it’s all about sex.  Sex sells.  And my cousins know it.  In the year 2000, mobile phones were only just becoming popular (the Nokia 3310 was the hot new phone to have – if you’re not sure: Google it), the Internet was fairly new and used for work and school rather than constant social connection, we would have to ‘dial-up’ for the Internet and so we couldn’t use the phone at the same time as being online and Britney Spears released her first album…

At the break of the 21st Century, my sex education consisted of line drawings of bodies in biology books, the school nurse demonstrating how to put a condom on a (blue) dildo (of course prospective parents were visiting the school during this lesson) and a lesson or two about sanitary towels and tampons.  There may have been a lesson about testicles, erections and wet dreams (for good measure).  I  don’t remember ever being taught about consent, the clitoris or that sex should be enjoyable.

Fortunately, from September 2020, children will be required to learn about consent (and how it can be withdrawn), porn, LGBT relationships, online relationships and intimacy; all in an age-appropriate manner.  And thank god!  See here for more information on this.  We could complain (and I’d quite like to) about how this is too late for the oldest of the Gen Zs, but for the children going through the education system now, it’s a very welcome (and needed) change!

Despite the compelling arguments of the damaging effects of porn, I’d argue that porn has its benefits.  Its accessibility can ease feelings of loneliness, it can provide new ideas of what we might want to try in – or out – of the bedroom and it can be a catalyst for conversations with our sexual partners.

With the porn industry estimated to be worth $97billion and every single day, about 25% of all internet searches are requests for porn, (quoted from a Tedx Talk here) I can’t see mainstream porn disappearing from our screens any time soon.  Yet progress is being made to curtail the pornographic experience with which young people are constantly bombarded.  Lucy-Anne Holmes (author of ‘Don’t Hold My Head Down‘) and a team of amazing people managed to bring a stop to ‘Page 3’; reducing the prevalence of sexualised images in mainstream media.  Couple this with increased education about porn use and its effects on our relationships, intimacy and brain functioning, we are definitely heading in the right direction for porn to be consumed in a more considered manner; hopefully by the audience for whom it is intended.

Further reading/ watching:

The incredible scholar Gail Dines talking about our ‘pornified culture’:

Granted, it makes for grim viewing, but it’s a compelling speech about the harm of porn on young people.

More Orgasms Please by The Hotbed Collective – a great book about female pleasure with excellent resources.  It fuelled some of the ideas in this post.

Fight The New Drug – a website that raises awareness on the harmful effects of porn.

 

Please share your thoughts about porn in the comments section below.

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