We are hearing more discussion about pornography lately in the media. Discussion is always a Good Thing™ and I personally think we don’t talk about sex enough in an open, honest and healthy way. I’ve been listening to the SmartSex podcast and the Foreplay podcast lately and they are definitely creating positive discussions and I recommend them both.
I hear a lot of good insights on the subject of pornography but I also keep hearing some that are more simplistic than is useful or plain wrong. They are:
- Life imitates pornography. This is not true. It’s just like watching normal movies – you can watch people shooting at each other and never once think you should go out and shoot someone. I don’t think porn causes people to, for example, cum on each other’s faces. Porn is arguably an art form, like cinema, and as such it is understood that is it not depicting reality. It is depicting fantasy. The people participating in it are actors. It is highly contrived and has very little in common with reality. We know this.
- Pornography is not sex ed. This is true to some extent but, again, see #1. I doubt that young people who are getting interested in sex see porn as a how-to manual. On the other hand, I have personally learned things from porn. I had never been given the privilege of having sex with an actual women when I discovered porn and I did learn about their bodies, to some extent, from porn. While a lot of what goes on in porn is extreme and unrealistic in terms of normal human behavior, there is also a lot of porn that is just consensual men and/or women having normal sex. This sort of erotica predates photography and probably predates recorded history.
- Pornography is causing problems in relationships. I’m sure this is true in some cases and the opposite of true in other cases. But I reject the notion that porn causes people (specifically men, in most conversations) to be desensitized such that they can no longer be aroused through normal sex with their partner. It is more likely, in my opinion, that men are expending their sexual energy on porn because they don’t know when their spouse will be willing and able. With men, as is well known, there is a recovery period necessary between sexual activities resulting in happy endings. Bad timing, especially if a couple is not open about masturbation, could seem like an inability to be aroused.
- Porn makes us judge our partners more harshly. Some think that the idealized nature of porn means that they will seem unattractive by comparison. They also feel like there are new expectations to do more things, hornier things or weird positions. Or that they must now pretend to enjoy having their partner cum on their face. I don’t believe any of this is true. Speaking for myself and most men and women I know, we have better sex than the people in pornography because we are in love with our partners. There is no dissatisfaction in my brain when I am with my lover. I think porn probably makes most men (speaking as a man) desire their partner more.
I do not pretend there is no downside in porn. Women are overly sexualized by society in general and harmed by men at a rate that is shocking and horrifying. These travesties have been problems before the Internet and before modern pornography. Using pornography as a scapegoat for criminally-minded misogyny won’t solve anything.
People are interested in sex. This is a fact. Pornography augments the sex lives of a majority of people in this country. This is also a fact. Any deep societal flaws that come from porn ultimately come from all of us, not just from pornographers.