Porn to be Wild

A few lessons on the greatest escape of all time.

Jessica Wildfire
Aug 12, 2018 · 7 min read
Photo by Brad Lloyd on Unsplash

One night, we tried watching porn before sex. Just an experiment. A friend’s idea, backed up by advice columns. There was just one problem. We couldn’t find anything we liked. That’s when it hit me.

I’d never actually watched porn before.

And neither had he, not really.

Full disclosure. Back in college, I caught the first five minutes of Edward Penishands. No offense to the cast and crew, but that experience turned me off porn for about ten years.

I’m sure Edward Penishands is just great. But it probably shouldn’t serve as anyone’s introduction to the world of erotic cinema.

After that, porn never really interested me except as a pop culture reference, the occasional joke. And then my partner suggested we incorporate it into foreplay. You know, something vanilla.

Three different times, we browsed for the right steamy video and gave up. Call us impatient, uneducated, or just extremely picky.

My entire life, I’d had this vague idea of porn in the back of my head. Now I was giving it more serious thought.

In theory, I’m all for porn. But what I’d seen and what I’d read was confusing me. Was porn good for you, or bad? Was it addictive, or not? Was it ethical, or exploitative? There had to be something I was missing. So I started digging, and found out way more than I planned on.

Lots of noise has surrounded porn for decades, maybe centuries. Wherever you find porn, there’s also been criticism.

The critics come from a few different angles. First, some camps describe all porn as inherently sexist. They claim that porn reinforces toxic masculinity and misogyny. True, some of it does.

There’s always the religious camp. Porn is evil. Run.

Sex therapists have increasingly blamed porn for ruining our sex lives. They've started speaking up about PIED, porn-induced erectile dysfunction. They cite rising rates of erectile problems in younger adults, even adolescents. You can get the gist of this argument from Gary Wilson’s popular TED Talk, Your Brain on Porn.

The most extreme arguments against porn insist that the only way to recover from PIED is to give up porn altogether.

Every critic of porn makes a valid point — that it can have negative effects on our culture. But porn is like any other escape. You can drink too much. You can gamble too much. And you can smoke too much. The key is to produce, consume, and distribute porn responsibly.

We tend to lump porn viewers into one big group. But that’s not helpful. Not everyone watches porn the same way, for the same reasons. Porn use also ranges widely in terms of frequency and duration.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine divided porn viewers into three categories: recreational, distressed, and compulsive.

Their survey found that recreational viewers watched less than half an hour of porn a week. They did it to improve their sex life, with partners present, or before sex as a part of foreplay.

The distressed group actually watched less porn, about 17 minutes per week. They reported high levels of anxiety and guilt associated with their consumption. Poor fellas.

The compulsive group watched five times as much, about 110 minutes per week. Of course, we’ve all heard stories of some addicts consuming even more, to the point where it affected their jobs and relationships. Porn abuse figures highly in divorce these days.

We don’t seem to know exactly what causes porn addiction, and it’s not listed in any official manuals yet. The most we know is that masturbating to porn triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. You get hooked on the fix, and it takes more and more each time.

But lots of people consume porn their entire lives without falling into addiction. Maybe it’s not the porn, but the way it’s consumed. Like never before, porn is easy to access and not regulated. So we have some growing up to do, culturally.

It’s not exactly easy to know if you’re addicted to porn. So much baggage from our puritanical heritage gets in the way. Our attitudes and conceptions toward pornography suck. Pun intended.

Even a fair chunk of people who watch porn feel regret, like they shouldn’t be doing it. A 2009 study in the journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity found that 68 percent of those who watched porn expressed guilt, 66 percent reported feelings of shame, and another 66 percent described their actions as “inconsistent with spiritual beliefs.”

The interesting thing is that it didn’t matter how much they watched. The people who viewed porn occasionally were just as likely to express shame and guilt as the ones who sought it out on a regular basis.

More recent studies in the same journal have honed in on what qualifies as addiction to porn. A 2015 article introduced the Cyber Pornography Use Inventory-9, a list of 41 questions to determine your level of addiction. The inventory asks respondents to rate statements like, “I sometimes use pornography as a reward for accomplishing something,” and “I have put off things I needed to do in order to view pornography.”

A 2016 study found something striking. Addiction to porn is perceived, based on your own special brand of beliefs, anxieties, and neuroses. Specifically, religious convictions make a big difference in whether or not someone feels like they’re addicted to porn.

So if you believe that every time you watch porn, God smites a kitten, you might feel more addicted to it.

This is assuming you like kittens. And if you’re watching porn because you want God to kill kittens, you’re a little weird. But I dig it.

As the authors write,

“Having a strongly held belief in God and religious identification was associated with greater levels of perceived addiction to Internet pornography.”

Nobody should ever feel guilty about watching generic porn. Like any other escape, it only becomes a problem when it’s abused. Funny how we never use the word “addiction” or “abuse” when it comes to religion. But I’m almost positive I’ve met people addicted to church.

Plenty of myths exist about porn in pop culture. First, those who don’t watch porn tend to stereotype it all as aggressive. Plus, the going assumption is that porn addiction involves men searching out increasingly “hardcore,” or extreme forms. Or that porn itself has gotten more violent.

We also see arguments that porn is driving a resurgence of sexism, and that porn exploits women.

True, exploitation and sexism happen just about everywhere in our culture. But is it porn’s fault? And does it originate there?

Research says no, not really.

A 2014 study in Sexuality & Culture tested the idea that exposure to porn influences attitudes about gender roles and stereotypes. The authors found that watching porn has a negative effect on men age 40 and older. But younger viewers, 30 and younger, weren’t affected.

This suggests that older generations are projecting their own preconceived attitudes onto what they watch. Porn might activate latent stereotypes, but it doesn’t cause them.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Sex Research found the same thing. Their survey of porn users concluded that,

“participants who reported viewing a pornographic film in the previous year also reported more positive attitudes toward women in positions of power, less negative attitudes toward women in the workforce, and less negative attitudes toward abortion…”

So porn doesn’t make you sexist. But since the vast majority of men do watch porn, you’re going to run into some assholes who happen to watch porn. Their views on porn will be sexist.

That doesn’t make porn itself inherently sexist.

The public has a low opinion of porn stars. A 2012 article in the same journal refers to several studies that established the “damaged goods hypothesis,” or the belief that porn stars come from troubled backgrounds “and are less psychologically healthy compared to typical women,” or that they all suffer from sexual abuse.

The 2012 study shot these myths out of the sky. First, their survey of porn actresses found no higher level of childhood sexual abuse, or drug addiction. But they also found that porn actresses had more confidence, self-esteem, and a better sex life. As the authors write,

“In the areas of sexual satisfaction, positive feelings, social support, and spirituality, the porn actresses had higher scores.”

All of these studies have their own limitations. But they point to the same truth. Porn is too big and too diverse for us to talk about it in broad terms. Some porn companies exploit their actors. Others don’t. Some films push unhealthy views about gender and sex. Others don’t. That doesn’t mean we throw the thong out with the bathwater.

My partner and I did finally locate porn we enjoyed. It turns out, we were looking in the wrong places. Porn for women has been gaining more attention lately. Feminist porn is nothing new, but it’s enjoying a comeback. And it doesn’t just appeal to women.

What makes “porn for women” different?

Well, there’s foreplay. The camera devotes attention to both partners, and doesn’t fixate only on the male’s pleasure. Plus, it’s a little softer. Slower. More intimate. Almost tender.

But you can find rough “porn for women,” too.

You could imagine the partners in women’s porn as an actual couple — not just stereotypes in a fantasy. In short, porn for women does what the best porn/erotica always did. It celebrates sex.

Where do you find this superior porn?

Just Google “porn for women.” You’ll find lots of sites.

A vast jungle of porn exists for everyone. Whatever you’re into, you can probably find porn for it. Exploring your tastes in porn is part of the process. Some can screw up your mind, like the kind that glorifies kidnap and torture. And there’s snuff — the stuff of urban legend, that even I’m afraid to search for. But that’s rare, and not representative.

But generally speaking, porn isn’t hurting our culture. Porn promotes sexual health and awareness, as long as you approach it the right way. So the problem isn’t with porn, it’s with our habits and attitudes. You can’t tame porn. It’s wild. And that’s a good thing.

splattered

Live on your own terms.

Jessica Wildfire

Written by

Life is an amazing journey to nowhere. jessica.wildfire.writer@gmail.com

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Live on your own terms.

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