“Learning about sex from porn is like learning how to drive from watching the Fast & Furious movies—exaggerated, unrealistic, and ultimately dangerous.”
However, unlike driving, we do not tend to take sex lessons supervised by experienced professionals. Sex remains a taboo and as a result we learn about it from pornography. Porn use is a common way of dealing with sexual drives – all one has to do is sit down and grab a device with internet connection. Only a couple clicks away, there is an endless world of the most extreme pornographic videos. And if you were wondering how widespread its use is, the answer is somewhat mind-blowing. One of the most popular porn sites revealed:
–On this one website in 2016, enough porn was watched that all the data would fill a striking number of 194,000,000 USB sticks. Sticking all these USB’s end to end, we could wrap all the way around the moon.
–Just in 2017, this website got 28.5 billion visits. That is almost 1,000 visits a second, or 78.1 million a day. That number has since increased to 33.5 billion site visits in 2018.
–In 2016, a total of 91,980,225,000 videos were watched only on this website. However, that number escalated to more than 109,012,068,000 views in 2018.
How much time was spent on this website? More than 5,517,748,800 hours of porn in just 2018. Converted, that equals 629,880 years of content viewed in 1 year, on one porn site.
And no, these stats do not depict only a minor number of people who are addicted to the adult content. In the United States, almost 90 percent of young men admit watching porn on somewhat regular basis. Research has shown that majority of our generation has been exposed to porn since only 11 years old. Furthermore, 93% of men and 67% of women were exposed to hardcore porn during the adolescence period. With such a widespread use and lack of appropriate sex education, porn has shaped the way we understand intimate relationships, especially among the youth that yet has to learn about them. Given that such a vast number of men view porn before even engaging in intercourse themselves, porn emulates what they see in their intimate relationships.
So what is it that porn teaches us about the world of sex, starting from a very young age?
Unrealistic Expectations for Partners
When choosing performers, producers opt for individuals that already more attractive than average, according to society’s standards. The performers have their stylists for makeup and hair. On top of this, camera angles as well as the lighting are optimised in order to produce the “perfect scene”. As normal viewers do not see what happens behind the scenes, it is easy to assume that their bodies are not appealing enough. In fact, over 40% of women reported that porn made them concerned about the appearance of their own breasts and one in four young women in the UK has considered getting plastic surgery after being exposed to the standards displayed in pornography.
Unrealistic expectations also affect men as research has shown that men overestimate normal penis size which could very well be the consequence of pornography. In turn, our body-image is distorted. This can be especially problematic among younger adolescents as it can undermine their already fragile self-esteem.
It is the things that we do not see that affect performers’ lives and construct unrealistic standards; things such as cosmetic surgery, male enhancement products, extreme diets and very often severe drug abuse. In the same way we do not accept filtered Instagram photos to be a realistic beauty standard, we should not rely on porn in order to create a standard representing an attractive body.
Unrealistic Ideas of Sex
Many individuals attribute initial interest in porn to curiosity about sex. There is nothing wrong with being curious about one of the fundamentals of our nature – sexuality. However, it is wrong to learn about it from scripted, filtered and exaggerated videos.
Porn tends to portray women as submissive, young, “school girls” or mature and authoritative dominatrixes. Such misconceptions are particularly dangerous as they can extend into society – namely, viewing women as either young, dumb and naïve or old and catty – a view far different from the realistic world of beautiful diversity.
Again, men are affected as well. It is assumed that an average intercourse is far longer than what actually happens in reality. Consequently, due to unrealistic ideas of sex, many men develop performance anxiety as well as sexual health issues such as porn-induced erectile dysfunction.
This is all far away from healthy sexuality – sexuality that simply cannot be found in the violent, extreme and foremost manufactured sex we see in pornography. Respect, kindness, love and dignity are seldom found in porn yet all of which are the cornerstones of healthy relationships.
These are just some of the numerous issues that come from bizarre ideas porn induces particularly among young consumers without already existing ideas of true intimacy.
Altered Sexual Taste
Porn is very rewarding to the brain and it is thus a form of an escalating behaviour. Once a viewer sees the video, he feels the rush and excitement. However, in order to reach the same “high”, he strives for more hardcore content pushing the boundaries with every new encounter.
One survey demonstrated that 56% of men reported that their taste in pornography is “increasingly extreme or deviant”. Furthermore, one study has shown that a striking 88% of popular pornography contains violence. Although viewers may not initially be aroused by such contents, over time they might slowly become more accepting of what they’d previously considered too extreme or distasteful. In order to reach the “high”, consumers often seek for more and more violent content. In fact, porn exposure might literally be rewiring our brains!
Of course, this is not to say that every individual who watches porn will assault others, however there is considerable evidence showing that porn consumers are more likely to be sexually aggressive.
Result – Its impact on intimacy
Finally, the real issue becomes apparent in our own intimaterelationships.
Couples in therapy report porn as one of the main causes of difficulties in their relationships. Studies show that porn use is related to lack of stability in relationships, increased risk of infidelity and a higher likelihood of getting a divorce. Whilst both men and women are affected, research has shown that men find their partners less sexually desirable after being exposed to porn and also report being less in love with their partners.
When it comes to pornography, finding a partner is very much effortless. That person is always prepared, willing, aroused and simply craving our attention. He or she is attractive and adventurous and never gets bored or annoyed, never needs someone who can listen to them, never feels “under the weather”. He or she is always full of novelty and surprises and if ever fails to entertain or arouse you, you could simple replace it with one mouse click. This convenient yet unrealistic world of pornography has had a tremendous impact on our intimate relationships as our expectations from real sex are heavily influenced by pornography exposure.
A humorous approach to the aforementioned issue can be seen in the video named "Porn Sex vs. Real Sex: The Differences Explained with Food." Donovan Longo says: “The already viral video, which stars your average fruits and veggies, debunks many of the sexual myths that we seem to simply believe because of their appearance in pornographic films. The video begins with a zucchini and the blunt distinction citing the size of a male porn star's anatomy compared to the average males, the zucchini in question is then cut in half. It moves through a series of sexual misconceptions including the time needed for average people to become aroused, the standard ejaculation time for men, and a staggering stat that reveals 71 percent of women do not experience an orgasm through penetration alone, contrary to what porn has taught us.”
Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that shows us that porn sex and real sex are vastly different, but what is that actually distinguishes them so significantly? Jincey Lumpkin says that porn involves "posturing for the camera," "flattering" angles and "cutting together of the scenes." Such actions are fairly impossible during a real intimate encounter – if a couple was to simply stop during intercourse in order to find a perfect, flattering angle, the sexual experience would immediately lose the natural pleasure and joy. An additional testimony comes from and adult film actress Nina Hartley who acknowledges the large performance presence evident in porn:"Pornography is a paid, professional performance by actors. It is a fantasy, it is not meant to be a rulebook and guidebook or a how to as a general rule."
Nevertheless,although we know that sex we see in porn is admittedly fake, why does it still have such a strong impact on our real sex?
"People don't go to see movies in theatres and expect to be able to fly. They don't take things away from regular mainstream theatrical movies the same way they take things away from porn. I think it's because sex is so intimate. You see someone naked on screen, and it's something we can all relate to in some way ... It's all real sex, but it's different sex." – Jessica Drake, adult film actress.
As sex is still quite of a taboo, we often tend to use porn as a guide when making the rules for real sex. However, given all the hazards, porn simply should not be our guide. Instead, we should rely on our own bodies and intimate relationships and simply do what naturally feels right.
It is absolutely crucial to shed light on the fact that porn should not create guidelines, otherwise porn will continue to impact real sex. Its widespread use and easier-than-ever accessibility allow younger generations to learn from an unrealistic source. Sex has always been part of culture, it is an essential component of relationships and intimacy and as such, we shall learn about it from a healthy and representative perspective – the beautiful, real life.