Porn.

“I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.” May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples” Song of Solomon 7:8

Disclaimer: This post discusses sex and sexuality.

A month or so ago, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Gloria Steinem speak. She said many things that resonated with me but one of the best parts of her talk was her distinction between pornography and erotica. It helped me make sense of what I see as the problem with pornography.

We really don’t talk openly about what it means to be a healthy sexual human being. That’s a problem. By and large, humans are sexual beings with thoughts, feelings, and desires. Repressing sexual desire and making it shameful can result in perverted behavior, sexual abuse, and the failure to report abuse (e.g., Josh Duggar). And that is precisely where we are as a culture. We don’t openly talk about healthy sexual behavior, but there is a booming billion dollar porn industry. So, this is where a lot of people are getting their “sexual education.”

The intention of this post is not to shame people for watching porn. Again, shame only drives people underground, leading to distorted perceptions related to sexuality. I hope to distinguish pornography from erotica.

A lot of the (abundantly) available heterosexual pornography depicts sex from the male perspective. This means that the sexual acts depicted are not representative of what is actually sexually satisfying for a woman. Thus, if a man watches porn and believes that what he is seeing is an accurate portrayal of a satisfying sexual experience for a woman, he may struggle to understand why the same behaviors are not as effective in real life situations.

Distinctions

The erotic movie is designed to sexually arouse but also to stir other emotions (i.e., joy, sorrow, anger) in the viewer. There is a compelling story, a message, and well-developed characters—especially the female characters. The well-crafted sex scenes are integral to the story and do not necessarily arouse the audience; it is a movie that portrays sex contextually and has artistic merit. One example of an erotic film is Like Water for Chocolate.

The mainstream typical pornographic movie intends to sexually arouse a male audience. The film does not contain a gripping narrative or message. The women are often young and have very similar looks (i.e., big breasts, small frame, blonde hair). The female characters are hypersexual objects who seem happy to be at the disposal of men. This type of movie tends to mix explicit sexual images, submission, and violence, and targets this violence towards women; it is a male fantasy in which there are no negative consequences (i.e., STIs, pregnancy, rejection, or sexual dysfunction) to questionable sexual acts. – from: Erotica Versus Pornography

The key distinction between pornography and erotica is story and context. Additionally, healthy erotica accurately captures the female sexual experience. Much of what is readily available in terms of porn is focused on the sex acts with out much warm up, so to speak. This makes a huge difference in the way we perceive the sexual experience. In real-life sexual situations, there is a warm up period (there should be a warm up). This makes context and story important and representative when depicting sexual intimacy. Of course, there is still erotica that depicts sexual acts in an unhealthy way (sorry, but this includes 50 Shades of Grey for too many reasons to go into here).

If people are going to view porn (and they most certainly are doing so), we need to help people critically evaluate the content of what they are viewing and how what they are viewing makes them feel. This may help curb compulsive behaviors and false beliefs related to sexual satisfaction (Štulhofer, Buško, & Landripet, 2008).  It may benefit men to seek out erotica as opposed to pornography to avoid some of the problems that can arise from excessive pornography consumption, such as: problems with intimacy, increased secrecy, and depressed mood (Bridgokoff & Morokoff, 2011).

The bottom line: We need to talk about sex.

In relationships it is essential to have an open conversation about your sexual thoughts, feelings, and desires. For couples, it can improve intimacy and sexual connection if they read/watch erotica together. As we talked about in Monogamy, one should talk with their partner about the relationship rules around engaging in these behaviors. It is important to remember that repressing or shaming sexuality is not healthy in relationships.

I was unable to find recent research related to pornography and the influences it has on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. I scoured Google Scholar for a study that examined these topics and found nothing. This is curious considering the large amount of pornography and erotica produced for and by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. I will continue to look for research related to these populations. If you know of anything, please let me know.

Love.

“People have sex, even the religious ones. Yet, when sex is transferred into words, suddenly it’s dirty, vulgar, immoral, trashy. Funny huh?”
Hector Himeros

 

 

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