As a member of the millennial generation, I was raised with a certain unhindered access to the Internet. Along with the cat videos, dancing babies and as one of the few people who remember what a dial-up tone sounds like, I’ve also strayed into the NSFW depths of the web more than once. Yes, I’ve consumed my fair share of hardcore pornography. Ever since I was 12-years-old and knew how to use Google, my search history may have turned a few sniggering heads at the NSA. You’d think that once I killed my first PC with a cocktail of viruses that would have sent a five dollar prostitute running, I would have learned my lesson. What can I say? I like porn. And from the ubiquity of tubes across the web (YouPorn, PornTube, RedTube and other flirting-with-infringement sites), it’s safe to say I’m not the only one.
Sex is one of the integral experiences of the human condition. It better be, considering it’s how we make more people. Whether virgin or active, celibate or Lothario, everyone comes in contact with it sooner or later. That universality and the blind need we have to pursue it, called a sex drive, keep it at the forefront of the human experience. That’s probably why porn has been around as long as there have been people. Like any form of media though, its representation of real life isn’t always the most reliable. Scores of immaculate supermen plow the most voracious and meticulously-shaved Barbie doll women in a repetitive batch of positions I could count on two hands. Of course I’m leaving out the fetish, bondage, and tentacle varieties that some people find just swell, but for the sake of argument, I’m going to stick with a few constants. First, the participants are always fired-up and ready to go with a minimum of foreplay; second, the harder the better; and third, the money shot is almost always reserved for the face – and everyone loves it that way.
That’s all fine and dandy for those who can separate fact from fiction in their media consumption, but unfortunately the number of people who can do that is surprisingly small (why do you think commercials work in the first place?). In her 2009 TED Talk Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn, expressed her frustration with what porn has done to sexual expectations. She states that our society contains an oxymoron of open access to hardcore porn and an unwillingness to talk openly and honestly about sex. The result, then, is that a lot of what we see on the Internet becomes a sort of sex education that we then take into the bedroom with our own partners. In a recent interview with Huffington Post, Gallop admits that many of her relationships with younger men have brought “sexual behavior memes” to her attention – recurring actions and desires she believes are learned from watching porn. These include, but aren’t limited to, my brief list above. When taken as given truths in a sexual encounter, the results on both sides of the fence can be frustrating to say the least. Why isn’t my life like the one on my computer screen? Why isn’t my partner conforming to my expectations?
The problem here is threefold. In addition to open porn access and sexual repression, there is also a sad lapse of communication between partners. Although it’s pressed again and again in blogs, articles and awareness seminars, communication is still overlooked in many relationships. Sex doesn’t have to be a metaphorical grope in the dark (unless you’re into that sort of thing). Unfortunately held tongues and educated guesses can make it that way. Coupled with the lessons learned in hardcore porn, this may not make for the most fulfilling experience.
That’s not to say porn is necessarily a bad thing. With the right amount of knowledge and communication, a small dose every now and again can be a good thing. Taken on its own, it can help you become more comfortable with yourself and your sexuality as well as help you discover what you’re attracted to. It’s also easily accessible and completely risk-free in regard to pregnancy or STDs. Sure, excessive porn-watching can lead to unrealistic expectations, addiction or “Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder” (which I don’t plan on getting into here; check out the link to read more about it), but anything in excess can be damaging. It’s all about self-control and recognition of what’s real and what isn’t. If you can to watch Twilight without engaging in unhealthy and/or abusive relationships afterward, then maybe you’re intelligent enough to stir a small dose of porn into your daily routine. Just don’t let it interfere with your life.
The Internet may have paved the way for the pervasiveness of porn, but the flipside is that it’s also slowly leading to a healthy, comprehensive view of sexuality. Sites like UCSB’s SexInfoOnline, dedicated to complete and accurate sex education, are on the rise. If that isn’t your scene though, KB Creative put together the following PSA to address the Porn Sex vs Real Sex issue, using food to make their point (delicious!):
Aside from putting me off Nutella forever, this video is one in a growing arsenal of tools for sexually active people in the Internet age. That’s the dual-edged sword of the web. It dishes out problems and solutions in equal measure, sometimes in direct proximity to one another. And that’s just fine with me. I learn more from my computer than I have in all sixteen years of my schooling. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it won’t be for much longer. As more and more 3-year-olds pick up iPads, what we learn as a species will become increasingly digital. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as we can teach ourselves what’s real and what’s not.