What Is Wrong With Porn?

I wish I liked porn. There is just so much of it, and pretty much all of it’s free if you really look, so I imagine that life is so much easier for people who can sit down with a mug of tea and a nice, long porn marathon (as I imagine they do). And don’t get me wrong, I have no moral qualms about it. I think, if you enjoy having sex on camera and make a good living doing that, more power to you! You’re doing something fun and active, and likely keeping untold hordes of potential creepers off the street. When I see porn, I don’t recoil with a Victorian gasp and fall onto my fainting couch. I just… laugh, usually. I laugh because I find it so utterly ridiculous and unappealing, and I think my body becomes extremely uncomfortable and I don’t know how to handle the situation. And this isn’t just for novelty porn like “cake farts” (a GEM if you haven’t yet treated yourself), or “pterodactyl porn” — I hope to one day do my thesis in its majesty — this is just for run-of-the-mill people doing it on camera.

For so long, I’ve been told that I am “pretending” when I say I don’t like porn in an effort to be “girly,” or appear “demure,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I — and people like me — have been accused time and time again of being “afraid” of it because I don’t enjoy it — but people will think what they will, I suppose. So make whatever assumptions you will about a girl who can’t enjoy pornography, but know that it’s certainly no act. It’s just that, well… look at it! You just watch a clip of a sex act (and clip should be emphasized because 99 percent of the time, there is not even the most fleeting attempt made at a story, it’s simply two people who meet in a nondescript room and essentially fall into each other’s genitals). There is no plot, no development, no attempt at making the watcher feel like there’s something real going on that they should be emotionally or intellectually invested in.

Even if the porn isn’t that special variety that seems to just see how rapid-fire and cocaine-fueled they can make a five-minute video of people engaging in intercourse, the actors in the films rarely seem to be invested in what they’re doing. Often –especially the women — they seem to have all of the enthusiasm, investment, and enjoyment of a Wal Mart cashier on hour 7 of her 8-hour shift, running things across the scanner with the defeated eyes that say “this job is only slightly better than living under a bridge.” There is no joy. And especially when you can tell that an actor is going against his or her sexuality, doing something because the money is there, there’s something almost morbid about it. If I wanted to watch two straight women lifelessly fondle each other as men looked on with vague arousal and disdain, I’d go to a frat party.

And aside from the overall melancholy that so many of the films seem to convey, there is also a sense that all of the mystery and curiosity that naturally surrounds such a powerful act has been stripped away and replaced with a mechanical “let’s get this over with” ambiance. They know what the people want — and whatever it is usually lasts around five seconds, so pretty much everything else is just filler. Honestly, though, who goes from 0 to INCREDIBLY AROUSED in five seconds? And I’m not even referring to the actors here, as they are paid professionals and I’m sure can produce many bodily functions on cue, but the viewer! How does a viewer go from, I don’t know, checking their online bank statement and reading about last night’s game to just — whoops — orgasm! I have never understood this, and hope I’m not the only one. Maybe I’m crazy, and everyone else could just get turned on watching a particularly buxom meter maid give a Prius a ticket on a warm day.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I know that not all porn is just a jauntily-shot excerpt of people who were clearly… in the middle of doing something. I know that there are some that at least attempt a story, an atmosphere, some character development. But come on, the acting is so bad. The sets are ridiculous. The costumes look like something you found in the dumpster after a middle-school variety show. It’s not exactly like you’re watching Cast Away and for two hours forget that, oh my God, that guy was actually Tom Hanks! You know exactly what you’re looking at, and you know exactly where it’s going. And even during the extended scenes, women are just screaming at the top of their lungs with absolutely no relation to what’s going on — regardless of what happens, there is going to be operatic yelling and moaning. I just watch this and cannot process. How is… who is… why does…? Just, no. This is not engaging, it’s not a turn-on, and it’s certainly nothing I am aspiring to.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I just haven’t come across the right stuff. Maybe there is porn out there that doesn’t leave you with a vague, empty feeling and make you either laugh or want to hug a loved one to remind you that some things in this world are still real. If such a thing exists, I’d love to be proven wrong and hear about it! So leave a comment if you know of something that all of us can appreciate, enjoy, and still feel fully human after watching. I think society needs it. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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  • Nishant

     “…people who can sit down with a mug of tea and a nice, long porn marathon.”
    Umm, that is NOT what anyone does. So I’m going to assume you meant that to be sarcasm.

    Porn is supposed to be not natural. It is fantasy. The bad acting, the horrible make up, the ridiculous plot are all necessary parts of it. In my opinion, a very elaborate story line and compelling plot would defeat the purpose, because it would be pushing its own fantasy at the viewer. Instead, the poorly done set up allows viewers to create their own fantasy with the *aid* of the movie they’re seeing.

    “Honestly, though, who goes from 0 to INCREDIBLY AROUSED in five seconds? ”

    Guys do.

    • Nishant

      But I really liked this article, in case I didn’t quite put that across. Nice to have a woman’s honest perspective. :)

    • bee

      “Guys do.”
      Perhaps you do.  Perhaps a lot of your male friends (say they) do.  But not all guys go from 0 to INCREDIBLY AROUSED in five seconds.  Saying that is the same as saying women who don’t get turned on by porn are lying.  Try not to generalize; reducing men to stereotypes is no better than reducing women to stereotypes.

      (I have gotten off from porn, btw, and I get aroused instantly from it.  It’s just that I know a lot of guys who don’t, and they’re always frustrated when girls assume they can just see boobs and get a boner.)

      • Nishant

        Of course, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. Don’t get so defensive/worked up over it. I just meant that guys can get aroused in 5 seconds, yes.

        I don’t think I generalize men or women anywhere in my comment. It’s non-stereotyping thoughts. On Thought Catalog. Right? :)

      • bee

        Of course!  I know you didn’t say anything about women, I was just relating it to the article where she says she hates when people assume she’s “lying to act demure”, etc. just because she’s a woman. 

        I think it would have just made more sense if you put “some PEOPLE can get aroused in 5 seconds” because sexual arrousal happens to everyone, quickly or slowly.  So yes to non-stereotyping thoughts :) 

  • corrienej

    I am not a fan of porn either, ever since I had a boyfriend who is addicted to porn. Hard to see the good things about porn when it could potentially ruin a good relationship.

    • Me

      Truth. I had a very similar situation. He let his addiction become a priority even in the midst of serious conflicts between us.
      No porn for me. I don’t find it necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    I’d much rather like sports.  It’d make me much more…social…

  • Guest

    The Japanese are slightly better!

  • Daftsupernova

    I suggest you watch a James Deen video. He makes love to his girls and hi girls look like they genuinely enjoy it. In one video, it ended with the two stars smiling and cuddling.

  • Hecate

    I know, it’s a perennial problem, and I have the same set of complex reactions. You might at least appreciate if not love some 80s/ ’90s art porn though, which does have storylines and some amazing visual stuff. I strongly recommend Rinse Dream’s (Steven Sayadian’s) “Cafe Flesh.” It’s amazing just as a film, and the porn parts are satisfyingly porny, without lapsing into softcore sighs and cuddling, which I hate even more than poorly-lit hardcore. Warning though, it’s very weird. Try Michael Ninn, especially “Latex,”and  anything by Andrew Blake. I was also unexpectedly charmed by the 70s classic “Behind the Green Door.” And for porn that’s supposedly especially designed for women (but which I find a little fluffy, but at least it has a story and a female point of view, and the women are having fun, not deadened), anything by Candida Royalle. Candida was a famous 80s porn star, also a feminist, who had the same issues with the genre that we do, and wanted to address this particular neglected niche.

  • Angeline

    Gutterballs is a personal favorite. Jackie Treehorn is a dramatic genius.

    • Josh Gondelman

      Jackie Treehorn…treats objects…like women…man.

  • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

    Don’t watch “professional” porn then.  Watch amateur or professional done so well it looks like amateur.

  • Claude

    People don’t watch porn to see character development or follow a plot’s unfolding. They watch porn to get off to it, and that’s that. If they wanted anything else, they’d do much better reading erotic novels or watching movies with sex scenes. Plotlines kind of distract you from keeping an erection that needs to be tended to, you know? :

    • A

      Correction: (most) MEN don’t watch porn for the plot. They watch porn for the visual stimulation – for the shear explicitness of it.  Women, generally, are motivated by more than just the visual. We tend to me more aroused by the mystery, by the unexpected, by the emotional (for lack of a better word) part of sex. It doesn’t have to be “making love” (God, no) but at least have some sense of human emotion, even if it’s just for the 5 minutes of having sex. It needs to feel…real.

  • sean singh

    “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I just haven’t come across the right stuff.”Yes, you are right . . . you haven’t.

    • http://twitter.com/aayushjindal92 Aayush Jindal

      come on dude! then post the link to something good.. we are seriously missing that stuff..! ;)

  • bee

    I’m a girl and I’ve watched porn recently, and it got me off very quickly.  My boyfriend watched porn maybe one time in middle school, and didn’t like it, so he doesn’t watch it.  He would rather use his mind and fantasize, which makes sex a million times more fun, and puts a lot less pressure on me to ‘perform’! 

    There is a lot of women-produced porn (almost never free — you have to pay for the good stuff!) that have great storylines, if that’s what you need.  A lot of the time it will be with an actual couple, too, which is always much more exciting to see than a surgically enhanced barbie and a fat, sweaty ken.

    Also, the thing that is ‘wrong’ with porn – to me – is any time a woman is shown in physical pain.  Violence in the media is one thing, as it typically has SOME sort of plot/reason/explanation.  But violence in porn scares the shit out of me, because I know people are legit getting off to seeing a women get hurt.  Wtf?  I admit that I love the idea of being taken – by my BOYFRIEND, in a SAFE place, and it was a fantasty of mine before ever seeing porn, ever, because I’m a dominant person in real life and I love the idea of letting someone who loves me force me to enjoy it, so I can allow myself to submit (I’m super Type A) – but watching it violently happen to a stranger is just not okay..  OH! And I also hate how young boys begin watching this stuff and then expect real sex to be that way, and when it’s not, they get disappointed.  I had a boyfriend who watched a ton of porn (he pretended he didn’t, but I found it – it was disgusting. Like, it’s one thing to admit you watch it; it’s another to always brag about how you don’t and later admit that you think you’re a ‘monster’ for watching it) and he couldn’t have an orgasm because he was too used to the extremity of the situations in porn.  The only time he got close to having one from a bj was when he threw me on the bed, got on top of me, pulled my hair (which I usually love, but he pulled it so hard some was starting to come out and my head hurt for a day after), and shoved his stuff down my throat.
    Seriously.  I was pushing him away and he ENJOYED that.  ….Not okay.  I know porn doesn’t effect everyone this way (obviously, I enjoy it), but it’s scary to think that it happens – and it happens a lot.

    Anyway!  If you don’t like watching it, maybe reading erotica is your thing :)

  • pekingduck

     You are annoying, Chelsea Fagan. Self righteous, supremely unfunny and annoying. Take up knitting or something. Good day.

    • Anonymous

      Bitch I crochet better than your grandmother, don’t even.

      • pekingduck

        Did you write a piece about how you ‘hate fashion’? Ahh the jokes.. there are too many…

      • I live in Paris too!

        you’re awesome. 

  • NothingWrongWithIt

    Oh well, some people (and some couples) actually really like porn. Some don’t. Some don’t even like sex for that matter.
    Who cares? We’re not all supposed to enjoy the same things.
    It’s just a genre. Granted, there can be some issues depending on the tradition/morality that one affiliates itself with.
    But basically whether it’s porn , erotic art, full contact sports, brain-dead Hollywood action thriller, romantic comedy, books or anything else, one can simply decide on liking or disliking and move on without taking its existence personally.
    Really enjoyed the text tho’, well written.
    Cheers.

  • Cassandra C.

    I’m on the same page as you, maybe I just haven’t seen the right porn!

    Every bit of porn I’ve seen has been a wtf moment for me.Not a shocked wtf, but more of a stare-in-confusion-and-awkwardness wtf.It’s especially awkward when it’s obvious when they have that look of regret on their face half way through it.
    It kind of makes you feel bad for them.

  • Guest

    This is laughably bad and beneath you. Normally you’re so much more insightful.

  • Sophia

    I just find porn really sad. Like you said, it’s all about getting off and not at all about the really powerful act that sex can be. It takes out the magic, the mystery, and the excitement, all for a quick physical thrill. Not a fan.

  • skwerl

    You have obviously never seen a Sean Cody video.

  • Laura

    2 questions for guys
    -Do you think about a porn after you’ve watched it?  (just as you can still think about a great book or movie after reading/watching) 
    -Would you recognize the girl that was ..let’s say.. in the second last porn you watched if she would be passing by in the street?

    Just curious.:)

    • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com/ Maxwell Chance

      1. No, unless it’s exceptionally awesome. Like the mountain climbing porn. I will never forget that one. But seriously, most of the time I close all windows immediately. If I happen to glimpse at a porno after orgasm I typically shudder.

      2. I have seen a woman in public that I could have sworn was in porn I have watched before. At first I had this vague sense of “I think I masturbated to this woman before.” Then I realized and immediately sent some texts to my porn bros.

      • Melissa

        porn bros.

        cute.

  • Danaynay

    Porn has destroyed sex. It’s gone from being a this sacred and/or shame-filled act to an item of mass consumption like Starbucks of Britney Spears. What value can we place in something that’s mostly free, quick and more adventurous & perverse than the real-life alternative? It cheapens the whole institution to the point where women feel they have to keep up (where do you think the “clean shaven” look comes from? Or the spit or swallow debate?) and men feel sex is readily available from the “buxom meter maid on a warm day” or any woman who expresses the slightest interest. Worse yet, most porn is highly misogynistic, showing women subjugating themselves like animals. Porn, by and large, is not meant for women; it’s for men who view women as little more then the orifices they posses (probably because they’ve been watching porn since they were 13 and have had easy hook-ups all through their adulthood and don’t realize women have brains, too).  People who don’t like/don’t watch porn are probably the healthier individuals among us when it comes to sex. There’s a fine line between sexual liberalization and relational (sexual and otherwise) detriment in our society. I fear porn, in conjunction with other factors, has tipped the scale towards the latter.

    • Guestropod

      lol are you saying that it would be better if sex was a ‘sacred and/or shame-filled act’

  • http://newhandsweepstakes.com/contributors/brian-mcelmurry/ Brian M

    I like porn. I watch it with my fiance sometimes while having sex. She’s into it. It’s porn and it’s gross in some aspects but its just a fantasy. Different strokes for different folks. You should go on XOjane and read some recent articles by Emily Mccomb. She’s a feminist and she’s into it. Life isn’t black and white.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I kept thinking, “vaginal arousal” while reading this. SUBLIMINAL MESSAGING, FAGAN? 

  • Luap1236

    It really just comes down to personal preference. I am a
    guy, and I enjoy porn. I think you are right in general that much of porn comes
    across as insincere and often demeaning to women. That aspect of porn usually throws
    me off and I have to find some more that doesn’t disgust me.  But saying I am disgusted by all porn would be
    a lie.

    I prefer either amateur porn, or higher grade “made-for-women” type porn with
    emotionality and sensitivity built into it. The amateur porn usually avoids the
    fakeness and contrived aspects of the “plot development” and the woman usually
    doesn’t seem like she’s there just because it’s her job. Does cutting out the
    poorly acted plot make me more or less of a sexist pig? I’m not sure. I hate
    the porn where women are practically abused and ordered around by men; that’s
    an immediate turn off for me. I also hate porn where the woman’s moaning is
    clearly unrelated to what is happening to her, or completely exaggeratedly
    loud. Usually amateur porn avoids such fakeness and you feel like you are
    watching just two normal people having sex. If that doesn’t excite you, well,
    to each their own.

    You ask: “Honestly, though, who goes from 0 to INCREDIBLY AROUSED in five
    seconds?” Personally I can get excited by porn this quickly. I can check my
    online bank statement then switch over to some porn and get aroused. Maybe it’s
    just because I’m a guy, and maybe girls need plausible contexts and emotional set
    up before becoming aroused, but personally, just seeing sex is exciting.

    The better developed, more sensitive porn is also very arousing to me, but
    serves a different function. I think this is the type of porn you’d like, not
    the porn with the cumshots and three-ways (which I generally dislike also). For
    guys, sometimes porn is just a way to relieve tension and really is just about
    the sex. It satisfies and urge. Some may self-righteously and moralistically say
    this is sad, but I am not ashamed of recognizing my urges and dealing with
    them. I know that I’d rather watch porn than be constantly preoccupied with sex
    and hooking up throughout the day, every day. There’s something freeing about
    watching some light porn and feeling good, and then being a normal human being
    the rest of the day. Sometimes though I do like to watch the more emotionally
    stimulating porn, where the woman and man seem to have a real connection. But
    that’s when I have more time and don’t want to just get off quick. Obviously,
    you know men and women are different and are satisfied by different things.
    That’s not to say I don’t (secretly) enjoy a romantic comedy from time to time,
    but porn is primarily for the thrill of seeing a sexually stimulating situation.
    Just my two cents.

  • Guestropod

    For me, it’s never like I’m just surfing and accidentally stumble on some porn and then whoops! orgasm!!  I seek out porn when I’m already in the mood to upset God

  • http://twitter.com/Apologiz4Nothin Unapologetic

    I feel sorry for you for some reason…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

    I’m not being judgmental here, but the reason porn just doesn’t work for me is that it’s like watching someone else eat a meal while sit there starving.  I also don’t want to see some dude’s schlong…

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