How Porn Is Different From Sex In The Real World

Sex is an interesting thing on the academic level.

Okay, it’s pretty goddamn interesting on the practical level too, but stick with me here.

Culturally (western culture in particular), we’re brought up to think of it as something that’s supposed to be private and intimate, strictly between two people — preferably with a strong emotional connection.

In practice… well, not so much. In fact, humans as a whole aren’t just interested in keeping sex to private sessions; we’re also — as a species — interested checking out other people’s sexin’. If there’s anything that has remained constant over the millennia of human evolution it’s this: we may love having sex, but we’re also always up for watching other people bone too. It seems to actually be hard-coded into our systems; there’s evidence that female copulatory vocalizations — which is fancy talk for “women’s screaming orgasms” — are specifically for arousing other people, especially men.  Not just the man currently having sex… other men. Like, anyone else in ear-shot. Getting other men hot and bothered by advertising that sex is going on rightthefucknow has a number of benefits including possibly inviting other partners to have sex (with her) and induce an element of sperm competition into the mix.

Porn — watching other people have sex in various forms and mediums — has been with us from the beginning of human existence. As soon as we figured out that abstract symbols could represent external concepts, somebody scrawled boobs on the cave wall.

When we realized that stone could be carved into representative shapes, they started carving marble wangs and basalt naked chicks. All those nude paintings hanging in museums weren’t just celebrations of the human form expressed in a visual medium — they were also created with an eye towards the erotic; having nude paintings in your collection was considered to be scandalously naughty.

Fast forward 50,000 years and we get to the age when watching other people fuck is as simple as typing “fucking” into Google.

Go on. Try it. I’ll wait.

It’s interesting — since the advent of mass-market pornography, we’ve found ourselves at odds with our own desires. We’re told that porn is horrible, damaging and degrading for everybody involved by one group, while another points out that not only are there no reliable studies on the effects of porn that show all these horrible results, the question is based off a profoundly biased view of human sexuality. Then there’s the fact of porn’s enduring popularity despite all attempts to kill it, the way it’s influenced modern culture in more ways than just teaching people that maybe they wanted to try positions other than missionary or that they might like to try a finger up the jacksie… needless to say, porn is an indelible part of both culture and the human psyche.

Now to be fair up front: I’m unabashedly pro-porn. I’ll freely admit there are troublesome aspects — it’s rife with sexism, misogyny and racism… just like mainstream entertainment, really —  but I’m not here to argue the pros and cons or play “my study that validates my point of view is more scientifically rigorous (That’s what she said, ho ho ho…) and accurate than YOUR study.” I’ll also be riding hard (That’s what she… oh never mind) on the comments section; if things get too heated, I’ll start deleting comments. If people start picking fights, I’ll drop the hammer (The hammer is my… oh, come on, you’re not even trying anymore…), so let’s keep it civil there.

Now… let’s talk a little about porn, shall we?

The First Rule of Porn Club is…

Right off the bat, we must acknowledge a simple truth. There are two kinds of men in this world: Men who look at porn and liars.

This isn’t my being glib, by the way. Three years ago, researchers at the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence Against Women were working on a study that examined the impact of porn on male concepts of sexuality, masculinity and their views on women.

Now in order to conduct the study properly, they needed a control group — that is, men in their 20s who have never consumed porn.

They didn’t find any.

The fact is, every time technology has advanced in a way that allowed us to jerk off to porn in greater privacy and convenience — transitioning from having to go to the infamous XXX theaters of the bad-old-days in New York’s Times Square to VCRs to Pay-Per-View — the consumption of porn by the general public has grown exponentially.

Now, as tempting as it is to roll one’s eyes, sigh and say “men,” it ain’t just guys who’re digging having easier access to porn. Women are consuming porn in rapidly increasing numbers. In fact, when you want to tally up other mediums besides video, then suddenly women are consuming porn — even producing — at an equal or greater level than guys.

Surprise!

Women Dig It Too.

Now, nobody’s questioning that men make up the vast majority of the audience of RedTube, YouPorn, and all the other streaming video sites — not to mention members of porn website networks like Brazzers and Naughty America… although we’ll come back to that. But while men are profoundly visually oriented, women consume their porn in a wider variety of mediums than men. Y’see, once you break away from defining porn strictly as video and into areas like text and comics, you start getting into some interesting areas.

For example, take fan-fiction (Please! <rimshot.mp3> ). The predominant genre of fanfic is, not surprisingly, porn. What is surprising is that the majority of erotic fan-fiction is written by and for women — even in fandoms, like Star Trek or shonen anime — that are overwhelmingly male. Even back in the 1970s, when trading fanfic meant shelling out for envelopes and postage, 90% of fanfic writers were women… and they wanted to see Kirk and Spock fuck.

This trend hasn’t changed, by the way. Just going to fanfic.net and doing a search on yaoi — a Japanese portmanteu of a phrase that alternately means “no climax, no point, no meaning,” and “stop it, my ass hurts!”, and generally refers to a genre of homoerotic male sex written by and for women — brings up over 82,000 stories tagged “yaoi.” Even when you filter out yaoi, the number of explicit sex stories is rather staggering. Take, for example, Harry Potter. There more than 100,000 tales of the students of Hogwarts merrily shagging one another, including some rather disturbing alternate uses for the petrificus curse (helpfully, Hermione traded in her vinewood wand with the dragon heartstring core for a Hitachi…) and creative interpretations of what can be used as lube.

There are over 130,000 Twilight fanfics in the archives. Of those, more than half are all about fucking.

It doesn’t stop with fan-written pastiches of their favorite couples, official and otherwise. If you head over to your local bookstore’s erotica section, you’ll quickly see that women authors dominate the shelves.

The top selling book in America right now? 50 Shades of Grey, 520+ pages of BDSM sex. Written by a woman. For a female audience.

And it started life as a Twilight fanfic.

However, as much as it’s an accepted truism that men prefer to consume their porn visually and women prefer text, studies have shown that women and men respond to porn vids with equal levels of arousal. Women are also an increasing customer base for porn videos and websites as well… and not just the soft-focus “erotic” videos marketed to them by the studios. It’s actually possible to track the growing influence of the female audience base by the evolution of porn stars from “any freak with a giant cock” to “dude-bro” to “sensitive, kinda geeky guy you met at Hebrew school.”

In fact, all those new female viewers have turned porn star James Deen into a smut film anomaly. It used to be that the male stars were nothing but an interchangeable cock — someone to be the insertion point (HEYOO! ) for the viewer while nailing the women that they’re really there to see. You could switch out Dale DaBone for Charles Dera, then again for Evan Stone without missing a beat. Nobody cared… until James Deen. He has an incredibly large… fan base. He’s one of the few men in porn that is actually is a draw. If you do a Google search, you end up with a network of Tumblrs devoted to the man — almost entirely run by teenaged girls — that look like Tiger Beat tried to crossbreed with Brazzers and then promptly exploded into a sea of glitter and animated gifs.

Much like with comics or video games, the impeccably waxed, tanned, and toned Brosephs represent a male stand-in fantasy. It’s the kinda skinny, scruffy dude with the dreamy eyes that the ladies are fantasizing about.

Why You Think The Net Was Born? Porn, Porn, Porn!

Now, while porn has also been great for inspiring boners and introducing new standards of body-hair grooming to both men and women, it is also the driving force behind half the technology you enjoy using today. As soon as we invent a new form of communication, somebody finds a way to use it to see naked people. Naughty daguerreotypes developed almost as soon as the ink was dry on the patent application. Edison’s kinetoscopes were notoriously used to view nudie-cutie films like What The Butler Saw.

When VHS and Betamax were competing for dominance of the nascent home-video market, porn studios signed exclusivity deals with JVC, promising to produce films only for VHS players. The potential to watch porn in the privacy of one’s own home instead of having to sit next to a masturbating stranger at a skeezy theater gave VHS the victory in the format wars, despite the fact that Betamax was actually the superior product.

Like using the Internet? You can thank porn for it.

Almost every innovation that you take for granted nowadays came from porn. Watching cat videos on YouTube? Catching up on Buffy and Angel on Netflix via your Xbox? The ability to watch streaming movies is due to porn; adult websites were the first to utilize jpeg push technology — allowing you to watch videos in your browser, without a plugin.

Do you buy stuff from Amazon? Richard Gordon created the first secure web-based credit card transaction system specifically for sites like ClubLove, which was busily making a fortune charging for the Pamela and Tommy Lee sex tape.

Do you Skype? Use TinyChat? Maybe your job uses web-based conferencing software like GoToMeeting? Once again: you can thank porn. As soon as smut peddlers realized that people would pay HUGE dollars in order to actually interact with a live naked woman rather than just passively watch her on videos, they started investing in live chat and video streaming. What started with a cam-girl, a stuttery 15 frames per second stream and a glorified instant messaging client eventually turned into real-time two-way video streaming… and then into the first VoIP telephone system.

Because folks realized that this was another way for people to get their rocks off.

It Is The Most Democratic Entertainment Medium In Existence

Say what you will about porn, if it’s done one thing well, it’s that it has something for everyone. If you like big boobs, there’re websites that specialize in big boobs. If you like skinny Jewish guys, you can find a kosher smorgasbord. Get off on mind-controlled super-heroines? Well, you’re in luck because holy shit that’s a fertile field of onanistic delights. Some people like doing it with clowns. Other people get off on watching other people smoke. Still others have a fetish for watching women — fully clothed women — sit on balloons and pop ’em. No other sexual content; they’re not touching themselves or pretending to have mind-blowing orgasms. They’re just sitting on balloons.

And there are websites devoted to it, bless their freaky little hearts.

Frankly, if there’s some incredibly random and utterly bizarre combination of circumstance that gets your motor running, you can almost certainly find it online for your masturbatory pleasure.

Rule #34 of the Internet states: If you can imagine it, there’s probably porn of it. And, my God, it’s true.

We live in a world where not only do macroherpetophiles exist, but they can actually find (badly drawn) kaiju fuck pics. Photoshop provides ample fodder for those who get off on the idea of Boytaurs — bringing the term “barebacking” to a whole new level.

The beauty — and frankly, the horror — of the Internet is how it brings people together, even when the world would probably have been better off for them to never have realized that other people liked to get their freak on in the exact same way.  No matter what you’re in to, somebody else out there is likely into it as well. And a third party has realized that he could make money supplying porn to this underserved section of the Internet.

Because when a niche sexual interest realizes that there’s someone there to serve their needs, they bring their get-a-life savings.

It’s Kinda Killing Your Sex Life

So here’s the part that we really need to talk about.

Now, there have been studies out there that raise questions about whether excessive (however you want to define that) consumption of porn — and the masturbation that usually follows — actually desensitizes your brain to sexual stimuli that leads to endorphin release. And you have to admit, it does kind of make sense; after all, there was a point in the lives of most guys of a certain age when even the merest hint of nipple might leave them harder than Chinese trigonometry.

Of course, that does bring up the question of whether that provoked such a reaction from us because that was all we had  but that’s a chicken-and-egg problem for another day.

However, this isn’t the problem I wanted to bring up.

No, what I want to address is how porn can completely mess up your expectations for sex.

Porn Makes You A Lousy Lover

When you’re exposed to something over long periods of time, it can color how you think. It can desensitize you. Change your ideas about what’s normal, accepted or even expected. And then, when you interact with the majority of the population that doesn’t have those same expectations, somebody is gonna end up disappointed and upset.

And odds are, it’s gonna be you.

There’re a lot of guys who have let porn guide their expectations for sex. They think sex is supposed to be like porn sex. And the problem is, porn sex isn’t real sex. In fact, most of the time, porn sex is completely incompatible with real sex. It’s not even acting; it’s kabuki, a performance so stylized and marked by exaggeration and ritual that it can’t be replicated in the real world. The part that people don’t understand about how sex in porn differs from real life are the parts that, ironically, directors work the hardest to ensure are invisible: the camera and the editing.

To start with: almost all porn these days is based around the presence of the camera. Regular, old-fashioned vanilla sex by regular folks is actually kinda boring on film; it’s two bodies smushed together with hips grinding on one another. You can’t see anything interesting; no nipples, no real view of penetration… nothing but watching people slap up against each other in the same position for 10 minutes or so, really.

In order to be visually interesting, porn sex has to be “open” to the camera; the actors have to angle themselves in such a way that the majority of their bodies is pointing towards the cameraman — and thus, to the viewer. This is part of the reason for all of the odder positions with legs twisting and torsos bending in opposite directions; they’re making sure that even in the height of passion, the audience can still see the goods. This makes for great film, but in the real world, it’s actually pretty goddamn uncomfortable; these are poses that are designed to look good rather than allow for satisfying friction and genital contact.

The cum-shot, by the way, is also a product of the camera; audiences wanted proof that the guy was actually ejaculating instead of just faking it with a couple of thrusts, a grunt and a shudder. Hence: the money shot — spraying ones load over his partner’s face, boobs, ass, what-have-you. Looks good on film with an added bonus of a certain level of fetishization of the “power” and potency of a man’s semen. In the real world, 99.999% of women are not going to be cool with a guy who wants to blow his load on her face, and the ones who are would really like to plan it out in advance than let it come as a surprise.

Porn sex is sex by the numbers. It almost always plays out the same way: play with the nipples, blow-job, cunnilingus, then straight to slamming away in Vaginatown. Total time spent before penetration: 3-5 minutes.

Real sex, on the other hand, is a fairly drawn out affair when it’s done right; you have foreplay, mutual oral sex, perhaps stopping to grab some lube, applying the condom, a little more foreplay, having to be guided in… all of which makes for great sex but lousy film.

Porn sex doesn’t allow for things that would occur in real life. Porn sex’s version of foreplay isn’t sufficient for real arousal and lubrication on the woman’s part — yet you will also never see someone reaching for the KY either. Guys who’ve watched too much porn usually don’t understand that you can’t just play with a woman’s boobs, go down on her for a few seconds, and then just start pounding away… not if you expect to have her enjoy it anyway. But that’s how they’ve seen it in film, over and over again.

When it comes to advanced stuff like anal sex it’s even worse. Anal sex in porn is practically the same as vaginal sex: insert yourself and just start plugging away. In the real world, that’s a wonderful way to hurt someone. Real world anal sex takes time and preparation. You need to go slowly. Incredibly slowly. Trying to treat it like they do in movies is an invitation to tearing the lining of the rectum. But, again: the real world makes for lousy film.

Then there’s the editing. In porn, once they get to penetration, guys seem to be able to last forever as they bend their lover into pretzels, plunging in at full speed for 20 minutes non-stop. Guys raised on a steady diet of porn start to think that this is how women like sex: being pounded by a piston for a half hour. What they don’t see — assuming the editor has done his job right — are the cuts. It’s rare that any penetration scene is done in one take — guys lose their erection, they cum too early, their partner gets tired or sore. If the editor is good, you’ll never see the transition between takes; instead, you’ll watch what appears to be a seamless whole from penetration to money-shot.

You also never see the real-world issues. In porn sex, nobody varies the speed or intensity of their thrusting. In porn sex, you never have to slow down because trying to keep pumping at full speed is actually more of a core workout than you were expecting. The women never need to stop because they’re starting to go dry and the friction from his cock is actually starting to hurt. Muscles don’t suddenly cramp up. His arms never get tired from holding himself up over her. Her thighs don’t start to burn with the effort of pushing herself up and down when she’s riding him.

You never have those human moments in porn. And if you’ve built your expectations for sex around what you see in porn… well, when reality hits, you aren’t going to be ready for it.

Porn makes for great fantasy sex. But those fantasies just can’t apply to the real world. As much fun and as arousing as porn can be, it’s never going to make you a better lover. The best thing you can do is appreciate it for what it is but leave the porn fucking on the screen, where it belongs. TC mark

featured image – Shutterstock

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