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The Real Problem with Porn: It's Bad for Sex

Porn is the leading sex educator of men, but it teaches sex all wrong

Marie Silva and her husband, Jack, act in pornography, but their porn sex did not come naturally. According to the documentary Marie and Jack: A Love Story, (Amazon.com), they had to learn it. “Work sex can be exciting,” Marie explains, “but it’s not satisfying like our personal sex. Jack and I have a deep emotional connection. For sex to feel satisfying, I need more than hardcore action. I need emotional fulfillment.”

Marie and Jack sometimes slip into porn sex at home. “After a shoot during personal sex,” Jack explains, “I might do some weird thing you see in porn. Then one of us says, ‘Wait. Let’s make real love.’”

Marie and Jack understand the difference between porn sex aimed at men’s erotic fantasies, and real sex that creates mutual pleasure. Unfortunately, porn consumers—overwhelmingly men—may not appreciate the distinction.

Historically, the cultural debate over porn has pitted free speech against censorship. Defenders wrap themselves in the First Amendment and excoriate haters as Nazi prudes. Personally, I’m all for free speech and against censorship. I believe that porn should be available to adults. But I also believe that the debate should extend beyond the First Amendment. Porn has some legitimate uses in sex education and therapy, but ultimately, pornography is bad for sex.

 Everyone Is Always Eager.

This helps some people overcome guilt about sexual desire, but it makes many men feel that everyone else is getting more than they are. They don’t understand that porn is fantasy.

Every Man Is Huge.

Male actors are selected for huge endowment. They really are bigger than the rest of us. But porn penises are the standard by which men judge themselves, and that standard is seriously skewed toward jumbo. No wonder so many men complain that they’re “too small.”

Every Man Raises Instant Erections.

A woman winks and they have full, firm erections. This is total fiction. Want to know porn’s dirty little secret? Porn sex is so alienating that before Viagra, most male actors had trouble getting it up. Even with drugs, now de rigeur on porn sets, male actors still often suffer balky erections. Some—but not all—young men can raise instant erections, but past age 40 or so, this ability fades. For most men, erection requires relaxation and gentle, playful, loving touch all over. Porn ignores men’s real need for whole-body sensuality and direct stimulation.

Erections Never Wilt.

Actors are rock-hard from the moment their penises pop out until they ejaculate. For men under 40, this can happen. But after 40, erections no longer rise from fantasy alone, and if an older man becomes the least bit distracted, his erection may subside during sex, and require more stroking to firm up again. You never see this in porn.

Every Man Lasts Forever.

Porn actors never suffer premature ejaculation. But in the real world, coming too soon afflicts one-third of men of all ages. Good ejaculatory control requires leisurely, playful, whole-body massage. That’s the opposite of the rushed, mechanical, genitally-preoccupied sex in porn. When men imitate pornography, they often ejaculate quickly. (On my site, GreatSexAfter40, the article on curing premature ejaculation is by far my biggest best-seller.)

 Every Man Comes on Cue.

Men in porn never suffer ejaculatory difficulties, but in real life, this problem is fairly common. One reason is that men don’t appreciate the importance of whole-body massage. The men in porn come every time with little or none, so many men infer that whole-body sensuality doesn’t matter. Wrong. 

The Women Are All Exhibitionists.

They flash their breasts and genitals, and revel in strutting around naked. Few real women are exhibitionists—according to the research, only 1 to 2 percent. Most real women feel insecure about their bodies. Meanwhile, male porn viewers often expect their lovers to prance around in the buff and can’t understand why they won’t.

The Sex Is 95 Percent Fellatio and Intercourse.

After a few swipes at her breasts and perhaps a bit of cunnilingus, it’s all fellatio and intercourse. Of course, the genitals are important in lovemaking and oral sex can feel wonderful. But the genitals often don’t work right without loving gentle touch all over. Porn sex is totally preoccupied with the genitals. Men who imitate it are on their way to premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and ejaculatory difficulties—not to mention irritated lovers who think they’re total jerks.

No Real Relationships.

You never see dating, courtship, conversations, laughter, or shared interests—nothing but hardcore action. Many women find this incomprehensible—and offensive.

The Women Can’t Wait for Genital Sex.

Compared with men, women usually need considerably more time to warm up before they feel comfortable with genital play. Most women really need 30 to 45 minutes of kissing, hugging, mutual whole-body massage, and playful, creative sensuality prior to genital play. Porn ignores this, encouraging men to plunge into intercourse long before women feel receptive. When surveys ask women what they dislike about the way men make love, they consistently reply that men rush into intercourse too quickly. Porn leaves many women cold—and turned-off women aren’t much fun in bed.

The Women Never Have Orgasms.

This is porn’s only realistic element. After the man comes, the “money shot,” the sex is over. The women moan in the throes of supposed passion, but they rarely, if ever, have orgasms. Porn is male fantasy. It has no interest in women’s sexual satisfaction. With its rushed, mechanical, nonsensual sex, it’s a rare woman who could come. No wonder so many men are in the dark about women’s orgasms and erotic satisfaction.

Viewers Never See Lubricants.

Porn actors use lubricants by the gallon, but never on screen. The women appear to be perpetually wet. In fact, even with loving, playful, extended whole-body massage, many perfectly normal women don’t produce much vaginal lubrication and need lubricants. Many men push too quickly into poorly lubricated vaginas, and then blame the woman: “You’re too tight.” Meanwhile, many women suffer pain on intercourse, which ruins the sex.

Oral Sex Is Universal.

This vastly overstates the real popularity of oral. The best sex research shows that only about half of lovers routinely engage in oral sex. So again, male porn consumers mistakenly think everyone else is getting more head.

The Oral Sex Is Too Intense.

Porn actors give oral like parched dogs at a water bowl. Many (most?) real people prefer slower, gentler oral caresses. For many women, the clitoris is so sensitive that direct tonguing, no matter how gentle, feels uncomfortable. Some women prefer men to lick around it, not directly on it. You’d never know this watching porn. 

The Anal Sex Is Totally Unrealistic.

In porn, “anal” usually means penis-anus intercourse. In real life, this is the least popular form of anal play. Most real anal play involves gentle sphincter massage or shallow fingering. Women who do anal scenes use gobs of lubricant and wear butt plugs for an hour before going on-camera, but viewers never see this. Worse, some porn includes penises that go directly from the woman’s anus into her mouth, which may transmit infection.

Porn Ignores Contraception and Sexually Transmitted Infections.

It depicts a Neverland of sexual abundance with no consequences whatsoever. 

Pornography Is Extremely Consistent.

Movies were invented in 1890. By 1891, pornography was available on film. Some of the oldest porn even filmed has been released on video. The clothing and hairstyles are antique, but the sex looks remarkably like contemporary porn. Porn sex has always been The Big Lie repeated over and over again. Because all porn depicts the same sexual style, viewers infer that rushed, mechanical, nonsensual, genitally preoccupied sex is the way sex should be.

Pornography Is The World’s Single Most Influential Sex Educator.

The Internet now contains billions of pages of porn, much of it free. Sheer volume persuades many viewers that porn sex is real sex. While porn has some legitimate uses in sex education and therapy, on balance, it’s bad—very bad—for sex. Pornography is like the chase scenes in action movies—exciting and fun to watch, but not the way to drive.

“The Real Thing”

Marie and Jack Silva make porn, but their personal sex is very different. “There’s a wonderful playfulness to our personal sex,” Marie explains. “I don’t come from intercourse, so he massages my clitoris by hand. After sex at work, it’s so nice to come home to the real thing.”

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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