There are lots of reasons to think that porn is not great, but it’s pretty common for people to use it and to expect others to – especially guys. So, what are your options?
Aim for something better
Don’t just get swept along by the kinds of messages about sex you see in porn or other media or hear from peers. Aim for sex that you – and anyone you have sex with – can feel really good about.
Remember, the keys to sex that is good for everyone involved are communication, consent and respect.
Give porn a miss?
Of course, you don’t have to watch porn. It’s possible to choose not to. Maybe you don’t want to have your imagination and tastes shaped by porn. Or you don’t want to use stuff that’s made by an industry that plays rough with people’s bodies and lives.
It’s okay to decide that it’s not something you’re going to use. Good chance you’ll be a better lover if you reject the porn script and focus on mutual pleasure, fun and respect! You can have lots of fun working out what feels great for you and your partner.
But deciding against using porn may be easier said than done. It can be hard to make decisions that are different from those of your peers. If you are going to give porn the toss, it can be useful to do some thinking about how you’ll respond if peers pressure you to watch it, or if your partner pressures you to watch it or to copy things they’ve seen in porn.
Here are a few tips:
- Ignore it – you could pretend you didn’t hear, change the subject or roll your eyes and get on with whatever you were doing. If your peers are persistent, ignoring their pressure might only be a temporary solution, but it’s worth a try – and it can buy you some time to develop other responses
- Try using humour – this can be especially useful with peer-pressure, if you’re comfortable. Lines you could try include: ‘Not for me, thanks. Porn is for people with no imagination!’ or ‘Here we go! It’s the porn brigade again’
- Or you might prefer to be quite serious – you could ask your friend how they’d feel if the woman in porn was their sister, or cousin or friend, or tell them that you don’t want to have your fantasies shaped by some old porn schmuck who’s just after a buck
- If you don’t feel comfortable to say why you don’t want to watch porn, it’s okay to make something up to get out of it. Tell them you have to go somewhere else, or use the old ‘I’m not feeling well’. Some young people develop a code with a parent or friend, where texting a certain word is a sign for them to call and say they need to come home or meet them somewhere. This sort of arrangement can act as a safety plan for use in any tricky situation
- Responding to pressure from a partner can be really challenging. Someone who is meant to like you and want you to like them shouldn’t be pressuring you to do stuff you don’t want to do! Try to say clearly what you don’t want to do. If the pressure continues, that’s not a good sign. You could ask ‘Why do you keep pressuring me, when you know I don’t want to? Don’t you care about what I feel and want?’
Become a choosey consumer?
If you don’t think you will avoid porn altogether, you can still make choices about your use.
While not all porn is the same, in heaps of it, people are treated badly. So, it can be hard to find porn that is more ethical.
Here are some tips:
- avoid porn that looks like people were unsafe during production – for example, porn that shows unprotected sex or bodily fluids in people’s mouths or eyes
- avoid porn in which anyone is being pressured, hurt, abused or degraded. This might not always be obvious, because often the performers look like they’re loving it, even if they’re not – because it’s their job to make it look that way. If you think it’s likely that in real life most people don’t want to be treated that way, then you might ask yourself: ‘Is this the sort of porn I want to get off on?’
- limit your porn use – don’t let it get in the way of sleep, study, work, sport, hobbies or relating to real people
- be aware of your use – both how much and the sorts of porn you use. If you find yourself wanting to watch more or harder (rough or degrading) content, have a break from porn. If that feels too hard, then it’s a sign that you’re not in control of your porn use, and it would be good to get some support
- and remember…don’t try this at home! Porn is not reality! It’s a scripted, edited version of unusual people doing unusual things to try to float other people’s boats. If you watch porn, it doesn’t mean you can, will or should do what you see in it, and there’s a good chance that a real life partner won’t want to.
Lead the way!
Do respect, consent, mutual pleasure and fun matter to you? Do you think porn is overrated? Do you aspire to something better? You can be sure that there are other young people who don’t feel good about what porn is saying, or feel under pressure to watch it or copy it. But being critical of porn can be hard to do.
By talking about how you feel about porn, you can help others feel more confident to talk about it, too. When people start to feel like it’s okay to ask questions about porn – or to not be into it, or to not want porn to define what sex is like – being free to make your own choices about what you’re into and what you’re not starts to be a real possibility.
Don’t let porn set the agenda. Speak up. And others might join you!