What’s the issue?

Porn can give unrealistic messages about what sex is like…

It seems that porn’s everywhere. It’s really easy to access – even when you’re not looking for it! And it’s accepted that lots of people use it, particularly guys, but also some girls.

But, while it might seem cool or exciting or turn you on sexually, porn is not reality, and it can impact in a range of ways that aren’t all good – like what you expect sex to be like, what turns you on, and how you think about men and women…

Porn can shape sexual tastes – and expectations.

Just as we can acquire a taste for a particular food or drink – even one that we initially don’t like – we also can develop sexual tastes.

When someone uses porn – particularly when they use it regularly to get off – they can learn to link what they see with arousal and pleasure. Lots of people – mostly boys or men – watch porn and then think that’s what they would like to do in real life.

But much of what is shown in porn doesn’t reflect what many people actually enjoy. Often it is not just unrealistic, but also aggressive and degrading. Porn is not a good place to have your sexual tastes shaped. It can leave you with unrealistic expectations that a real life partner is not likely to be keen on.

Porn bodies are not normal.

The bodies of porn performers – like those of models and sports stars – are not how most people look. The men in porn almost always have a huge penis. The women are usually young and thin. They may have over-sized breasts and their genitals often look small and even.

Porn performers do all sorts of things to make their bodies look like they do – like waxing, weight-lifting, bleaching or botox. Sometimes they’ve had surgery to make their breasts or penis bigger, or their vulva smaller! In reality, people come in all shapes and sizes – and adults grow body hair!

Porn sex is not safe sex.

Porn often shows people doing all sorts of unsafe things, such as anal sex followed by oral sex, or ejaculation in mouths and eyes.

Often porn shows multiple partners having unprotected sex. Only 10% of scenes show condom use. Porn performers often catch sexually transmissible infections. Some performers experience long-term damage to their bodies.

Porn is a performance. It misrepresents pleasure.

Porn ‘performers’ are just that – performers. And the porn script usually requires them to look like they’re having a great time – even when what they’re doing is uncomfortable, painful or degrading. For many performers, faking it is just part of the job.

Most porn gives a mixed up view of sex. It doesn’t show what most people enjoy and how they like to be treated.

Free and full consent is crucial.

If you watch porn, you might get the impression that everyone wants to have sex all the time. But they don’t. Working out if you and your partner both want to have sex, and what you both want to do, can be difficult – but it is really important.

Some people feel pressured to do what their partner has seen in porn. But doing anything sexual with a partner without their free agreement is never okay. And remember, a ‘yes’ to one thing is not yes to anything. Make sure they’re into it or give it a miss.

Sex is not a performance.

In porn, people perform sex for the viewer. They pout, talk and moan at the camera in positions designed to look good – rather than feel good.

In real life, sex is not a spectator sport – and it shouldn’t be something you just do for your partner. If you feel like you need to fake it or do things you’re not into, there’s something wrong. Sex should feel good – emotionally and physically – for everyone involved.

Violence and humiliation are not sexy.

Porn often shows men being aggressive and in control and women happily being dominated. Eighty-eight per cent of scenes in the most popular porn show physical aggression. Ninety-four per cent of the aggression in porn is directed at female performers.

Porn is made to sexually arouse its viewers, and from the industry’s perspective, it doesn’t matter how unrealistic, rough or degrading it is, as long as it sells. In fact, the industry is pretty open about the fact that the rougher stuff sells best.

Porn can make violence seem sexy, and something women like. But violence and humiliation aren’t sexy. Nor is it just fantasy. In reality, huge numbers of women all around the world experience violence from their partners.

Life for a performer can be pretty rough.

Being paid to have sex with beautiful people might seem like an ideal job. But in reality, being a porn performer is often far from glamorous.

Performers regularly catch sexually transmitted infections, find it hard to maintain relationships, can find themselves under pressure to do things they don’t want to do and can end up with serious and lasting damage to their bodies or emotional wellbeing.

Porn can make you a dud lover.

Even if you know that porn is fake, it can shape what you find sexy.

But in reality, much of what’s shown in porn is not what most people – particularly women – like or want. If you develop a taste for porn sex, you may be setting yourself up to be a dud lover – and no one wants that!

Porn reinforces stereotypes.

Porn commonly portrays – and reinforces – racial and gender stereotypes.

Stereotypes occur when a group of people is defined by simplistic, limited and unfair assumptions. Stereotyping reinforces prejudices and creates the conditions for other injustices. Ironically, while porn claims to be liberating, its portrayals of sex, race, sexuality and gender can keep people trapped in long-standing and oppressive views about how people ought to behave and relate.

Gay and lesbian porn is limiting.

Some people assume that gay and lesbian porn is liberating and free from the problems – such as sexism and aggression – that are so common in heterosexual porn.

But gay and lesbian porn communicate many of the same messages – about bodies, sexual health, pleasure, performance and consent – as heterosexual porn. Often it also communicates the same messages about gender, power and aggression – where a more masculine performer, known in gay porn as the ‘top boy’, acts aggressively towards a more feminine performer, or ‘bottom boy’, mimicking the male and female performers in straight porn.
Porn showing women having sex with women is most commonly made for male heterosexual consumers. This porn often misleadingly suggests that lesbians have sex with women for men’s pleasure but they would really prefer to have sex with men.

Sex can have meaning.

Porn communicates that sex is something people do with just anyone.

But for most people, sex is something they do with someone they know – often with someone they care about or love. For many people, sex is a way of feeling close to someone, expressing love and enjoying each other.

Sex can be so much better than what you see in porn.

Sex can be fantastic, but it can also be awful – and everything in between.

If you want to be a good lover, don’t learn about sex from porn – or have your sexual tastes shaped by porn. You can do so much better than that.

The keys to good sex are communication, consent and respect.

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