I am often left feeling mortified by the expectations that are bestowed upon us in this fascinating world of sex. Most of us know that sex in pornography is not the same as sex in reality – it gives an inaccurate representation of healthy human sexuality- yet the lines between porn and actual intercourse are continually blurred.
It’s not just the ridiculous positions and multiple orgasms in porn that I tend to question, it’s something far more concerning: the portrayal of anal sex, gang bangs, misogyny and incest fantasies for example. I’m single and far from prudish, but I’ll never be able to have upside down sex, nor will I ever be able to understand how the fantasy of a man having sex with his daughter makes for pleasurable watching. Porn has no limits.
Modern pornography, to me, is not about sexual liberation, nor is it about giving us the freedom to do what we want with our bodies. It is, at its core, a 97 billion-dollar industry, carefully constructed and carefully maintained, with a no.1 aim: to sell.
Even those who don’t consume porn are still likely to buy-into porn’s portrayal of beauty and great-sex….Because of porn we’re cutting our labia, faking our orgasms and idealising a beauty that has become more and more manufactured over generations.
Before porn and the explosion of the media, depictions of feminine beauty were much more authentic and varied. Paintings dating back to the renaissance show men admiring voluptuous, healthy women. Real women with real figures.
Of course, these images are designed for the male gaze; and that’s another problematic factor of porn. Not only has it been constructed within the confines of a patriarchal society, where sexist ideology is rife, but it also neatly packages that ideology and turns it into something sexy and enjoyable for men.
“Because the porn industry is driven by men, funded by men, managed by men, directed by men and targeted at men, porn tends to present one world view: that this is the way it is.”
– Cindy Gallop
But porn is not just a man’s problem. It’s an industry-wide societal issue and is addictive for women too. There are plenty of women who consume porn regularly, who visit websites to gain tips for spicing up their sex-life. We’re all feeding into it.
I’ve certainly watched and enjoyed porn in the past and found that it helped me in moments of frustration. Nowadays, I tend to avoid it. An unusual reversal maybe – most people grow-into porn as opposed to growing-out of it.
Teenagers are probably the most vulnerable when it comes to porn-consumption. With hormones raging and sex on the brain, pornography is a natural and normal avenue for adolescents to explore. This isn’t necessarily an unhealthy thing but it can become damaging when occasional porn-consumption turns into something much more, and when young people don’t have the emotional or intellectual tools to disentangle porn from real-life.
Daniel James is a Maths teacher from London. He shared his ideas about the ways in which we can deter young people away from unhealthy consumption.
“I would say that people must draw their own lines [when it comes to porn-consumption]…but people can be stupid and [of course] exploitable … I think there needs to be greater education and conversation around [Porn] we need to look at it from multiple angles including from an ethical-stance”
– Daniel James
Daniel is right: to maintain a healthy relationship with porn we need to be be able to talk about it openly. We need to be able to actively critique what we are seeing. Teaching students the power and value of critical thinking has to be an essential part of their learning. Education, as usual, is key.
Sadly, we still operate within a system that limits us to basic textbook-theory. A system in which grades and points are more important than teaching children to be respectful, caring individuals with critical thought. The long-term impact of porn-consumption is hard to judge, what we do know for sure is, frequent porn consumption has been linked to higher levels of aggression and, in some cases, has encouraged people to commits acts of sexual assault. We also know that people who watch porn tend to have higher levels of insecurity and more rigid ideas about gender. Whilst getting-rid of porn is not an option, educating ourselves about the effects will help protect us from any potential negative ramifications. Emotionally and intellectually equipping students to deal with pornography’s big bang, and the culture that has erupted around it, is paramount.