How do I feel about porn

Hey there, how often do you wank off to porn? What? Is that question too personal to ask? I admit, it may not be the most subtle of conversation openers but I’ve always been quite socially awkward.

I’ve been thinking about porn a lot lately. This has been mainly due to not getting any action in real life and because of the Netflix documentary Hot Girls Wanted and its spin off series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On. Both set out to explore some aspects of the porn industry and also delve into how sex and dating have changed in the digital age.

I found both the film and the series fairly one sided and problematic in its portrayal of the porn industry and sex workers in general. It chooses very narrow examples to make generalised statements about the industry and favours emotional narratives over facts. It has also been heavily criticised by some sex workers, while it is being applauded by mainstream media. Here’s my full review of the series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On.

Despite the shortcomings of Hot Girls Wanted, it got me thinking about what I personally find problematic about porn and what I like about it. Another thing that struck me in the discussions around the film and the series is that they rarely ever address the fact that porn only exists because there are millions of people out there watching and enjoying it.

In episode four of Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On performer Tyler Knight eloquently exposes the hypocrisy that he and other sex workers have to face when they are criticised and judged for what they do by the very same people who watch their work.

Many of the criticisms of porn such as the exploitation of young women, the depiction of violence against women and reinforcement of racial stereotypes and toxic masculinity are, in my opinion, problems that already exist in society in general and are mirrored by porn but not created or perpetuated by it.

I guess ongoing efforts to discuss sexual desires more openly can only help to make arguments about porn more nuanced and balanced. Since I believe porn only delivers to what it assumes its consumers desire, we shouldn’t shy away from discussing those desires in a non-judgmental way. As the selfless educator that I am, I will tell you all about my naughty habits. (Mum and Dad, stop reading now!)

My porn consumption fluctuates depending on my levels of horniness. It could be a couple of times a week (by week I mean day), other times, weeks go by where I don’t frequent sites that I swiftly need to remove from my browser history.

I can’t remember when I first started looking at porn online but I’d say I was in my late twenties. I’m old, the internet wasn’t a thing when I was a teenager, to put things into perspective for you. I definitely was already sexually active when I first explored porn and was able to differentiate between what is ‘real’ sex and ‘porn’ sex. (Squirting?! Come on, lads. You’re taking the piss. Quite literally…)

To me masturbating to porn vs. masturbating to my own fantasies is a bit like having fast food instead of a nice home cooked meal. Sometimes I just need a quick fix stress relief and can’t be bothered with a lot of prep time. Porn gets me there faster. But, of course, sometimes I enjoy the slow and scenic route. (Seriously strong analogy game here.)

The usual suspects out there, pornhub and youporn, give me a variety of options and cater to whatever mood I am in. In general though, I find these sites are designed for men or for what is perceived to be male desire. I’m often disturbed by pop ups or ads showing very young girls or simulated scenes of non-consensual sex.

The popularity of teen performers as well as porn depicting violence against women is highlighted in Hot Girls Wanted. I do admit, the thought of eighteen or nineteen year old girls with a man well in his forties does feel a bit sleezy to me. It’s such a tired old cliché. Unfortunately it reverberates through mainstream film as well, where we often see a male protagonist in his late thirties teamed up with a love interest in her mid-twenties.

I was surprised, and pretty disgusted to be honest, to find out about things like ‘facial abuse’ (forced blowjobs aimed at making the girl throw up) and ‘swirlies’ (a male performer dunking the woman’s head into a toilet after sex and then flushing it) highlighted in Hot Girls Wanted. While I can see the attraction of dominant and/or submissive sex, I’m not sure if this type of violent porn falls into that category and where to draw the line.

Usually I stick to what is classed as ‘female-friendly’, ‘girl on girl’ or ‘girl solo’ stuff. Taking the man out of the equation means there are no unpleasant surprises and who doesn’t like looking at fabulous boobs?! Thankfully there has been more porn recently aimed at a female audience. The German website Ersties is doing great videos which feature diverse performers and Erika Lust produces high quality content with women’s pleasure in mind.

While the girls are usually quite good looking in more generic type of porn videos, the men, in my opinion, are often rotten looking aul ones. When it comes to male performers, above mentioned female friendly porn sites do a much better job at casting hot male talent.

As I said before, I first started looking at porn as an adult who had already experienced sex in real life. I don’t know what impact porn has on teenagers who use it as sex education or as their first introduction to sex. I’m sure it can be disturbing if it’s not explained or put into context. But since online porn isn’t going anywhere, we should at least attempt an open conversation that doesn’t try to hide the fact that a lot of us watch porn.

I’m not trying to convince anybody to watch porn or pretend to be okay with it when they’re not. I can see the many ways in which porn can be problematic but as a regular consumer of porn, I also have to admit that I find it enjoyable. A discussion on the topic shouldn’t be reduced to vilifying the industry and the people that work in it but should also include a frank look at the complex nature of human sexual desire.

Image credit: Bruce Nauman, Human/Need/Desire, 1983, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.