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  • Sat, 14, Apr, 2018 - 5:00:AM

It's time for a different conversation about porn

When did you first see porn? I vividly remember stumbling across a grainy old website circa 2001 (okay, I didn’t exactly ‘stumble’… I may have gone looking because someone at school told me about it) where I had my first experience of illicit content – in the form of full frontal images of (hairless) vulvas. I gazed at the screen in shock for a few moments (my schoolyard source hadn’t prepared me for exactly what I was going to see) before closing the window hastily. I didn’t fancy having to explain that one to my parents.

Although at 28 I’m basically ancient, my experience of early exposure to online porn is something I share with many Millennials and much of Gen Z. I was lucky that I didn’t see an actual porn video until a few years after I’d first had sex, but I was 11 when I found my way to an adult website. Nowadays, research shows that the age of first exposure to porn is often much younger.

Porn is having a bit of a moment. It seems like there’s a new media story about porn on almost a daily basis. A lot of those stories basically boil down to, ‘porn is very bad. VERY BAD.’ And they’re not entirely wrong. Some things about porn are very bad. Like the prevalence of violence against women, the male-dominant narratives, the widespread lack of contact with the clitorises of female actors in heterosexual porn, and the easy accessibility of porn videos that take hard core to the next level. But that’s not the whole picture.

As a species, we’ve been into nude and rude pictures since we were scraping crude drawings of penises and vulvas (vulvae?) into cave walls. Curiosity, titillation and fascination with sex are all healthy parts of human sexuality. Granted, we’ve come a long way from cave drawings to the porn factories of the digital era, but discussions about porn can lead to demonising human sexuality, which is unhelpful and misleading. 

In a healthy, consensual, adult relationship, pornography can be a part of an entirely normal sex life. Some porn is undoubtedly better than the rest – especially porn that is ethically made, and that treats women as human beings rather than props and receptacles – and it’s hard to argue against consenting couples watching ethically made pornographic material. Which, to my mind, is a key point in this debate. 

It is possible to view porn in a healthy way. As a message, I prefer that to the idea of prohibition. As has been evidenced countless times over the generations, telling someone not to do something is about as useful as telling a toddler to stop throwing a tantrum. Porn viewing is no different.

The challenge then is talking about what healthy porn viewing looks like. Ensuring that young people know the difference between real sex and the sex acts performed by paid actors. Understanding that like any pleasurable activity, it can be addictive. Making sure that consent is front and centre when it comes to porn – no one has to watch porn, and no one should be forced to watch it against their will. Furthermore, if you’re going to watch porn, everyone who is watching should be into it before the video starts. Watching porn, like any other sexual behaviour, should be something that all partners get something out of, rather than something one partner feels guilted or coerced into.

Having this conversation is much more involved and time-consuming than simply saying, ‘PORN IS BAD DON’T WATCH IT EVER BECAUSE BAD’, but it’s now more important than ever that we take the time to delve into this awkward subject. A recent study found that 80 per cent of Australian teen boysare watching pornography daily or weekly. Those young men aren’t just going to stop watching porn. It’s time to move from moralising to harm reduction.

Porn isn’t going away. It’s time for us to come… at it from a different angle. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

TAGGED IN

  • Porn /
  • The REAL Sex Talk /
  • Teens /
  • Sexuality Education /
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