Porn in the internet age: young people open up

Comments // //

150 young people in Britain share their experiences of having grown up alongside the rise of internet porn.

Does porn ever make you feel pressured?

‘No, don’t be so f**king ridiculous. I watch How I Met Your Mother; do I think that my life is boring and uneventful because of it? No, I don’t. It’s not real, and people don’t think it’s real.’

We’re the generation that grew up on the crest of the cyber tide, surfing the net as it broke and drenched every waking hour in digital content. As part of all that, we’re the first to have grown up with internet porn.

A massive quarter of all US internet searches are porn-related, Pornhub (does what it says on the tin) alone attracts a humungous 1.68 million visits per hour, and internet porn in the UK receives more traffic than other such massive click-grabbers as online shopping, news and media, and even social networks. Like a snugly-fitting dildo, porn now fills an erotically shaped hole in every one of our lives – and yet the subject remains a weighty taboo.

So Gander went hunter-gathering for views and perspectives, and as the responses rolled in, from the symphony of experiences a few major themes emerged. Here, we gather those themes together, and present in this series a snapshot of what 150 twenty-somethings in the UK are saying about porn.

Porn and the internet: who’s watching?

So the cold hard stats suggest that nigh-on everyone – sisters, uncles, classmates, cousins, the paperboy, the checkout girl, even Brian-from-church – is watching porn. But did the survey responses confirm this? I won’t beat around the bush: yes.

With only three respondents explicitly stating they don’t watch it at all, the survey suggests we’re all at it like rabbits with opposable thumbs. Respondents pinned this ubiquitous use firmly on the web, voicing the belief that without it, their exposure to porn would have been minimal to non-existent. They just wouldn’t have mustered themselves to scooch on down to the local sexy vid store like was necessary in days gone by; and by contrast, the internet regularly throws porn in your face.

I have never really seen porn other than on the internet, and would never go out of my way to get it if I had no access to internet.”

“Without it, I wouldn’t have any access whatsoever. And I actually question whether I’d even bother.”

As a generation, we’re pretty clued up on the idea that a large majority of young men are watching it; as one respondent affirmed, “I’d be very surprised if I found a man who’d never watched porn. I would.” But less well-acknowledged was the fact that yes, what we’ve been hearing in hushed tones from news outlets over the last few years is true: women are watching porn too. A 2013 Time Out magazine poll, which asked more than 10,000 people to open up about their sex lives, found that two-thirds of women surveyed watch porn, and though several of our respondents backed this up, some also expressed anxiety that they may be an anomaly.

The only people I had ever heard talking openly about their porn watching habits were men. I am still not sure if any of my female friends ever watch porn.”

I want to know how many women watch porn to “get off”; I sometimes do.

I’ve only ever discussed it with male friends, as I think there’s a certain worry between women that we still shouldn’t watch it.”

Yes, for those who want to hear if genuine female peers are using porn, I can confirm young women in Britain are definitely doing so: don’t worry gals, you’re not alone. (Except when actually masturbating – in those fiddly moments, you probably are.)

So, yep, fine, everyone’s watching porn; but does it even matter?

Porn and reality

Porn isn’t real, everyone knows that, this survey is stupid. Or so several respondents cheerfully informed me. (Thanks guys, top drawer support.)

“It’s a fantasy production to create sexual entertainment that isn’t trying to be realistic. It’s like suggesting CSI: Miami is trying to pressure real crime scene units in Miami.”

“I am very aware that pornography is fictional and does not represent real sexual relationships.”

Porn, for many of the young people surveyed, is entirely divorced from the intimacy found between real couples. Masturbation to erotic visual stimulus is an act which has nothing to do with the act of sex between two people (it’s kind of incidental that the porn depicts a version of that act). Porn’s a form of entertainment, of relaxation. Wanking is a bodily function, like doing a poo or eating a chop. So wanking to porn is like following your poo with aloe-scented loo roll, or eating a chop with béarnaise sauce. Just a little extra oomph to make that bodily function more enjoyable.

“I view it in a similar light to movies or other forms of entertainment in that it was something that is there to provide some form of enjoyment that was unconnected to reality.”

“Masturbation is natural and porn can help the process.”

The consensus from a vocal group of respondents was that porn use is an entirely personal and private thing to do, and very much a free (wo)man’s free choice. Any suggestion to the contrary, this general opinion reckons, is a reductive prudishness and misplaced morality, which should’ve died its death way back in the sixties along with mega-prude Mary Whitehouse (no relation, I hasten to add (grandad’s done a family tree to check, okay)). Porn is an enjoyable little hobby which has no wider relevance or impact, was the strongly-held opinion of some.

“Porn is great. I love porn.”

But more widely, the responses made clear that relegating porn to the realms of fantasy, suggesting it has no bearing on real life, just doesn’t hold true. Porn culture, countless responses make clear, impacts on the lives – the very real-world emotions and actions – of a huge majority: it’s improving sexual technique, plugging a massive gap in sex ed, redefining intimacy, shoving body image into the spotlight, throwing up addictions, and much, much more.

“It’s given me some confidence in my blow job tekkers which can surely only be a positive thing.”

“I find the more I watch, the less interested in actual sex I get (which is shit).”

“Being gay means it’s your main “how to” guide.”

Fencing off any discussion of porn within the overly-snug confines of the individual liberty vs. prudishness and misplaced morality debate is way too limited. So too is pushing away any discussion of its impact, telling ourselves ‘it’s clearly fantasy’. If we’re to trust the responses, porn culture in its current manifestation is impacting on us in a very real sense (or rather, many and various very real senses).

Porn’s becoming an increasingly accepted staple of our lives and wider culture, yet we still don’t feel comfortable talking about it. Time to open up that discussion a little. This series will take you on a whistle-stop tour of the porn culture key points put forward by the respondents – so if you want to discover more of what young people in Britain are saying about porn, then grab your tissues and welcome aboard.

First up next week, porn and sexual techniques: how porn is honing our boning.

Explore the whole series here.

@lucehouse



Image credit: Rowena Waack via Flickr

blog comments powered by Disqus