Sex, spanking and secrets: porn’s impact onto intimacy

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Thanks to porn, heterosexual women today are expected to accept being spanked, and to have men cum in their faces, and to take it up the bum – and while some of them are happy about this, a helluva lot of them aren’t. This isn’t wild speculation, the workings of a feverishedly feminist, porn policing mind: this is the results of our porn survey of 150 young people in Britain.

Guys think it’s acceptable to come all over me, and I have to remind them that’s not ok.”

With the dominance of internet porn, the language of sex and human intimacy has swapped with that of ‘fucking’, and though that might not seem like a significant shift (if we like it, we like it), the discomfort voiced by many of the respondents suggests that actually, it is pretty important.

“As a female I have felt pressure in bed to do things that are out of my comfort zone and then made to feel like a prude if I refuse.”

And it’s not just making us feel a bit pressured into some things we’d secretly prefer not to do: for a desperately unlucky few, the reality is more awful. Two respondents, of 150, feel that porn led to their being raped by partners.

He had convinced me that all men have to orgasm when they become aroused, which is what led him to rape me eventually.”

“His mindset was so porn-inflected that he didn’t exactly have a very nuanced understanding of consent, before it got to the stage of rape. I hardly suspect I’m alone in that, either.”

Ignoring the real world impact of porn, latching on to the premise that it’s ‘clearly just fantasy’, is held up once again to be impossible. In this instalment of our porn survey series, we present what our respondents had to say on porn culture’s impact on intimacy: on our actions, words and feelings within human-to-human bonds.

How’s porn impacting on how we behave during sex?

It would be okay if all women everywhere who ended up with a guy’s willy rammed up their bumhole genuinely, wholeheartedly wanted it. But our responses voiced the strong theme that a lot of women are feeling, to varying degrees, pressured into porn-inspired moves they’d rather do without.

“I feel pressured by anal sex. Goes without saying.”

“I feel like there is always an expectation to give oral sex, even though it genuinely hurts me.”

“At times I have felt that I am not “performing” well enough sexually, i.e. feeling that being what is perceived as “dirty” (aggressive in bed/not saying no to anything) is what men want in order to have good sex.”

This dance on the edge between consensual and non-consensual sex is not a comfortable one; with many respondents feeling unable to speak up about what they don’t want, the line is hard to spot.

“I don’t like the wide impact it’s had on a lot of my female friends who’ll agree to certain sexual acts or feel they should look a certain way because it’s “expected”.”

Even our most vocally and self-confessedly ‘porny’ woman wasn’t entirely sure about where her sexual preferences have sprung from.

“I’ve had boys say to me that I’m quite ‘porny’ – probably because I like swallowing, I like it when guys come on my face or my breasts, I’m okay with anal sex and ‘kink’. But that shouldn’t be the case: I shouldn’t be referred to as ‘porny’, because those are my preferences and I didn’t get them from porn. (But then, would they even occur to me if I wasn’t aware that they happened in porn and that guys like them?)”

How’s porn impacting on the dating scene?

In terms of the dating scene, respondents suggested that the rise of porn culture has fuelled a heightening of the commodification involved in casual courting.

“In porn, women are objectified and described in terms of their hair colour, weight, ethnicity, breast size. You can find porn to suit any ‘type’ preference of woman.”

“I am continuously shocked by how the dating scene has changed in what I can only put down to expectations created by porn. In the past I have been told by different people that I am not their type because in their view I am too tall or fat.”

And respondents also observed a pornification of the dating process.

“I am quite shocked by messages I receive regarding the sharing of sexualised pictures and other media, from people that for all intents and purposes are practically strangers. It is strange that in a lot of cases, with gay guys in particular, that sexualised images have become part of (or in some cases have taken over) the conversation element of getting to know each other. I can only place this under the umbrella of porn’s influence.”

A few (all of them male) respondents said that replacing human intimacy with solitary porn-fuelled wanking had led to difficulty with real world intimacy, and some very honestly detailed struggles with porn addiction.

“I feel [porn] has had a negative impact on my relationship as the expectation does not meet the reality i.e sex drive, appearance, sexual positions/experiences.”

“I watch it daily for self-pleasure. I’m more of an addict than anything else.”

“I’m trying to cut down to zero exposure. I’m learning porn is damaging, destructive and addictive.”

“I have never been in a relationship; my addiction to porn has stopped me pursuing one when opportunities have arisen in the past.”

While in the hetero dating realm porn’s impact is by and large negative, gay respondents painted a more hopeful picture, with several stating that porn has guided them to feel they can expect positive intimate bonds.

“When I was younger, more aggressive portrayals of anal sex in particular made me quite anxious about it. Then again, I think there are different kinds of porn that offer something a little more tender which have made me expectant in a much more positive way.”

“I do believe that porn has given me mostly positive expectations of sex.”

And porn’s impact on how we conduct relationships?

It’s not just the casual dating scene seeing porn’s impact: with porn culture increasingly present in all of our lives, it’s naturally slipping into the realm of relationships too. Respondents were keen to explain the negotiations established couples are now facing.

“I’ve wondered whether or not I should shave all my pubic hair off as I’ve heard that that’s what a lot of women in porn do these days. But, I had a chat with my boyfriend about it and he told me he didn’t care if I did or not.”

“My boyfriend wants to try anal because he’s seen it in porn and whilst I do want to satisfy him, I don’t want to that much so I refuse to do it. Luckily for me I have a very understanding boyfriend.”

“My current boyfriend had never had sex before we started dating, but he had watched lots of porn – whenever we did anything intimate or sexual it was all about him. He basically treated me like his own personal sex slave until I talked to him about it.”

What about actually watching porn while in a relationship?

One of the biggest negotiations being navigated in established couples is the use of porn within relationships. Many respondents were keen to make clear that they don’t use porn within relationships, because, they reckon, there’s no need. Others watched it together with their partners, and others still kept it secret.

It hasn’t affected [my relationship] in any way, but that is because we don’t ever talk about it. (Relationship of three years.)”

We’re the first generation which has to deal with the idea that our partners may well be watching porn. For some respondents, porn within relationships it’s not what they would choose, but it’s become normalised before our eyes, so they feel pretty powerless to object. We’re not even sure it’s okay to feel uncomfortable with it. (I think it definitely is okay to feel uncomfortable with it.)

“It was a bit strange to find out he watched it, but not massively.”

“When I found porn on my ex’s laptop history it upset me a bit, but I got over it because I figured, that’s pretty normal nowadays.”

“With my current partner we shared his preferred videos/porn actresses together. Beforehand I thought this experience would be exciting, but afterwards I felt uncomfortable knowing about the women he watched alone and found myself comparing myself, my body and my sexual performance to theirs.”

“I pretend porn doesn’t exist. I hate the thought that my partner is sexually aroused by other women and the fact that watching porn is so accepted and normal.”

Two responses were from people who found out partners had been lying about not watching porn.

“I was devastated – it took a good two years before I fully regained my sexual confidence with him. For a while I’d cry or have panic attacks if he couldn’t sustain an erection or didn’t orgasm during sex, assuming it was my fault for being unattractive or bad at sex.”

“It annihilated my trust in what had been (or I’d perceived to be) previously a communicative, loving relationship. It was a relationship which started when we were pretty young, and I thought that we had discovered, explored and built our idea of sexual intimacy together. Yet all the while, my partner had been watching porn, and lying about it – it was a shocking violation to my (in hindsight, maybe naïve and unrealistic) understanding of our bond.”

Bearing the brunt

From the evidence of our respondents, it seems pretty clear that women are bearing the brunt of porn-born expectations when it comes to redefined intimacy; though the replacement of physical bonds with a preference for porn, and related addictions, was one big area where guys are struggling too.

We’ve explored earlier in the series that porn can have a positive use (as a raunchy resource for boosting sexual prowess); but its impact on intimacy is one clear area where it’s leaving most of us cold. And dry. Next up in the series, we’ll explore whether porn is plugging that undeniable gap in the UK’s sex ed provision, or widening it into an even deeper chasm.

 Explore the whole series here.

@lucehouse



Image Credit: Rowena Waack via Flickr

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