The Vagenda

The Penis Perspective: Why I Stopped Watching Porn (& Other Men Should Too)

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Porn has been dominating the blogosphere recently because of some frankly bizarre and rather sexist legislation regarding the UK ban of the filming of several sex acts such as spanking, female ejaculation and face-sitting (apparently the latter carries a risk of suffocation).

Despite attempts to censor it, the watching of porn is widespread. Think of the most heinous, bizarre sex act in the world and there is no doubt that someone, somewhere is firing up a google chrome incognito window and getting ready to have a wank to it. Watching porn for men has become about as natural as, well, female ejaculation (which, despite what the porn censors claim, does actually exist). It’s so deeply engrained in the way men think that is almost not about sex at all. It’s part of a routine for some. For others, it relieves boredom. Just as some people pass time playing Candy Crush, others watch inexplicable porn involving “lemon stealing whores”.

However, I’m unaffected by the British porn ban on certain sex acts, as well as the restriction of sexually explicit material by certain Internet Service Providers, because several months ago, I decided to end my long, turbulent affair with porn. I thought I might miss watching guys with ten inch cocks bone some silicon-pumped porn star like a glorified sex doll as she pants  ‘God you’re so big, harder’ every few seconds, but oddly I didn’t.

Why not? Well, here are my reasons.

The ethics of porn can be debated for a long time, but in my eyes, no girl wakes up one morning and thinks ‘When I grow up I want to be paid very little money to be filmed whilst multiple men cum on my face and call me a whore.’ It just simply isn’t the case. Circumstance and a deeply patriarchal society are what drives most women into an industry that is nowhere near as glamourous as people think.

Porn is also responsible for negative attitudes towards our own bodies. Men watch porn and wonder why they aren’t packing as much heat as Ron Jeremy. A classic schoolyard insult is to claim another boy has a ‘small nob’ (because, of course, much like Jay from the Inbetweeners every single boy I went to school with claimed he was struggling to keep their 12 incher in their trousers). As Vagenda readers are no doubt aware, porn also gives both men and women a warped idea of what the female body (and specific body parts) should look like. Unfortunately, nowadays it’s quite likely that the first naked female body a young man or even a child will see is that of a porn star. Women might feel that they have to measure up to porn stars in order to be attractive to men, or engage in certain acts which they might not necessarily  be comfortable with – Cosmo certainly encourages a “pornified” version of sex. Surveys have shown that young women are as anxious about their sexual performance as ever, and, with, rising numbers of young women seeking boob jobs and labiaplasty in the quest to achieve porno perfection, things appear to be getting worse. As Noami Wolf remarks, it has got to a stage where ‘real naked women are just bad porn.’

People might watch porn casually and claim it isn’t an issue, but porn can be a bit like crack. Addictive. Desensitisation to mainstream porn can lead to men looking for more violent porn. The material they need in order to get off escalates, leading to a huge increase in erectile dysfunction amongst men under the age of 40,  some of whom stop having sex with their partners because of their lust for hard-core pornography. Over-exposure to it can even put men off having real life sex altogether. One young male porn aficionado on Channel 4’s documentary Date My Porn star admitted that he could barely come when having sex, despite regularly coming whilst tuning in to his favourite pornstar.

Porn (in the shape that most men watch it) is also, I believe, deeply misogynistic reducing women to mere sexual objects who very rarely have any sexual agency. More often than not in porn, the woman lets the man do what he wants to do to her, often without any real say in it. This is then what men begin to think sex is about. Them. Some men think that being good at sex is about being good at jizzing. Some women often feel they can’t express their own sexual agency because of how limited sex has been rendered by porn. In other words, porn’s construction of sexual desire is a problem for both genders.

Naomi Wolf talks about this in her must-read book VaginaShe writes: “I visited a conservative college campus and a liberal one and anal fissures were the number one health problem women were having.’’ The reason for this is that a lot of women thought they should be having anal as that is what men want and that is what happens in porn. As Wolf says, ‘”the scripts are being set by porn”, not by mutual consent or mutual desire. This is a huge problem as many men grow up learning about sex from porn, so will develop these warped ideas about sexual etiquette and sexual norms.

All of the above are reasons why men should stop watching porn. Porn isn’t just bad for men and women but it’s also bad for sex. A linear view of a man ‘sticking it in’ and then rampantly trying to cum isn’t going to be good for anyone. Nor is violently degrading porn that is becoming increasingly popular. Porn, as it watched by most men, is undoubtedly contributing to negative gender stereotypes. It is undoubtedly warping the way we see women and the way we understand sexual politics. It has the potential to impact negatively upon our sex lives.

The solution would probably be for porn to simply be more like real-life sex. For men to accept that women actually have sexual agency (something the latest form of censorship reduces even further) and for any porn to be reflective of this (there is some less popular feminist porn which does this). We need to talk more openly about porn, what it does to our young men and young women and whether these images are healthy for anyone. We also need to talk more openly about sex. This is especially important as the vast majority of young men watch porn and, in the absence of any proper curriculum-based sex and relationships education, porn is where teenagers are now getting their information. If fewer men watched degrading porn, I truly believe that many people would have happier, more fruitful sex lives.

The post-porn life (a bit like a post-apocalyptic one) is an interesting one. I get more done. More men should join me on this soul cleansing path. Who knows, if I was still watching porn I might have wasted my day with multiple windows open on RedTube open, rather than writing this.

- Amit Singh

17 thoughts on “The Penis Perspective: Why I Stopped Watching Porn (& Other Men Should Too)

  1. Maybe…you were just watching crappy porn?

    I challenge a lot of this, honestly. You’ve made a lot of broad, sweeping statements about how “typical” porn affects all of its viewership. As a woman in a marriage where we both watch our own brands of porn on occasion, and both casually follow outspoken participants in the industry, I gotta say – it isn’t all Ron Jeremys pumping triple Ds in the pooper. There is a kind of porn made for any interest for people who swing any way, including animated… in which the only person being taken advantage of is the poor animator rushing to meet deadlines.

    You don’t have to watch porn, no. But you don’t have to speak out against ALL porn because of BAD porn, either, yeah? Not that I’d argue at all with your last two paragraphs.

  2. I really appreciate this article, especially as the subject matter is something I, and I think many women, are dealing with. Thank you for a male perspective that is honest about what can happen because of porn for both men and women.

  3. I agree with this, although my problem goes deeper. It took me forever to explain to my friends/ partner why it upset me so much. I finally figured out I do not watch porn for the same reason I do not do any illegal drugs. You get pleasure when the product could have resulted from someone’s misfortune. I find that deeply creepy.

    I can never be sure I am not getting my rocks off to some poor guy who does this because he was emotionally abused, or a girl who had no other option to pay for rent. As long as porn remains stigmatized, who really knows what happened to get you off? Maybe I am alone, but that seriously makes my stomach churn. Not to be the big ‘moral/ ethical guru’ but I often get a bunch of shit for being ‘a modern liberal feminist and /never/ looking at porn??’ And people thinking I was just a prude.
    Yay shaming. Plus I have a good imagination so I never need it.

  4. Articles like this leave my with some really conflicted feelings. I agree with pretty much everything the author argues – porn can be and almost always is incredibly misogynistic and largely unrealistic. Porn teaches people a warped idea of what it means to “consent” since, exactly as the author points out, women become objects: acts are done TO them, not WITH them. It makes people think that the goal of sex is male orgasm and nothing else. All of that is bad. Got it, agree, moving on.
    But, then again, at the same time… is the answer that people shouldn’t watch porn? Or is the answer that we need to change the porn industry? The author talks about how women (and, I’d say, people in general) feel as if they can’t express how they truly want to have sex because of how limiting porn is. Sure, a lot of “mainstream” porn follows the same pattern; but at the same time, people who belong to fetish communities are finding more and more confidence in themselves because, LOOK, other people like what I like too! I’m not a freak! As someone who basically hated herself for liking bdsm until she found the porn community surrounding it, I don’t think the answer is “no more porn.” The author kind of comes close in the last paragraph, but I think its important to understand that “men shouldn’t watch porn” is not enough to fix this.
    ALSO – yes, people in the porn industry are often underpaid, but that does NOT mean that they are emotionally abused, or starving, or desperate for rent, as another commenter mentioned. There are people in the world who create porn because of those reasons, of course, but many porn actors / producers work in the industry either because a) its just another job to them, or because b) its their passion. Yeah, people like that exist, so please, let’s stop assuming that every porn actress was forced into it, because honestly – that’s kind of part of the problem.

    • No you are completely correct not everyone is forced into it! Some people enjoy it or at least are not even a little bit under duress. I think you made the best point about how the industry needs to change.

      How do you suggest I find porn where I can be sure I am witnessing one of them? This is not an aggressive request, I sincerely have no idea and want to know! Even if I still don’t enjoy watching it I can at least turn friends who do onto the titles and support better areas of the industry.

  5. Good article, like Irene I also agree with most of what you’re saying: porn is largely misogynistic (although this is shifting more and more), it teaches a warped idea of consent, can give unrealistic expectations towards sex and can be deeply addictive.

    However I disagree on what you are saying about negative attitudes towards body type. To me porn has infinitely more diversity than say the fashion industry, and performers come in all shapes and sizes. One positive thing that porn taught me is whatever you look like: fat, skinny, big breasts, small breasts, large labia, small labia, old, young, hairy, smooth, etc. there are a lot of people out there who are into that. Although a lot of people say there is a “porn star look”, I have never found that to be the case for any body type or body part.

    As Irene said it is also extremely liberating and relieving to find other people who have the same sexual preferences as you within the fetish community. I’m not sure if I agree with you that porn constructs sexual desire, a lot of these desires have always existed within fetishist communities. To me there is no such thing as “real life sex”, everyone has different desires, fantasies and preferences that they should be allowed to explore without prejudice (as long as there is consent obviously).

  6. I don’t really see why you need porn to validate your fetishes. I love sex and I have great fantasies without porn. Porn has never liberated me sexually. Sex liberates me sexually. Watching other people have fake sex doesn’t enrich my sexual experiences. We all just need to learn to feel good about each other and have real sex with real people. There are swingers clubs and BDSM clubs you can go to where you know they people are there of their own volition. Go to those and make your own movies. Allowing children to have easy access to porn is child abuse as far as I’m concerned. How did we become a society to think that’s okay?

    • I’m sorry, I must have missed something – did I say that children should watch porn? I didn’t. I don’t think any of the above commenters did. I can’t speak for everyone here, but I don’t think people who are pro-pornography are a-okay with kids watching it. So I’m not sure where that came from.
      Also, I’m not talking about porn as a “validation” of a fetish. It has more to do with alleviating social isolation. As a young person (someone who was past puberty and had reached the age of consent, jeez) I thought I was a freak for wanting people to smack me around during sex. I thought something was wrong with me. Porn helped me realize that I’m not a freak for wanting that. So, now I have the confidence to talk about it, and maybe go to clubs if I want to. I’m happy that you can do without porn, if that’s what you want. But frankly, the incredible variety of porn out their now lets people who might otherwise be isolated figure out that there are fetish communities out there, that they aren’t all freaks.
      Also, that tip about BDSM and swingers clubs? Those are great – *if* you’re a person who doesn’t require monogamy or privacy to have sex. Not all people who are into BDSM are into public sexual displays.

  7. I would have appreciated this article a lot more if it had stuck to the author’s own thoughts and experiences rather than making huge sweeping statements with nothing to back them up. Maybe I’m too used to reading academic stuff, but the number of times I found myself automatically looking for a source/footnote while reading about “most women…” or “porn causes…” was infuriating. Really stopped me taking it seriously.

    Personally I don’t like much porn, but I do dip into it (very) briefly every now and again when I’m particularly horny. Sometimes it just reminds me why I’m not that into it, but I never presume to think that others (including performers and pornographers) shouldn’t do what they want so long as it’s all consensual.

  8. I found this article really interesting – and not just because of the feminist side. Moral discussions about porn can & will go on indeterminately, but I was glad the author mentionned the sexual problems linked with porn use. When I got together with my boyfriend we had problems having sex for several months – partly inexperience on both of our parts, but he also put it down to the fact that he’d been watching porn very frequently for years, and found it hard to adapt to actually having sex with a person, rather than masturbating. Lots of anecdotal evidence on http://www.yourbrainonporn.com suggests we weren’t alone and this happens to a lot of young people. Fortunately over time we have got over it, but I feel this is an issue which isn’t given enough attention, so thanks for raising it.

  9. Sounds like an issue of gender relations and assumptions than of the porn itself. Does this same issue exist as much in non-heterosexual porn? I just read Gender Wars by Bryan Fawcett which isn’t specifically geared towards the porn industry, at all, but brings up the experience of hetero sexual sexuality during a time when gender relations, very generally speaking, at odds.

  10. There’s a very interesting TED talk on the affects of porn on boys/men. It really hits the nail on the head, and has all those important references not available in this article! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU

    I think a lot of women will associate with this video too. As someone who was watching porn regularly since before puberty (mostly due to its availability, but late night Channel 5 soft-core too!) I feel less into sex now in my early 20s than I did when I was 15. Quitting porn was one of the best decisions I ever made as I don’t feel guilty after sex any more, and my enjoyment has increased. Of course this isn’t the same for everyone, but having been exposed to it so young it has damaged my emotional association with sex. Certainly quitting is the only solution. Great article!

  11. A well-written article with a great premise, though I disagree on the intersectionality of your argument. I humbly ask you to hear me out. I am not a champion of pornography, and I agree that it does lead to objectifying women in the same way mass advertising does; however, I feel obligated to examine the implied audience of the pornography described in this essay. For instance, as a sexually submissive man, I do not watch much of the dominant/exploitation pornography described here. The pornography that arouses me deals with helping me feel objectified, or planting triggers to help me step into my submissive space. To me, this is a reversal of what is described here. I’ve also used pornography to help me feel part of a community, as males with the submissive-biased subcortical pathways linked to the arousal centre of the CNS are under 7% of the population. The majority of humanity is still judgemental towards people, like myself, who want to be objectified as a sex role. I, perhaps unintentionally, feel that prejudice in this article.

    Please take my viewpoint, and others like mine, into consideration when considering gender roles and sexual roles. Thank you. ~mdforbes500

  12. For me personally, I grew tired of the male perspective, the male gaze. I get off on looking at a hot, muscular man, but so little porn actually is filmed from a female gaze.

    In most porn vids, the camera pans up and down the woman’s body, but the man is usually not there, save for his cock, or maybe going only up to his chest. Sometimes his head is completely cropped out of view. I believe this is a ploy for any male viewer to invision their own head’s onto this man’s

    When I watch porn, I want to see a man’s O-face. That excites me. I want to see him getting off.

    But because most porn is made by men for men, unless it is gay porn, you won’t see that male O-face, or a camera pan up and down his abs, or him stroking himself for the camera.

    You will see zoomed in shots of a woman’s clit. But that certainly doesn’t get me off, since I am straight.

    Unfortunately, most “female friendly” porn is just that same kind of male gaze porn…but slow-mo with weird ambient, sort of obnoxiously-smooth jazz music or whatever….with soft focus lighting that convinces me I am in a delirious dream state…..I mean really? That’s REALLY what porn makers think women like? Maybe some but….I am gonna say nah…not most.

    I want to see female gaze camera work, dammit!

  13. I must say its so great to hear the true fact about porn, coming from a males point of view.
    I have been with my partner for over 7 years .When I meet him he had porn on his phone.
    As we got serious I deleted everything. Don’t get me wrong his not partying going out looking for sex. He rather be home with me .
    A lot of times when I leave his on porn ” Hello history” .
    We started watching it together and boy he can sit there for ages searching, like I don’t exist . I know he would love to have a 3 some and I’m not going to deny I would also. But now its getting to much for me . That’s the end of porn and the fake life style it is.

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