12 Honest Men Talk the Power Of Porn

Source: AP
Source: AP

I asked PolicyMic pundits and staff members to weigh in on this question: Do you believe that millennial men have been negatively affected by the porn industry and if so, why and how? (For an intro, click here.) Here are their wonderfully honest responses. 


Michael McCutcheon, PolicyMic Editor, 31

Much of our behavior is learned, and sex is no different. Most young boys, I'd venture a guess, learn about the act of sex primarily through pornography. And therefore, their learning, their early learning, is heavily influenced by adult performers. Most of these performers engage in sex like it's a cross between acrobatics and mixed martial arts. So when kids watch pornography, by and large, they're internalizing this Los Angeles Valley-style of sex to be typical, when the reality is that it isn't (or isn't always for everyone). And the result can be ... well, I'll let this video take it the rest of the way:




Stephen Okin, Pundit, 25

It’s rare for anyone’s first time to be good, but I feel mine was particularly awkward because I expected it to be exactly like sex in porn. It wasn’t.

Porn is responsible for both the highs and lows of my sex life. Like most men of my generation, I started watching porn way before I started having sex, so when the time came to lose my virginity, almost all of my expectations of what sex would and should be like were formed by porn. The result, as you can imagine, was disastrous. The false sense of confidence that having watched porn gave me quickly dissipated as I realized, and my partner realized, I had no idea what I was doing. It’s rare for anyone’s first time to be good, but I feel mine was particularly awkward because I expected it to be exactly like sex in porn. It wasn’t.

That said, porn has also given back to my sex life and partially redeemed itself from the debacle that was my first time having sex. In particular, I credit porn with opening my mind to the fact that there are many ways to have sex and that everyone has different preferences, sometimes wildly so. Porn has also taught me not to judge. The great variety of porn that is out there shows just how varied human sexuality is and while I may not be into a specific kink, as long as it’s between two consenting adults, who am I to judge? As such, I am much more open-minded in the bedroom now than I was years ago, and porn is largely responsible for that.


(via onlineMBA.com)

Anonymous Pundit, 30

A bit of escapism and some cheap gratification shouldn't be put on the same part of the friction-lust-emotion axis as a genuine physical connection with a girl you have feelings for.

The glorious ubiquity of wifi means one is only ever a few clicks away from the nubile, hairless sirens of X Art and their breathlessly enthusiastic humping. Good fun, thanks very much. And those who reckon it's raised their expectations so high they're unsatisfied with real life sex are either deluded or not very good at sex. No, real life is not a place where you regularly wander into a soft focus collage of immaculately-timed orgasms. But neither is it a place where Supermen fly, Rocky wins in the last round every time, and Mila Kunis hooks up with the nice guy after all. A bit of escapism and some cheap gratification shouldn't be put on the same part of the friction-lust-emotion axis as a genuine physical connection with a girl you have feelings for (whether lasting or more....immediate...)  

A bit of porn never hurt anyone, at least not the millennial men that consume it. A better place to direct concern is towards the actors providing the entertainment. I'm sure many enjoy their work and are well paid for it but the seedier side is closer to the surface on the "bronze" screen of porn than the silver or gold. Look out for the vulnerable actors but don't pity the wankers, they could always switch off and get stuck in to Jane Austen instead.


Luke Shuffield, Pundit, 22

Millennials are the first generation in human history to deal with the negative impacts of two new characteristics of modern porn: 1) easy (even accidental) and free access to more of it than a person could watch in an entire lifetime, and 2) a far more cynical, commodified delivery. 

Millennials certainly aren’t the first generation to have pornography around. If we define pornography as erotic depictions of naked people, that stuff goes all the way back to Pompeii and beyond. However, millennials are the first generation in human history to deal with the negative impacts of two new characteristics of modern porn: 1) easy (even accidental) and free access to more of it than a person could watch in an entire lifetime, and 2) a far more cynical, commodified delivery. 

That crazy thing called "the internet" pretty much sums it up. Digging around for hidden Playboys or VHS tapes is a lot different than just opening a laptop (or even tapping a smartphone) and seeing an endless, constantly updated library. Not only does it increase desensitization, but it also cuts down on the cultural taboo factor. I’m not saying we should shame it, but I believe there is value in maintaining a sociopsychological distinction between watching YouTube and YouPorn.


(via onlineMBA.com)

Ben Cosman, PolicyMic Editor, 22

Is it just me, or do we have a far higher tolerance for violence than sex? Why can we show a guy getting shot in the head on network television, but not a pair of tits?

I’ll be honest: I’m staunchly pro-porn, but I can't deny that "Don Jon" made me feel a little queasy. There are very problematic aspects of porn. It’s a hollow, aggressive, wholly unrealistic portrayal of sex. But has it negatively affected millennial men? First, I disagree that this is a single-sex issue. There are reports that a third of people watching porn online are women. Everyone is watching porn online. And to say porn negatively affects them does a disservice to personal autonomy — there are people, porn addicts like Don Jon, who are undoubtedly hurt by porn viewing. It ruins their interpersonal relationships and gives them impossible expectations of sex. But not everyone who watches porn is consumed by it. That’s like saying everyone who watches action movies or plays Grand Theft Auto is negatively affected. Not everyone watching violent movies is completely desensitized to murder.

There are degrees to everything, and blaming entire media industries for specific instances of negative consequences is painting with too broad a brush. The problem with porn is the stigma against sex. It’s not supposed to be a public topic. Why not? Is it just me, or do we have a far higher tolerance for violence than sex? Why can we show a guy getting shot in the head on network television, but not a pair of tits? If I had my way, porn would be more mainstream. If we could talk about it openly, we could talk about the negative things that come with it, and come up with ways to make it better. There are, as with anything, consequences from watching too much porn. But porn has its merits, too. It might even reduce rape.  

 

Jack Fischl, Pundit, 25

The scope of internet porn is also much broader than any one person’s imagination. My ultimate example is pterodactyl porn, which is, yes, something that actually exists.

No generation has had better access to porn, or more divergence from reality in the porn available to them, which means we have to be particularly careful to remember that porn is at least a hyperbolic, if not entirely fantastical representation of actual sex. For me, it helps to think about pterodactyl porn.

The internet has eliminated any effort to acquire porn almost entirely, culminating in Google Incognito, which allows you to find any kind of porn you can imagine without even worrying about deleting the history anymore.

The scope of internet porn is also much broader than any one person’s imagination. My ultimate example is pterodactyl porn, which is, yes, something that actually exists. It is a comically extreme example, but serves as a good reminder that porn does not reflect real life sex. It never has, but for millennials, it is easier than ever to access, which could make it easier than ever to forget. If the lines between what you see in porn and real sex with your girlfriend ever blur, just remember the pterodactyls, which have no place in your bedroom.


Tom McKay, PolicyMic Editor, 24

But there's a risk that's not moral, and it's in reducing masturbation to a purely detached act, almost hygienic or mechanical.

Pornography is definitely a major part of the sexual awakening over the past few decades, and I think most of the moral panic over its spread is just that — a moral panic.

But there's a risk that's not moral, and it's in reducing masturbation to a purely detached act, almost hygienic or mechanical: Wake up, watch porn, hop in the shower, brush your teeth, grab the toast, out the door. A lot more guys than would say so probably would privately admit 24/7 access to porn has irrevocably changed their daily sex life (women too). The ubiquitousness of pornography just makes one more important part of your life, your sexuality, into another facet of modern society's daily routine. Whether or not this is a good thing has a lot to do with your personal life and habits and your own level of self-control.

And then there's the ways in which apps like SnapChat and hook-up culture are affecting teens in strange new ways.

The times are changing with their own new risks. The rise of the age of porn, though, is certainly better than the old ethos of not talking about sex and shaming those who do.

 (via onlineMBA.com)


Mark Kogan, PolicyMic Editor, 26

Our puritanical heritage haunts us to this day as open discussion about anything deemed 'obscene' is still taboo in the greater public discourse.

The internet era has dramatically changed the reality surrounding the porn industry and young men. The availability, accessibility, and ubiquity of porn has far outpaced our society’s capacity to have an open and frank discussion about what that kind of exposure can do to a young guy’s expectations surrounding sex.

Do I think porn is negatively impacting millennial men? Maybe — but I would lay the blame for any harm at the feet of society rather than the porn industry. Our puritanical heritage haunts us to this day as open discussion about anything deemed "obscene" is still taboo in the greater public discourse. Because of that, talk of sex, sexuality, and porn’s impact on the same is relegated to smaller scale, often private channels.

The result is an inability to meaningfully discuss porn’s impact on how millennial men view other men, women, and sex in general. Sex ain’t like in the movies (spoilers, I know) and our failure to draw that distinction for our youngest generation is a societal failure. We can’t expect our young men to approach something like sex in a way totally different than what they've been exposed to, especially if we don’t engage them in a conversation about it. Porn isn’t going anywhere and young men (and women) will continue to watch it and be influenced by it. We, as a society, are not doing ourselves any favors by pretending that isn’t happening.


Nick Demas, Pundit, 20

In the long run, the continual repetition of this emotionless experience may translate into a greater barrier for enjoyment with one another. It is something to be aware of.

Pornography is not a modern novelty; it has been around for years. However, the advent of the internet has vastly increased the availability and amount of pornographic content. For millennials, this availability does a great disservice to both perception and expectations. It greatly contours what men and women believe sex to be like.

At a young age, impressionable boys and girls might come to accept the imagery in pornography as ordinary when it in fact is very unordinary. Additionally, these scenes can desensitize us to the very real, and human interaction that occurs during any kind of sexual encounter. In the long run, the continual repetition of this emotionless experience may translate into a greater barrier for enjoyment with one another. It is something to be aware of.


Sean McElwee, Pundit, 21

The allure of pornography is that it eliminates the frustration that accompanies sex between human beings: the risk of pregnancy, disease, rejection, and emptiness.

The typical arguments in favor of banning pornography have proved dubious to say the least. Studies find that pornography does not increase violent behaviour and it is no more addictive than Monday Night Football. But there are significant negative consequences from banning pornography. First, as a nation, we need to stop treating socioeconomic issues as moral ones. There’s nothing morally wrong about filming sex, nor, I would argue, is there anything morally wrong with "paying" for it (as Woody Allen quipped, "The most expensive sex is free sex.") The problem is a socioeconomic system that gives women no other choice. By making the problem a "moral" one and crusading against it, the larger issue becomes obscured and we can never get to the root of the problem.

Further, the best way to help women in pornography is to do what we do for men in unpopular work environments like coal mining and garbage collection: unionize and heavily regulate. Women in pornography shouldn’t be considered victims in need of rescue, but rather employees in need of common sense workplace safety regulation. That means condoms in every film, regular STD tests, good wages, rest periods, etc. Banning pornography will only drive the industry underground (and outside of regulation).

Third, banning all pornography would hamper the fight against objectively harmful practices, like child pornography, rape pornography, and animal abuse. Further, it would create added stigma for the women involved and perpetuate a negative paternalistic mindset.

The allure of pornography is that it eliminates the frustration that accompanies sex between human beings: the risk of pregnancy, disease, rejection, and emptiness. It transports the viewer to a fantasy world where any human interaction could lead to coitus. A sultry look at the doctor’s office can lead to a more thorough examination or a short conversation on the metro a one night stand. Porn does to sex what action movies do to violence: strip away the context and consequences. The fantasy of a plumber being invited into the bedroom for a steamy three-way is certainly less dangerous than the far more pervasive fantasy that catching a criminal involves three hunches and no due process.

(via onlineMBA.com)

Anonymous Pundit, 32

Today, much of mainstream porn shows women being well-treated, often-dominant, and their needs attended to. Like most things in society, porn is increasingly female-friendly and female-consumed.

Porn, like anything in media form, is neither good nor bad. It's what you do and how you do it. Like any movie, actors should be participating completely voluntarily. I'd say "bad" porn would be porn that would encourage the involuntary mistreatment/degradation of women (or men), up to and including violence or rape. If the sex acts in the film are not depicted as consensual between adults, then I have a problem with it. If they are, then I don’t. And unlike in the days of Linda Lovelace, today, much of mainstream porn shows women being well-treated, often-dominant, and their needs attended to. Like most things in society, porn is increasingly female-friendly and female-consumed.

As far as our generation, I think porn has had a largely a positive effect. If it’s not your thing, no one forces you to watch. If you do, you can learn some pretty fancy moves and become quite good at them, leading to greater pleasure for you and your partner. I can say without a doubt that porn shows us how to have sex in ways that most of our parents didn’t even know was possible … unless they grew up reading the Kama Sutra. Does it raise expectations? Sure. But why not expect a lot from your own performance and challenge your partner, too? Just stay in shape and stretch a bit first so you don’t hurt yourself!


Christian Stork, Pundit, 25

In real life, most men will realize that there is no director screaming "cut" and a fade to black. They'll just be left looking at a partner whom they just humiliated, which ought not be desirable.

I can't speak for millennial men anymore than I can for Victorian women, but my personal feeling is that porn hasn't affected my life negatively with respect to sexual expectation and tolerance — the usual bogeymen of the "porn is corrupting our youth" brigade.

It is beyond dispute that porn transmits an inherently misogynistic, degrading method of sexual contact based on warped power dynamics. The actress is too often cheapened through acts that provide nothing more than to convey male psycho-sexual dominance, such as the ubiquitous "facial." However, in real life, most men will realize that there is no director screaming "cut" and a fade to black. They'll just be left looking at a partner whom they just humiliated, which ought not be desirable. And if it is, that seems like an ethical failing which predates any introduction to porn. Anyone who engages in such behavior as an ignorant juvenile should be able to tell from the lack of returned phone calls that an adjustment to their modus operandi is required. And if they don't, they'll be consigning themselves to a lusterless sex life. Such problems tend to be sorted out by the free market, as it were.

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Laura Dimon

Laura graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2013. She has been published in the Economist, the Atlantic, and the Daily Beast. www.lauradimon.com / @lauradimon

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