We all like to watch: could porn be ruining our generation’s sex lives?

GEORGIA RIGG
The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)

VANCOUVER (CUP) — No other generation in human history has had so much sex around them. From the increasingly graphic sexual content in movies and TV to the endless depths of pornography online, sex is all around us from an early age.

But despite the wealth of sexual voyeurism, it’s possible our sex lives are worse than ever.

Most parents spend more time avoiding our questions about sex than answering them. Academic institutions are increasingly terrified of being politically incorrect. Meanwhile, porn dominates over 12 per cent of all websites. It’s quick, it’s free and within seconds, we can have the answers to all of our questions. With over 86 million viewers per day, online porn has become sex education for young people.

Cindy Gallop, creator of the website “Make Love, Not Porn,” gave a TED talk on this subject that quickly went viral — in part because of her raunchy subject matter. She explicitly described how her sexual experiences with younger men have exposed to her the shocking ramifications that the hardcore porn industry has had on our culture.

In the video, Gallop talked of having to regularly decline an attempted “facial” with, “Actually, no thank you very much, I would much rather you did not come on my face.”

But she is especially concerned about the young girl “whose boyfriend wants to come on her face, she does not want him to come on her face, but hardcore porn has taught her that all men love coming on women’s faces, all women love having their faces come on, and therefore she must let him come on her face, and she must pretend to like it.”

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Gallop explains that porn has made the job of sex education even harder. “There’s an entire generation growing up that believes that what you see in hardcore pornography is the way that you have sex.”

Prior to porn, those parents brave enough to take on the task of educating their children about sex simply had to talk about the logistics. Nowadays, the conversation has to address what the Internet is showing teenagers. As Gallop puts it: “Darling, we know you’re online, we know you’re looking at an awful lot of porn, so we just need to let you know that not all women like being bound, gagged, choked, spit on or gang-banged.”

Lori Brotto, a UBC professor from the department of obstetrics and gynecology, suggests that the porn itself isn’t necessarily the problem. “It can expose people to new and different forms of stimuli to enhance their sexual arousal response and it can also be useful for couples wishing to add variety and intensity to their sexual experiences.”

Where the danger lies is in misunderstanding what your partner wants in their sex life. “If one partner is opposed to pornography and one in favour, then it can create jealousy, resentment and deception,” says Brotto.

“Today’s porn is more than a masturbation aid,” wrote Gary Wilson and Marina Robinson for the online magazine The Good Men Project. “It replaces imagination with multiple tabs, constant searching, fast-forwarding to the perfect scene, a voyeuristic perspective.”

The problem we’re now facing is that of a generation of performers. With over 80 per cent of North American children aged 15–17 having watched hardcore pornography on multiple occasions, and the average age of first exposure being 11, many girls know how to give the perfect blowjob before they’ve even seen a penis in the flesh. They also know what positions to get into, what noises to make and what they are “supposed” to like and dislike.

But when it comes down to actually having sex for real, will we take the cues that porn has given us? Gallop’s experience answers the question resoundingly: yes!

“We all feel enormously vulnerable when we get naked,” Gallop says. “Sexual egos are very fragile, and people find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they are actually having sex with because you’re terrified of hurting the other person’s feelings, putting them off you, derailing the entire encounter. But at the same time, you want to please your partner, and you’ll seize your cues on how to do that from anywhere you can, and if the only cues you have are from porn, then those are the ones you will take.”

Today it’s not uncommon for two people to be in a sexual relationship, neither of them particularly enjoying what’s going on, but both believing that this is the way they should be having sex. Due to our over-exposure to porn, even open-minded, sexually aware people are struggling to figure out what genuinely turns them on. The lines are becoming blurred between what we want, and what we think we should want.

This sense of inauthentic pleasure is, more than anything else, very depressing. “Sex is the area of human experience that embraces that vastest possible range of proclivities,” says Gallop. Everybody has different sexual desires, fantasies, wants and needs, which is what makes sex such a beautiful way to express yourself.

In the end, Gallop’s message is actually pretty simple: talk about it. The way forward is sexual honesty.

— With files from Veronika Khvorostukhina


Graphic: Indiana Joel/The Ubyssey