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Is Porn Ruining Intimacy?

By: Kirsty Freeman


Image via HBO


Almost everyone watches porn, it’s online, anonymous and easy to access. Porn in the 21st century is characterised by aggression and dominance. In 2021, when nudes are comparable to currency, it feels more vital than ever to examine the impact of porn in intimate relationships.


Around 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic, and the ease of access that the web provides, means that exposure to porn can be as early as adolescence. A study conducted in 2006 found that 84% of people between the ages of 18 and 49 have watched porn, and a different study conducted in 2019 found that of those who watch porn 72% watch it on their mobile phones. Porn is arguably as easily accessible as Netflix, but an increasing number of people feel that porn is causing intimacy issues.


In committed relationships porn can create trust issues, usually the person who watches porn feels ashamed and isolated by it, which creates other problems. Furthermore, even if the viewing of porn is not kept a secret it can still do harm. Drs. John and Julie Gottman (founders of the Gottman Institue) state: “use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.”


Porn is unrealistic, and viewers often forget that those starring in it are paid actors, who have been paid to bring a script to life. Viewers forget that real sex is not the same as scripted sex, and thus have unrealistic expectations and a twisted view of what partners should look like and be willing to do.


Porn decreases self-esteem and self-worth because, whether you’re male, female or non-binary, you may compare yourself to those on screen that your partners or you find pleasure in watching. For example, many young people feel that they cannot be as sexually desirable as who their partner fantasizes about, and some even begin to view themselves as sexually undesirable. If people think that way about themselves, eventually it creeps into their psyche and can even affect how they relate to their partner – low self-esteem can give rise to jealousy and distrust.


In teen relationships many feel as though they have to live up to the expectations of the other half, that are frequently only pleasurable to that other half. For example sexting: many girls feel that they cannot cope with the amount of unsolicited pictures and videos they receive, and many also feel pressured to return the pictures. Porn creates a certain expectation of aggression in intimacy that many feel uncomfortable recreating, and sets up ideals about both male and female figures that are for the most part highly unattainable.


The effect I believe porn is having on our generation is both in the language that is used to surround sex, but also in the attitude towards sex. As a young woman I feel that I am constantly reminded, by the way in which boys talk, that sex is not about doing something intimate with a significant other, but instead about being an inanimate object that men can use to live out their ideal fantasy with. It is as though as women we have been told sex is not for our pleasure, but instead for men’s.


The problem with porn is more a problem with the gender imbalance surrounding sex and porn. If women have sex for pleasure they are labled sluts, and if men have sex for pleasure – they are liberating themselves.



Image via HBO


The ridiculous ideals set out in porn have been attacked by various figures in the media, in the show Euphoria (HBO) the first episode features a teenage sex scene and it can only be described as as brutal. Jules (played by Hunter Schafer) meets up with a middle-aged man (played by Eric Dane), whom she met through an app, in some random hotel. There she has sex with him, and then is left alone when he takes a shower. Later there is a party, where various characters are met, Kat (played by Barbie Ferreira) loses her virginity in a dehumanizing fashion, then reports it with entirely fake enthusiasm, Cassie (played by Sydney Sweeny) has sex with her boyfriend McKay (played by Algee Smith), but has to tell him to stop when he attempts to recreate some porn-inspired choking during.


In “Male Fantasy” Billie Eilish explores the difference between real and fake love. In the first verse she describes distracting herself from heartbreak by watching porn. Yet, she realises the hoax of it. The nature of porn means that the majority of it exists solely to satisfy the “Male Fantasy” that Billie is singing about. This also ties into her relationship with her body, and I feel like many girls can relate to this. There is so much pressure on girls and women to fit into every expectation; to have the ideal figure, to enjoy every element of sex that men see in porn, to be ready and willing for sex whenever men want.


I would never call myself a romantic, and I am not in anyway suggesting that sex should be a sanctimonious act. I truly believe that men and women should be allowed to have sex with whomever they wish, for whatever reason they wish – be it for love, or simply pleasure. However, I fundamentally believe that whilst porn has always had a profoundly negative impact on the generations before us, the impact it is having on our generation is terrifying at best, because of the new outlets it has found. Again, I’m not saying that all porn is bad – it can have positive benefits: provide a release, help couples to reconnect and even reignite someone’s passion for sex, but porn in excess and without the realisation that it is essentially an elaborate performance, is dangerous. Not just for the consumer, but also for those around them.


Written by LBTQ, Gender and Sexuality writer Kristy Freeman



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2 Comments


It’s such a big issue in relationships now especially ones stemming from misogyny and this was written perfectly

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MelodyZ
MelodyZ
Aug 09, 2021

Amazing article, it really conveyed my own issues with pornography in particular with it being from the male gaze. Truly a great read!

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