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The 3 Misconceptions Commonly Believed About Porn and Sexual Health

Here are three common claims about the purported “benefits” of porn, countered with information worth considering.

The knowledge that porn harms individuals, relationships, and society is no longer a secret. For anyone paying attention to recent research findings and current events, a quick Google search will bring up multiple articles reporting about the considerable negative effects that can come from watching porn or porn culture in our society.

But for every groundbreaking study and heartbreaking personal experience that undeniably shows how porn is unhealthy, the belief that porn is ultimately healthy, safe, and empowering to consume is pervasive.

However convincing these arguments sound, there is solid research to illustrate the opposite. So what’s the best way to deal with these misconceptions? Confront them with quality information. We’ll provide you with the research, you make the decision.

Here are three common claims about the purported “benefits” of porn, countered with information worth considering.

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1. Common claim: “Watching porn is a natural and important part of having your sexual needs met.”

The facts: This is not a black and white issue, and we’re certainly not here to control anyone’s sex life. That being said, consider the idea that sex is natural, but porn is a produced product. It is possible to be both pro-sex, and anti-porn.

The truth is, pornography distorts people’s perceptions of sex, intimacy, body imagesexual performance, and much more. The research on how porn affects how you view yourself, your partner, and your relationships in general is pretty condemning to the idea that porn “helps” your sex life. It actually hurts it in a big way. In fact, consider a few research studies.

Related: Huge Meta-Analysis Reveals Male Porn Consumers Are Less Satisfied With Relationships

This study, published in January 2021, evaluated over 14,000 participants. Its findings confirm that frequent and problematic porn consumption can cause or worsen poor sexual functioning for both men and women.

But that’s not the only one. Study after study has shown that contrary to popular belief, porn itself is bad news for long-term relationships and healthy, satisfactory sexuality. Not an unsupportive and porn-disapproving partner, not too-little porn consumption, but the porn itself. The majority of research reflects that porn negatively affects satisfaction within the relationship and ultimately can lead a person to withdraw from a loved one and/or be unsatisfied with sex.

As porn becomes more normalized, we want to be a source of information pointing out that porn is not harmless. This isn’t a moral argument. This comes down to you and your personal relationships and your own sexuality, and the opportunity to make an informed decision about what will make them indefinitely thrive.

Related: Can Porn Improve An Intimate Relationship?

2. The claim: “Porn allows you to explore different aspects of sexuality that you may not be comfortable trying out in real life.”

The facts: Porn is made for entertainment, not education. And, consider that the majority of porn available on mainstream sites heavily features violence. So while someone might go to porn sites looking for diverse sexual expression, they’ll likely be confronted with a common theme: sexual violence, especially against women.

The largest study of online pornography to date was recently published in The British Journal of Criminology, and it raises urgent questions about the extent of sexually violent, nonconsensual, and even criminal material easily and freely available on mainstream porn websites. Over a six-month period, researchers analyzed the homepages of the three most popular porn websites—Pornhub, XVideos, and XHamster. 131,738 videos were surveyed—the largest sample used in a study to date.

The study concluded that 1 in 8 video titles alone shown to first-time users on the homepages was labeled with text describing sexually violent acts.

Related: 10 Things Porn Gets Completely Wrong About Real Sex

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The porn industry increasingly capitalizes on content that deviates from what more tame, “conventional” sex entails. In porn, violent images aren’t a passive byproduct, they’re the goal. Let’s look at more evidence.

A study done a few years ago analyzed 304 popular porn films and found that 88% of them contained physical violence and 49% of them included verbal aggression. And the women in the films, the majority of them recipients of the abuse, were shown as either neutral or enjoying the abuse.

Or, look at this 2020 study that entailed a large-scale content analysis and coding of a sample of 7,430 pornographic videos taken from the two most popular free porn sites, Pornhub and XVideosThe study found physical aggression against women present in 44.3% of Pornhub and 33.9% of Xvideos scenes. In fact, the study found that physical aggression was substantially more common in online pornographic videos than verbal aggression. Specifically, women were the target of nearly 97% of all physically aggressive acts in the samples from both sites.

Related: 3 Reasons Why NOT Watching Porn Is Sex-Positive

And check out this study published in 2021 that involved researchers analyzing the homepages of the three most popular porn websites—Pornhub, XVideos, and XHamster. 131,738 videos were surveyed, making it the largest study of online pornography to date. Recently published in The British Journal of Criminology, and it raises urgent questions about the extent of sexually violent, nonconsensual, and even criminal material easily and freely available on mainstream porn websites.

Violence in porn isn’t an exception, it embodies entire genres on porn sites.

Porn companies may sell the idea that they’re all about sexual exploration, but the reality shows the opposite: clearly, this industry significantly fuels and capitalizes significantly on sexual violence. The porn industry exploits the issues of sexual assault, abuse, and nonconsensual sexual encounters for entertainment, and profit.

So if you’re looking for healthy models of sexual expression and different aspects of sexuality, you are not likely to find it on a porn site. Not to mention that for an industry that often markets itself as being LGBTQ+ friendly, the porn industry exploits and fetishizes LGBTQ+ relationships endlessly. How is that acceptable?

3. The claim: “Porn is empowering because it allows performers and consumers to express their sexuality freely.”

The facts: It’s no secret that child exploitation, rape, trafficking, and even nonconsensual content have ended up on popular porn tube sites. Sometimes, porn and trafficking are one in the same—videos of trafficking victims end up on porn sites more often than you’d expect. But one of the most disturbing realities of the porn industry’s ecosystem is the abuse that even professional performers can sometimes face. Unfortunately, it’s pervasive. And when you look closely, you find that there is actually no formal system for reporting and addressing that abuse while keeping the performer safe. What’s worse? Those who do report abuse publicly are often blacklisted.

Some content on porn sites is absolutely nonconsensual. We are not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual, but rather, raising awareness that there is often no way to tell if the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or produced with coercion. To that end, it can be said that porn is not totally empowering to either the performer or the consumer.

Related: Does The Porn Industry Really Care About Empowering Women?

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Story after story arises of abuse on set, and consumers would be none the wiser (especially with the prevalence of violent porn on porn sites). Check out these ex-performers who tell about the horrors they faced while filming. Other online platforms have written exposés on the terrible abuse that is not being systematically addressed. Or if that isn’t convincing, just read this Jezebel.com storythis story on Daily Beastthis story on Complex.comthis Rolling Stone storythis Daily Beast storythis Bustle.com storythis story on CNNthis NY Post storythis Gizmodo.com storythis BBC reportthis Florida Sun-Sentinel reportthis Daily Wire storythis Buzzfeed News profileand this UK Independent story for further proof that the mainstream porn industry features nonconsensual videos and videos of trafficked individuals. And yes, this includes videos on Pornhub and other mainstream porn sites.

Is this truly empowering for anyone on either side of the screen?

Still, we’d like to set the record straight: Even if performers accept pay for work that abused them, it’s still unacceptable abuse. And no matter a person’s work, this kind of abuse should never be tolerated and is never deserved.

Related: Not All Porn Is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers.

For each of us, this is a reminder that consent is tricky in porn. It’s elusive, maybe near impossible to confirm. Even if something was filmed consensually at one time, performers can later regret signing away their consent. And aside from all of that, performers face a variety of pressures to smile and tell the camera everything is okay—financial pressure, career pressure, survival mode pressure, to name a few—but that’s clearly not always the case.

So, is porn always a harmless personal fantasy that allows for free sexual expression? Or is it an edited abusive nightmare? The trouble is, if you’re on the other side of the screen, there’s no way to tell. This is why we are exposing the industry for what it is: a facilitator of abuse and the epicenter of exploitation. Not always, no. But far more often than we could even know, and abusive content is sold on the same shelf as exploitative content with no clear way of how to tell the difference.

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