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10 Things Porn Gets Completely Wrong About Real Sex

By February 5, 2020 February 20th, 2020 No Comments
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Fight the New Drug is an awareness organization educating about the harms of pornography on individuals, relationships, and society. We share research, facts, and personal accounts to help promote understanding for various aspects of this multi-faceted issue. Our goal is to maintain an environment where all individuals can have healthy and productive conversations about this issue, while acknowledging that this issue can impact any person or relationship differently.

In this piece, we dive into how porn misrepresents people of different genders and sexes, and how consumers are completely misinformed about sex basics by what's shown. 10-minute read.

What’s consumed in porn is often processed as reality—seared into memory as an unforgettable picture of what sex is and should be at its ideal. But what if those images, although perfectly crafted and powerfully convincing, aren’t an accurate or healthy depiction of reality at all?

When it comes to sex, many people turn to porn as a primary educator when they have natural questions and curiosities. However, even for those who consume porn only occasionally and casually, it can have a significant impact on the way they view themselves, their partner, and what’s sexually acceptable or desirable.

Some misrepresentations in porn are so common that they’ve even shaped popular perceptions of sex. And contrary to what the industry markets itself as, porn does anything but represent or promote a happy, safe, healthy sex life.

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Myth #1 – “The bigger the penis, the better the sex.”

Mainstream porn generally only shows one size of male genitalia in both straight and gay relationships—unrealistically larger than average. But the reality is, regardless of sexuality, size doesn’t determine ability or partner potential.

Even though what men see in porn isn’t representative of reality, research shows that explicit nude images can cause them to overanalyze their own body parts and be detrimental to their self-esteem.

In fact, by some estimates, about 40% of men with average-sized penises seek penis enlargement surgeries because they think they’re below average. From 2013-2017 alone, over 45,000 penis enhancements were done globally—and that doesn’t include other enhancement methods like surgery, fillers, pills, or injections.

Because men primarily see only one type of penis portrayed as desirable in porn—though smaller than average penises have inspired specific and separate fetish genres—and explicit content is their main frame of reference to compare themselves to, many needlessly criticize their own bodies and even avoid romantic encounters due to anxiety about their bodies.

If you need a dose of reality, just read what this porn director has to say about all the pill-popping on set, and how female porn performers can be injured if her partner is above average in size.

The fact is, real bodies are a range of shapes, shades, and sizes, so assuming all people will only have quality sex with the largest penis out there—or that that’s what sex is all about—is simply false.

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Myth #2 – “Lesbian women can be seduced by ‘the right guy.’”

For an industry that often markets itself as being LGBTQ+ friendly, the porn industry exploits and fetishizes LGBTQ+ relationships endlessly.

Related: What Years Of Gay Porn Never Taught Me About Healthy Love Or Relationships

Although “lesbian” has remained one of the most searched for terms on popular porn sites over the past few years, the majority of mainstream porn isn’t necessarily made for a queer audience at all. And, not surprisingly, mainstream porn gets a lot of things wrong about queer sex in general.

In this viral video from a few years ago, “lesbian porn” was critiqued by women who are lesbians who pointed out the ridiculous fake fantasies of the genre, noting the fact that it’s predominantly guys who watch it.

Here are a few quotes from women in the video as well as a Vice article on the issue:

“The thing about lesbian porn is, most of it is not made for lesbians, it makes it look like we have completely awful sex.”

“What real lesbian sex looks like is never really depicted properly in lesbian porn, it’s more what people think lesbians do. More often than not it’s just two straight girls acting. It’s not really genuine but then again, is any porn genuine?”

“For me, sex is more of an emotional bond between two people and that’s not how it is in lesbian porn. In lesbian porn, they’re trying to make each other have an orgasm in two seconds and that’s never the case. Sleeping with a girl takes work.”

None of this is real. Please don’t assume that any woman—gay, straight, whatever—would find any of that remotely pleasurable.”

Some of the most common storylines found on popular porn tube sites include a lesbian couple being seduced by a mailman, pizza delivery guy, or male plumber, or lesbian women trying to seduce their straight family members or roommates.

What harmful attitudes does all of this perpetuate? That female sexuality isn’t to be taken seriously, that all lesbian women are predatory, and that “the right man” has the power to change someone’s sexuality entirely. This is not an accurate representation of reality.

The simple fact is, lesbian women can’t just be “seduced” by the “right guys,” nor is it every lesbian’s goal to seduce non-lesbian women—no matter how much porn aims to fantasize those ideas.

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Myth #3 – “Pleasurable penetration happens with no preparation.”

Porn often fails to portray the preparation involved in sex, including foreplay. Frankly, it’s unrealistic and uncomfortable for most people to engage in penetrative sex without preparation—whether that’s anal, vaginal, or otherwise.

Dr. Joseph Terlizzi, a colon and rectal surgeon, says that people being penetrated during anal sex need to take time to prepare their bodies in order to avoid getting hurt. If not, “you’ll run the risk of tearing skin” or, in some cases, severely damaging your body.

In porn, forceful sex of any type without adequate preparation is seen as pleasurable and the norm. But in real life, not preparing beforehand and not taking care of yourself and your partner can lead to an uncomfortable and painful experience.

Myth #4 – “Bisexual women want to have sex with everyone, all the time.”

In porn, bisexual individuals—predominantly women—are fetishized for their attraction to different genders and are often portrayed as willing to have sex with anyone at any time.

Basically, in porn, bisexual people always have insanely high sex drives and will jump at any opportunity for a threesome. Many porn consumers may make the argument that this portrayal of bisexual people is intended to be an exaggerated fantasy, but what is this fantasy doing to misrepresent real people?

Porn sells the idea that bisexual individuals are hypersexual, serial cheaters, and always interested in a sexual encounter whenever and with whoever. What porn clearly gets wrong is that bisexual individuals, like everyone else, have individual libidos, desires, and longing for connection. Portraying a person as a fetish is a dehumanizing misrepresentation.

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Myth #5 – “Derogatory or demeaning behavior during sex is completely normal and evokes a positive reaction—even if it’s nonconsensual.”

Some partners who have discussed “rougher” things prior to having sex may agree together on trying them, but this discussion and consent process isn’t what porn consumers see. Mainstream porn normalizes behaviors like spitting or peeing on your partner during sex, or strangling them, or ejaculating on their face—particularly without consent, which is never okay.

While violent and sometimes life-threatening sex acts like strangling are often talked about in pop culture as if everyone secretly loves it, this could be a misconception because of mainstream porn.

In a Guardian piece about the rising deadly trend of strangulation during sex, Erika Lust—one of the world’s only female porn directors—agrees that strangulation and choking scenes now dominate porn. “Face slapping, choking, gagging and spitting has become the alpha and omega of any porn scene and not within a BDSM context,” she says. “These are presented as standard ways to have sex when, in fact, they are niches.”

In a recent study of the most popular mainstream porn videos, 9 out of 10 scenes showed a woman being hit, beaten, yelled at, or otherwise harmed, and the result was almost always the victim responding with either pleasure or no response at all.

Related: Sex Sells, But In Today’s Porn Culture, Objectification And Dehumanizing Violence Sell More

But what happens when these behaviors are acted out in real life, especially without any warning? One woman recently shared her experience:

“Not long after we got married, we were having sex when, out of nowhere, he spit on me…He was embarrassed when he saw that he wasn’t getting the reaction he was expecting.

What he’d seen had created unrealistic expectations for what sex would be like. He saw people do things to each other and get certain reactions, and assumed they’d transfer into real life. When they didn’t, his secret was exposed and what he thought had been a harmless release of tension ended up being damaging to our relationship.”

Not everyone’s sexual template will be the same, but the important thing porn videos usually skip over is talking through what is expected with a partner, what’s okay and not okay, and both enthusiastically consenting beforehand.

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Myth #6 – “Consuming porn will make you a better sexual partner, guaranteed.”

Porn might seem sexy, but it actually teaches consumers pretty terrible sex lessons. Take it from this guy who recently shared his story:

“I had always believed that watching porn and studying the actors would make me a great lover for a partner in the future, that it would make me even sexier and help me get a girlfriend. None of the above reasons were true, though. Getting sex advice from porn actually turned me into the worst guy in bed. Honestly, it got so bad that practically only porn aroused me, not even my girlfriend.

Truthfully, all the ideas I ever believed about porn were such lies. Porn didn’t make me more confident, it didn’t make me a better lover, and it didn’t make my relationships better. All I got from porn was just time wasted, exhaustion, and bad sex advice.”

As a result of natural curiosity, many young people turn to porn to learn about sex. But what type of education are they actually getting?

Research shows that porn often leads to less sex, less satisfying sex, and for many consumers, no sex at all. The exact opposite of what porn promises consumers.

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Myth #7 – “You have to look/act a certain way to be desirable/sexy.”

Porn sells an unattainable image of what you need to look like to be desired sexually. Some people have even gone to great lengths to try to “measure up” to their partner’s favorite porn performers only to find that no matter how hard they try, their partner can never be satisfied or content.

This makes sense, given that research shows after being exposed to pornographic images, people are often more critical of their partner’s appearance, sexual curiosity, sexual performance, and displays of affection.

“It used to be there were parts of girls’ bodies that were not exposed to public opinion,” sex-education author and advocate Dr. Emily Nagoski was quoted saying in Time Magazine. “There’s hardly any body part left that girls are allowed to be not critical of.”

Specifically, for cisgender women, this includes having body shame about their breasts, vaginal labia, and parts of their bodies that may have very normal and natural things like cellulite or stretch marks. But in so much of mainstream porn, these things look a very specific way that is in no way representative of what’s average.

And when these girls become sexually active, they are not only interpreting their own observations and comparisons, but also those of their partners:

“Meanwhile, boys who use porn to learn about female genitals may recoil when they actually encounter them in real life, damaging a girl’s sexual self-worth,” wrote Rachel Simmons, author of Why More Teen Girls Are Getting Genital Surgery. “Not surprisingly, many girls come to believe there is something wrong with their bodies.”

But girls aren’t the only ones who have been misled by porn to believe that “sexy” has to look or act a certain way.

Related: 4 Ways Porn Warps The Way Women View Themselves

In porn, gay, straight, and transgender individuals are portrayed in very specific ways or made out to be objects or objects of a fetish rather than real people who are deserving of love and respect just as they are.

In a recent interview, one transgender woman recently shared:

“When porn hyperfixates on a marginalized (performer’s) body size, race, gender, and/or capabilities, the marginalized viewers take a toll… This is doubly the case for people who are regularly stereotyped as monstrous or grotesque, such as transwomen. We come to believe that our bodies are fundamentally unlovable, or that they can only be desirable on another person’s terms.”

Bottom line, all people—whatever their sexual identity, color, shape, or size—are more than just a collection of body parts and deserving love and respect.

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Myth #8 – “You have to be willing to go to the extreme and do anything and everything your partner wants—even if it makes you uncomfortable.”

The pressure young people feel from the way sex is portrayed in porn is real, and can lead to significantly harmful behaviors. One woman recently emailed us and shared her experience.

“When I thought a sex position or act wasn’t possible, my boyfriends would respond with, ‘It’s possible, I’ve seen it.’

I wanted to train myself to be so eager about sex, and so easily aroused that I would willingly do anything my boyfriend asked….. When I wasn’t comfortable with doing something with him, he thought it would be a good idea to have me watch the act in porn to see what it’s ‘really like.’ He told me, ‘See, that’s what it’s like, there are some girls out there who go even crazier.’

I was really determined to be able to do what that girl was doing. I was so determined to be even more adventurous than anything he’d seen so that I would have his undivided attention.”

Lack of communication and feeling pressured to do sex acts beyond what makes you comfortable just because porn makes it look fun and easy isn’t a recipe for a healthy or safe sex life—and no one should have to live up to the unrealistic expectations set by porn.

Porn is not produced with accurate information about sex in mind. It’s produced as an exaggerated product for entertainment—and no one deserves to feel pressured into sex acts they don’t really want to try.

Myth #9 – “Sexual pleasure in a relationship is one-sided.”

A harmful yet all too common theme in porn is lopsided pleasure dynamics—in porn, male sexual pleasure is the main priority. In a recent analysis of the 50 most viewed videos of all time on Pornhub, researchers found that 78% of men were shown having an orgasm, compared to just 18.3% of women.

According to porn, the male orgasm is paramount, and women (of all sexual orientations) exist to deliver men pleasure.

What’s especially concerning is that what people see as a visual representation in porn often shapes what they expect out of their real-life experiences. Men and boys are taught that to be a “man” they must be aggressive and dominant, while women and girls are indoctrinated to be submissive and not speak out about their own needs, even when they’re in pain. Or if they are in pain, that’s marketed as a turn-on for the consumer instead of a red flag.

Is it really worth it to take sex tips from an industry that so clearly profits from fake orgasms?

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Myth #10 – “Protection-free sex is risk-free.”

Research has repeatedly found that those who consume a significant amount of porn are more likely to start having sex sooner and with more partners, to engage in riskier sexual behavior, and to be at greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. Research also shows that individuals who consume porn are more likely to go to prostituted persons, often seeking to actually try out what they’ve seen in porn.

When a young person visits a mainstream porn site, they’ll see entire categories depicting things like group sex, gange rape, brutal anal sex, surprise anal sex (this is rape), women being humiliated and degraded by more than one man at a time, unprotected sex with strangers, and other dangerous and/or violent sex acts.

Related: 10 Big Differences Between Healthy Sex And The Sex Porn Portrays

Of course, we’re not saying that everyone who consumes porn will participate in the acts mentioned above. Even still, scenarios like these are more common because it’s what consumers have seen normalized and glamorized in porn.

What’s also harmful is how, in porn, consumers don’t see performers suffer the consequences of the kind of sex portrayed. In videos, no one is portrayed as contracting sexually transmitted infections, there are no unplanned pregnancies (unless that’s part of the plot), no skin tearing or bruises—really no emotional, mental, physical trauma or repercussions displayed at all. But is that realistic?

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What impact could porn’s harmful sex education have?

Bottom line, porn is a business. And just like any business selling a product, the industry is driven by a competitive market. Pornographers are constantly going to the extremes in attempts to outdo each other and get the most views, regardless of the harmful indoctrination that content is instilling in consumers whether it be toxic ideas about LGBTQ+ individuals, false ideas about body image, or unrealistic expectations for sex.

And just as harmful as what porn shows is what it doesn’t show—mutual respect, dignity, intimate touch, open communication, checking in with consent, awareness of your partner’s needs, and appreciation and respect for all body types and preferences.

So how can we help limit the advancement of these harmful ideals and promote healthy ones? By exposing the lies and spreading the truth about porn. Because everyone deserves love, respect, and so much more than the harmful sex porn sells as “fantasy.”

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