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5 Ways Porn Has Lied to You About Consent

Not only does porn rarely depict consent, but it often portrays a lack of consent as normal and desirable.

Trigger warning: This post contains graphic titles of porn videos that may be triggering to some readers.

Pornography doesn’t give an accurate picture of what healthy sex is like; it cuts out important things like consent, communication, foreplay, and other ways partners are responsive to each other’s needs and preferences.

What is consent?

“Sexual consent” generally refers to a communicated, informed, mutual agreement to engage in sexual activity.

Genuine sexual consent can be revoked at any time. Meaningful sexual consent cannot be given by anyone who is underage, intoxicated, coerced, tricked, forced, or otherwise incapacitated.

Portrayals of consent in porn

Not only does porn rarely depict consent, but it often portrays a lack of consent as normal and desirable.

Related: Porn Consumers More Likely to Choke Partners, Believing It’s “Safe” and Doesn’t Require Consent

Real porn titles from popular porn sites.

To illustrate what a lack of consent looks like on porn sites, here’s a small sample of porn titles that were found with a simple internet search:

  • “Please no” 5.4M views
  • “EXTREME SCREAMING PAINFUL ANAL DESTRUCTION AGAINST HER WILL” 2M views
  • “He said no but I shoved it up his a—” 5.2M views
  • “PLEASE DO NOT UPLOAD IT ON FACEBOOK. YEAH RIGHT.” 5.7M views
  • “Unwanted sex” 2.6M views
  • “Trick your GF” 13M views
  • “Cute Step-Sis Surprised by Brothers C—” 23.8M views
  • “Surprise Anal in Bar” 9.9M views
  • “Nephew Takes What His Aunt Won’t Give Him” 8.4M views

So how does porn, specifically, lie to consumers about sexual consent? And how do these lies tangibly impact people who watch porn?

1. Porn can fuel sexual entitlement

Research suggests that many people internalize sexual scripts from porn and often feel pressured to imitate porn in their own sex lives.

Given these toxic messages, it’s unsurprising that porn consumption is a significant predictor of feeling entitled to sex, which is an incredibly unhealthy way to approach consent.Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). 'Without Porn … I Wouldn't Know Half the Things I Know Now': A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of sex research, 52(7), 736–746. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908COPY Bouffard, Leana Allen (2010). “Exploring the utility of entitlement in understanding sexual aggression,” Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 38, Issue 5, Pages 870-879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2010.06.002.COPY 

2. A “yes” is only valid if “no” is a legitimate option.

In reality, “no” always means “no.” Coercing, tricking, or pressuring someone into sex, “surprising” them with a sex act they didn’t consent to, or ignoring them after they’ve asked to stop is sexual violence.

Related: Over Half of this Study’s Youth Participants Didn’t Understand What Consent Is

3. Image-based sexual abuse (aka “revenge porn”)

Consent is also important when it comes to sending nudes. Even if someone shares an image willingly, meaningful consent means that they reserve the right to revoke that consent at any time and that their images should never be nonconsensually shared with anyone else.

Store - General

4. Consent in porn production

In the porn industry, there is virtually no way to guarantee that any piece of pornographic content is truly consensual, ethical, or even legal.

Not only is there virtually no standard system in place to confirm age or consent in porn, but there’s also virtually no formal system for reporting and addressing industry abuse in a way that holds abusers accountable while keeping performers safe.Kristof, N. (2021). Why do we let corporations profit from rape videos? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/opinion/sunday/companies-online-rape-videos.htmlCOPY 

Related: “Why Was the Rape Victim so Upset?”—Why Teens Need Better Consent Education

5. Consent is sexy

Porn sends the message that a lack of consent is sexy, but that’s absolutely not true. When sexual partners actively consent to be with each other, communication about sexual preferences happens naturally, which can really help both partners have a more enjoyable experience.

Every individual’s desires are different, so assuming that they want whatever you’ve seen in porn can be risky and dangerous.

If you have been a victim of sexual violence or image-based sexual abuse, please know that it is not your fault and that there is hope for healing.

For help, visit RAINN’s website or call their free, confidential hotline at 800.656.HOPE.

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