Blog

How Our Culture’s Obsession with Porn has Changed Dating Expectations

By March 21, 2019 No Comments
This article was originally posted on Verily by Monica Gabriel Marshall. It has been edited for content and clarity. 6 minute read.

Not long ago, a woman from the United Kingdom named Michelle shared with the internet a text she received from a man she had a lovely date with after meeting on Tinder. I will spare you from having to suffer through the entire message, but the gist is that he sang her praises; he told her she was amazing and someone he could see himself with…except that he didn’t want to pursue a relationship with her because he feared she wasn’t skinny enough.

“I would marry you like a shot if you were a slip of a girl because what you have in that mind of yours is utterly unique, and I really really love it,” he explains.

“So whilst I am hugely turned on by your mind, your face, your personality (and I really, really am), I can’t say the same about your figure,” he continues. “So I can sit there and flirt and have the most incredibly fun evening, but I have this awful feeling that when we got undressed, my body would let me down. I don’t want that to happen, baby.”

Related: Sex Before Kissing – How 15-Year-Old Girls Are Dealing With Porn-Addicted Boys

First of all, no. Secondly, on what planet does he think that this much honesty is necessary for a first date breakup?

An Issue Deeper Than Skin Deep

This went viral because of course it’s outrageous—but also because it confirms a sneaking suspicion many women have that men are only attracted to one kind of physical beauty, and of course the same can be said of women to men. The truth is that healthy-minded men don’t snub beautiful women because they don’t fit one very narrow standard of beauty. That’s not normal, and it’s not okay. It’s important that you know that.

Here’s the truth about what healthy hetero men find attractive in a woman. Healthy men are attracted to women—and all that entails. Within that is a vast category of stimuli such as chemistry, pheromones, tenor of voice, and the way a woman moves, which has been shaped early in life and varies depending on the guy. We like to call this a “type,” but scientists call it an “arousal template.”

“Choosing a mate based on physical attraction is how we are wired,” Matt Fradd, speaker and executive director of The Porn Effect tells Verily. “That said, pornography can change our sexual template and instill in us unrealistic and unhealthy expectations.”

Related: True Story: Porn Twisted My Sexuality & Altered My Sexual Tastes

It used to be believed that arousal templates were fixed (e.g., a leggy blond-loving guy would always be a leggy blond-loving guy), but research now shows that this is not so. According to some recent research, porn addiction can desensitize arousal stimuli and cause a person’s arousal template to change and often escalate to require more extreme stimuli. Fradd clarifies that exposure to arousing visual stimuli, such as porn, can also make us sexually attracted to things we should not be attracted to: “Think (or don’t) of the many weird fetishes out there that people get sucked into,” Fradd notes.

All of the images in porn, or even just in sexy advertisements, can influence what we find attractive—in ourselves and others.

An Impossible Standard of Beauty

The fact is, being surrounded by tons of skinny, naked women, and tons of buff, ripped men has given many people a new standard of beauty or attractiveness.

In 2002 the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy published research showing that when men viewed pictures of centerfold models from Playboy and Penthouse, their judgments about the attractiveness of “average people” were significantly lowered. As disheartening as it may be to hear, men and women in the dating world are constantly comparing themselves and others to unrealistic standards of beauty. This phenomenon is not only messing with our self-esteem, but it’s also impairing our ability to find a mate.

Related: Why Bad Sex And Low Self-Esteem Result From Watching Porn

Michelle’s story is evidence of the damage that a warped arousal template can do to someone dating and trying to find love. “And I’m ashamed to say, for a few moments, it worked,” Michelle tells her Tinder date in an open letter. “You stirred a dormant fear that every woman who has ever been a teenage girl has—that it doesn’t matter how funny you are, how clever, how kind, how passionate, how loyal, how determined, or adventurous or vibrant—if you’re a stone overweight, no one will ever find you desirable.”

And for guys, the stigma that only well-endowed muscular guys can be good partners is completely inaccurate and hurtful to males everywhere. Newsflashreal people don’t look like porn stars, so when a porn viewer wires their arousal template to be attracted to one specific type of person, they are potentially setting themselves up to miss out on some awesome mates.

If you have ever felt that way, know that people like Michelle’s Tinder date are unhealthy (clearly)—but the email aside, one certain type of beauty is not the universal type. When you are dating in a pool of healthy-minded mates, one size does not fit all.

I beg all men and women to seriously think about how your type might be influenced by the images and unrealistic fantasies you consume. It’s important for all of us to ask ourselves if the standard of beauty to which we hold those we date—and ourselves—is realistic and if it might be getting in the way of finding real happiness with an authentic man or woman.

___________________

Don’t take fake

Porn capitalizes on a lot of unhealthy, false ideas, and these are just a few of them. It sells the idea that someone’s physical appearance and ability to give pleasure is the most important thing about them, and given the exaggerated physical fantasies it portrays as “entertainment,” it’s also actually influencing what consumers find attractive.

We’re raising awareness about the damaging effects of porn because we believe everyone deserves a fighting chance at love and building a healthy relationship. After all, fighting for love means holding out for real relationships that are founded on respect, mutuality, and authenticity.

Related: My Best Friend Won’t Date Me Because I Don’t Look Like A Porn Star

In the world of porn, body-shaming messages like the one Michelle’s Tinder date sent are totally okay and acceptable because someone’s body is completely disposable and respect doesn’t matter as much as an attraction. Shallow surface-level attraction is the currency in porn, and we’re here to say that’s cheap.

Hold out for something real—hold out for real love.

Send this to a friend

Like all websites, we use cookies. By continuing on this site, you agree to our use of cookies. More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close