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Is it True that Everyone Watches Porn?

Here’s something to consider: no one needs porn. Guys don’t need porn. Women don’t need porn. People can choose for themselves.

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If porn wasn’t normalized in society anymore, that would be great for everyone.

Many men find it degrading that they are labeled as “needing” pornography. In our culture, it’s just assumed that men are going to watch porn, and society rationalizes it away.

“It’s what men do,” is the all too common expression. In fact, men should find the normalization of porn most offensive out of anyone. Does no one believe they’re capable of doing or choosing otherwise?

The same has gone for women, too. It’s no secret that one-third of the visitors to one of the world’s most popular porn site in 2021 were women, but does that mean that every woman has a porn habit? It wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that, right?

Have we bought the lie that it’s healthy because “everyone is doing it”?

Related: We Need to Talk About Porn. Is It As Harmless As Society Says It Is?

Just because something is common does not mean that it’s healthy for our lives or relationships. How hurtful this must be for those in our lives who feel hurt by porn, but are told that their feelings do not matter, and to get over it, because their partners are just going to look at it no matter what.

Here’s something to consider: no one needs porn.

Guys don’t need porn. Women don’t need porn. People are not purely animals controlled by their desires. Pornography can be just like any other behavioral addiction, but possibly more harmful in some ways, because we live in a society that widely accepts it without acknowledging its side effects or encouraging people to stay away from it.

Besides respecting and honoring a partner by staying away from porn, here are some other reasons why it’s important to refuse to be the “norm” when it comes to porn. And these reasons can be applied to anyone at any age and of any gender.

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It can change your brain

For many people, watching porn is something they separate from the rest of their life. It may seem like someone’s porn-watching life and real-world life are isolated from each other, but that’s not how it works. Our brain doesn’t exactly compartmentalize what we like to watch online with what we like in real interactions.

Did you know that thanks to a process called neuroplasticity, our brains are constantly changing? When we engage in an activity—particularly a pleasurable activity, and particularly if it involves repetition and intense focus—our brains alter themselves so that they’ll be better and more efficient at doing that activity the next time.

But this brain process can also be overwhelmed by what’s referred to as a supernormal stimulus—an exaggerated form of what’s normal.

Related: How Many Women Watch Porn?

Pornography, for example, can take our brains’ natural stimuli—our desire for intimacy and connection—and give us more quantity, more exaggerated, and more “supernormal” versions of that desire.Hilton D. L., Jr (2013). Pornography addiction - a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective neuroscience & psychology, 3, 20767. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767COPY  Through the neuroplastic process, porn can change what we perceive as normal, warp what we find exciting, and make real intimacy seem less interesting by comparison.Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419COPY 

These changes in our expectations can have tremendous implications for how we view others and how we view relationships.

It can twist your view of sex

Pornography can actually change the way consumers think about sex.

Most young people are getting at least some of their education about sex from porn, whether they mean to or not. In fact, one study shows that approximately 45% of teens who consumed porn did so in part to learn about sex.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY 

Similarly, survey results also show one in four 18 to 24-year-olds (24.5%) listed pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7COPY 

Related: I Quit Watching Porn 3 Months Ago, Here’s Why I’m Never Going Back

Survey results also revealed that over half of 11 to 16-year-old boys (53%) and over a third of 11 to 16-year-old girls (39%) reported believing that pornography was a realistic depiction of sex.Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J. R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2016/i-wasn-t-sure-it-was-normal-to-watch-itCOPY 

In fact, 44% of boys who watched porn reported that online pornography gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try.Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J. R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2016/i-wasn-t-sure-it-was-normal-to-watch-itCOPY 

This is especially concerning considering how wildly unrealistic and toxic porn can be. In fact, according to a 2021 study, 1 out of every 8 porn titles shown to first-time visitors to porn sites described acts of sexual violence.Vera-Gray, F., McGlynn, C., Kureshi, I., & Butterby, K. (2021). Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography. The British Journal of Criminology, doi:10.1093/bjc/azab035COPY 

In addition to the sexual violence shown in porn, porn also promotes sexist narratives, racist tropes, and other harmful ideas about sex and consent. What type of message does that send to young people who turn to porn to learn about sex?

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The industry profits from exploitation

How can you know whether the porn you’re watching is truly consensual? Well, the unfortunate truth is that in the porn industry, there is no guarantee.

Because of the brave survivors who have shared their stories in recent years, more light is being shed on the abusive practices of the porn industry, including their history of profiting from nonconsensual content.Mohan, M. (2020). ‘I was raped at 14, and the video ended up on a porn site’. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-51391981COPY 

Most major porn sites do not verify the age or consent of all participants involved in the content uploaded to their platforms, making it incredibly easy to upload image-based abuse (sometimes referred to as “revenge porn”) or even child sexual abuse material (also known as “child pornography”).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: 5 Ways Porn Can Negatively Affect Your Brain, Body, and Quality of Life

And unfortunately, even with adults who consent to be in porn, many performers are abused or taken advantage of on-set.Lange, A. (2018). This woman says authorities doubted her sexual assault claim because she does porn. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/arianelange/nikki-benz-porn-defamation-lawsuit-metoo#.ldPVz1Yg0YCOPY 

At the end of the day, it is virtually impossible to know whether any piece of pornographic content is truly consensual, ethical, or even legal.

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We can do better

It’s not okay that society puts the expectation of watching porn on anyone, as if they cannot choose otherwise for themselves.

“Everyone watches porn” is just a new way to say “boys will be boys.”

By making porn the gold standard for sexual expression, we ignore the individual preferences and standards of every person, and lump them all together as people who cannot think or act for themselves apart from porn.

Related: Get the Facts || How Can Porn Harm Consumers, Relationships, and Society?

Can we normalize not watching porn?

Many people who struggle with porn feel that they cannot always choose for themselves because of porn’s addictive nature. For those people, we say that recovery is not only possible, it’s biological.

It’s healthy to realize that you DO have a choice, regardless of what society tells you. Watching porn doesn’t make you any more or less of a person, while it certainly can have negative effects on your life and those around you.

In the end, it’s degrading to assume that anyone needs porn, because everyone can make up their own mind and the choice is ultimately up to them.

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