Why The Anti-Porn Movement Is Wrong

I love learning about what makes relationships work.

Carl-and-Ellie-in-Up-GIFIt fascinates me to know that billions of people all over the world are in committed relationships, and every single one of these relationships is absolutely, 100% unique to every other relationship in history. Isn’t that wild?!

There are literally an infinite number of ways to create, maintain, and grow a romantic relationship.

It’s so inspiring to me that there is no secret recipe for creating a truly happy, fulfilling, and loving relationship because it means it’s completely up to you to determine what you want and what works best for you!

[Queue the segue…]

One of the most important and complicated elements in most romantic relationships is developing healthy sexuality as individuals and as a couple.

Yes, I mean sexuality, not just sex.

I’ve heard that term “healthy sexuality” come up a lot over the years… but what the heck does that mean? What’s this “healthy sexuality” everyone’s talking about?

Well, first we need to understand what sexuality is. To do this, it helps to first understand what it’s not…

What Sexuality Is Not

Sexuality is not your sex.

Your sex is your biological status, most often determined by your sex chromosomes, and the type of reproductive organs you have.

Sexuality is not Gender.

Your gender is comprised of your attitudes, feelings, and behaviors towards other humans, and how these behaviors fit in with other normative cultural expectations aka: gender roles. Your brain determines the gender with which you identify… not your genitals.

Sexuality is not Sexual Orientation.

Sexual orientation is defined by WHO you love/date/are attracted to.

Each of the above topics is far more complex and nuanced than I’ve described. They worthy of their own individual blog posts (or their own books… which other people have already written). But what I’ve detailed should be enough to make my point.

So now you know what sexuality isn’t. Let’s talk about what it is.

What Sexuality Is

Liz Lemon SesualSexuality is as complex as your own identity as a person.

Think about the set of qualities and beliefs that make you completely different and unique from everyone else.

For example, I’m a guy who likes hamburgers, The Muppets, and occasionally picks his nose when nobody is looking. I value my family and my friends. I believe in the power of kindness. I value hard work, compassion, integrity, and I believe that I will never be done growing (figuratively) as a human being.

Those are a small number of the qualities and beliefs that identify me. That list could probably be 1,000 pages long and still be unfinished.

See how complex this is getting?

Now let’s complete the analogy.

Sexuality is a combination of your sexual orientation, your gender, your sex, the gender roles of the society you live in, how comfortable you are with your body, your values, your self esteem, and your sexual experiences. It’s how you’ve been influenced by your religion, family, friends, age, goals, and the media. It’s how you experience touch, love, compassion, joy, sadness and loneliness. It’s how you dress, what you find funny. And it’s how you feel about it all!

Do you see how sexuality is incredibly nuanced, fluid, complex and messy?

Yet we have a tendency to want to simplify sexuality. Simple things make us feel comfortable and safe.

We often package up our sexuality with binary words like “good/bad,”” right/wrong,” “safe/risky,” “clean/dirty,” or “gay/straight.”

We attach labels and judgements to thoughts, feelings, behaviors, groups and practices that we agree with or don’t agree with… that we feel a part of, or that make us uncomfortable.

The things we desire sexually we rush to deem as acceptable. But once we run up against something that makes us uncomfortable, or isn’t up our alley, we rush to identify it as something that is perverse, gross, dirty or sinful.

The Hazards of Poor Judgement

Judgement is a very human behavior. We all do it.

Good judgement kDonald Trumpeeps us safe. It’s what keeps us from jumping off a cliff, walking into a dark alley at night, or talking to strangers.

Excessive, uninformed judgement turns us into close-minded self-righteous a-holes who are isolated from the world and condemn anyone who is different from them. Think Donald Trump.

And when it comes to sexuality too much judgement, especially uninformed or ill-informed judgement can be harmful and dangerous.

I’ll demonstrate this in about 5 paragraphs.

Where The Anti-Porn Movement Goes Wrong

This is where the Anti-Porn movement goes wrong.

We’ve been quick to assign porn the labels of “bad,” “evil,” “wrong,” “addictive,” and “destructive.”

Yet people (women included) look at porn for a HUGE list of reasons… and many of them are not “bad,” “evil,” or “destructive.”

For example:

People look at porn because they’re curious. They have a sensation, a desire, or a fantasy they would like to explore in a safe environment. Porn is a private and easy way to explore these often-new desires and curiosities.

People look at porn as an emotional escape. Everyone has moments where the stress, anxiety, and overwhelm in life becomes too much to handle. Porn consumers sometimes turn to porn as a quick escape from the pressures of life.

People look at porn because they feel cut off and lonely. They may not have a romantic partner, or even close friends. Porn is their short-term virtual companion and escape from loneliness.

People look at porn because they want to research new and exciting things to do in the bedroom.

Before reading on, take a moment to reflect. What were your emotional reactions to the reasons I listed above? Did any of them make you uncomfortable? Did you have the “I don’t agree, so that is wrong/bad and not right/good!” narrative going on in your head?

the deanHaving a “healthy” relationship with your sexuality means you can feel those judgements and ask yourself questions like this:

  • Where did my judgements around sexuality come from?
  • Are my judgements and opinions on sexuality fixed or adjustable?
  • Am I willing to challenge my beliefs?
  • Am I willing to have civil conversations with, and seek understanding with people who may have different opinions than my own?
  • Have I ever changed my beliefs around sexuality in the past? Why? Could it happen again?

If you have an unhealthy relationship with porn, you probably have an unhealthy relationship with your sexuality.

Alternatively, one of the best things we can do to combat porn abuse is to develop healthy sexuality.

That means being willing to set aside your judgements regarding what you believe to be “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad.” It means expressing empathy and attempting to understand the experience of others before labeling them. It’s being willing to challenge your own paradigm.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate for porn. Not even a little bit. I am, however, an advocate for compassion, understanding, empathy, and healthy sexuality.

Annie Edison UncomfortableWhat has the potential to destroy your marriage is not porn. It’s your unwillingness to understand the why’s, when’s, and what’s that prompt you or your partner to look at porn. It’s your resistance to exploring your partner’s fantasy without judgement. It’s your refusal to share the things you’re ashamed of that feed your shame cycle*. It’s your unwillingness to be vulnerable enough demonstrate to your partner your desire to develop a healthy emotional attachment full of honesty, transparency, and courage. It’s the judgements you carry regarding what you believe to be “right” or “wrong.” It’s your defiance to educate yourself – even if it makes you a little uncomfortable – to the idea that someone else can have a valid experience that is unlike your own and that their experience may not be wrong, evil, or bad.

For example:

Imagine if every teenager who looked at porn had a relationship with a compassionate adult in their life with whom they felt comfortable sharing their experience. The adult could comfortably ask them shame-free questions like, “What did you experience?” “What did you enjoy?” “What did you not enjoy?” “Where do you think those positive/negative feelings came from?” “Would you like to look at porn again? Why or why not?” “Have you thought about _______?”

What would change? How would the world be different?

It’s time to move away from the widely-held myths that men are the only ones who struggle with porn. Or that anyone who looks at porn is an addict, or in danger of becoming an addict. Or that all porn is damaging and unrealistic.

voldemortPorn is like Voldemort (aka: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named). It holds power over us because we are scared of it, and we are unwilling to talk about it.

The best way to combat porn is to celebrate our nuanced and complicated sexuality! We must give ourselves permission to talk about it! We must try to understand each other, cultivate our desires, and banish shame from the conversation.

You are a sexual snowflake.

(*Pro Tip: Most people who view porn and don’t want to – from casual observers, to those who watch porn several times a day –  are stuck in a negative shame cycle that consists of doing something wrong, keeping it a secret, and having lots of judgement around it. Break the cycle by making it ok to talk about, and getting rid of the judgement, and you can help those you care about develop healthy habits to manage their sexuality that don’t include porn. Handling it with anger, outrage, and more judgement will just make it worse.)

Huge thanks to Kristin Hodson for her help and guidance with this piece. She’s an incredible sex therapist, human being, mother, and friend (in no specific order). If you want to learn more about her, you can visit her website here, or follow her on Facebook here.

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I'm the creator of The Loveumentary. I believe that just like art, language, and music, love is a skill that can be developed and mastered if you have the right training, mentors, and a high level of commitment. My hope is to help bring the possibility of extraordinary love to you and others like you. Thanks for reading! Please drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback.

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4 Comments Permalink
  • J. Bruce Wilcox

    Maybe one day we’ll actually get beyond the judgments we humans have placed on our very varied human sexuality. And grow up. But I doubt it.

  • ZSH

    This is some fantastic writing! I really enjoyed what you said. Thank you for taking the time to compile this article.

  • I probably shouldn’t admit this, because… TMI, but I have looked at porn before simply because I was curious. I wanted to see women’s bodies engaging in sexy or sexual behavior. Not because it aroused me but because I was so insecure with myself, that if I looked at their bodies and saw their flaws and how they still looked awesome, then I could feel awesome about myself. Because the media lies. It tells you your body has to look flawless and you have to be a minx in the sack. Or you suck. And your man deserves to cheat on you.

    Two things happened:

    At first I thought of all the ways mine didn’t look like theirs, and how I was worse.

    Then I thought of all the ways mine was better and I felt awesome.

    And a third bonus thing happened. It took pressure off me to be a sex panther. Because it was all just… Funny.

    It’s all about why you do it, what you feel about it and what it does to you and your relationships. I don’t look at it very often and I rarely seek it out. But I do think we could all benefit from de-bunking the myth of perfect bodies, tantric positions, and movie scene sex being the bar for our sex lives. There’s a lot of realistic, non-playboy style porn out there, and seeing it did wonders for my psyche. (And grossed me out a little. Because… Super Hairy dudes and floppy boobs, well… You get the point). We live in a culture that frequently lies to us about what is real. The movie Don Jon hits this very topic very well!

    When you do have sex there are sometimes movie scene moments and crazy sessions, but overall it’s different for everyone. And there is nothing wrong with non-porno style sex. That’s what most of us are getting. And we like it, too.

    • This is so great. I love it when you share your thoughts, Lana. 🙂