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We need to talk about porn

The first time I saw porn, I was 14 years-old. A bunch of guys were passing around a video one of them had on their phone.

It was low quality (both the video and the imagery) and apart from the fact that these two people were having sex, there wasn’t anything too shocking about it.

x-rated-stamp-20966065Fast forward ten years and it’s a whole different story. Last night, RTE aired the final part of its two-episode documentary called “We Need To Talk About Porn”. Watching both episodes in a short amount of time, two things struck me :
  • Adults, particularly parents, would make up most of the demographic tuning in to watch
  • The people who really need to have an honest and informative conversation about this are teenagers and young people.

How porn is used

Porn is nothing new, but what has changed is the nature of porn and the use of porn.

It’s easy for me to remember (because it wasn’t that long ago) how terrifying being a teenager can be. Your body is changing and developing before your very eyes.

You’re self-conscious, hormonal, and it feels like so many people expect you to be so many different things. Your teachers, parents, friends and peers, boys and girls – all have different expectations for you. At times, adolescence can feel like an endurance test.

After watching last night’s programme and doing a bit of research, it’s clear there’s now extra pressure coming from porn. There is nothing wrong with using porn, but there is a right and wrong way to use it.

Unreal comparisons

Porn is not sex education. It is fantasy. It’s not based in real-life and is not an average portrayal of sex. There are young men and women now viewing pornography as if it were real-life and then comparing themselves, their bodies and their sexual activity, based upon what they’re watching. That’s not OK – for so many reasons.

To think that porn sets a realistic standard for sex is harmful. Firstly most people don’t look like porn stars – guys or girls. Nor do you have to.

In a world where there’s many ways to be attractive and sexy, porn presents one narrow offering. At a time when your sexuality is still developing, it’s very easy for that false impression to be made on you. That ‘s an expectation that would put a huge amount of pressure on anyone.

Then, there’s the content. The most widely available free porn is hardcore and extreme in its nature. It’s often degrading, particularly towards women. If you’re at a time when you’re exploring sex for the first time, it can give a false idea as to what sex is.

I’m not going to give you the standard line that so many parents provide: “Sex is a loving act between a man and a woman” etc. Sex can be a loving act between a man and a woman.

But, it also often occurs without love. As humans, we have physical urges and desires that aren’t always fulfilled in “traditional” ways. Sex doesn’t always lead to love in the same way a first date doesn’t always lead to a relationship. Sex doesn’t only happen between a man and a woman.

Personal preferences

The truth is, there is no one standard for what sex is. It depends on the people involved and what they like and enjoy. It’s a personal preference. The risk of a diet of porn can lead you to believe  what you view defines “good sex” and anything else is boring.

What struck me most of all watching that documentary is that there are a lot of young people who aren’t aware of that.

They are questioning whether there is something wrong with their bodies. Or, if it’s OK to have pubic hair (because very few porn stars do) or if they’re expected to know how to perform a list of sex acts, in various different positions. As one young person to another, I’m telling you, you’re not.

Your own sexual discovery

If you don’t want to have sex like you’re in a porno, you’re not a freak. You’re not a prude if what you enjoy isn’t as dramatic as what’s depicted online. Your sexual discovery is your discovery. There is no list of things you should and shouldn’t like.

It’s OK to know your own boundaries when it comes to what you want to try or enjoy, in fact it’s a good idea to know them. It’s more than OK to be vocal about that to the person you are sexually active with.

Sex should never be something that makes you feel uncomfortable, scared or pressured. If it does, then you need to say so. Talk to the person you’re involved with, a friend, or someone you trust. But don’t ever think that you have to engage in some kind of performance because it’s what everyone else is doing. It’s not.

The reality is the only person who should be deciding if, how, and when you have sex, is you.

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