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Is all pornography bad? The pros and cons of adult entertainment

If you’re a fan of the American comedy-drama series Scrubs, you’ll be familiar with this quote from Dr. Cox: “I’m fairly sure that if they took porn off the internet, there’d be only one website left and it’d be called Bring back the porn!” And if you’re too young to have watched Scrubs, well, you still get what that means — porn is everywhere. Chances are, you’ve watched pornography in your life and if you haven’t, it’s likely that many more people around you do so than you think. People love pornography and it’s easy to see why: it’s arousing, cheap (and often free), and can come in all shapes and sizes (although not as much as we’d like it to). From hot videos to erotic tales and comics, humans love to find ways to let their fantasies run wild. However, many wonder if pornography is bad for their health as well as that of the people involved in its production. Indeed, there is a bad side to porn that can’t be ignored. In this article, you’ll find information about the effects of pornography on consumers, performers, and how to experience it in a safe way. You will also learn what feminism porn is and what it’s trying to achieve.

sexy guy masturbating erotic cartoon by Kinky Karrot

Is it normal to watch Pornography?

Absolutely. In fact, the majority of people watch or have watched porn videos. Numbers of course vary depending on age and location. To give you an idea, recent US-based research found that 30% of internet content can be described as pornography-related and 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites. Elsewhere, the situation is similar: a 2018 survey by the University of Prague and the Prague University of Economics and Business found that 71.8% of Millennials in the Czech Republic watch pornographic material. So in case you’re wondering, you’re not alone in watching porn and there’s nothing unnatural about your behavior.

Do women watch porn?

The answer, again, is yes, women watch porn too. The same Czech research found that nearly 60% of surveyed women reported accessing it regularly. Normally, men consume more porn than women. This may be due to several factors, including but not limited to:

  • Social conditioning — in most societies, female sexuality is or has long been repressed and discouraged, and watching porn is considered a shameful activity for women

  • Medium and platform — many women find non-visual content more arousing and may prefer erotic literature and other non-visual platforms

  • Content — most online porn is geared towards a male audience, it often objectifies and dehumanizes female bodies, and may not be appealing to a female public

Should I be upset that my partner watches porn?

The fact that many people enjoy pornography doesn’t mean that you should too. If you do not watch porn and find out that your partner does, you may be confused and even worried.

There’s no need to be upset, and showing a confrontational attitude about it may do more harm to your relationship than the porn itself. Legal and consensual pornographic material rarely has a bad effect on people and their partners, but the way we go about it may.

Try instead to create a safe space to communicate and talk about your partner’s and your own desires and fantasies, exploring each other’s sexuality. You may even find a new way to spice up your sex life.

Positive Effects of Watching Pornography

Especially if you’ve grown up in a conservative and/or religious environment, you may be used to hearing the opposite of this, but pornography can have positive effects on consumers and their mental and sexual health, and on society as a whole.

A research paper by Leighton Professor of Law Antony D’Amato with the telling title Porn Up, Rape Down found that better broadband and internet pornography access is related to a decrease in rape numbers. The US states that increased their broadband connection saw a 27% decrease in rape and attempted rape, and those with the worst access had a 53% increase over the same period.

When it comes to individual consumers, finding an outlet for one’s desires can have positive effects on the psyche. It’s well known that feelings of shame and sexual repression can isolate and depress individuals, leading to mental health issues and, in the worst cases, even suicidal tendencies.

When it comes to relationships, pornography can be a harmless way of expressing one’s desires in couples with non-matching libidos.

Consensual, legal porn can also be a safe space to explore one’s sexuality, especially for individuals who don’t feel like they can open up in their community and are exposed to potential bullying, aggression, and abuse for not identifying with heteronormative desires.

The Bad Side of Porn

Pornography can, however, also have devastating negative effects on its consumers and industry professionals.

This has nothing to do with the simple fact of watching erotic material but rather with factors such as exploitation and unsafe work policies on one side, and the type of content and the age at which the consumer is exposed to it on the other.

The Risks of Porn for Viewers

One of the downsides of having porn everywhere on the internet is overexposure. It’s not unusual for internet users who surf the web for reasons not related to sex to continuously ‘come across’ pornographic content. As you can imagine, this can be extremely harmful especially in the case of children and young adults.

More often than not, porn does not depict the reality of sexual relations, at least not in mainstream content and platforms. Young and inexperienced people can therefore develop completely unrealistic expectations of what sex actually is.

Think about it — have you ever seen someone laugh or make ‘mistakes’ in a porn movie? Do you get the feeling that there is intimacy involved in most sexual acts performed for pornography? Do you think diversity is an important factor when hiring actors and that the depiction of consent and orgasms (male and female) is realistic?

Is porn bad for health?

If you answered No to any of the above questions, then you can see how porn can expose inexperienced viewers to the risk of developing confidence, expectation, intimacy, and communication issues in bed and in their relationships.

Exposure to violent, degrading images and mainstream porn culture can have shocking effects on gender dynamics and sexual objectification in our society. Unfortunately, though, that’s not the reason why people think that porn may be bad for you.

Pornography and depression have been at the center of several studies. In the vast majority of cases, no direct link has been found. Mind that we are talking about the average consumer and not those who develop a porn addiction.

On the other hand, a 2018 study concluded that there is a connection between depression and feelings of shame and guilt that many consumers experience when watching porn. This may lead to think that it’s not porn itself but rather the stigma that often comes with it that can cause depression.

Is porn addiction real?

As with all behavioral addictions, it can be hard to identify and treat the symptoms of addiction to pornography. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not recognize porn addiction as an official diagnosis.

A framework can be found in pathological gambling, the only behavioral addiction whose diagnostic criteria feature in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

These may include:

  • Time spent on pornography interfering with responsibilities and relationships

  • Withdrawal symptoms and behavior

  • Adverse psychosocial consequences

The line between compulsion and addiction is thin. However, those who identify as porn addicts report being unable to resist the urge to watch pornography and notice negative effects in their professional and private life.

Some report being unable to enjoy sex without the aid of porn, and others push their partner to watch pornography even when they clearly state that they don’t want to. Many are unable to remain in a stable relationship and it’s not unusual for self-diagnosed porn addicts to lose their job.

If you think you may be developing a porn addiction, it is advisable that you get in touch with a mental health professional and safely discuss the best move forward.

The Risks of Porn for Professionals

Few fields are currently seeing the levels of exploitation and risk of sexual assault that porn does. Many performers join the industry for a very short amount of time, during which they may fall victim to exploitative contracts and/or sexual assault.

Unfortunately, speaking up against the industry comes with backlash in a world that is highly profitable and highly unregulated.

This was famously the experience of Mia Khalifa, a former porn star who became extremely popular during her short stint in porn but who claims to have earned only about $12,000 from the over 200 movies she filmed in her career — many of which are still widely consumed online.

Does Feminist Porn Exist?

Feminist and queer-positive porn makers work towards a less patriarchal industry where pleasure and desire are represented for all genders and sexualities. A place where performers are treated and seen as equals and sex isn’t only made of genitals and orifices attached to dehumanized bodies. By the way, that doesn’t mean vanilla videos only. Kinks and rough sex can be depicted in a way that is not degrading and where acts are clearly consensual and enjoyable.

What is feminist porn, exactly?

Feminist pornographers work on several fronts:

  • Making sets, contracts, and work conditions safer and fairer for performers

  • Offering content and representation that isn’t tailored to the male gaze

  • Prioritizing female creators and woman-centered narratives

The Feminist Porn Awards (FPAs), established in 2006 and now rebranded as the Toronto International Porn Festival, set their own criteria for what constitutes feminist porn. To be included in the competition, a movie had to:

  • Use erotic narratives that challenge stereotypes

  • Feature actors of color, non-gender conforming, disabled, fat, older, etc.

  • Put actors’ agency and pleasure at the center of the work

  • Ask for actors’ consent on all acts and provide them with a safe and clean work environment

  • Give performers the opportunity to revoke consent at any time

Is feminist porn effective?

The debate is on. For decades, the feminist movement has been divided into pro and anti-porn. On one hand, feminists in favor of pornography think that hot videos can celebrate female sexuality while decolonizing bodies and teaching about consent and pleasure. Producers often see themselves as more than just pornographers — they believe to be educators and activists too. On the other hand, anti-porn feminist activists have long been convinced that an industry built on the objectification of women simply cannot call itself feminist. It’s true that of this $97 billion global industry (an NBC estimate of how much pornography was worth in 2014), only a tiny part is working towards change. Feminist porn remains undoubtedly a niche market. Yet it’s having immensely positive effects by putting women in leadership roles, believing victims, and taking swift actions in cases of sexual assault while amplifying the voice of sex workers, who are often reduced to a silent dichotomy of victim/empowered and happy individual — depending on what side of the fence the non-pornographer activist you’re speaking to sits.

What about you? Do you enjoy pornography or you haven’t found anything to your taste yet? Or maybe you know a feminist production company? Let us know in the comment section on the very bottom of this page!


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