A few weeks ago, I got into an argument on Facebook about whether porn was good or bad for relationships. They were arguing that porn is unethical, unhealthy, and damaging for relationships (specifically marriage), but I disagreed. Vehemently.
As a sex coach, I work with clients who experience a myriad of issues. The most common are a lack of creativity in the bedroom, no time for sex, and embarrassment around having open sexual conversations.
We all know that porn is a controversial topic. It often portrays unhealthy sexual encounters, unrealistic body types, and creates a significantly skewed understanding of sex.
The problem isn’t porn.
The problem is how we consume it – mindlessly and as uninformed consumers.
The problem is we aren’t teaching comprehensive sex education to young folks. We aren’t talking about connection, pleasure, vulnerability, and the intricacies of sexual relationships. We aren’t taught about consent and uncomfortable conversations and how sex changes as we age.
Porn is entertainment. Like money, it isn’t inherently good or bad. What determines that is how it’s used.
Unfortunately, too many people use porn to learn about sex. Just like you wouldn’t watch The Fast and the Furious to learn how to drive a car, you shouldn’t turn to mainstream porn to understand healthy sexual encounters.
If porn is consumed in secret, if porn is a lie, if porn is used for something other than entertainment, or if it becomes a compulsion, then porn can be incredibly damaging.
But, when porn is consumed consciously and for fun, it can become one tool among many in a toolbox rich with options.
This is when porn can actually be healthy and beneficial. Couples who consume porn in this way can find inspiration for new positions, new fantasies, and new conversations.
Though many argue that porn is demeaning to women and trans folks (and yes, mainstream pornography certainly can be), there are many porn producers out there who are making ethical, inclusive porn. You just have to know where to look.
Unfortunately, as a society, we are so afraid of open sexual conversations that shame drives our sexual interests and behaviors into silence, and everyone suffers for it.
Porn is part of a much larger, much more complex problem around sex negativity that is well beyond the “porn is bad” argument.
So, how can porn be used for good?
First, porn can be incredibly validating when you are viewing the kinds of films that are inclusive of a variety of bodies, sexual orientations, gender identities, and interests.
I recently attended the Queer Porn Film Festival in Brooklyn. One of the speakers, Chelsea Poe, is a trans porn performer.
She talked about receiving messages from other trans women saying Chelsea had saved their lives. Why? Because these women had no idea what their options were for healthy sex and human connection (trans women certainly aren’t represented in mainstream media as sexual beings unless they’re being fetishized), and after they saw Chelsea’s films realized that there was hope for them. That they could have fun, healthy, pleasurable sexual experiences in the bodies that they had.
Second, like any form of entertainment, when porn is used mindfully and from a place of awareness, it can help couples reignite their passion.
Porn can help people explore new ideas and kinks. It can help shy people have sexual conversations about needs and desires.
People can send their partners a link to a sexy clip and suggest that their next date night may involve what they see in the scene. Or if a partner is traveling, watching the same video at the same time can be a fun way to stay connected across any distance.
The most important thing to remember about porn consumption is that there is nothing wrong with you if you enjoy watching erotic acts or sexual films.
Too often people shame their partners for enjoying porn. Instead, try inviting your partner to be a part of the viewing experience and use it to share and bond.
Pornography is an industry that’s interested in profits. That means the industry chases the dollar. Where you spend your money directly influences the kinds of films that get made.
So while there are countless free options available online, when you take the time to spend money on films and filmmakers that are making the kinds of films you want to see more of, you’re helping to drive the future of porn.
The bottom line is that for some couples, inviting new and exciting elements into their intimacy deepens their connection and expands the art of the possible.
Pornography can play a vital role in a healthy sexual relationship. But only if we are willing to talk about it, get smart about it, and shed the shame.