Covid-19: Porn in a global pandemic

Brook’s Education and Wellbeing Specialist, Sophie Chase, talks about the porn industry, the relationship between sex in porn and sex in real life, and why it’s so vital that we talk to young people about porn as part of comprehensive relationships and sex education.

With the ongoing development of the Internet, and now lockdown, you could argue that porn has never been so accessible. Even PornHub have done their bit to encourage people to stay at home, and have made their premium service free worldwide – needless to say traffic to their site has skyrocketed, as people spend more time indoors, and consequently more time in front of their screens.

We could spend this whole post discussing some of the issues with PornHub and the Porn industry – because just like any industry it undeniably has its problems – but there are a number of different sources you can go to for more information about this. Jon Ronsons’ Podcast The Butterfly Effect is a good place to start; and of course our Ambassador Hannah Witton, who has a whole host of useful videos about PornHub and Porn.

Instead we are going to discuss the relationship between porn and real life, and there seems no time more fitting to be exploring this in the time of Coronavirus.

There have been over 1000 Coronavirus themed videos uploaded to PornHub and other sites. You can always count on Porn to take a global pandemic and turn it into uncomfortable wanking material; and we mustn’t forget to mention the creative titles that are currently circulating the world of online adult material: “Hot Babe gets caught trying to leave the corona virus quarantine area” OR “Fiona Fuchs f*cks for toilet paper”.

Jokes aside, porn loves to create fantasies around topics that society deem as taboo.

Incest, for example, has been a common theme for videos for a long time, however it usually features Stepsiblings or Step Moms/Dads rather than sex between full blown “biologically related” people. Although we know that the performers aren’t related, if this is not explained to viewers – particularly young people – then it could create warped ideas about sex and appropriate relationships.

Aside from the more obvious taboo topics, porn also reflects and influences society in other ways. You could argue that porn (not all porn – there are so many different types on offer so we should steer clear of tarring them all with the same brush) eroticises imbalances that are already rife in society.

Whether we like it or not our lives are influenced by the media that we consume, and vice versa.

So with this in mind, next time you are watching or discussing porn here are some things you might want to think about:

  • Who made it? The majority of mainstream porn that is freely and widely available online is made by and for cis-men – this means it will be shot with their fantasies in mind and will often prioritise male pleasure. There are some amazing female and non-binary directors out there making great content: I recommend Pink & White Productions.
  • What do the performers look like? A lot of mainstream porn is not inclusive of all genders/body types/ethnicities/ages; and when it is it is usually done in a way that fetishizes people’s identity.
  • How are different sexual orientations portrayed? Lesbian sexual relationships often don’t accurately depict lesbian sex; and in some porn bisexual men are less accepted and not objectified in the same way that women are – I think this definitely reflects real life. It is so beneficial to see Porn that promotes the idea that sexual acts don’t belong to sexual orientations or genders – people could be missing out on a lot of pleasure with this idea!
  • Does it reinforce Gender stereotypes? Often men in porn will be rock hard, always ready for action, and always in control of the sex. This puts pressure on men who take these messages from porn, to always be in control of a sexual encounter, and suggests that being submissive is not in line with what is expected of a ‘man’ – when in reality this is not true and very damaging to gender role stereotypes. On the contrary women will be portrayed as vulnerable, passive and hypersexual.
  • What message does it send about consent? Porn skips straight to the sex and doesn’t show consent being discussed before. Any porn that has been produced legally has to show that performers have consented to the sexual acts in which they are going to be engaging prior to filming. However as a viewer we don’t see this, which might make conversations about consent in real life feel out of place and awkward.

Sometimes negative messages from porn can be easily projected into reality by young people (and adults); which is why it’s really important to have open conversations about the content, so that if people are going to watch it they can do so with a critical eye.

At Brook, this is something we do during our RSE lessons in schools. We explain that porn is a fantasy, and the performers are acting, just like they would in a Hollywood blockbuster. We also discuss the positives of porn because this is just as important. No one should ever feel ashamed of watching porn, but just remember that if you feel like its negatively affecting your life then there are lots of places you can go for help and support.

Visit Brook’s website for more information, advice and support about porn.

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