I remember the first time I masturbated and the first time I watched porn were two distinctly separate events. One felt like I had discovered Utopia at my fingertips (quite literally), whilst the other felt a lot more confusing and uncomfortable. It might come as no surprise that watching porn was the latter experience. Admittedly, despite my first encounter, I came to realise the clear benefits of using it as a stimulus for masturbation and watched it fairly frequently. However, I soon became disillusioned with this bounty of sexual content and my use of porn reduced dramatically.

My reasons for this are pretty far-ranging but fundamentally come down to this initial reaction I have never been able to completely shake. Once the initial excitement and pleasure subsides this feeling of being extremely uncomfortable and, sometimes, ashamed of watching what is often fairly mechanical bodily acrobatics takes hold. This is not due to any personal prudish behaviour that makes me averse to watching other people engage in sexual acts. Far from it; I am all for increasing your own sexual pleasure by watching the sexual pleasure of others. This is where the problem with mainstream porn lies. It is no longer about providing content that is arousing but rather seeing how far they can take a sexual act. It’s become hyper-sexual without the sexy.

I am aware that the amount of porn being consumed daily must mean that there are a lot of people who would disagree with me. For many, mainstream porn is doing just the trick and for them that’s fair enough. But what about the rest of us who are clearly not the target audience for what is being churned out. It is no secret that mainstream porn is largely created with heterosexual, cisgender men in mind and as a result the enjoyment of women, or people with vaginas, is often overlooked. I have winced more than once at scenes of a woman with dagger-sharp fake nails fingering a vagina – her own or that of another unlucky lady, and have scoffed at scenes of almost instantaneous female orgasm following penetration. I have to suspend my disbelief a considerable degree when watching a PornHub video to be able to fully enjoy it for its purpose.

hyper-sexual without the sexy

The problem with mainstream porn goes beyond just the lack of convincing female pleasure shown but a lack of representation in general. Undoubtedly, there is porn for every kink out there; hairy armpits, scat, age play, and so on. But what about when it isn’t a kink but rather, a way of life. When body hair isn’t a fetish but a personal preference, when an older person having sex isn’t a GILF but just an older, still horny person, or when two people with vaginas having sex isn’t a male fantasy come true but just the sexual preference of those involved. Often, in mainstream porn, anything other than a cishet White man and woman having sex is fetishised. This can leave those who don’t fall into this category, and even those who do, feeling marginalised and uninvited into the world of sex. Like with any media content or advertisement, we like to see ourselves in what we are consuming and if mainstream porn repeatedly denies us this opportunity it is a lot harder to enjoy the content provided.

The answer to this should not be to stop watching porn entirely. There is nothing wrong with wanting a stimulus when engaging in sex, solo or otherwise. In fact, having a visual and audio stimulus can help achieve a far more enjoyable experience. The answer therefore is for a different kind of porn. One that does not make you feel like you are partaking in someone else’s objectification or makes you concerned about the treatment of those involved. Luckily enough this porn already exists and something we should all be taking far greater advantage of than we currently are. Commonly referred to as ‘feminist porn’ this genre has a far greater emphasis on the mutual enjoyment of all those involved and is proving with each orgasm that equality can be sexy. What is even better about this type of porn is that as well as respectful representation of the actors on screen, there is far less exploitation and mistreatment of the actors off-screen. This is not least a result of a much stronger female presence in the crew.

proving with each orgasm that equality can be sexy

Erika Lust is just one adult filmmaker proving that a sex-positive outlook can result in pornography that makes you feel good, both physically and emotionally. This style of pornography highlights that we no longer have to view porn as something shady or shameful, but rather something that promotes healthy sexual encounters and explores different sexualities and preferences in an inclusive, empowering way. Unfortunately, a lot of this porn does cost money, but there is some that can be accessed for free and much of the rest is reasonably priced. Searching online for ‘feminist porn’ or ‘sex positive porn’ will result in lists of helpful websites directing you to the right place.

Mainstream porn is not appealing to a lot of people, and in this it’s failing its fundamental purpose. Everybody should be able to enjoy pornography, so it’s about time we welcomed this new genre of sexual representation with open arms – and legs.

 

Marlena is a History and Environmental Studies student currently on an exchange year at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She is strongly interested in social and environmental issues, including sustainability, gender equality and promoting sex positivity. Most of her free time is spent Swing dancing and travelling to different dance events.

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