'Sex Educated' series: Let’s talk about porn...

Over the next five days, we will publish extracts from Sex Educated - a one-stop-shop guide for parents and teens to all things sex, relationships, bodies, puberty, porn, gender, sexuality, anatomy and more. The book is a collaboration between Sexual Health West and sex and intimacy specialist Grace Alice Ó Sé, illustrated by Ciara Coogan
'Sex Educated' series: Let’s talk about porn...

A graphic from Sex Educated. Illustrations by Ciara Coogan.

IS it bad to watch porn?

If you posed this question to ten different people, you would likely get ten very different answers!

Some people believe watching porn is wrong and harmful, and that no-one should ever do it. Some believe it is perfectly fine, harmless, healthy, and something to be encouraged.

Most people probably fit in somewhere between these two viewpoints, and it can be harmless and healthy, but it can also be problematic and harmful. This depends on how we watch it, why we watch it, the effects it may have on us as individuals and on our relationships, how the porn was made, and the feelings we may have about the industry at large.

Firstly, let’s consider why people watch porn. Some people may watch it to learn about sex, because they are curious what sex might be like, how to do certain sexual acts, to find out what genitals look like, what turns them on, or to explore their sexual orientation.

It is understandable that people might go to porn to learn about sex if they are not getting information about what sex is like from other sources, including discussions with parents, sex education, or a good sex ed book.

It’s important to remember that porn was designed to be a type of adult entertainment, not a sex educator, so it is usually not a good source to get accurate information about sex.

Some of the things that are involved in real sex, you will rarely see in porn.

This is not to say ‘real sex’ is not magical (a lot of it is) and that ’porn sex’ is the dream (a lot of it is not). The point here is that porn is a form of entertainment, constructed from fantasies. So, while it can be pleasurable or exciting to watch, it absolutely does not equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to have pleasurable, consensual, and safe sex in real life.

Grace Alice O Sé, author of Sex Educated.
Grace Alice O Sé, author of Sex Educated.

Did you know that it can take about eight hours to produce a 20-minute porn scene? That will show you how much work, editing, retakes, etc. goes into the process.

People watch porn to masturbate (touch themselves in a sexual way that feels good) and have orgasms, although we can masturbate without having an orgasm and it can be a very pleasurable and fulfilling experience. A lot of people also masturbate without watching porn, but it is a common reason why people have a peek at porn.

It is normal, and not at all bad, to be curious about sex, bodies, and porn, especially when you are growing up. Sex is a new concept to young people, and they want to learn more about it.

Watching porn does not have to be bad. If someone watches it and enjoys the experience, knows porn is not like real sex, understands it is all acted out and unrealistic, and knows when to switch off and look for help if they see something that felt wrong or they are worried about something, then that is a great starting point for looking at porn in a safe and healthy way.

Watching porn can become a problem if someone uses it as a sex education tool, feels under pressure to re-enact anything they see in porn, or places their partner under pressure to reenact; feels bad, ashamed, or distressed in any way during or after watching it, pressures others to watch it, or feels that their experiences of body image, masturbation, orgasm, or sex is negatively affected.

In a nutshell, watching porn can be bad for someone, depending on how it is affecting them, but watching porn in itself is nothing to feel ashamed about.

If people feel shame about something, they are less likely to talk about it and look for advice or support if/when they need it. So, it is important you know you can and should talk about it if you ever have any problems with porn.

More about the guide ‘Sex Educated’:

‘Sex Educated’ is a one-stop-shop guide for parents and teenagers to all things sex, relationships, bodies, puberty, porn, gender, sexuality, anatomy, and so much more. The book is a collaboration between Sexual Health West and sex & intimacy specialist Grace Alice Ó Sé (graduate of NUI Galway and UCC), illustrated by Ciara Coogan. It comprises of hundreds of questions that have been put to Grace and her fellow sex educators by young people in schools all over the West of Ireland. It is written in an accessible, comprehensive and sex positive Q&A style, allowing readers to dip in and out of the content as they need it. The information above was taken from Chapter 5 of Sex Educated, which explores technology and sex.

Sex Educated can be bought from sexualhealthwest.ie.

More about the author

Grace Alice is a sex educator and intimacy coach from Kerry. She delivers workshops in schools and universities, as well as working privately with adults and couples. You can learn more about her work at gracealice.com.

Tomorrow’s extract will focus on gender.

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