Porn: what science says
It’s no secret there’s porn on the internet. You might have seen it yourself – by accident or on purpose. Whether you’ve seen it or not, what do you think about it?
If you look at porn, or have friends that do, it’s worth knowing a bit about it.
The science bit
Studies looking at the impact of porn on thousands of young people and adults have found that:
- Watching porn often makes real-world sex less enjoyable
- Porn often makes people feel less happy in their relationships
- Porn can lead people to think about sex a lot more. This can make it harder for them to enjoy their friendships and other interests.
- Porn can lead to people viewing others, especially women, as ‘sex objects’. This means we only see other people as things to have sex with, not as people with intelligence and feelings. This means we respect them less. Everyone gets less out of life and relationships if this happens.
- Over time, porn can shape the types of things you get turned on by. There’s some pretty weird porn out there so if you train your brain to be turned on by the things you see, you could have trouble enjoying real sex.
So, porn presents fantasies but can have a big impact on our real lives. It can affect our relationships, sex lives, and our abilities to feel good about ourselves.
How does this happen?
The sex you see in porn is very different from what makes good real sex.
That means that if you’re going to look at porn, you need to know it’s not like real sex. And, to find out about porn sex you need to start with real sex.
Despite what people do in porn, good sex isn’t about the positions you can pull or how long you can last.
In real sex, people need to feel a whole lot more than just sexual arousal. They should feel good about themselves and comfortable with the other person.
Sex is usually better and more pleasurable if the two people are in harmony, when they respect each other and want the same things.
Sex is also most satisfying when it’s with someone you find attractive in lots of ways – who they are as well as what they look like.
Most importantly, in good sex both people want to be having sex and are happy with whatever sex acts they’re doing.
5 porn fantasies
Porn is not just pictures or videos of sex – it is a particular type of sex. Most of the time this isn’t the same as real sex:
Fantasy bodies, fantasy sex
Real breasts and real penises are usually smaller than those in porn. Most women don’t shave off their pubic hair. Most men don’t have penises that can stay erect for long periods. And most people take some time to be aroused and don’t want sex the whole time.
Expecting any of these things in real life usually just makes people feel pressured and insecure.
Though porn actors are having ‘real’ sex, porn doesn’t focus on them as real people with real characters and feelings. It only focuses on the ‘body’ bit of sex, not the ‘feelings’ bit.
For most people, the most intense sexual experiences come from ‘chemistry’ with someone else. That’s about who that someone is as much as what they look like.
Porn actors are usually paid to do what they do in front of the camera. That means they agree to do things which often aren’t what most people would agree to do in their day-to-day sex lives.
Putting pressure on someone to do things seen in porn will usually lead to them feeling uncomfortable, under-confident, and less sexually satisfied.
Some porn is violent - usually towards women and gives the message that sex is a pretty aggressive act. When it is violent it also often suggests that the woman receiving it likes it. Remember that she is acting that she likes it for money.
Good sex is about harmony between two people. For most people, most of the time, violence towards them makes them feel bad.
Sex for men
Sex in porn is like junk food. It’s mainly about giving men an instant sex high and women doing things to instantly turn men on.
In good sex each person’s feelings and arousal should be equally important.
Worried about your porn use?
If you want to stop watching porn but are finding it difficult, there are some things you can do to help yourself.
Talk about it.
Is there an adult in your life or even a friend you could talk to about your worries? A conversation can help sort out the way forward and make the problem feel more manageable.
Think about your hopes
for your romantic or sexual life now and in the future. Think about whether porn fits or doesn’t fit with these hopes.
Write down all the reasons
that you can think of about why you want to stop watching porn, and rate out of 10 how important each one is. If you are tempted to watch it, look back at what you have written.
Make porn less accessible.
This might involve starting new interests like a new sport, going out more, and keeping your mobile or laptop out of your room at night.
Deciding not to watch porn is a decision made in lots of small steps about how to live life, not just in the instant before you go or don’t go to a porn website.
More help and advice
If you’re worried about your porn use, or a friend’s, there's lots more advice out there.
The Ask Brook 24/7 tool is there to help you with whatever question you might have about your sexual health or relationships, including advice on porn.
Bish UK provides lots of advice and information about sex, relationships and porn.
Your Brain on Porn
Your Brain on Porn is mainly designed for adult men who want to get help for a pornography addiction, but a lot of its helpful tips may be relevant. It also includes lots of videos on how pornography can shape young people’s brains and sexuality.