One of the fabulous things about being a sexologist is that you learn lots of things about humanity. The job title in itself beckons people to share their deepest secrets over a meal or casual drink. Last year was one such occasion. I had spoken at a sexual health conference and over celebratory goodbye drinks, I had a young woman share with me the confusion of her love / hate relationship with porn.

Her story went something like this.

“I never used to like porn at all. Hated it with a passion. But when my current partner insisted I try it out, I felt like I had to. And then something really bizarre happened. Something that is totally disgusting – totally gross – totally unthinkable.”

“Something I would have never even thought about before I started watching porn (and too horrible to even share with you), has become the only thing I can get turned on to. I find myself having to go back to this particular scene – either on the video clip or in my head – to replay it so that I can get turned on. Before seeing this particular scene, I never needed porn to get aroused. After this stuck in my head, no other porn (or my partner without thinking about this clip) does it for me. Yet I absolutely hate it. It’s totally disturbing that I have to go back to watch it. What do you think is going on?”

Great question, and I was so glad she asked!! Here are some of the things I shared with her and are helpful to remember about porn.

  • Porn is designed to turn a person on. Why? Because it’s sexual.
  • Just because something is sexual and a turn on, doesn’t mean it is part of who we are unless we choose to allow it to become so.
  • If the erotic ‘scene’ or ‘act’ is creating internal conflict, reflect back to core values and make a conscious choice.
  • Choosing to reinforce an erotic ‘scene’ or ‘act’ that conflicts with personal values may create ongoing inner tension.
  • Choosing to move away from a conflicting erotic thought is empowering. Staying stuck will likely produce constant anxiety and confusion.
  • An adult brain has a greater capacity to make a conscious choice ‘to’, or ‘not to’ continue to watch something.
  • A child and teen brain still in development has a much harder time making a conscious choice on how to decipher what’s going on when the unthinkable is eroticised. [A whole other blog on this to come soon.]

Ultimately, a person has to make a choice about what how they define ‘sexual’. Because if porn defines it for them, a person will often end up eroticising the unthinkable. Ran Gavrielli writes and lectures about emotional and physical safe sex; porn and porn-influenced cultural damages; gender and power relations; and sex and intimacy. In his famous TEDx Talk he puts it like this:

If we would ask porn, how does it define something as sexual?  …porn would laugh in our face.

What defines sexual? Whatever men find arousing… Men find it arousing to choke a woman. To have a brutal sex without one touch, hug, kiss, tender caress? ….well then it is sexual. It arouses men to see a woman or child cry… it is sexual. It arouses men to rape a woman, well, then it is sexual.

The same can be said for any sexual feeling of any gender. Just because something is a ‘turn on’ does not mean it needs to owned. It means something sexual has caused arousal. There will always be unlimited opportunity when watching porn to ‘give away’ ownership of what one defines as ‘sexual’ to the porn industry. When does it stop??? When a person has enough integrity to refuse to allow something violent, degrading, objectifying, disturbing or abusive to overtake their sexual response. Something as deeply personal as the hidden recesses of sexuality is too readily given away to pornographers to define.

That doesn’t sound like the ‘sexual freedom’ that so many proclaim is obtained by watching porn. If sexual desires are truly owned by the individual, it’s important to recognise that it is personal choice to reinforce or weaken an arousal or eroticised pathway. Reinforcing an eroticised pathway will reinforce a neural pathway, making it more difficult to switch off. [Again, a whole other blog topic.]

When the unthinkable is eroticised, it creates inner tension. Peace will come when a person affirms the things that align with their core values of who they are.

THANK YOU to everyone who has been sharing these blog posts and for all your great feedback.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about, send an email me or ASK ME through Vidoyen. If you would like to enquire about my availability and professional speaking fees to present at your school, in-service, conference, community, youth or church event, enquire via email.  If you are looking for sex education support, find us at Youth Wellbeing Project and sign up to receive our newsletter.

Liz Walker

About Liz Walker

An accredited sexuality educator, speaker, author, Liz Walker is dedicated to culture-shifting initiatives that respond to pornography harms on children & young people.