Sex(uality) & the City

Discussing All The Things You Can't Say In Public

I’m a Girl. And I Watch Porn.

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by Marie Johanson

Not often. Not regularly. But, I’ve dabbled in porn since sometime in middle school. It started with the accidental pop-up ad that piqued my curiosity on my family’s home computer (yeah, my parents were behind the curve on parental settings). I knew it was “bad” to click the ad, but when sex just hits you upside the head like that, you start to sweat a little, your whole body warms, and it’s hard – dare I say impossible? – to turn back and ignore the thrill of it. So, I clicked on the ad and over the next few years I occasionally clicked on other pornographic ads and even sought out a few on my own.

My introduction to pornography conveniently came right around the time my Catholic CCD class was learning about the evils of sex and masturbation. Like most young adults, I felt conflicted about my sexuality (and that’s without questioning my sexual orientation or gender identity or having close-minded, unsupportive parents). I didn’t openly question my church’s teachings, but I silently wondered why something that felt so good and natural also produced feelings of shame and guilt. Over the next few years I grew bitter towards Catholicism as I formed strong opinions on issues related to gender and sexuality that conflicted with the church’s perspective. This helped me come to my own conclusion that masturbation should not be demonized, but celebrated as an important part of sexual self discovery.

The porn thing still bothered me, though. Even after turning away from my Catholic upbringing, watching porn left me feeling a bit empty – not necessarily guilty or shameful, just…vacant, void. No matter how great the arousal and climax while viewing porn, the drop-off in excitement always felt abrupt and sharp. No slow cool down or post-orgasmic euphoria. No lounging around naked, waiting for my breathing to slow. No silly grin of pleasure. No spooning with someone I’m crazy about, just…done. Next. What’s for dinner?

There came a point where I stopped seeking out porn on my own and I didn’t miss it. The times I did watch porn over the next few years were with friends – you know, as a “joke”, just to giggle at the plot lines (giant penises) – not like any of us were turned on by it or anything. But in college, I started casually browsing porn again on my own, and not just for the high cinematic production quality. I got a little more adventurous and found myself drawn to softcore girl-on-girl action. This of course prompted the internal question, “does that make me gay?” While I  knew the answer was “no,” I still worked through that brief questioning of my identity. I couldn’t seem to process why I felt so empty as soon as I finished watching any type of porn. I’m a free-thinking, sexually confident, independent woman. I’m supposed to be okay with the fact that I watch porn, not afraid to talk about it, not so conflicted. And I wasn’t. At least not about my appreciation of two girls going at it; but the emptiness of my porn-watching experiences still bothered me.

Maybe I was uncomfortable with the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, misogyny, and male-dominated society we often see in porn. Yeah, that sounds about right. That’s a well-crafted, socially acceptable answer. But it wasn’t true. I already avoided porn that felt too “porn-y” to me – overly primped, plastic, and made-up women, themes of rape and non consensual sex acts, etc., and didn’t waste my time with anything that felt sexist to me. I also didn’t/don’t have moral qualms with the existence of porn in general or think that it’s inherently degrading. I agree with Ellen Page that we need more feminist porn out there, but whether the porn I watch is from the male or female perspective doesn’t seem to change that feeling of emptiness.

Even though I’m over my Catholic guilt and I don’t really seek out porn that conflicts with my moral beliefs, it has taken me awhile to pinpoint why porn leaves me feeling empty. I think it’s because the pleasure I get from porn isn’t contributing to something bigger than, “I need to get off now.” It’s a means to an end. There’s no relationship there.

Even when I masturbate to my own fantasies, it feels like a whole, fulfilling experience; I’m building a sexual relationship with myself and developing a series of inner fantasy episodes. I guess porn can help us get in touch with ourselves sexually, but I don’t think I actively use it in that way. I use it because I don’t feel like connecting with myself; I just want the release in its quickest form. I don’t want to be creative. I don’t want this to take too long. I seek out porn when I feel strong sexual impulses paired with a desire to disengage from reality for a few minutes. I want to escape my own mind, much like when I watch any other type of movie or TV show. Sometimes I’ve turned to porn in the aftermath of a breakup, where it’s painful to think about the person who would normally fill that role. Porn takes me out of my head and into this purely lustful, sexual state of mind, where I forget what’s going on in the world around me and enjoy the brief distraction.

The one time that I really got something more than the unemotional orgasm out of porn was while watching it with another person. The point wasn’t a quick road to arousal or to disengage from reality; rather, it was about connecting with another person via porn, exploring our desires together. I don’t know that the porn itself was even that arousing. I just liked the openness of that sexual experience, the sharing, the building of something more than an orgasm. It left me feeling whole and satisfied, with that post-orgasmic euphoria and silly grin of pleasure.

Porn, like any other relationship, is about your intent, what you put into it, and what you want to get out of it. If you seek out porn for a quick, unemotional orgasm, then that’s what you’re going to get. If you’re exploring new fantasies and trying to broaden your sexual interests through porn, you’ll probably discover more about your sexual self and feel more in tune with your desires. I don’t think using porn to disengage from reality and emotion is necessarily a bad thing either, as long as it’s not your primary mode of sexual expression and you’re not using it to avoid relationships with other people. Sometimes sexual pleasure is just a need to be fulfilled and it’s okay to treat it as such. But, it’s also one of the most meaningful, intense, and wonderful ways to connect with yourself and with other people, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that in the process of fulfilling our sexual needs.

Sex is so simple at its core – a basic motivator for most people, like hunger and thirst – but it’s also one of the most complicated things we experience as humans, both for its taboo nature and for the emotions it stirs when involving other people. I‘ve come to view porn as a safe way to explore sexuality on our own and take a breather from some of the complexities of bringing others into our sex lives. For women, however, exploring sexuality still comes wrapped up in a bunch stigma. We live in a world that tells us to suppress our desires for natural, normal, healthy thing like sex unless we want to be slut-shamed. We’re told that watching porn is something that only guys do, even though most of us ladies are turned on by it too.

Yeah, porn often leaves me feeling empty, but as I reflect back on my 10+ years of porn-watching experience, I see how it has helped me grow more comfortable with my sexual self. Porn has made me more accepting of the fact that even as a female, despite stereotypes, sometimes I just want sexual fulfillment. And that fulfillment doesn’t always have to be this super meaningful, emotional, romantic experience – it can be lustful and carnal at times and that’s okay too. I’ve learned to be okay with that and to be more open about that desire with other people.

Now, I’m okay with the empty feeling. When I started watching porn as a young teenager, I thought I needed to change myself. As I grew more comfortable with my sexuality as a young adult, I thought I needed to change my relationship with porn. For me, though, the process of becoming more self aware is change enough to feel at peace with it. I haven’t changed who I am or how I use porn to meet some of my sexual needs, but I understand what brings on my post-porn emptiness. Maybe at some point I’ll start using porn to expand my sexual comfort zone and gain more insight into my own sexuality, but for now, I’m okay just being a girl who watches porn to get off every once in awhile.

Marie Johanson  – A recent graduate of the University of Virginia, Marie (a pseudonym) spends her days working for a software company and her nights dancing salsa and writing for The Relationship Rolodex.

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2013 by in Culture, Marie Johanson, Pornography, Sex Toys, Uncategorized.
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