Let’s face it—our culture is saturated with sexual imagery, from TV shows and movies to, yes, online pornography. But does watching porn fundamentally shape how we perceive and engage in sex? The short answer is, it’s complicated.

In this blog post, I’ll explain why porn isn’t solely to blame for how we view or approach sex. From exploring different sexual themes often depicted in adult content to cultural norms that shape expectations around sexuality—I’ll provide insight into the complex relationship between pornography and attitudes toward sex.

What Does Research Say About Porn and Public Health?

Does Porn Cause Public Health Issues?

There’s a common misconception that porn is a one-stop source for public health issues like sex addiction and erectile dysfunction. Not so fast! These problems often result from a cocktail of biological and psychological factors, and porn is just one ingredient. For example, men with low self-esteem may experience erectile dysfunction irrespective of their porn consumption.

That said, there’s research showing that high-frequency porn use can correlate with issues like impaired romantic relationships. AND YET, these studies also point to various contributing factors, such as psychological distress. So, it’s not just about pointing fingers at porn.

In addition, porn consumption does not necessarily lead to addiction. Studies suggest that it can be beneficial in specific contexts— such as therapy or exploring fantasies with a partner.

It’s important to note that high-frequency use of porn can be associated with some adverse effects, such as impaired romantic relationships and erectile dysfunction. However, we should also consider the other factors contributing to these issues — such as biological predispositions and psychological distress.

The Impact of Pornography on Cultural Norms

We can’t overlook the fact that without critical thinking skills or basic media literacy, pornography can often perpetuate immature and unrealistic expectations about bodies, pleasure, and even specific sexual behaviors. While it may seem harmless at a glance, this skewed representation can lead to problems such as body dissatisfaction and unrealistic sexual expectations.

While it’s easy to get swept up in the fantastical world of porn, just like action-packed superhero movies, remember it’s scripted and not an accurate representation of reality. So many States don’t have comprehensive sex education, and that means many folks turn to pornography as their ‘educational’ source. This is a band-aid solution that could end up causing more harm than good, thanks to perpetuating unrealistic expectations and body dissatisfaction.

Given that as of May 2021, only 7 states (SEVEN out of 50!) in the U.S. mandate comprehensive sex, HIV/STI, and healthy relationship education, it’s no wonder many people default to pornography as their ‘teacher.’ For the full picture on this, be sure to check out the Guttmacher Institute’s research. And you can read my previous post to see how I helped a dad with his sons.

This is precisely why comprehensive sex education is so vital. A well-rounded curriculum can equip individuals with the critical thinking skills and media literacy needed to navigate and dissect the portrayals we encounter in pornography—or any media, for that matter. This isn’t just about knowing the mechanics of sex but understanding the emotional, psychological, and societal dimensions that come into play. By addressing this, we’re not just solving a ‘sex problem,’ we’re contributing to healthier attitudes and relationships overall.

The Importance of Sex-Positive Conversations

Start Talking About Sex And Sexuality In A Healthy Way

To shift the narrative, we need to engage in open and inclusive dialogues about sex and sexuality. It’s not just about saying, “porn is good” or “porn is bad,” but about creating a space for a more complex and nuanced discussion. And yes, let’s make this conversation as everyday as discussing last night’s dinner! Education around pleasure, consent, and healthy boundaries should be at the forefront.

For parents, guiding young minds through this sexual maze is crucial. If we leave kids to their own devices (literally), they’re bound to develop misconceptions. This is a topic I delve deep into in my first book, “Read Me: A Parental Primer for ‘The Talk.’

Moral Panic Vs. Conscious Consumption

It’s easy to jump on the moral panic bandwagon regarding porn, but that won’t help us understand how pornography affects society meaningfully. Instead of getting lost in the moral quagmire that often surrounds pornography, why not focus on conscious consumption? Being aware of how we consume porn—and what messages we take from it—can pave the way for healthier sexual relationships.

When we take a proactive approach to the topic (since some people are going to watch no matter what people say), we can better recognize how pornography has influenced our culture and become more mindful of the messages it conveys. This helps us create healthier conversations around sex and sexuality rooted in respect, understanding, and consent.

Ultimately, porn is not inherently good or bad. It is a medium that must be understood and consumed with intention. By being mindful of our consumption, we can create more meaningful conversations around sex and sexuality in our culture — helping everyone feel empowered to explore their desires without shame or judgment.

Take Control Of Our Sexual Education And Update It For The Times

Take Control Of Our Sexual Education And Update It For The Times

Just as we’re discussing how porn isn’t solely to blame for skewed perceptions about sex, it’s crucial to recognize that our existing sexual education system—or lack thereof—is a significant culprit. Movements like “Moms for Liberty,” which push for a narrower, less inclusive approach to sex education, exacerbate the problem. They steer the narrative away from the importance of comprehensive, evidence-based education focusing on pleasure, consent, and healthy boundaries.

Without a solid foundation in these areas, it’s easy to point fingers at porn or other external factors as the ‘bad guy’ in our sexual narratives. But when we broaden our sex education to include discussions about gender identity, LGBTQ+ relationships, and a full spectrum of sexual well-being, we give individuals the tools to engage with sexual media, including porn, in a more informed and conscious manner.

By fostering a nonjudgmental and open atmosphere, we create a safe space for everyone to reevaluate and update their ‘sexual operating systems.’ This enables people to explore their sexuality with a sense of agency and freedom, casting aside outdated misconceptions. It’s time to evolve the conversation, and by doing so, we’ll pave the way for a culture that celebrates sex positivity, understanding, and consent.

Overall, the relationship between pornography and attitudes toward sex is complex. It’s certainly not as straightforward as people try to make it seem. By being more mindful of the complexities involved, we can move toward a more educated, respectful, and inclusive discussion about sex and relationships.

xxoo,

Lanae

FAQs

Is porn bad for you?

It’s more complex than a binary good or bad. Conscious consumption is key.

How does pornography affect society?

It can shape norms, but it’s not the sole influence on sexual behavior or attitudes.

How to talk about sex and sexuality?

By fostering open, non-judgmental dialogues where education on boundaries and consent is prioritized.

How can we address issues surrounding public health and cultural expectations?

Through comprehensive, evidence-based sex education that includes often overlooked topics like gender identity and LGBTQ+ relationships.

Is there a way to be mindful of our consumption of pornography?

Yes! Taking a proactive approach to the topic, being aware of its effects, and actively engaging with it without letting emotions drive the conversation can help us create more meaningful conversations around sex and sexuality in our culture. This helps everyone feel empowered to explore their desires without shame or judgment.

About the Author

The MamaSutra

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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