5.3
October 15, 2013

How Does Porn Affect Women? {NSFW}

Here is the simple truth: porn makes women feel bad about themselves.

It makes us feel as if we are not interesting enough, young enough, thin enough, hot enough, wanton enough… the list is long.

I can already hear the cries from the peanut gallery, “Speak for yourself!”

Okay, I will—but you better believe I’m speaking for a lot of other women too.

I’m coming to this subject from a relatively unique viewpoint. Though I have never been involved in porn, I am an ex-dancer. (Which, many people think is the same thing. Allow me to disavow you of that notion. Dancers dance, people in porn have sex. Yes, there can be an overlap there, but that is not the norm and was never the case for me or 99 percent of the girls with whom I danced.)

You might think my being an ex-dancer de-sensitized me to porn—not true. If anything, it made me more aware of my feelings about pornography; because I was associated with it in a round about way, and because it was generally assumed that I was okay with it, possibly even liked it.

I hate porn.

And whenever I say or hear the word “hate,” I know that what I’m really hearing or saying is the word “fear.” So, I am afraid of porn.

Why? What is there to be afraid of?

At its most-basic level, porn is merely an image or group of images designed to gratuitously portray sex. These images are populated by strangers who we will never know or meet, and as such, appear to be benign.

Porn has been around since the dawn of time—all cultures have it, it’s human nature to enjoy titillation. Similarly, all cultures have people who think pornography is unethical, shameful, hurtful or just wrong. So the debate about its worth is as old as porn itself.

I am not in the business of shaming or telling other people what their ethics should be. I don’t think you are a bad person if you watch porn—or frankly, even if you are in porn.

And maybe I truly only have a problem with it because I still struggle with my own self-esteem. Why should it matter to me if my husband watches it? He’s not going to call up any of the women he sees and ask them out for coffee. He doesn’t want to be married to them. It’s like being hurt because he’s reading a comic book. It’s just a comic book, right?

Wrong.

First of all, when I see women in porn, I see real people with real feelings. (My apologies to the men here… I know there must be emotional issues for male actors as well, but I have no sense of what they are. Perhaps that’s another piece of the puzzle.)

Many porn actresses will go to their grave saying they “love their job,” and only they can know, but I’m still going to call ‘bullshit’ when I see it. In my opinion, the only woman who likes to get fucked on camera for the untold masses has a big self-esteem problem. If that’s true, then porn is victimization. We are deriving pleasure from someone else’s pain.

Also, while I don’t expect to be the be-all, end-all for any guy I’m with, I would like to believe that my body, heart and soul are more interesting than a 19-year old with a bald undercarriage and a “money shot” sliding off her face. (Ew. I seriously just grossed myself out there.)

Men should know that porn isn’t harmless, even if they watch it in secret. I understand that men are visual creatures, and that they are born with the instinct to spread their seed (or maybe I only think I understand that because that’s what I’ve been told by every man I ever knew since I was a wee lass), but what ever happened to self control? If you know what you are doing is hurtful to someone you care about, or hurtful to someone you don’t know, but who is human all the same, why would you continue to do it?

In answer to the question of: What am I afraid of?—I’m thinking, a lot of things.

I am afraid of living in a time when pornography has been normalized and is becoming an ever-more predominant part of our daily lives. I am afraid that porn will rob me of the ability to embrace my own sexuality, because my understanding of healthy sex has been so hopelessly skewed. I am afraid that porn will forever color and shade my feelings and perceptions about sex, and that I will never know what a porn-free world might feel like.

My fantasy has nothing to do with being tied up, or watching other people copulate, or being swept away by a knight in shining armor.

My fantasy is simply to enjoy real sex, without all the extraneous crap that’s been handed down to me from a male-dominated culture. My fantasy is to feel like a sexy, confident woman all the time. My fantasy is to have that happen in a world where every other woman feels the same way, and we can all reflect the eroticism of self-celebration back upon each other.

 

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Ed: Sara Crolick

 

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Elizabeth Mar 5, 2016 2:46am

You say you are not shaming anyone yet go on to say only someone with self-esteem problems would have sex on camera. Please explain this contradiction.

kim Jan 10, 2016 10:47pm

I like this article a lot….I completely agree with you. I want nothing to do with it because I want to be myself. I have been with guys who had expectations of me based on porn and I refuse to be that. I want to be me. I will likely be alone because I may not find a guy who does not watch porn and I don't care. I'd rather live a full life being who I want to be.

Laura Dec 6, 2015 12:39pm

I’m glad to read your article. As my partner has always had a sort of a fixation (not extreme) for porn which he learned to hide, I kept feeling myself a lesser worthy/sexy woman as a result. Stupid curiosity had caused me to watch some of it on my own and which nobody I know personally knows about, and I feel disgust and somehow humiliated. My problem is not that I bring myself to feel this way in my own accord. I had always valued myself. But my partner keeps pulling faces and asking me to go for epilation, breast reduction, even complained about my nose. Not to mention worse things than that. And recently I accidentally found that he has a secret account to look at those things and exotic pictures. My frustration got to a point that the only way I could find to make me feel better was to write a sort of a poem. And I’d like to present it to you.

An artist begins to draw

A figment of his imagination

You can feel the curves as the pencil slides

Then he looks at his end work, his masterpiece

A playboy bunny you may call it

A work of perfection

It’s all in the mind

Photoshopped or not, it’s a feast for the eyes

Then routine takes over

He is led by flesh and bone attraction and desires

Unrealistically expecting perfection

The sort that only eyes can see

It seems that imagination is only about what you can see

Real love is fantasy

The perfection of bodily functionality,

Tingles on the skin caused by an almost transient, transcendental curiosity, feeling

That’s fairytale

What’s real is what you see

Photoshopped or not.”

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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, published author, and imperfect mom. Visit her at PsycheFinder, her new website—the only site that finds your mental health professional for you. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.