DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m concerned about pornography, specifically with regards to enhancing my sex life.
Let me start by saying I know there are ethical issues to porn. I know it’s an unhealthy and unrealistic portrayal of what real sex is like, and that it could possibly desensitize you to real sexual experiences. I know all that stuff. I’m not uninformed about it, but I’ve never actually seen porn and I need help weighing the risks and benefits of seeing it.
Considering my life circumstances, I’m looking to see whether porn would do good as one of two things:
A) A way to get greater arousal and satisfaction than masturbation. Let’s get real here: while I am legally an adult (I turned 18 this year), I still live at home with my parents and two little sisters. “My” car is really dad’s that he lets me use sometimes, and I have no job, living the life of a full-time college student who is also single. In other words, this means I can’t really hook-up with others, I can’t buy sex toys or subscribe to a porno magazine (both for monetary considerations and because my sisters are 10 and 16 and could find that stuff at home), and I don’t have a go-to sexual partner. While I have fun with the daily threesomes between me, myself, and I (the latter of which are known as Left and Right Hand), the bottom line is that my sex life is basically unchanged from the moment I discovered masturbation in junior high, which now that I type it is more than a little sad.
I don’t mean to imply that watching porn is some sign of sexual maturity or some inevitable milestone in growing up (it’s not), I just mean to say that I’ve reached a sexual plateau and porn could be a way to go beyond that. Masturbation is great, but it’s certainly lost it’s magic over the years. When I first discovered and did it, it felt like discovering a cheat code in a video game: “Instant happiness just touch genitals”. Now it’s just become part of my daily routine and part of my regular rotation of recreational activities, no more amazing than watching TV or reading comedy articles.
B) Porn could be a stopgap measure to fill to bridge the gap between just masturbation and having a girlfriend, and a replacement to having a girlfriend if absolutely necessary.
I know that it’s okay to be a virgin, but at the start of the night I want to be next to a naked woman raring to go with me. In other words, let me cut to the point: I’m an 18-year-old male who wants to have sex. In fact, I even have the secret college motto of “Get good grades. Get laid.”, the idea being that while personal responsibility is the #1 priority, my very next priority is taking my V-card and shredding it to pieces.
Everything being said, I’m not looking for just any sex, but sex with a person I love and care about. The thing is, I’ve gotten used to masturbatory orgasms, and when I talked to my parents about how orgasms were supposedly this mind-shattering explosion of pleasure unmatched by anything (there’s a reason why people say “X is better than sex.” as a compliment, I hope) in the known universe when they were just merely great to me, they told me that there was a huge difference between just stimulating your penis until ejaculation and actually having sex with somebody you love.
Thus in college a girlfriend I seek, and the idea that I should get good grades and get laid is not some joke: I’m not going to consider myself a loser if I don’t get laid by college graduation (I have read your articles on age and virginity, and they REALLY spoke to me), but if we are to sit down and think objectively about the consensual convergence of human genitalia, we can only conclude that college is my best chance to get laid, considering that one could unironically call it a place where everyone is A. at or over the age of consent B. away from parental supervision C. living together in close quarters D. young (while being in the 18-26 age range doesn’t mean you’re attractive, you certainly don’t get more attractive as you get older.) E. In a world with condoms, birth control, and rigorous STD testing and treatment, creating the potential for (if only theoretically) consequence-free sex, and F. Is basically jacked up on sex hormones.
In short, college is a place where people live in close quarters while they are literally as sexy and horny as they will ever be in their entire lives, and any possible sex is thrice consequence-free (if you take all the precautions, of course), completely legal and away from any disapproving authority. If there is a time and place where one should expect a golden age of sexuality in one’s life, it’s college.
Yes, I know that I’m not doomed if I don’t get laid by the time I graduate college, but I want to have sex with a sexy young adult as a sexy young adult, and college is the best place to do that. I know I could meet someone I like in my future career, but I don’t want to go after thirty year olds as a thirty year old, and certainly not after twenty year olds as a thirty year old. And let’s not forget I’m in my sexual prime; my sexual fitness and attractiveness can only decline with age. While I know 80 year olds can have active sex lives, all things being equal now is the chance.
I’m in the right age at the right place, so college should be the golden age of sexuality for me, but it’s passing me by the day. Believe me in that I have tried to exploit this golden opportunity, but I basically have no friends in college (no one seems interested in socializing, let alone sexualizing) and the much-fearmongered “hookup culture” basically does not exist. In short, I have seriously considered that I may not be guaranteed to get someone to date me, let alone let me have sex with them. This is more than a little disheartening, considering that I’ve never even been in a date or kissed someone. I never got people to dance with me in high school and I didn’t have a date to prom, or even homecoming.
Although, let me surprise you by saying I’m actually looking sex in the context of a relationship, and I don’t mean that in the “I have to buy her chocolates and make a girl think I love her so she’ll put out” douchebag way, but in the sense that I literally want to have a genuine and real romantic relationship that also includes sexual activity. While this does fulfill the requirement of “do it with a person you love” that will apparently make my orgasms better, let me say that I do wonder what simply being in love is like as well.
However, with slim girlfriend prospects, I look to the possibility of pornography offering me an upgrade to my sex life in the case that I don’t find a girlfriend, as well as a stopgap solution to tie me over until I get one, if I do.
Yet, what holds me back from porn is safety issues, both in terms of legality and computer security. There’s this shadiness regarding porn that just really turns me off to it (pun not intended). What this means in practice is that if I see a Google result that reads “big t
*y MILFs XXX sshot” (intentional misspelling on my part), I’m not exactly thinking that it’s a totally trustworthy and safe site for me to use. I’m actually afraid of going to porn sites to be honest, because with porn there seems to be unnecessary risks you don’t get with any other so-called vices.
In other words, I’ve never drank alcohol except for Holy Communion, but I know that you don’t walk into a bar and wonder if what the bartender gave you was brewed up in a bathtub, nor do you wonder if the cigarettes you buy at 7-11 (not that I’m a smoker) have been laced with narcotics. Nobody goes into a casino only to find out that it was all an illegal mob operation just as SWAT teams pour through the front doors to arrest all the patrons.
But I do worry about something being safe and legal with regards to porn. How do I know that the actor is actually 18? How do I know if the porn site will infect my computer with viruses?
Things like cigarettes, gambling, and alcohol are regulated by the government, so while these vices may have their inherent destructive nature (getting liver disease or cancer, loss of money, etc.), you can be rest assured that what you’re doing isn’t illegal or more dangerous than it has to be. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent of that for pornography, no sense of consumer trust and guarantee that the product is legal and safe. The USDA grades eggs, but it’s not like you go to some government agency and see ratings and certifications for all the porn sites and see something like “FreakyMILFs has been certified A++ by the Federal Association of Pornography, with a 99.9999% No Virus Guarantee and a perfect track record of adhering to US laws and statues with regards to content and production”
I have wrestled with the question of porn for a long time, in turn using a stopgap solution that TV Tropes might call “Poor Man’s Porn”. In other words, I don’t masturbate to “real porn”, but to stuff like online catalogues of lingerie and sexy Halloween costumes (think Yandy and Victoria’s Secret), sexy fictional characters, or sexualized advertisements and online Cosmo articles (yes, really). I have a Hooters calendar and my dad gets the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated each year. On a side note, having fetishes has really been a boon to me throughout my life. since this means essentially innocuous (and therefore safe and legal) stuff is de-facto porn to me (for example, I have a cosmetics fetish and masturbate to YouTube makeup tutorials), but there’s always been the idea that there’s greater untapped potential in the viewing of actual porn.
So all in all, is Internet pornography really going to be the upgrade I’m looking for? What should I do if it’s not what I need, and how could I get safe and legal porn if it was the best option? Are my ideas and concerns about college wrong or misguided?
Pretty Indecisive Porn Ponderer
DEAR PRETTY INDECISIVE PORN PONDERER: Hoo boy. There’s a lot to unpack in this PIPP because you’ve crammed a lifetime of expectations and misconceptions into one long-as-hell letter.
So in the words of the KLF and the Justified Ancients of Mumu, let’s roll it from the top.
We’ll start with the orgasms you’re having from masturbating.
First and foremost: I think you may be seriously overestimating what you’re supposed to get from your orgasms – especially by yourself. The wonderful thing about orgasms is that orgasms are wonderful things but I think you were expecting skyrockets in flight instead of a case of wham-bam-thank-you-glans, especially if you’ve been jerking it every day since junior high. Humans are very, very good at adapting to circumstances and anything – no matter how amazing or horrifying – can become just another part of your every day existence. This is doubly true of masturbation. First: if you’re masturbating exactly the same way every day, you’re going to get the same results. This can actually cause problems later on if you are using what social scientists call “an idiosyncratic masturbatory technique” and those of us in the sex-biz call “the Death Grip”. Some people come to solo sex in a number of shall we say, unique ways that can range from an incredibly tight grip to using a washcloth to sticking their penis between the mattress and the box spring. The problem is: when you habituate yourself to a specific speed, pressure and level of friction that can’t be matched by a mouth, anus or vagina, you make it that much harder to actually get off during partnered sex. Your partner, no matter how much they may try, simply can’t produce the same feeling that you’ve trained yourself to need to orgasm.
So. Regardless of whether you’re rolling solo or have a partner or two or three, you want to put some best practices into effect and start varying your techniques. Use a little lube, use lots of lube (actual lube – soap dries out your skin and Vaseline is hard to clean up), masturbate with a condom on, switch hands, go slower, go faster, stop in the middle and start again, keep yourself right at the edge for as long as you can. Keeping things fresh and varied for your penis helps make sure that you don’t get stuck in a routine that means that partnered sex is going to be nothing but a frustrating core workout for you and means that you’re going to have different and more interesting orgasms.
Next: your college experience. Just as Death Grip (or Idiosyncratic Technique – which, incidentally, is my new experimental dub-metal band) can give you unrealistic expectations and needs for orgasm, you have some very difficult problems ahead for you if you think that college is going to be the end-all, be-all of your sex life. Let us start by dispensing with the idea of one’s “sexual prime”. It doesn’t actually exist in any meaningful way. 99% of what you’ve built up in your head is cultural baggage with a thin layer of outdated science on top. The idea that people reach a “sexual prime” is based on a number of mistaken ideas that have little basis in actual biology and a whole lot to do with people’s ideas about male and female sexuality.
The split between a man’s “sexual prime” being 18 and a woman’s being in her 30s, for example, isn’t about reproductive fitness. It’s about that by the time a woman reaches her 30s, she tends to have shed a lot of the sex-negative bulls
t that cripples many, many women and has taken full ownership of her sexuality. She’s not suddenly reaching a hormonal peak, she’s finally hit a point where she feels confident in her body and her sexuality and what it takes to get off. Men – who don’t have the same repressive mind-hackery telling them that they’re not sexual beings – at 18 are dealing with being told that they’re uncontrollable satyrs who’ve finally been let off the leash and have never been given anything that even vaguely resembles instructions on how to deal with the responsibilities of sex and sexuality. Throw alcohol in on top of hormonal changes – which, I stress, are affecting women just as much – and you’re going to deal with a bunch of horny owlbears who want to stick it into almost anything.
The biggest advantages of being 18 is that you can eat more without as many consequences, bounce back from hang-overs faster and the refractory rate can be measured in minutes. That last part is important because frankly, a lot of the sex people are having can be measured in seconds. It’s often the case that people in college aren’t having the sex of their lives, so much as having it at ALL.
Similarly, while youth has it’s appeal, being in your late teens to early 20s doesn’t mean that you’re going to be at your most attractive, your fittest or your most desirable. Attractiveness isn’t about how tight or supple your skin is; it’s about presentation, confidence and a whole lot of intangibles that may well not develop until later. Some people – myself included – didn’t hit their stride until later in life. I can tell you for a fact, with photographic evidence to back it up: I’m better looking now that I’m nearly 40 than I was when I was 18. The sex I was having in my late 20s and through my 30s was almost infinitely better – in quantity and in quality. Why? Because, unlike when we were 18, my partners and I knew what the hell we’re doing. Treating college as a window of opportunity that, if missed, will leave you in the cold is a mistake. It is simply a singular stage in life. One that you should endeavor to take advantage of while you can, yes, but if it’s all down hill from there, it’s not because you squandered your 20s.
To quote a wise sage: 30’s the new 20, I’m on fire still. Done right, your 30s have the potential to be better than your 20s because you have the same drive but more experience and better credit. So let’s not get hung up on age here, especially since you’re having enough issues making friends, never mind finding lovers. You’ve still got some growing and maturing to do.
The other thing to remember is that there is no universal narrative of what sex is going to be like for you in college. Some people have lots of it. Some people don’t have any. Some people only have one partner, some have several. All of that’s ok. Focusing like a laser on getting laid mostly just means that you’re going to miss out on a lot of amazing opportunities because you won’t see them. Trust me: that’s exactly what I did and damned if I don’t wish I could go back and re-do things.
Beyond getting good grades, the best thing you can do for yourself right now is collecting experiences and taking chances – the things that make you a more interesting and compelling person. Sex may well be a part of it. But pursuing sex – or a relationship – with single-minded focus is going to be missing the forest for the trees. Relationships will come. I promise.
Now, all that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of your questions:
Should you use porn? Well, that depends on how you mean “use”. The way you talk about using it makes me think that – like your solo orgasms – you have some unrealizable expectations. Porn isn’t a substitute for sex or a relationship. It’s simply a way of getting aroused. The fact that you’re watching Layla London or Lexi Belle go down on someone isn’t going to make you feel any more or less lonely, any more than Rogue One or Moana will. It’s a performance. Just one you’re watching with your pants off. To be sure: people use porn as a way to supplement a relationship – imagining Gianna Michaels while they’re masturbating is a way of getting some variety in an otherwise monogamous relationship – but it’s not a replacement by any stretch. Treating it as one is how you end up having a hard time forging an intimate connection with people in your life or finding yourself deep in debt to cam-girls.
Porn is fine to jerk off to, or to use to spice things up with a partner. It’s not a replacement for intimacy.
Similarly: porn sex is nothing like real sex. Let me repeat that for emphasis: porn sex is nothing like real sex. Porn stars themselves will tell you: the sex they have on camera doesn’t even vaguely resemble the sex they have on their own time. The sex you will have in real life will be nothing like what you see on the screen, any more than your commute is like Fury Road. Porn is blocked, lit and performed in such a way to look good for the camera. When you’re having sex in the real world, there is no camera, no crew, no audience. There’s you and your partner.
So: should you watch porn? If you want. You’ll have some amazing orgasms at first, because it’ll be like nothing you’ve experienced before. You’ll be aroused more than you realize. But – as with your daily masturbatory routine – you’ll get used to it pretty damn fast. So don’t treat it like the end-all, be-all of your life.
How do you use it safely and ethically? Well that’s a different question. One presumes, for example, that you know the basics of computer security and hygiene. Don’t download strange files, keep your antivirus and firewall software up to date, etc. That’s your first step.
Think of getting your porn the way you get weed. When you go to a dispensary, you are buying carefully curated strains in a well-lit and safe environment. You know how much you’re going to pay, how much you’re going to get and what you’re going to leave with. Getting it from the dude behind the gas station, on the other hand, means you have no control over the final product, what’s in it, what you’ll pay or whether you’ll even get weed at all.
In practice, this means getting your porn from known, reputable sites rather than googling titles and hoping for the best. Sticking to the mainstream sites will help make sure that everything you get is on the up and up, legally and ethically speaking. Brazzers, Naughty America, BangBros, Vivid, Kink.com, Burning Angel and others are producers and have subscription-based sites; you know exactly what you’re getting and where your money is going. Because of the laws involved in filming porn (thanks in no small part to Traci Lords…), the actors involved are carefully vetted to be of legal age and consenting to be there. Similarly, Pornhub and XTube are mainstream streaming sites that pay attention to their content and maintain standards. Keeping their customers happy and coming back is in their business model; this means that they have a vested interest in not letting malware infect your computer.
(That having been said, the ‘tube sites regularly rip off the publishers so maybe pay for your porn instead.)
You might also consider going straight to the porn stars themselves. Many run their own sites, which not only ensures that everything is exactly how they want it to go – avoiding issues like James Deen or abuse on set – but gives your money directly to them. Thus you get off AND support someone’s hard work directly.
Another option is to choose a user-submitted site like Make Love, Not Porn; this is a site that focuses on real couples having real sex, not porn sex. This helps make sure that yes, everyone involved wants to be there and is having a good time. Plus, a lot of people find it far hotter than the very artificial performances of mainstream porn sex.
Other advice: use your browser’s incognito mode if you don’t want people knowing what you’ve gotten up to. Don’t install any plug-ins or download any files that you can’t source yourself. Clear your cache on the regular. And remember that strip clubs and interactive sites – cam-girls and the like – are designed to take your money and no, the cam girl does not actually want to date you no matter how intensely you may feel.
But the best advice I can give you right now: slow your roll. Don’t treat life and college as something you must master RIGHT THE HELL NOW. You have your entire life ahead of you and – contrary to your current beliefs – it can and will get better, not worse. And hey: if you want a little help in finding that first relationship, I’ve got some books for you that’ll give you the guidance you need.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)