Ask the Doctors: Did Porn Make Me Kinky?

So I’m a 25 year old heterosexual male with minimal sexual experience, meaning no one but my hand has messed around below waistline. Until now that is.  I just started dating this woman I’ve known for a while and we’ve had a few experience where either she goes to give me a BJ or I try to penetrate her. Every time, we wait to start until I’m hard, but I go soft within about 30 seconds. Obviously, this is very non-conducive to the situation and is a bit of a pain in the ass. My girlfriend suggested that I write you guys and see what you have to say. I would love to hear advise on both what are probable causes for this and possible courses of action.

So for that, some relevant details. To start with, the usually identified reason for virgins is nervousness/anxiety/adrenaline. While I can’t completely rule this out, I feel that I can honestly say that I was not feeling overly excited versus the normal state of heightened alertness that I get from fooling around at any level. Next, after having talked to a number of both guy and girl friends, I think one of the more likely culprits is porn. Or more to the fact, I feel that over the course of the last 10 years or so of jerking off primarily to porn, I’ve conditioned my body to respond to a particular type of visual/audio and physical stimulation. Another fact related to this is the type of porn I watch is indicative of what arouses me, and that is primarily lesbian sex and BDS&M, neither of which are happening (so far) in my bedroom. (She has had problems in the past with dominant guys, so our bedroom has to at least start more or less dominance free.) Expanding on this, control and dominance have been things that have turned me on before I knew what sex was. (In exotic literature, I go for hypnosis.) I can remember back in 1st or 2nd grade I would have fantasies about being able to make girls kiss me.

While not a solid rule, I would say that things like making out/feeling her up/even looking at her dressed in a skirt are things that I’m attracted to and turn me on/get me horny, but they don’t usually physically arouse me, and if they do, it dies down quickly. Things as simple as pushing her against a wall, rolling on top of her, or holding her wrists can usually get me hard fairly fast, but this too tends not to last that long.

Apologies for being verbose, but I feel that was the minimum number of sentences to get across the relevant info. Thanks again for any help!
–Not Hot and Hard (Enough)

This situation is a little thorny, but I’ve seen thornier, so let me offer some thoughts and suggestions.

First, it’s true that when guys transition from solo sex to partnered sex there can be issues with nerves, adrenaline, and so forth. In the situation you’ve described to me, the biggest source of nervousness for you might be not the fact that you’re becoming partner-sexual, but the fact that you have to keep a key part of your turn-on under control (I mean, of course, your dominant side). That adds up to having to keep the brakes on as you’re getting revved up — it’s a bit like a woman who ejaculates fearing to get so turned on that it happens, lest she get her partner all wet. Between that and the fact that your erotic charge lies somewhere past the boundary of what you and your play partner can consensually do together so far may lie the source of your erection’s unwillingness to go along for the ride. Provided you do get hard for a longer time during solo sessions with porn, I do not see the issue as being your erectile function per se, but the situational nature of it.

Now let me speak to the role of porn in this mix. It is quite right that watching porn and masturbating is different from having interactive sex with a partner. And your insight that you get such different stimuli from porn/solo play that it might play a role in your erection issues might indeed be the case. The grain of truth in the arguments against porn, especially for people without lots of in-the-flesh sexual experience, is that one can get habituated to a certain kind of experience that is too different from live-action partner sex, plus that porn does not necessarily give you as much emulate-able sex education as we sex educators might wish. Having said that, over time your focus is very likely to shift from the experience and response you’re used to, allowing you to respond more fully and comfortably to partner-centric activities. You’re just beginning this journey now, really, so give yourself a little time. Some people choose to step away from porn to allow them to focus on this transition. Some don’t. I can’t assess from what you’ve written whether you’re likely to have a more successful experience one way or the other — but you do sound thoughtful and able to look clearly at your own situation, which is a distinct plus as long as you don’t stay so up-in-your-head that it affects your body’s ability to respond.

Also, I want to say in so many words that while porn generally provides half-assed sex education at best (that’s a scientific term), your story makes it clear that your desires pre-dated the porn you watch and that your viewing has conformed to your interests and orientation. This isn’t always a factor in cultural discussions of porn, and it’s important to make the distinction. I don’t think porn has caused any erotic incompatibility in your relationship.

Some people in situations similar to yours actually use porn as a bridge between their deep erotic response and their response to a partner. I’d suggest this only if your girlfriend is comfortable with porn — and the porn you like, at that. Otherwise I don’t recommend this strategy. You might have luck using fantasy in this role — allowing your mind to go on the erotic ride you can’t experience in the flesh (at least, as you say, not yet). You might also try the very opposite strategy: sensate focus, in which you just put your awareness into the parts of your body that are bringing you pleasure. And if there are elements of feedback that you can share with your play partner regarding how firmly you like to be touched, sucked, etc., by all means let her in on it. Even without the porn connection, lots of women handle men’s penises more gently than the men attached to them would prefer. So do communicate with her to optimize your chances of having a more pleasurable outcome.

If she’s open to getting further information about BDSM, I’ll suggest a few resources. Don’t do it via porn, at least not at first. (Later if you want to show her what turns you on and she’s interested, fine, but start with info.) For a video you can watch together and discuss, check out BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!, which is a documentary made to debunk people’s myths about BDSM play. She might get good perspective from When Someone You Love Is Kinky (Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), a book written for family, friends, and partners of kink-interested folk.

Because your partner has had negative experiences with male dominance, if she is to feel comfortable enough to play with you (and that’s an “if,” not a sure thing), you’ll have to really be trustworthy in your adherence to her own limits; that’s the thing that might reassure her that she’s safe enough with you to explore kinky play. If that day does come, two great books are Sensuous Magic (Patrick Califia) and Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism (Philip Miller and Molly Devon): both are intended to help newcomers to BDSM ease into play, discover their favored playstyle, and play safely.

I recommend you read those too — even if you’re well-informed about your erotic hot spots via porn and fantasy, taking those desires into play is another matter, and informational books are a great way to help you make the transition, if you have not already started to gear up to get the information that will make your scenes successful when you DO have someone who wants to play your way. I’d also recommend Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely (Henkin and Holiday), which is full of detail about communication and technique; The New Topping Book (this one is especially for people with some play under their belt, but if you know this is your erotic identity, you can’t start too soon to develop knowledge and insight). You might also like Midori’s Wild Side Sex, a book of essays and writings by the notable kinky sex educator.

There are informational videos as well; Nina Hartley makes an accessible series of these: Nina Hartley’s Guide to Erotic Bondage, Nina Hartley’s Guide to Sensual Submission, and Nina Hartley’s Guide to Spanking might all give you useful information, and if your play partner decides to give any of this a try, she can watch them too. And speaking of kinky education, here’s one site that’s well-respected: http://www.kinkacademy.com/

Erotic stories with male-dom, female-submissive protagonists like Molly Weatherfield’s novel Carrie’s Story might be another plus, both for you and your play partner (the follow-up volume, featuring the same characters, is Safeword). The reason erotica is good is that it allows you to follow along with hopefully-engaging protagonists of a narrative; you can just read it as fiction, or as inspiration. The Leather Daddy and the Femme is another novel like this.

By the way, if I added a link to the book or video here, it’s because Good Vibrations carries it. Those without links you’ll have to track down via Powell’s or another site or bookstore.

Having said and recommended all that, you should be prepared for the possibility that your partner will feel pressured to do things she doesn’t want to do in this reading and film-watching orgy: it is possible that getting her more information won’t actually move her any closer to a desire for kinky play. Not all people who are attracted to each other are sexually compatible, although most pairs of people who want to have an erotic relationship can figure out how to do some fun and pleasurable stuff; and some loving, longtime partners must also learn how to get needs met that aren’t shared by both. You may have met the person you will stay with over the long term, or it’s possible you and she will not continue to date for a lot longer; either way, the issues that have come up for you in this relationship will be relevant questions for you if it continues to be the case that the erotic stimulus you’re getting is just too vanilla. One question for the future might be how you’ll find a partner (or several) who do share your interests.

Finally, it might be that talking to a sex therapist about these issues would be helpful to you, especially in devising strategies to facilitate your move from porn to real-life play. If you do so, try to find someone whose understanding and training encompasses BDSM — not all sex therapists are equally informed and comfortable about it. A therapist hunt could start here: www.ncsfreedom.org/resources/kink-aware-professionals.html


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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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