Pleasing to the Eye

“It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.” Fabienne, Pulp Fiction

One of the sticking points in many of the debates and conversations that I’ve participated in around porn is that porn sex doesn’t look like real-life sex. Unfortunately, if the only images that we have about how to have sex come from porn, it’s easy to see how that can skew people’s perception of sex.

I’ve heard of a growing number of people in their early 20’s, especially men, who have trouble in their sexual relationships and say that it’s due, at least in part, to their porn viewing habits during their adolescence. Of course, nobody under 18 is supposed to look at internet porn, just like nobody under 21 is supposed to drink alcohol, right?

Some folks argue that any sexually explicit media is inherently problematic, while others claim that the porn industry as it currently  represents  sex is the problem, not sexually explicit media per se. After all, porn in the 70’s showed sex that looked a lot like everyday sex- no cameras between the legs, etc.

Most modern-day porn focuses so much on what works for the camera that there’s little room for anything that actually looks like it feels good. Crazy contortions that most people can’t manage, hard & pounding sex with no warm up or lubricant, a fairly predictable formula of acts- these are all chosen because of the perception that they look good. And of course, real passion and chemistry is quite hard to fake, especially when you’re a “performer” rather than an “actor.” I also think that after making porn for a while, many of the folks in the industry develop a different perception of what looks good than folks who aren’t in the biz.

Now just to be clear, I don’t think that porn’s focus on what looks good on camera is necessarily a bad thing. I also know that porn can be lots and lots of fun for many people. It’s just that I also think that it’s important to remember that most sex in the real world isn’t going to look like that and if you’re so focused on having “porn sex,” you might miss out on many of the joys and pleasures of sexuality.

In many ways, it makes me think of how television and movies  portray, well, pretty much anything. When you watch a detective movie, you’ll see someone sit at the computer, type for 10 seconds and get the information they want. When you watch Law & Order, you never see how appallingly slowly anything having to do with police work or courtrooms actually happens.  Medical dramas never shows anyone waiting for hours in the emergency room. Life in TV shows and movies is generally super convenient, except in the ways that move the storyline along. Expecting the real world to work like TV is almost always going to lead to disappointment. So why should we expect porn to be any different?

Personally, I’d love to see more sexually explicit movies that showed sex that looked like it feels good. There are  some, like Tony Comstock’s movies, as well as the movies that Abby Winters has made. There are also the classics, which still have a lot of fans. And I have to give a shout out to Good Releasing (GV’s new video production arm), with some super hot movies that feature truly pleasurable sex.
What I think we really need is better education and portrayals of real-life sex and sexual relationships, along with the fun-to-watch, but unrealistic erotic movies. And we need to stop singling out porn for something that pretty much every form of entertainment does. There’s plenty of other stuff that I would change about porn, but expecting it to be any different from TV in terms of how it caters to the camera and makes everything look unrealistic is just silly.Ultimately, what’s pleasing to the eye can be pretty compelling. But when you lose track of what’s pleasing to the touch, that can be a problem. Personally, I’m all about the both/and. I think we can have the ability to have both. Perhaps not always at the same time, but that’s OK.

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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