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10 Real Women Share Their Uncensored Thoughts About Watching Pornography

Aly Semigran

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In 1964, United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that when it came to explaining what, exactly, hard-core pornography is, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”

Now, 55 years after Justice Stewart’s declaration, pornography is still tough to define in specific terms, and part of that may be due its changing landscape (um, hello, internet porn), whether that be for better or worse.

To get more unique views on the medium, I spoke to professionals in the sex therapy field, as well as women of varying genders, sexual identities, and relationship statuses about their thoughts and feelings on pornography. Here’s what they have to say:

Check out what 10 women really think about watching porn.

“Pornography is an incredibly complicated and incredibly simple thing at the same time. I believe in supporting and uplifting sex workers and in the legitimacy of sex work itself. Porn is like anything else dealing with sexuality and someone’s body; if it’s not for you, simply don’t engage.” —Ali, cis, single, heterosexual

“Porn is not inherently good or bad, healthy, or unhealthy. It isn’t sex; it’s fantasy and entertainment. It is generally exaggerated to highlight one aspect of eroticism, so in that way, it is like a caricature of sex. But what’s portrayed does hit erotic buttons for people, so it can be a powerful form of stimulation. As with so many things, the problem isn’t viewing porn in and of itself, it’s whether the viewing is done in a way that feels balanced and positive for the person watching.” Jessa Zimmerman, MA, certified sex therapist 

“Porn is like anything else dealing with sexuality and someone’s body; if it’s not for you, simply don’t engage.” —Ali, cis, single, straight

“My feeling about porn is that it’s a very powerful medium that’s been hamstrung by society’s inability to approach sex with maturity. It could be such an incredible tool to teach people about consent, sexuality and how amazing the sexual connection between humans can be, but instead it’s dominated by crude male fantasy. I stopped watching a lot of porn after transitioning because so much of it is just based in a world where women are purely objects in service to men. There is some good porn out there but it’s definitely rare.” —Shawna, transgender, single, pansexual

“I don’t really have thoughts on porn, other than how it f**ks up dudes’ perspectives on what sex is like.” —Natasha, cis, single, heterosexual

“It’s absolutely healthy [to watch porn], and as soon as we lift the shame from porn, the more mindful decisions we can make in regards to the consumption of porn and how porn is produced.” —Genny, cis, married, heterosexual

“I stopped watching a lot of porn after transitioning because so much of it is just based in a world where women are purely objects in service to men. There is some good porn out there but it’s definitely rare.” —Shawna, transgender, single, pansexual

“I enjoy porn. My tastes have changed over the years—I’ve learned and grown and sort of zeroed in on what really turns me on, and I’ve become more discerning. Technology has changed how people make, distribute, and consume porn, in some ways that are really positive and some that are very harmful. On the plus side, it’s much easier to find kinky and/or queer porn that represents all sorts of bodies. As a plus-size woman, it can be really hard not to feel just like a disembodied head full of great ideas and funny, smart quips, so it’s reassuring to see performers who look like me as objects of desire.” —Jamie, cis, single, heterosexual

“Sexual imagery often gets bad press, but research does not support the negativity it receives. In fact, there is some research to support that if both members of a couple have positive views regarding sexual imagery, it can enhance the relationship and facilitate further communication,” Rose Hartzell, PhD, sex therapist

“The internet allows us every possible variation of porn—if you can think it, it probably exists—but I’d love to see more porn that reflects the messiness (and laughter, and silliness) of real sex. And more porn with kissing. To me, actual intimacy is way hotter than perfect bodies at perfect angles.” —Dese’Rae, cis, married, bisexual/homoromantic

“As a plus-size woman, it can be really hard not to feel just like a disembodied head full of great ideas and funny, smart quips, so it’s reassuring to see performers who look like me as objects of desire.” —Jamie, cis, single, heterosexual

“As a 45-year-old Gen-Xer, I used to think I didn’t care for porn because of the era I grew up in, but over time, I’ve realized it’s more because mainstream porn that was accessible easily when I was younger did not feature fat bodies like mine: Hustler, Playboy, Screw, etc. If I don’t feel welcome, represented, or included, then I tend not to be turned on by it—and just didn’t look for [accessible porn] after a while. Now I can find more diverse people in porn, but since I never developed a taste for it in my youth, I don’t seek it out. I just don’t care about it.” —Jen, cis, married, bisexual

“Is porn healthy? Depends how you use it. For some, porn use can potentially create unrealistic expectations about real-life sex, especially for women. However, I’ve worked with couples, for example, who have found tremendous benefit in watching porn together by helping them explore their likes and dislikes, or safely engage in certain fantasies that they may not want to act out in real life.” Elizabeth Perri, PsyD, clinical psychologist and sex therapist

If you’re interesting in sexy reading material rather than viewing material, check out this list of educational, sex-positive reads, plus steamy romance novels to heat up your TBR pile.

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