Nine Absolutely Untrue Myths About Porn—And One Fact We Can All Agree On

Opinions about porn are like noses—everybody has one. But varying opinions are so contradictory, they can’t all be right.

We actually do know a lot about contemporary porn’s use and effects, so let’s get some knowable facts out on the table.

* Myth: Porn is mostly violent and misogynist.
* Fact: Most porn shows happy, smiling people doing fairly ordinary things. A lot of porn shows happy, smiling (and perhaps sweaty) people doing exotic things. And some porn shows adults pretending to play dominance and submission games. Pretending? Yes. The actors and actresses are acting.

* Myth: Watching porn causes erection problems.
* Fact: (1) There has been no documented increase in erection problems, so there’s no “epidemic” for porn to cause. (2) Of course most young men with erection problems watch porn—because most young men watch porn.

* Myth: Porn destroys good intimate relationships
* Fact: (1) No one chooses to watch porn instead of being in a vibrant sexual relationship. People do back away from the chance for a good sexual relationship for many reasons, such as anger, guilt, fear of intimacy, depression, and anxiety. The fact that such people may get involved with porn is not the problem.

(2) Sexually unsatisfying relationships are caused by many things, such as misinformation, medication side effects, hormone problems, anger, childhood trauma, fear of abandonment; a refusal to discuss the sexual disconnect is common. Just because one or both partners look at porn doesn’t remotely mean that porn is the problem.

* Myth: Most men hide their porn-watching from their partner because they know they’re doing something wrong.
Fact: Most men hide their porn-watching for one or more reasons: (1) they believe their partner would be uncomfortable about it and might insist they have a right to a porn-free house; (2) like most Americans, they are uncomfortable discussing sexuality in general; (3) they don’t want to confront the reality of their partner’s or their own sexual dissatisfaction; (4) when someone tells their adult partner “I forbid you from watching that in our house,” they are really instructing, “You better keep it secret.”

* Myth: Only a man would enjoy porn; women simply don’t like it
Fact: (1) Millions of women watch internet porn—some by themselves, others with their partners. Some women watch porn specifically made for them, while others watch the same videos that men do. (2) Fifty Shades of Grey is the best-selling book in history. It’s porn. Its readers are almost exclusively women.

Myth: Watching adult porn leads to watching kiddie porn
Fact: (1) The adult porn industry doesn’t make kiddie porn, doesn’t promote kiddie porn, and doesn’t want its customers to watch kiddie porn. (2) Can you imagine any adult porn that would lead you to want to watch sexual videos of children? Kiddie porn isn’t something anyone gradually develops a taste for.

* Myth: Porn is all about men’s sexuality and men’s pleasure
* Fact: Most porn includes a focus on the pleasure of the characters portrayed by actresses. This often includes cunnilingus, typically includes a female orgasm (no matter that it may be shown unrealistically), frequently shows her enjoying fellatio, and may include domination that she finds pleasurable. These are standard features of ordinary caring and consensual heterosexual sex.

* Myth: Watching porn encourages violence against women
* Fact: (1) Since broadband brought free, high-quality porn into almost every home in America, the rate of rape in the U.S. has gone down (according to the FBI). Yes, rape is an under-reported crime—and that was true before porn, just as it is now. (2) This decrease in rape following the spread or legalization of porn has been documented in dozens of countries including Denmark, Japan, and Croatia.

* Myth: Neuroscience proves that watching porn can damage your brain and even cause porn addiction.
Fact: No it doesn’t. (1) The brain lights up during all pleasurable activities, including watching a sunset and playing with your grandchildren. Of course it lights up during sexual arousal.

(2) While there are plenty of people with unhealthy porn-watching habits, no one has actually documented “porn addiction.” Unless someone has other non-porn mental health problems (such as bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder), almost anyone can modify their porn-viewing habits if they want to—making it quite different than addiction.

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Here’s a fact we should all agree on and act on: that kids need an intelligent, caring adult to talk with them about porn. Kids need to know that:
~ Porn is an adult product, showing adult themes and behaviors that will be confusing to someone without experience.
~ Porn is not a documentary, and doesn’t portray sex as it really is. It’s made by actors and actresses playing characters that someone made up.
~ The bodies shown in porn are not typical adult bodies. Just as the NBA, NFL, and movie studios select people for their unusual physical characteristics, so do porn producers. You don’t look like LeBron James, you don’t look like Tom Cruise, and you don’t look like Rocky Buttman, either.

Most of all, if your kid has any questions about porn or sex in general, she or he should ask you. And they won’t be punished for their question. You do promise that, right?
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Need help discussing porn with your kid? My new video “Helping young people develop porn literacy” will make it easier. It’s available as a DVD or mp4 download here.

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