Is Watching Porn Really All That Bad (Or Are My Parents Just Tripping)?

 

If you’re a teenager reading this article, the chances are you’ve already watched porn. It may have been on your phone, laptop, tablet, or – as the classic response goes – you happened to maybe see some pictures on your friend’s phone that one time.

Whatever the case may be for you, research shows that about 67% of 13-year-old boys and about 40% of 13-year-old girls have seen at least one pornographic image on some sort of digital device in the past year. Those numbers jump up toward the end of adolescence. Research shows that by the age of 18, over 90% of boys and over 60% of girls have seen porn in some form or other.

But you already know that, since you’re a teenager. You don’t need our data to tell you what you just (maybe) experienced last week (on your friend’s phone).

Why Watch Porn

There are plenty of reasons to watch pornography or view pornographic images. You probably didn’t expect this article to go in this direction, but let’s not fool ourselves: people watch porn for the same basic reason people have sex.

It feels good. There are more reasons, but that’s pretty much it.

Sex education in this country often fails because we don’t recognize the totally obvious. Sure, sex – in terms of evolution – is for making babies. Sex is also a way to express love, experience intimacy, and mark the passage from adolescence to adulthood.

Sex also has different meanings in different religions, mostly related to marriage. They’re very serious about it, but we won’t go there in this article.

Why Porn Education Fails

Porn education often fails in this country for a reason similar to why sex education often fails. Educators aren’t willing to say what everyone knows: people mostly watch porn for the feeling it gives them. It’s also a way to have a new experience and break the rules in a way that seems like it doesn’t have serious consequences. You may watch and then share porn with your friends to show how mature or worldly you are – also, for the most part, without consequences.

The thing is, watching porn does have consequences.

How Watching Porn Can Change You

Time to pull back the curtain on this article.

There’s a person here, writing these words – me. When I write articles like these, I typically use the third person “we” pronoun, or avoid using it altogether, and simply convey useful information on a topic. I do research, I try to construct smart-sounding sentences, and I offer real facts backed by links to peer-reviewed journal articles, like I did above.

But for this article, I want to talk straight to you. Like I talked to my nephew last Thanksgiving. When I talk to him about sex and drugs, I don’t pull out journal articles and spew facts about neurobiology and adolescent development.

Well, I do talk facts, but who walks around with articles? Not me. I’m a grown-up. I’ve watched porn and I’ve had sex. I also studied neurobiology and writing in college. I can talk and write about these topics just fine without making a bunch of references or needing to check them. 

So here goes: your brain on porn.

Your Brain on Porn

Right now, as an adolescent, your brain is in the process of growing at an astronomical rate. Right this second, your neurons are multiplying, connecting, and forming millions upon millions of connections that will shape the way you see and experience the world for the rest of your life.

You probably know that much already – great.

But here’s my question for you: did you know that when you watch porn, you’re teaching your brain to connect those images to how you experience sexual pleasure? And if you’re watching them on a computer or phone, did you know you’re training your brain to include those devices in the way you experience sexual pleasure?

In the future, you want to be able to have an orgasm without a phone in your hand or a screen in your face, right?

Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s what I said to my nephew. I hadn’t seen him blush in years, but blush he did.

If you watch a ton of porn, your brain will change. Then both porn and how you watch it will be part of how you experience sex – for the rest of your life.

There are a couple more reasons I’m stepping out and speaking directly in this article. First, I want you to know – really know – the way they have sex in porn is not real. Regular people don’t have sex like that. Sure, a very small percentage do, but for most people on earth, sex is not some kind of circus-style gymnastics workout.

I’m not going to say what sex is or tell you how most people do it – that’s for you to discover on your own, in your own way, with a real human, in real time, when you’re ready. And when you’re ready will depend on a lot of things aside from this article: mostly your family and probably your religious faith, if that’s the type of upbringing you’ve had.

Next thing.

I’ll just offer these facts for you to take how you will:

  • The average male penis is 5.8 inches long.
  • The average porn penis 8 inches long or over.
  • Most female porn actresses have all kinds of enhancements: breasts, lips, etc.
  • Most women walking around out in the world are not enhanced.

(Okay, so I didn’t randomly know those first two things – I found them here while researching this article.)

When you watch a ton of porn you start to form unrealistic expectations of how people actually look. It’s part of that brain development thing. You start to wire those images into your brain. And you start to connect those images to how you experience sexual pleasure, and connect them with who you might want to have sex or become intimate with.

My question for you at this point is this: what if your body is not like porn bodies? Are you going to start feeling crappy about yourself? And what if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t have a porn star body? Are you going to not love them because they don’t look like some ultra-enhanced sex pro in a video?

All that would be pretty bad, if it happened to you.

Connecting the Dots

In answer to the first part of the original question, “Is Watching Porn Really All That Bad?” I’m going to tell you what I told my nephew: porn in and of itself is not inherently evil. I’m not an anti-porn crusader. But – and this is a big but – what it can do to your brain has the potential to be very bad.

Very, very bad.

It can form connections in your brain you probably don’t want there. That’s me talking, pulling no punches. Here’s what I actually said to my nephew:

“Dude, that sh!t ain’t real. And it can mess you up. Like almost permanently.”

Seriously. I can’t say that to you, so I won’t. Here’s what I will ask you, though.

Do You Want These Consequences?

Do you want sex to be connected, in the default wiring your mind, to a phone or computer screen? Because when you watch a lot of porn while your brain is in the process of creating that wiring, that’s what can happen.

Do you want to walk around feeling bad about your body because you don’t look like a porn star? Because when you watch a lot of porn while you’re forming your personal (and sexual) identity, that’s what can happen.

Do you want to create unrealistic ideas about what sex is and how it should happen in real life before you actually have sex? Because when you watch a lot of porn before you start having sex, that’s what can happen.

Do you want to be disappointed and confused when you fall in love with someone who doesn’t look like, have sex like, or do anything at all in life like a porn star does? Do you want to derail your chance of making a genuine romantic connection with another person? Because that’s what can happen if you watch a lot of porn before you become intimate or fall in love with a real human being.

Are My Parents Just Tripping

I’ll end by answering the second part of the initial question, “Are My Parents Just Tripping?” with a “Yes, your parents are probably tripping a little bit.” At this point in this article, maybe you can see why they’re tripping. I’m not telling you what to do or not do. You’re going to have to decide that for yourself. You’re going to find a way to watch porn if that’s what you want. Because, let’s be honest – it feels good. So you might. If you choose to watch, here’s the last thing I’ll ask: please do it with the fully informed awareness that it can really mess with your head.