How porn ruined sex

TV hit Girls shows why men shouldn’t act like porn stars. David Whitehouse investigates the crap sex epidemic

A decade ago, a young man’s access to pornography was dependent on his height. It was the only good reason to hang around with tall people. Now you can be ineligible for access to most rollercoasters and still reach reams of softcore pornography. Not that you need to leave your bedroom. Hardcore streaming sites are fewer clicks away than your email account. It’s easier to get pornography than it is channel Five. The masturbating generation don’t know they’re born.

Most pornography bears about as much relation to actual sex as Pirates Of The Caribbean does to the ferry link between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. But its new prevalence has skewed male norms. Generations of men are entering their sexual futures thinking all women are meant to have the buoyant, taut bodies of Russian gymnasts. That first sexual encounters resemble the frenzied rutting of two chimps nearing sexual maturity. That you need to rattle through so many positions that even Prince would fake IBS to get out of it. We think we’re porn stars but we’re not. We’re just men.

HBO sitcom Girls, the much discussed and very funny US import, is doing a pretty accurate job of pointing out where we’re going wrong. Lena Dunham’s hit series paints a hyper-real portrait of the lives of four Brooklyn women. Unlike in Sex And The City, the majority of the sex in the show is awkward and hapless. Just like in real life. How awkward and hapless it is depends upon the gulf between reality and how ludicrous the man’s fantasy of what sex is actually like. Fact is, anyone who bases their understanding of sex on cues taken from pornography may as well be trying to design a website on an Etch A Sketch.

In one scene, Dunham’s character is asked by her boyfriend to lay face down on the couch holding her ankles, much like a trussed hog on a spit roast, while he tries to find some lube. In another a man at a party tries to ingratiate himself with the line, “I want you to know the first time I f*ck you I might scare you a little ’cos I’m a man and I know how to do things.” Elsewhere, a character played by Chris O’Dowd assumes that because two women are kissing in his apartment he’ll be allowed to join in, then throws a tantrum when they exclude him. “I want this to be a special night for all of us. Not just me watching you girls go at it for a little bit and getting a little bit turned on. I want to be balls-deep! In… something! And I don’t even care what it is!”

They do this because they’re playing real men who base their reality in movies. That’s what happens in the movies. In the movies I lost my virginity when I was a pizza delivery guy. Her hair was tousled. She was listless when it came to clothing. Her friend arrived. We all went at it like pigs in a shed. I’m surprised nobody died.

The reality has only the pizza in common. It was far too big for just the two of us. I put it into the oven before we started and it still had seven minutes left by the time we’d finished. We ate it. It could probably have done with a little bit longer.

Viva viagra?

Men get by in life by indulging in fantasy. The concern should not be that video games are making boys violent in school, but that pornography is making them rubbish in bed.

Cosmopolitan’s sex columnist Laura Jane MacBeth agrees there’s a problem. “It’s not to say that porn is a bad thing, or that women can’t enjoy watching it as much as men,” she explains. “It’s just that we need to be aware there is a disconnect between that and reality. Porn is a visual fantasy, and while fantasies are erotic and enjoyable, that doesn’t mean they’re something we want or should attempt to enact in real life. And it’s not just impacting on a physical level. In her book Living Dolls, Natasha Walter talks about the fact that sex is now seen as a performance, rather than an intimate, emotional experience. She relates that directly to the impact of porn.

Viagra use among young men is also at an all-time high. Harley Street psychosexual counsellor Raymond Francis recently revealed the average age of users among his patients is 32. It allows them to perform like the men do in the porn films that play next to the ads they buy it from.

MacBeth thinks this is symptomatic of the pressure porn puts men under. “I recently interviewed a 26-year-old guy who used Viagra, despite having no problems getting erections,” she tells me. “It was because he thought he had to last for hours like men do in porn, and that was the only way he could live up to the girl’s expectations. Whereas in reality, most women would probably be thinking after 45 minutes or so, ‘WHEN ARE YOU ACTUALLY GOING TO FINISH?!’

“And while the negative impact of the entirely unrealistic porn body ideal – super skinny, insanely breasted and waxed to within an inch of their life – is probably more pervasive among women, I’m not sure the mega-penises on show make men feel secure about themselves.”

It’s why small men spot ludicrous fast cars and think, “Yep, that’s the one.” And there is nothing like the billions of hours of pornography lurking under the mattress of the internet to make us all feel insecure. Of course men will deal with that by acting like porn stars. Of course. But perhaps we should take our cues from real life as well.

Leaving the moustachioed handymen, American-accented dirty talk and improbably randy neighbours where they belong.

Tags: sex, pornography

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