How to Watch Porn in a Healthy Way, According to Megan Barton-Hanson

Yes, you can have a healthy relationship with adult content.

Everybody watches porn. So why can’t we, as a society, just fess up and say “Yeah, I watch porn – I love it”? The days of being able to speak about porn, pleasure and anything else to do with sex without a burning sense of shame feel a long way off. Instead, the UK has a deeply repressed population, a proposed age verification system for adult content that’s riddled with security issues and MPs watching porn in the House of Commons. Surely, there must be a better way? This week, resident VICE columnist and noted porn fan Megan Barton-Hanson teaches us how to have a healthier relationship to adult content. You can read her previous column for VICE here.

Porn shouldn’t be the first and only place young people can go to find information about sex

Before I gave my first ever blow job, I looked online to see how it was done. There was nowhere else to find out about sex, so I didn’t feel like I had a choice choice. Not much has changed since then – but now there are plans to implement age verification, so people will have to prove that they’re over 18 to access porn sites, which feels mean. What would I have done from 16 to 17 without porn?! Seriously though, as much as we need to protect kids from stumbling across hardcore graphic material that’ll scar them for life, there also needs to be education around it that helps them navigate sex in a healthy way. 

So many people think that choking and slapping is a standard sexual activity now, rather than a kink that needs to be discussed and consented to beforehand. The amount of fake moaning contributes to the orgasm gap as well, because you see all these adult performers doing the absolute most without even being touched. If we actually got taught about pleasure and sex and talked about how these things work, fewer people would go out of their way looking for porn at a very young age because they can’t find information around sex anywhere else. If we want to see healthier attitudes towards sex as a society, let’s start with education.

Figure out your own relationship with porn

Porn doesn’t make me feel insecure or down these days, but it did when I was younger. I think everyone is insecure about it when they’re in their teens. At 18, if my boyfriend was watching porn, I’d take it quite personally – especially if the girls in the videos looked completely different to me. That need to compare would creep in. But as I got older and started enjoying it myself, that fizzled out. The more you create your own relationship, the more you start to understand that it can be a way to discover different things and experiment with whatever floats your boat at that moment. And if it’s not for you, that’s fine too!

Explore, explore, explore

When you start delving into porn, you’ll find that the stuff that you like and that you can relate to and that turns you on probably doesn’t involve men with washboard abs, or women without a single roll of fat and a perfect blow dry. The people I enjoy watching the most are the verified amateurs – real-life couples who are fully going for it because they're into it. There are a lot more options now than when I was growing up.

When I was young I’d have to sneak on the family computer to watch porn, and all the videos featured cardboard cutouts of men and “girl next door” types of women. It’s like what people say about all the Love Island contestants looking the same – that’s literally what porn was like. I remember always worrying if my vagina looked correct, because all the porn was like, perfect designer vaginas with no inner lips. Now you see such an array of vaginas and such an array of body types, which I think is a lot healthier. It was the same for men too, but now there’s loads of dicks out there – with an interesting array of angles, to say the least!

Normalise talking about porn to your partner and mates

When people feel a sense of shame around porn, that’s when it becomes difficult. If you think you're doing something dirty and you're keeping it a secret, and you wouldn’t tell your partner or your friends about it, that's when it can start to have a negative effect on your mental health. If you're blasé about porn and make it a normal conversation with your friends – “oh girls, you’ll never guess what I watched the other day, the storyline was so ridiculous…” – I think that would really help people’s feelings around it.

Don’t watch it in public… like parliament, for example

When I used to work in the city, I got on the train one morning and opened my phone to Google something. I’d been watching porn the night before and it literally started blaring out loud on the c2c line. We’ve all been there, but watching porn in public intentionally is a no. The amount of people I used to get when I was webcamming who would get a kick out of doing it at work… I wouldn’t believe them, I’d be like “put your webcam on” and they’d genuinely be having a wank at their desk. Come on now.

Get your partner involved

Watching porn is still considered to be an embarrassing activity that we do alone and never speak of to anyone. This can sometimes impact relationships – I still know men whose girlfriends won’t let them watch porn, as if they’re going to run off into the sunset with a porn star from LA! The more open you are about your relationship to porn, the more trust you’ll have in your relationships in general. 

Talking about it with your partner can also make it a more positive experience if you’re struggling with porn addiction, or you’re not feeling sexually fulfilled in your relationship. Rather than obsessing over videos alone in the bathroom or before bed or at work, ask your partner what kind of porn they like watching, or what they’re into right now. You might be watching the same stuff, for all you know! If there’s something you’re too shy to say you’re into, watching porn together can also be a good way of exploring it. One thing can lead to another and before you know it you’ll be giving it a go yourself. 

Consider your partner’s feelings

If you leave your laptop open and you have your porn history on there, you do have to be conscious of your partner's feelings. Young women can be particularly sensitive to that, so if you’re not ready to start talking about it openly as a couple just yet, then it’s something to be mindful of.

Broaden your horizons

Maybe if more people watched independently made porn, more people would feel more confident to talk about it in their social groups. Porn isn’t just a bit of the internet that you access in incognito mode for free – it can be an art form. I once did a talk at Oxford with a director called Erika Lust who makes porn that’s all about women’s pleasure, which is amazing. There definitely needs to be more porn made from the female gaze and more porn stars that cater to the female gaze, too. Owen Gray can’t keep us all going forever!

@meganbartonhanson_


Tagged:

porn, PORN INDUSTRY, adult industry, Megan Barton-Hanson

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