The independent news organization of Duke University

Repeat after me: Porn is not a how-to manual

Some congratulations are in order. The world around us seems to be upending beneath our feet, and we have been absent that tangible, unsanitized contact with humanness for a long time—you know, the kind where you can touch a gas station countertop and not be reminded of your own mortality. Despite it all, we made it to LDOC. Holy shit, right? There’s nothing like finals season and a week-long retinal image of textbook pages to make an existential limbo that much more boundless, and I personally have a rapidly sinking ship of energy and motivation that I need to salvage a last crumb of productivity from. So, let's make this short and sweet: Let’s talk about porn. 

We’ve talked about porn before, with PASH President Michelle divulging all the ins and outs of ethical, free porn consumption. There, we asked you to be a conscious porn consumer. But now, we have a different suggestion: Stop using porn as a sexual script. Believe us when we say that porn is not a how-to manual for good, pleasurable sex. Just like reality television, porn is entertainment. It’s efficient, highly visual and not so much about truly capturing pleasure as it is about packaging pleasure in a way that’s readily palatable in heteronormative terms. And yet, it is within this singly-dimensioned, circumscribed rendering of pleasure that we learn what is expected of us. From these expectations, we derive the kiss-blowjob-penetration routine—ole’ reliable, not to be modified or diverged from in any way by a face entering a vagina. We close our eyes and arrange our mouths into O’s, because that’s what pleasure looks like, yes? Not a single hair is acceptable except for those on our heads, and of course we couldn’t forget that good sex has to be not only loud, but polished off with a collective orgasm. Ideally, you’re thinking, “We? Who the heck is we?” but I suspect that for at least some of you, this is what sex looks like: heavy on the performativity and not so much on the pleasure. Maybe this struck a chord, and maybe you’re feeling defensive. But, it’s just you and me here, and while I’m here to be honest with you, I’m not here to judge or shame you. So, let’s discover better, together. 

By better, I’m talking about is pleasure-based sex, an idea that Kassandra Mourikis, Melbourne-based Sexologist and founder of Pleasure Centred Sexology, speaks to beautifully in a post on her Instagram page. To paraphrase, pleasure-based sex includes: multiple activities of varied sequence decided upon in collaboration; clear, frequent attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication; and a recognition that your partner does not owe you an erection, vaginal wetness or an orgasm. To engage in pleasure-based sex is to release yourself from your mind’s prison, from managing and calculating your every appearance, sound and movement, and from enduring pain or discomfort to save your partner’s ego. Pleasure-based sex places you firmly within your body. 

An objective knowing of pleasure-based sex is different from application, though, especially within the Duke context, where, evidently, ‘Don’t kiss and tell’ doesn’t seem to be ringing too many bells. When you can’t trust that what happens in a private, vulnerable moment stays in that moment, and moreover, when what is said about that moment possesses bearing on your social standing and mobility, you may feel the full weight of our culture’s sexual expectations: closed eyes, open-mouth, loud orgasm and all. I’m pretty doubtful that our culture will change on any sort of useful timeline. 

But, the good news is that culture isn’t all-powerful. Learn to be comfortable with yourself and your body. Love unconditionally this vessel that allows you to connect with the world in limitless ways. Rejoice in the diversity of its form, tone and feel, because you are unlike any other. Be with a partner you trust and care about. Trust and care aren’t exclusive to sustained relationships; there need not be a single iota of romance in your sexual relationship for you to care about your partner as a human being with your same depth and complexity and for them to reciprocate the same. These are by no means quick fixes. This is a journey you could walk in for an entire lifetime. But, I think that speaks to what pleasure is in its most base form: not an entity confined solely to the sexual moment, but a symptom of the esteem you have for others and the love you have for yourself. So, have you chosen? Performativity or pleasure? Culture, or yourself? 

Until the New Year,

PASH

PASH is a student-run organization providing resources for sexual health and relationship-building. Their column, “Let’s talk about ‘it,’” runs on alternate Mondays. This column was written by Carly Jones, a Trinity junior and Vice President of PASH. 

Discussion

Share and discuss “Repeat after me: Porn is not a how-to manual” on social media.

Trending