Tricolour Sex Column: The porn gap

The Kinky Scholar reflects on her decision to stop watching porn

Photo: 

This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.

The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only the experiences of a brown Queer Muslim woman whose upbringing included poor access to sex education and reproductive healthcare. No article, author, or publication can accurately reflect the experiences of all women. Please read with caution and kindness.

Women watch porn—in fact, they make up 32 per cent of Pornhub’s viewership. This may seem like an arbitrary statement, but it’s important in understanding the Porn Gap.

The Porn Gap describes the disparity between how men and women interact with porn: women are more likely to be punished socially if they admit to viewing porn, porn itself is largely crafted for male pleasure, and women tend to seek out different kinds of porn than men do.

Basically, even though men are more likely than women to watch porn regularly, women are definitely watching porn, either on their own or with a partner—and it’s not serving them well.

Now, let’s talk about why I made the decision to stop watching porn altogether.

I first started watching in middle school. As a latchkey kid who was frequently home alone with no parental controls on my internet, it was quite easy to find. From my understanding, porn was a natural part of masturbation, and as someone with socially conservative Muslim parents, I certainly couldn’t ask my mom if there were any other paths to self-pleasure.

Porn was damaging right away. By default, all the women were thin and white. When there were women who looked like me, they were categorized as ‘exotic.’ I remember once seeing pornstar Mia Khalifa give a blowjob while wearing a hijab.

Watching porn through popular streaming sites also instilled in me the belief that sex was a show women put on for men, even in Lesbian porn. From fake noises to even more fake orgasms, you should always, as a woman, look beautiful and be able to bend in any direction needed during sex—ironic, considering how gross, hilarious, and intimate sex really is.

Halfway through high school, with these lessons I learned from porn in my back pocket, my first sexual experience was traumatizing and—as I now know—assault.

I got nothing out of the half-hour-long oral sex I was forced to give and felt absolutely destroyed when I couldn’t make him finish.

None of what happened was my fault, but the culture mainstream porn promotes drove the internal trauma that followed that incident. Instead of focusing on my own comfort and safety, all I could think about for weeks and months and years afterwards was that I needed to be better at pleasing men. That’s fucked up, but it’s how a lot of women are forced to think about sexual assault, and even consensual sexual experiences.

I gave up watching porn around that time, and as I started to learn more about intersectional feminism and the complexities of sex work, I realized how much exploitation was happening in mainstream porn. From the hypersexualization and abuse of women, especially Black women, and the fact that the power in the industry lies with rich white men, it’s not a safe or empowering space for most sex workers.

I’ve kept up the practice of avoiding porn for years now, and I don’t miss it. I’m obviously not a completely secure goddess, but my sex life has improved since I stopped consuming something that made me feel worthless. Self-pleasure feels more like what it’s supposed to be: fun.

Porn isn’t a necessary part of sexual pleasure for any gender, even though we often frame it that way. It’s certainly not for me, and you shouldn’t feel like it has to be for you.

If porn is something you want to be a part of your sex life, that’s not something you should be ashamed of. Please just make sure you’re supporting the sex workers who are providing it to you. This means paying for the porn you watch and being selective and intentional about which outlets you’re consuming porn from.

If you’re looking for recommendations for feminist porn—which encompasses any porn that empowers and looks after sex workers—there are handfuls of websites out there.

Tags: 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.