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Is watching porn bad for you?

The Dark Side of Pornography: How Porn Influences Men


For an increasing number of young Aussies, the first time they learned about sex, it wasn’t from a parent or teacher. With a near-endless swathe of pornographic material at our fingertips, the social perception of sexuality and sexual exploration has evolved greatly over the past few decades, and not always for the better. As certified sex and relationship practitioner, Georgia Grace revealed to me, pornography among young boys has seen a concerning uptick in early exposure and the result can often be damaging.

“Young boys are seeing porn at age six…they’re babies” states Georgia.

This early introduction to hardcore pornography is a critical issue, often without appropriate context or guidance, which Grace explained can shape a person’s initial understanding of sex and relationships. The lack of age-appropriate, comprehensive sexual education exacerbates this issue, leaving young men with skewed perceptions that can persist into adulthood. Sex-positive education in Australia is limited and there is a void left by the absence of inclusive conversations on the topic.

“They’re viewing these ideas about porn without…safe and respectful conversations about sex,” she notes. This gap in education leads to a generation of young men growing up with misconceptions about sexual relationships, heavily influenced by the unrealistic portrayals seen in adult content.

Image: Pablo Heimplatz
Pornography can set unrealistic expectations on sexual performance | Image: Pablo Heimplatz

The Impact of Pornography on Sexual Expectations

Grace speaks to the heart of the issue regarding how pornography shapes men’s expectations of sex. “There’s this intense pressure to conform to what they see in porn…to be rock hard, to have a symmetrical penis, to look a certain way,” she explains.

Pornography often presents a narrow and unrealistic standard of sexual performance and physical appearance, significantly divergent from the realities of human sexuality. In her opinion, this portrayal can lead to unrealistic expectations, performance anxiety, and distorted perceptions of healthy sexual behaviours.

The normalization of aggressive sexual behaviour in pornography is another significant concern that Grace has observed in her practice. “Young women tell me about experiences with young men, where, out of nowhere, he has choked her.”

This trend reflects the dangerous imitation of behaviours portrayed in pornography, often replicated without understanding the nuances of consent and safety. Such misinterpretations can lead to harmful dynamics in sexual relationships, rooted in misconceptions propagated by pornographic content.

Image: Michael Prewett
Image: Michael Prewett

Challenges in Men’s Self-Perception and Relationships

Grace’s work as a certified sex and relationship practitioner has seen her work with both men and women to address a broad range of issues. Perhaps the most shocking difference between the two is the nature of each concern.

“Men come to sessions focused on the performance of sex rather than the experience of it,” she remarks. This emphasis on performance, driven by pornographic depictions, often overlooks the emotional and connective aspects of sexual relationships. Men may feel compelled to meet certain standards of stamina, technique, and appearance, neglecting the importance of intimacy, mutual pleasure, and emotional connection.

The impact extends beyond the bedroom, influencing men’s broader view of relationships and intimacy. “They’re missing out on understanding the varied and nuanced nature of human sexual experiences,” she says. This narrow focus can lead to challenges in forming deeper, more meaningful relationships, as men grapple with reconciling the stark differences between pornographic fiction and real-life sexual encounters.

Certified sex and relationship practitioner Georgia Grace | Image: Georgia Grace
Certified sex and relationship practitioner Georgia Grace | Image: Georgia Grace

Navigating Towards a Healthier Sexual Understanding

In addressing these challenges, the promotion of ethical pornography and open, transparent discussions about sexuality are essential. “Ethical porn shows real diversity…it’s vital for people to see themselves in these depictions,” Grace asserts. Ethical pornography, characterized by consent, diversity, and fairness, offers an alternative to mainstream content, providing more realistic and respectful portrayals of sexual experiences.

Grace also stresses the importance of confronting the shame and misinformation surrounding sex. “Open, vulnerable conversations about sex lead to learning and understanding,” she advises. Creating spaces where men can openly discuss their experiences and concerns about sexuality without judgment can help break down the stigma and facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of sexual health and relationships.

Georgia’s insights offer a deeper understanding of the ways pornography influences men’s perceptions and experiences of sex and relationships. Her focus on ethical consumption of adult content, education and fostering open dialogue about sexuality provides a path towards a more informed, respectful and realistic approach to these integral aspects of human life. 

About Georgia Grace: Georgia Grace, is a certified sex and relationship practitioner, bringing a unique and insightful perspective to the conversation around sexuality and relationships. Trained in somatic sexology, which focuses on body awareness, Grace adopts a trauma-informed approach to her practice. She emphasizes both ‘top-down’ traditional therapies, like counselling and psychology, and ‘bottom-up’ somatic methods. As a co-founder of the sexual wellness company Normal, Grace is at the forefront of addressing complex issues surrounding sexuality, including the influence of pornography.