Porn is presented as the obvious stimulus for self-pleasure. Once found within the pages of smutty magazines, it’s now – and has been for some time – available to anyone with access to the world wide web. It’s the perfect fit for the job, we’re told, and if a point like this is hammered home hard enough, pretty soon we’ll start believing it. In our society, men are expected to enjoy porn – anyone who doesn’t is an anomaly. But porn isn’t for everyone, and for many people – myself included – it doesn’t really do a lot for us. Personally, I’d even go as far as to say that porn is more of a turn-off.
To my mind, porn is clinical and unfeeling, stripping away all emotion from sex to leave a strangely sinister shallowness in its wake. It fixates on the physical mechanics of the sexual act with the obsessive intensity of a fiend at the peak of a meth binge, slavering over the whole processes like a child given free rein of the internet for the first time. Porn just can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s a film produced to promote arousal, or a biology documentary about Where Babies Come From. What’s with all the close-up shots of penetration? Surely, by now, we know what goes where. The subtler sex scenes in mainstream films are arguably more successful at being arousing, precisely because they leave a little more to the imagination. And what’s sexy about semen? The reminder that sexual intercourse is, at its core, a reproductive act derived from our innate urge to pass on genes and ensure the survival of homo sapiens is an instant mood-killer if I ever heard one. So spare me the spunk, please.
‘Are you an arse or a boob man?’ I’m often asked. No one to this day has asked me my opinion on vaginas. Porn insists on shoving veiny shafts and stubbly vulvas in our faces like we’re meant to be excited by them, just because they’re used in love-making. Maybe this works for some people, but to me this is astonishingly one-dimensional – human sexuality is far more nuanced than this. Reducing arousal to a few supposedly titillating body parts is the equivalent of a horror film showing us a picture of a monster, in absence of any atmosphere or plot, and expecting us to be scared.
Of course, porn lovers might emerge from piles of discarded tissues to offer that pornos are not just nonstop shag-fests – they actually have narratives. But it’s a longstanding joke that no one watches the first few minutes of a porno, where the paper-thin plot is fleshed out in full, and the acting is so poor that any potential immersion is pre-emptively broken. If that wasn’t enough, the myriad ways in which porn can turn almost any situation into sex make it yet more difficult to take seriously. Think of a scenario, and there’s a porno where that same scenario somehow leads to a huge orgy. Not even the staunchest supporter of the genre would disagree with this critique, but it surprises me that this isn’t a problem for many people. Surely there should be some veneer of ‘reality’ over porn that makes it just a little bit believable? Without this, it becomes even harder to forget that you’re watching two (or more) paid actors have sex, neither (or none) of whom is you. Cue salty sad-wank tears.
Even if I somehow find myself getting into a particular video, one thing is sure to kill my libido dead: the plainly over-the-top moans of ‘pleasure’ pervasive in porn, which are too hilarious to take seriously. Unquestionably, porn is best with the sound off, and even then it’s impossible to escape the grotesque, nigh-on parodic imitations of seduction affected by those in these videos. Their hammy come-hither glances and lip-biting are manufactured to the nth degree, never once threatening to betray a single sliver of sincerity. The men, particularly, are quite simply fucking-machines, slapping against whatever gets in their way like giant, machismo wrecking balls; well-endowed brutes devoid of all warmth or personality. This is ugly, ugly sex.
I’m aware I’m in the minority here, and in a society where watching porn is just something men do, not watching it feels somehow emasculating. As you can probably tell, I have a fair bit of experience watching porn for someone that claims not to like it, and that’s because I’ve tried to like it. Even though I know I don’t. Even though I find it borderline repulsive. But it makes no sense to force yourself to like something that is ultimately a matter of taste, and I’ve come to accept that porn just isn’t my cup of tea. And that’s okay. I’ll never deny a man his right to knock one out over his laptop screen, but in my book, porn just isn’t sexy.