SRC ELECTIONS 2018

Poor man’s porn ban

What do you do when your girlfriend asks you to stop watching porn, asks Charlotte Lim.

Cartoon chicken being choked by hand, yellow background, cross over image This chicken has been saved from choking.

Jake* was once a regular porn user. He would masturbate once or twice a day, mostly with porn. Jake is not an outlier, with 64% of young men and 18% of young women reportedly watching porn at least once a week. 

So it came as a surprise to him when his girlfriend of 8 months, Yassmin*, asked him to quit. “Yassmin explained her views that watching other people for pleasure is equivalent to cheating,” he told me. 

There’s no doubt porn is a contested space. But within a relationship, that contest is reduced to just two people, and the questions are fraught: does one partner have the right to ask the other to stop? Does the other have an obligation to follow through? How does a request like this change a relationship?   

 When Yassmin asked him to quit porn, Jake agreed. “While I do still disagree that porn is analogous to cheating, I personally am fine with complying with what she wants,” he said.

In fact, Jake was already having misgivings about porn. “I’ve always felt a slight dissatisfaction after watching.”

In this, he’s not alone: movements like #NoFap see porn as a cheap substitute for real human contact and sexual connection. Jake now admits using his imagination has been a lot more fruitful and made sexual relief better.  

Yassmin herself doesn’t watch porn. “I understand that for most people, porn is a really useful tool but personally, I’ve haven’t found a need for it,” she said.

When pressed, she voiced a firm belief in porn’s harmful nature. “Consider the imposition of the industry upon the actors, unrealistic expectations of what bodies should look and perform like, and unhealthy constructions of sexual experiences.” 

In fact, many social commentators argue that porn amounts to the abuse of women, both in the industry and outside it.  A University of Arkansas study found that in the 50 most popular porn movies, 88% of all scenes involved degradation of a female actor. And the more people watch porn, the more normalised this degradation becomes, copied into real relationships. 

While Jake doesn’t believe the use of porn is unethical per se, he does advocate for all its users to be fully educated on the distortions of what pleasurable sex looks like in porn versus reality.

At the time of publication, Jake has reached just over a month without pornography. Like many users, Jake relied on porn for stress relief. “Sometimes I ask myself when I’m super stressed, if I really see any worth in keeping it up if it’s just making me more frustrated.” 

It’s this kind of dependence that worries the members of movements like #NoFap, many of whom describe themselves as “porn addicts”. Overuse of porn, they say, can bring physical difficulties too, like erectile dysfunction or delayed ejaculation. 

Without the stimulation of porn, Jake’s sexual performance suffered. “I find it takes an excessive amount of time to finish.”

Nonetheless, Jake doesn’t think he’s addicted to porn, even though there have been relapses. “Once I do lapse it’s hard to make sure I don’t do it again, as the ‘one more time couldn’t hurt’ attitude seeps in,” he said.

However, there have been positives to the process of quitting as well. “With breaking a habit comes improved self-control,” he says. “I feel a little more in control of my sex drive and how I manage stress.” 

And, ultimately, the biggest plus for Jake is his relationship with Yassmin. “I’ve learned a lot about Yassmin and myself … which has really helped us grow closer.”

There’s probably no straight answer on whether or not someone has the right to prevent their partner from using porn. But, clearly, it’s an arrangement that can work. For Jake and Yassmin, it boils down to their convictions on making their relationship successful. “We know it’s not for everyone,” says Jake. “It’s about sexual compatibility, and what you’re willing to compromise on.”  

*names have been changed