Porn and millennials

What does the so-called Millennial Generation make of pornography? Is there anything unfaithful about watching it when you’re in a relationship?

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Photo: Maria de las Mercedes (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There’s nothing new about the idea of pornography, of course, but the sweeping technological advances of the last few decades have certainly revolutionised the way that it is consumed. Where once it was confined to seedy backstreet shops with blacked-out windows and the top shelf at the newsagent’s, arousal is now available at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen.

Has this ease of access changed attitudes towards pornography? How is it regarded by the so-called digital natives? Is the advent of “ethical” porn ridding the industry of its once faintly sordid reputation? And what place should pornography have in a relationship? Is it something to be shared or squirrelled away? Can it ever be considered a disloyal or even unfaithful act towards one’s partner to watch pornography?

We spoke to a few young Europeans to find out more about the views of the Millennial Generation on the matter.

Miguel, 30, Spanish:

I don’t think watching porn while being in a relationship should be considered unfaithful. Masturbation is a way of experiencing sex on your own that shouldn’t be replaced by actual intercourse just because you have a partner. Self-satisfaction is arguably the very first contact most people have with sex and I think something so intimate and fun should not be completely erased by a significant other. The sexual spectrum is way wider and more complicated than that. I think every person should be allowed to keep sexual fantasies, be it by watching porn or by any other non-physical stimulators. Watching pornography can also be a lot of fun to watch with your partner without it meaning anything other than two people experimenting with their sex lives.

Sam, 21, British:

Around the age of 12, my friend sent me a porn clip to my phone. This was to be my first viewing of actual sex. I was in awe; although I had imagined it before, I hadn’t quite grasped the sights and sounds of humans being intimate with one another. Amongst my peers and I, pornography was thoroughly normalised whilst growing up, so I would actually be surprised to find that my partner has never watched it. Moreover, I struggle to see it as on par with being unfaithful. For me, pornography is very distinct from real sex, as it excludes the warmth, smells, spontaneity and overall “humanness” of being intimate with another person. Sex is reduced to a digital screen, where actors evidently follow a script, look at the camera blatantly and hold their bodies in uncomfortable positions. My view of pornography is as entertainment, which can help one gain confidence to be adventurous during sex, but can never replace the real thing.

For me, pornography is very distinct from real sex, as it excludes the warmth, smells, spontaneity and overall “humanness” of being intimate with another person.

Maria, 31, Spanish:

Porn has always been a good companion in helping me to understand my own body and embrace my sexuality from the very beginning. As a young girl I didn’t know much about pleasure, of course I touched myself and began feeling what sex should feel like but it was through watching porn that I got to develop my imagination and expand my way of thinking about sex. You don’t have to feel ashamed for anything you might like and that thought is reassuring and liberating when you start having sex with someone else. As an adult I’ve kept watching porn from time to time, sometimes to ease my fantasies, sometimes just for the sake of having visual stimulation. In an ideal world, sex polygamy should be compatible with having a lifetime partner but most people can’t deal with that idea yet and I think porn can be healthy for many long-term couples. 

Stella, 22, British:

I think that porn can inform somebody’s sexual preferences, so I’m very cautious of being asked to “perform” certain acts which I feel stem from watching porn. It provides unrealistic and unattainable expectations for young people which I’m not willing, personally, to perpetuate. That said, I think porn can be a fun part of a relationship. My partner and I have watched feminist/arthouse porn together which has been entertaining (if not exactly a turn-on…) and I would never be bothered by my partner watching porn as long as it wasn’t every day and as long as it didn’t lead to a diminished sex life between us (i.e. they didn’t start preferring porn!).

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Photo: Jan Vinke (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rodrigo, 28, Spanish:

The only way in which viewing pornography can be seen as a form of unfaithfulness is to deny watching it! If somone feels betrayed by his/her partner watching porn, a very cruel world waits out there. Above all, porn is a market that sells a product by exploiting people’s libido. Any move further on the extent of feelings involved is foolish!

Nicoletta, 22, Italian:

I remember that in high school relationships, your boyfriend or girlfriend watching porn seemed like a minor, yet significant form of betrayal, because it suggested you were not enough for your partner. Looking back on this I have to completely disagree with my former self; today if I were to catch my partner watching porn I would not feel a personal sense of betrayal at all. I think there is nothing wrong with the concept of porn, but the porn industry nowadays and 21st century porn promotes and encourages violent attitudes towards women and teaches curious young adolescents wanting to learn about a sex a completely distorted idea of what a sexual relationship should be like.

Teaser photo: Pixabay

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