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You Asked It: Is Porn Like Real Sex?

I’m a 12-year-old guy, and recently my older cousin showed me some porn online. It was really… weird. I know what sex is, but that isn’t at all what I imagined and now I’m confused. Is that what sex is actually like?

This is such a great question. Your gut instinct that most porn isn’t like “real” sex is right on target. Getting accurate information about sex can be really hard though, so sometimes people turn to porn for answers. People may also watch porn because it turns them on, and helps them masturbate. But while a lot of people watch porn, a lot of people don’t! It’s totally normal to not like porn, so don’t let anyone make you feel weird if you’re just not into it.

The most important thing to remember is that porn is a fantasy. We go into more detail about what this means here, but generally, porn does not reflect what real sex is like. Porn is focused on how sex looks, not how it feels. And because porn is selling a fantasy, they don’t include a lot of the normal and healthy parts of sex.

This includes almost all communication. In porn, two strangers will often have sex within seconds of meeting each other. They don’t talk about safe sex, about their boundaries, or (usually) about what they like in bed. Instead, porn actors are up for anything, and they seem to know exactly what will give their partner an orgasm (or “make them come,” or “get them off”). They also try a variety of sex acts (oral sex, penis-in-vagina sex, anal sex, etc.) without talking to their partner about it.

All of this is a HUGE no go. In real life, most people want to get to know their partner before having sex. It’s necessary to communicate openly and honestly, and give and receive consent throughout sex.  Consent is an essential part of sex. Just because someone consents to one act (like kissing, or mutual masturbation), doesn’t mean that they’ve consented to any other acts (like giving oral sex, or having penetrative sex of any kind). We talk more about consent here.

It’s also important to talk about condoms, STI status, and birth control (if getting pregnant is a concern) before having sex. This is really important to make sure the sex you’re having is as safe as it can be. It’s also very normal (and healthy) to talk about what you and your partner like in bed. After all, no one is a mind reader!

Mainstream porn is also often racist and misogynistic (meaning hateful to women). If the porn you saw involved racial stereotypes or abuse, it’s not surprising that it made you uncomfortable. Sex should NEVER involve abuse. Sex is powerful, and hate has no place in your sex life.

Some porn caters to specific kinks or fetishes (these are specific sexual interests that not everyone shares). Sometimes fetishes revolve around certain body parts, like the breasts, butt or feet. Other times, fetishes center on specific relationships, like a teacher and their student, or a boss and their secretary. There’s absolutely nothing wrong or weird about being aroused (or turned on) by fetishes like this. But it’s also very normal not to be. One person’s fantasy can squig someone else out, and that’s totally ok! Everyone is unique.

And, again: porn is a fantasy. Sex between, say, a teacher and a student, has serious consequences, and could be considered sexual assault depending on the ages of those involved.  So while there’s nothing wrong with getting turned on by that fantasy, in real life it is very serious.

Remember that porn is an industry designed to make money, NOT educate. Mainstream porn is often twisted with stereotypes, nonconsensual behavior, sexism, and more. Since our society is pretty sex negative, it can be hard to find accurate information about sex. We talk a bit more about what it means to be sexually healthy here, but if you have more questions, you should talk to a parent or healthcare provider. Remember: There’s nothing shameful in watching porn, but it’s important to understand that it’s not reality.

ABOUT YOU ASKED IT

You’ve got questions.  We’ve got answers. At the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, we answer a lot of questions. Topics range from nutrition to pregnancy prevention, and everything in between. Now, we’re bringing these questions back to you with our new weekly advice column, You Asked It. Got a question? Holler at us in the comments, send us a message on Facebook or Twitter, or email us at teenhealthcareorg@gmail.com.

Missed a “You Asked It” post? Click on “You Asked it” under Topics.

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