sex

"I thought choking was normal." Watching porn ruined how I view sex.

This post discusses sensitive topics and may be triggering for readers. 

I discovered porn around the same time I started having sex. 

I was curious, wanted inspiration on how to become ‘better’ at intercourse, and quite frankly - I wanted to make sure I was doing it right. 

The first time I ever googled porn, I typed in, “good sex.”

I remember clicking onto a fairly mainstream porn website and being bombarded with extremely violent sex. At first, it was incredibly confronting, but I figured since this seemed to be the bulk of what the site had to offer - that it had to be the standard. I kept thinking 'this is normal - just be an adult about it'.

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I was young, so I wasn’t really looking for what I ‘liked’, I was looking for what was 'cool'.

I approached sex in the same way I approached shopping at the time. I wanted to find the most fabulous, trendiest way to have sex that would impress my mates - it didn’t actually matter if I liked it or not (I wanted to be the Samantha of my group).

So while at first the visuals were off-putting to say the least - I was determined to get my head around it. Pretty quickly as I clicked through video after video, it felt strangely normal, suddenly seeing a woman being violently choked felt less jarring and more expected. I remember distinctively thinking, 'So this is how people have sex'.

The common thread I quickly discovered was that women in porn weren’t actually doing much; they were just ‘taking it’ and accepting whatever the man did to them.

From being choked to slapped to being roughly handled, the women just accepted this behaviour either silently or loudly with sounds of pleasure, they never said no. At the time it seemed pretty clear to me that if I wanted to be considered good at sex, it was far less about what I was willing to do to someone else and far more about just being willing. 

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I didn’t need to learn new moves, I just needed to be okay with a man spitting on me.

I also think it’s worth noting that if you are reading this and you find yourself thinking, 'Oh, choking during sex isn’t that violent,' then perhaps you’ve also been heavily influenced by porn culture because, by its definition; choking is a violent act.

Of course, I’m not saying that if you like being choked or doing the choking during sex, there’s anything wrong with that and I don’t want to kink shame anyone; everyone should enjoy what they enjoy consensually, but we also can’t ignore the fact that the act of choking can be dangerous and even potentially lethal and let's face it - it probably shouldn’t be done by someone that still isn’t doing their own laundry.

The thing is, we’ve seen choking so much in porn or referenced in pop culture - think Fifty Shades Of Grey - that it no longer feels dangerous or violent it just seems normal, and to me, that’s a problem. How did violent sex become mainstream?

In a recent interview with Howard Stern, pop phenomenon Billie Eilish admitted that growing up she watched a lot of violent porn, and she felt it “destroyed her brain.”

Eilish went onto to say that, "The first few times I had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that's what I was supposed to be attracted to.

"I'm so angry that porn is so loved, and I'm so angry at myself for thinking that it was okay."

It’s an interesting point Eilish is raising, which is that the exposure of violent porn made her less able to differentiate between sex she enjoyed and what was just unnecessary violence. 

This was exactly the same issue I grappled with. 

I wanted to seem cool and sexy and the culture around sex was screaming at me that the way to do that was to let myself be sexually degraded.

This meant that my first few years of sex left me feeling incredibly vulnerable and used, because I was letting men do things to me that made me feel uncomfortable, all so I could live up to the expectations I saw in porn.

There’s obviously also a common misconception that women aren’t interested in porn. But of course we are. I can remember actively looking forward to sex scenes in movies as an adolescent. Then as I got older, I desperately sought out smutty romance novels that kept me entertained with steamy sex scenes that involved the words, “thrusting” and “arousal” far too much.

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I was also always interested in sex, but I tended to explore it in a way that felt more socially acceptable for a woman, like paying close attention to the sex scenes in Sex And The City and eagerly following the love story in Twilight that centred around sex. 

None of my female friends talked about porn, but they did discuss romance novels and raunchy television shows, and so that felt acceptable and normal.

Even when I started watching porn, I never spoke to anyone about it, and it felt shameful - which in hindsight added to the problem. I couldn’t turn to a female friend and say, “You know the available mainstream porn, do you think it’s a bit much?” Or “Do you actually like being violently choked?” We just weren’t having those conversations.

Obviously, this issue was compounded by the fact that the men I was sleeping with were also watching porn and so they did tend to try to mimic the behaviour they watched - often not as violently but the slapping, choking and the roughness was incorporated into my sex life from an early age. 

There was a constant undertone of aggression that I always found off-putting and often didn’t feel genuine from either party, everyone was just trying to emulate what was modelled to them.

Of course, you get older and you get better at asserting and discovering what you and do and don’t like. By my mid-twenties I’d rejected so much of what porn had taught me and honestly a lot of the men I slept with obviously had as well. Sex became more gentle, more fun and based more on mutual pleasure than roughhousing. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that to begin with porn heavily shaped my sex life and definitely not for the better.

I don’t actually think porn is a bad thing. I think it’s healthy and normal and it should be available for people to consume. However, the porn that we are being fed currently is bad in my opinion. 

It is too violent and aggressive and is confusing young people and let’s face it, probably older people too. 

At the same time, I am very aware that some people like being bitten, smacked, choked and whatever else and that’s fine. We should all explore and enjoy what we like. 

But honestly - vanilla sex is also quite nice and probably the norm for most people. Young women and men are discovering sex through the lens of violence. But what we might need is gentleness, passion and perhaps even love to actually have a good sex.

Feature image: Supplied.