10 Ways Porn Doesn’t Represent Real Sex

Fight the New Drug
9 min readSep 9, 2022

Regularly watching porn is very common in our culture today, but too many people don’t understand that porn is produced for entertainment purposes rather than education — especially if they’re younger. At Fight the New Drug, we raise awareness that porn does not represent reality, nor does it show an accurate or healthy depiction of real sex.

A 2021 study found that 1 in 4 young adults reports believing that porn is the most helpful source of sex education — more than certified sex educators, more than medical professionals, and more than their partners! [1] That’s especially concerning considering that research has also found that the more porn someone watches, the more sexually illiterate they tend to become. [2] This is why we sometimes say “porn kills love,” because porn doesn’t help relationships to become healthier, and in the process, porn gets a lot of things wrong about sex.

Here are some examples of common ideas or themes in porn that are not remotely factual.

1. Bigger Penis = Better Sex

In mainstream porn, “small” or even average-sized penises usually aren’t featured unless it’s a fetish category.

Many male performers’ penises are larger than average, making it appear as though size is of utmost importance and making it seem as though completely normal penises are small by comparison. The reality is that sexual satisfaction does not depend on penis size, yet porn consumers are more likely to believe that it does. [3]

Research also suggests that porn can play a role in consumers’ body shame and sexual dissatisfaction. [4][5] For instance, a poll found that a man is more likely to be dissatisfied with his penis size the more porn he consumes. And the same goes for women with male partners — they reported being less satisfied with their partner’s penis size the more porn they consume. [6]

2. Lesbians Can Be Seduced by Men

Porn is often very misrepresentative when it comes to LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships. Much of the “lesbian porn” featured on mainstream porn sites are not produced with the intention of accurately representing lesbians — it’s made primarily by and for heterosexual men.

The storylines are not realistic at all, often focusing on lesbians getting seduced by men. When two women have sex in porn, the focus is on unrealistic positions, exaggerated sex acts, and an overall fetishization of lesbian relationships — not on accurate representation.

3. Sex Is Always Pleasurable — No Foreplay Required

Many times, there is little to no preparation for penetrative sex as it’s shown in porn. Penetration often happens quickly in videos, which is not only unrealistic but is also often uncomfortable.

Unsurprisingly, research finds that the more porn someone consumes, the more likely they are to believe that women orgasm easily from vaginal intercourse alone when that is not the case in reality. [7]

Any type of forceful anal or vaginal sex can tear skin and cause other bodily damage, and yet you’d never guess based on how it’s portrayed in porn (unless it’s intended to be more violent anyway).

4. Bisexual Women Will Have Sex With Anyone

Another common misconception in porn is that bisexual women are attracted to everyone and will therefore have sex with anyone. Also, they are misrepresented as having very high sex drives and seem to always be up for a threesome. In a 2020 UK survey of LGBTQ+ individuals, 42% of bisexual respondents said that they felt their experiences of sexual violence were motivated by their bisexuality. [8]

Porn portrays bisexual women as a fetish, which ultimately dehumanizes them and misrepresents them.

5. It’s Normal to Try New Things Without Consent First

Porn often normalizes demeaning behaviors during sex, such as spitting or peeing on a partner and even ejaculating on their face without their consent. While some couples engage in this behavior consensually, there always needs to be consent and a clear discussion beforehand. Keep in mind that true consent can be revoked at any time!

Choking and strangulation are accepted parts of the landscape in porn, making it appear as if these are safe and common things to do during sex. Research even shows that porn consumers are more likely to engage in degrading or dangerous sexual behaviors such as strangulation, likely due to how normalized those behaviors are in porn. [9][10] The reality is, strangulation is extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury or even death.

Instead of portraying exclusively consensual sex acts, porn often shows extreme sex acts without warning the viewer not to try them at home. These exaggerated scenes also can fuel unrealistic expectations and be damaging to a relationship. [11]

6. Watching Porn Makes You Better at Sex

Many young people watch porn to learn about sex. but little do they know they’re getting very low-quality and often toxic lessons.

Watching porn doesn’t make a person a better lover, nor does it make relationships better. [12][13] As mentioned above, a 2021 study assessed teens’ knowledge about sex according to sexological science. The researchers found that the more porn an individual consumed, the less they tended to know about sex and the more sexual misinformation they tended to believe. [14] Not to mention, research shows that porn is actually associated with increased sexual dysfunction for both men and women. [15][16]

7. Being Sexy Means Looking a Certain Way

In many mainstream porn videos, bodies often look a certain way when they’re portrayed as sexually desirable.

In fact, some women go to great lengths to look like the women in porn videos. Many women may watch porn and feel more shame about their cellulite, pubic hair, stretch marks, petite breasts, and even vaginal labia, with many even believing there is something wrong when their bodies don’t look like the performers in porn. In fact, research indicates that consuming porn, or even having a partner who consumes porn, is associated with more negative body image. [17][18]

8. You Have to Do Whatever Your Partner Wants

There is a lot of pressure for people — particularly women — to engage in extreme, degrading, or violent sexual acts that their partner wants them to perform. [19][20] These acts are normalized in mainstream porn, so they’re often assumed to be healthy and pleasurable.

Many women, though, they are uncomfortable with these extreme acts. Understandably, they don’t want to be pressured to conform to porn’s unrealistic expectations. For sexually active young people, they often report feeling pressured into reenacting porn. [21]

9. Men’s Sexual Pleasure is Prioritized

In porn, the focus is often on the man in the scene receiving sexual pleasure. In fact, an analysis of the most commonly-viewed videos on Pornhub showed 78% of men having an orgasm, compared to just over 18% of women. [22]

Sex in porn is normalized as an act that primarily gives men sexual satisfaction, which can result in porn consumers neglecting to focus on mutual pleasure.

10. Not Using Protection Is Safe

Porn viewership is associated with engaging in riskier sexual behavior. [23][24]

There are many different types of sex acts portrayed in porn, from group sex to gang rape to unprotected sex with strangers. What’s harmful is that viewers don’t see the real physical effects of engaging in these types of sex. One study even found that porn consumers who agreed that porn was a source to learn about were less likely to use condoms. [25]

Despite a lack of safe sex practices shown in porn, there are no STDs, injuries, or unplanned pregnancies shown in a lot of porn, and that’s just not reflexive of reality.

Let’s Promote Healthy Sex

Like any industry, porn often is so extreme because producers are competing for consumers’ attention, and there is a lot of pressure to sell uniquely taboo fantasies that stand out from the countless other available porn videos.

However, because porn is focused on extreme sex acts as entertainment rather than quality education about sex, it also perpetuates false ideas about expectations for sex. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative nonprofit organization that aims to raise awareness on the harmful effects of porn using science, facts, and personal accounts, and we want to educate about the reality of porn from a pro-sex perspective.

Read more about the effects of porn on relationships and see how we promote healthy — not harmful — information about real sex.

CITATIONS:

[1] Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7

[2] Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Herbenick, D., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography vs. sexual science: The role of pornography use and dependency in U.S. teenagers’ sexual illiteracy., 1–22. doi:10.1080/03637751.2021.1987486

[3] Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Herbenick, D., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography vs. sexual science: The role of pornography use and dependency in U.S. teenagers’ sexual illiteracy., 1–22. doi:10.1080/03637751.2021.1987486

[4] Tylka, T. L. (2015). No harm in looking, right? Men’s pornography consumption, body image, and well-being. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035774

[5] Wright, P. J., Bridges, A. J., Sun, C., Ezzell, M. B., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Personal Pornography Viewing and Sexual Satisfaction: A Quadratic Analysis. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(3), 308–315. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1377131

[6] International Andrology London. (2017). The porn hypothesis — findings prove porn consumption fuels the desire for penis enlargement surgery in the UK. Retrieved from https://london-andrology.co.uk/news/the-porn-hypothesis-findings-prove-porn-consumption-fuels-the-desire-for-penis-enlargement-surgery-in-the-uk/

[7] Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Herbenick, D., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography vs. sexual science: The role of pornography use and dependency in U.S. teenagers’ sexual illiteracy., 1–22. doi:10.1080/03637751.2021.1987486

[8] Melville, S., Stonborough, E., & Gooch, B. (2020). LGBT in Britain: Bi report. Stonewall. Retrieved from https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_bi.pdf

[9] Wright, P. J., Herbenick, D., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2021). Pornography consumption and sexual choking: An evaluation of theoretical mechanisms. Health Commun., 1–12. doi:10.1080/10410236.2021.1991641

[10] Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460–473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860

[11] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). ‘Without Porn … I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now’: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of sex research, 52(7), 736–746. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908

[12] Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315–343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108

[13] Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing sexually-explicit materials alone or together: associations with relationship quality. Archives of sexual behavior, 40(2), 441–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4

[14] Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Herbenick, D., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography vs. sexual science: The role of pornography use and dependency in U.S. teenagers’ sexual illiteracy., 1–22. doi:10.1080/03637751.2021.1987486

[15] Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Griffiths, M. D., Potenza, M. N., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2021). Are sexual functioning problems associated with frequent pornography use and/or problematic pornography use? Results from a large community survey including males and females. Addictive Behaviors, 112, 106603. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106603

[16] Park, B. Y., Wilson, G., Berger, J., Christman, M., Reina, B., Bishop, F., Klam, W. P., & Doan, A. P. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 17. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6030017

[17] Owens, E. W., Behun, R. J., Manning, J. C., & Reid, R. C. (2012). The impact of internet pornography on adolescents: A review of the research. 19(1–2), 99–122. doi:10.1080/10720162.2012.660431

[18] Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2018). Women’s perceptions of their male partners’ pornography consumption and relational, sexual, self, and body satisfaction: Toward a theoretical model.42(1), 55–73. doi:10.1080/23808985.2017.1412802

[19] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without porn … I wouldn’t know half the things I know now”: A qualitative study of pornography use among a sample of urban, low-income, Black and Hispanic youth.52(7), 736–746. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908

[20] Marshall, E., Bouffard, J. A., & Miller, H. (2021). Pornography Use and Sexual Coercion: Examining the Mediation Effect of Sexual Arousal. Sexual Abuse, 33(5), 552–578. https://doi.org/10.1177/1079063220931823

[21] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without porn … I wouldn’t know half the things I know now”: A qualitative study of pornography use among a sample of urban, low-income, Black and Hispanic youth.52(7), 736–746. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908

[22] Séguin, L. J., Rodrigue, C., & Lavigne, J. (2018). Consuming Ecstasy: Representations of Male and Female Orgasm in Mainstream Pornography. Journal of sex research, 55(3), 348–356. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1332152

[23] Marston, C., & Lewis, R. (2014). Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK. BMJ open, 4(8), e004996. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004996

[24] Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents’ attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006

[25] Wright, P. J., Sun, C., & Steffen, N. (2018). Pornography Consumption, Perceptions of Pornography as Sexual Information, and Condom Use. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(8), 800–805. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2018.1462278

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Fight the New Drug

Fight the New Drug exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects.