I Quit Watching Porn For My Wellbeing. Lockdown Is Testing My Resolve

Growing up, I used porn to simply pass the time. In lockdown, I’m having to resist those urges.

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I first discovered porn at university, finding it to be an excellent hangover cure. Sometimes I watched it more than once a day, though I was never hooked – rather, it was a way of killing time in between lectures and nights out.

While many men openly admit to watching pornography, the topic is much more taboo among women – I’ve always wondered if I was weird. Porn, for me, promises bountiful reward in return for minimal effort: select a video, rev your engine and race across the finish line.

The problem was, finding a video that satisfied me was hard. Women being aggressively pummelled and called a ‘c**t’ before ‘enjoying’ a (very fake) screaming orgasm and receiving a cumshot to the face just didn’t turn me on. I’d eventually give up and head to the lesbian category, where there at least the woman’s pleasure was taken into account (hi, clitoris!). I resented the unrealistic beauty standards for female actors too, whereas the men were permitted to age, sport body hair and develop a beer gutjust as long as the penis was huge, too.

Nonetheless, my orgasms prompted by porn were… fine. But even having got myself from A to B to Z I still felt a niggling dissatisfaction; it looked like an orgasm, it felt like an orgasm, but the experience hadn’t felt organic.

“I decided to go cold turkey, replacing porn with nothing but my imagination.”

Woman lying on bedhttp://www.twodozendesign.info/i/1.png
Woman lying on bedhttp://www.twodozendesign.info/i/1.png

Magazines like Cosmopolitan, in their efforts to normalise porn culture, encourage women to take ‘the plunge into porn’ in order to add fun and spice into their love lives. But these magazines aren’t our first encounter with porn: like many girls of my generation, the Playboy pencil case accompanied me on my first day of high school, my pre-pubescent self? blissfully unaware of the cute bunny emblem’s significance. Against this hypersexualised backdrop, it was no wonder I felt pressured to be the cool girl who didn’t care if her boyfriend masturbated to other women.

It was during a California fling last summer with a Christian who’d disavowed porn when it finally dawned on me⁠: if a gorgeous, red-blooded man could confidently declare pornography to be demeaning to women and detrimental to relationships, then why couldn’t I?

I decided to go cold turkey, replacing porn with nothing but my imagination. In her book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, Dr. Gail Dines explores the way porn has seeped into our lives, writing that: “what the Porn is fantasycamp misses is that porn actually works to limit our imagination and capacity to be sexually creative by delivering images that are mind-numbingly repetitive in content and dulling in their monotony”.

The thought of indulging in my imagination was daunting at first, but I soon got the hang of it – I had a master’s degree in script writing, after all. I could definitely come up with something more realistic and tailored to my tastes! The result: it was as if I’d serviced my soul as well as… well, you know.

Something else which empowered me to reject pornography was discovering feminism, and in time, I came to feel more secure in my body image and sexuality. I stopped shaving my entire pubic area / shearing all my pubes off (I know I just called myself a feminist but I’m not enlightened enough for the word vulva yet...), no longer willing to put the preferences of porn culture above my own, and became more conscious of the importance of female pleasure.

“With so much free time on my hands, not to mention a dose of existential horniness, it’s been tempting to revert back to my porn-loving uni days to escape the dread.”

But, in lockdown, resisting porn hasn’t been easy. PornHub claims traffic to the site has increased by up to 24.4% during lockdown, and I can see why – this period has been particularly tough for me. With so much free time on my hands, not to mention a dose of existential horniness, it’s been tempting to revert back to my porn-loving uni days to escape the dread and pass the time.

But, getting through lockdown has cemented my beliefs, and I stay motivated by remembering how I used to feel once the deed was done. It also helps to remember I’m not alone—I confide in my new Christian friend and look to Fight The New Drug, a fantastic non-religious organisation which raises awareness of pornography’s harmful effects using only science, facts and personal accounts.

It’s been nine months since I quit porn. Going forward, I don’t want my next boyfriend to be a porn user. Worrying about finding someone whose beliefs align with mine does cause anxiety people are quick to sneer that “every guy watches porn” but I’m hopeful there’s someone out there for me.

And in the meantime? In the storylines I invent in my head (hi, Keanu!) the woman never needs to fake her orgasm, and she’s never forced to give the director a blowjob once filming is done for the day. However challenging lockdown is, I’m going to continue putting away my phone at bedtime, leaving both hands free...

Laura Lou Ellen is a freelance writer, writing under a pseudonym

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