Because visual pornography seems to be a part of many people’s early exposure to sexual material (a “fact” that isn’t really verifiable, but nonetheless is taken as true) it is often considered a form of sex education. And because, as adults, most of us don’t get the chance to talk honestly and openly about sex with a wide range of people, many adults continue to believe that what they see in pornographic films represents common sexual practice.

Both of these ideas, when it comes to the vast majority of mainstream pornography, are completely false. People may watch adult films, get ideas from them, and mimic those ideas in real life, but this isn’t the same thing as sex education. And when it comes to mainstream pornography, very little in it represents common sexual practices.

Mainstream pornography is no more like most people’s sex lives than big budget Hollywood films are like most people’s daily lives. Notice how in Hollywood movies people rarely go to the bathroom, and never look anything other than stunningly beautiful. It’s the same in porn only they never use condoms, and their bodies always look perfect when they are naked…and moving.

Here are just a few of the significant ways that mainstream pornography does not represent most people’s sexual experiences. These differences are not meant to suggest that mainstream pornography is good or bad/right or wrong. Most sex therapists and educators agree that watching adult films can be a very healthy part of adult sexual expression.

Porn isn’t made for the actors

While sex should be all about what gives the people who are engaging in it pleasure, porn is the opposite. When people have sex on camera for money they’re doing a job, and what they do isn’t designed to turn them on, it’s designed to turn on the viewer, to somehow be cost effective, and to make the director and editors jobs easier. Porn isn’t a document of two (or more) people having pleasurable sex, it’s one person’s idea of what will titillate millions of other people.

Most porn is made in a vacuum

Real life sexual experiences happen in a social context. Whether it’s your first or thirty-first time, every time you have sex you bring your past experiences and your values to bed with you. Porn has none of this. The vast majority of mainstream pornography is made by a small, insulated, and surprisingly sexually unsophisticated group of people in southern California. Sexual behavior can be an incredibly complicated form of human communication and interaction. Pornography isn’t.

Just like in Hollywood, those bodies aren’t exactly real

You should never compare your body to what you see in porn. For starters, porn actors are chosen in part for their physical attributes. The average penis size among male porn stars is not representative of anything in the general population. As well, because many female actors still make the majority of their money by stripping, plastic surgery remains ubiquitous in the adult entertainment industry.

It’s amazing what smoke and mirrors can do

In addition to the plastic surgery and bodies that can only be maintained by working out seven days a week, adult filmmakers use other tricks to make porn stars bodies appear much larger, smoother, and “prettier” than what you see in real life. Lighting, camera angles, make up, and even pubic hair design changes the appearance (and apparent size) of porn star body parts.

Sex positions for the camera

The sexual positions you see in porn are chosen for a few reasons including visual variety and what will allow the camera greatest access to all the hidden parts. Sex positions in porn don’t represent what’s most popular in the bedrooms of America, or even what is innovative in terms of offering more sexual stimulation. In fact some sexual positions you see in porn are clearly uncomfortable for one or both of the performers.

Porn is meant to shock and excite

The kinds of sexual behaviors you see in porn are not based on any idea of what people actually do in their bedrooms, they are based on what will excite and often shock the porn viewer. They are also based on the pornographer’s need to “prove” to the viewer that actual sex is taking place. Thus external ejaculation is a required element of visual pornography, even though this is not necessarily a common part of the sexual repertoire.

Porn editors have their work cut out for them

Most porn scenes are not shot continuously from the first ring of the doorbell (enter the pizza delivery boy) to the last silly line “Next time I’ll remember to order extra sausage!”). There are constant breaks and interruptions during the shooting of a single scene, and they may even shoot some elements out of order. The end result is that what you see, the order you see it in, and how long it all takes, is often determined by the editing and not the actual sex that took place.

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