Sexual Health & Wellness

Is Sex in Porn Like Sex in Real Life?

20.09.2022

By Avril Louise Clarke, Clinical Sexologist & Intimacy Coordinator

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Welcome to TPC Sexual Health & Wellness, a column in which we will discuss everything related to your physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Because you deserve to feel good!

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Repeat after us: Porn is entertainment, not education!

Given the lack of sex education in society and taboo that still surrounds sex and porn, many find themselves with the reality that the only option to learn about sex is through porn. In fact, whether one is consuming porn intentionally or not, for many, it is often one’s first exposure to sex. Which can be confusing sometimes. One might wonder… is porn real sex? How realistic is porn in comparison to sex in real life? These are valid questions!

Remember that porn, essentially, represents a fantasy. Let’s try to analyze it and summarize some key points to keep in mind that later will be expanded on. To begin, understanding the reality of what goes on to create porn helps divide the fantasy from the reality.

  •  The people you see in porn are called performers. They negotiate contracts and get paid for what they do.

  • They never show the conversations around consent that occur between actors before, during and after scenes. 

  • Safer sex strategies are often not seen on screen. These include the use of contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections testing before and after filming. 

  • There are filming techniques like lighting, directing, and camera angles that create each film.

  • Editing is used to make scenes shorter and don’t show foreplay or communication between the performers

  • There are some performers that will use medication to keep an erection for the scenes. 

  • Performers shoot scenes throughout a period of time that allows for bathroom, water and food breaks

  • We don’t see the awkward scenes or bloopers that will be edited out of the final cut.


While watching porn can give people real pleasure - it is actually filled with messages that may be potentially harmful to our understanding of what sex and respectful relationships are like in real life.

Let’s cover a few of the messages we might receive in porn

Bodies

You may notice some body types that stand out in porn. Large penises, perfectly symmetrical breasts, surgically modified vulvas, and no body hair. This image encourages people who watch it to seek this body image for themselves or their partner. These images add a lot of unnecessary pressure and expectations about bodies that are not realistic! All bodies, no matter the shape, size and ability are worthy of love and pleasure.

Consent & Boundaries

In porn, you may notice that typically consent does not play a large role in the scenes. No matter what you notice, know that you are able to create your own boundaries on what feels good or not to you. Everyone has the right to have their boundaries respected. With every partner, there must be communication and consent present before, during, and after sex. 

Safer Sex Practices

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!

Sex

A question you can ask yourself is what role does porn play in the way I feel about sex and intimacy? While we can get real pleasure from watching porn, what we see in porn doesn’t always reflect the real-life sex that people have. Porn, as a form of mass media, is heavily focused on how sex looks, not how it feels.

Remember that in porn, we see a final version of a relatively long process that involves a lot of work we don’t see or understand as someone external consuming the video from a screen. Through the use of editing, lighting and heavy makeup, performers look like they do. There are bathroom and food breaks, consent and boundary talks, and a lot of editing that the film goes through before it reaches the final cut you can find online.

Unlike what you see in porn, sex does not always have to include penetration and end in an orgasm. Sexual behaviors vary and not every behavior is pleasurable to everyone. You might wonder, so how do I have sex? What will my partner(s) find pleasurable? The best way to figure this out is through consistent communication before, during, and after having sex.

Real life sex does not always go as expected. It can be funny, awkward, and not always proceed smoothly. Communicating with a sexual partner and practicing consent is the only way to have pleasurable sexual experiences. The expectations that we receive from porn can make it seem like there is one “right” way to have sex, but there isn’t. Finding what makes you feel good and what doesn’t and knowing that communication and using consent is the best way to have positive and pleasurable sexual experiences - if and when you have them!

Overall, reminding yourself that all type of media, including porn, is created with the purpose to send us messages helps you remain critical about what we are consuming and how it can affect our expectations when it comes to our sex, our bodies, our relationships and more! Remember, porn is not education - it’s entertainment! So using porn literacy tools and questions to critique and recognize how the media you watch can influence your understanding about sex can help you gain control over what and how you consume! 

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