Reducing Your Guilt with Porn

Though there is some variation, most professionals define pornography as any form of media created with the intent of sexual arousal.  Pornography, or sexually explicit material (SEM), can take the form of literature, illustrations, cave drawings, movies, audio recordings, and so much more.  At its core, pornography is simply a sexual tool that has existed for millennia.  Like most tools, however, pornography can provide benefits or detriments depending on how it’s used.  These detriments in conjunction with a sex-negative culture can overshadow the benefits of using porn, and create significant guilt when a person does try to use pornography.  To be clear, this article is not for those who have compulsive porn use or an out-of-control relationship with porn.  Instead, this article is for those who feel embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed when using porn, even when their porn habits are healthy.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Porn Use

Discussing positive porn use can be difficult due to the real harm that can come from using sexually explicit material.  Therefore, let’s quickly talk about what healthy porn use is and what it isn’t.  Healthy pornography use adds and does not subtract from a person’s sexual experience.  The person is not dependent on pornography, but instead uses it as an additional way to experience sexual pleasure.  Similar to healthy alcohol use, the person does not need porn in order to have a good time.  Meanwhile, unhealthy porn use disrupts a person’s life due to where, when, why and how frequent they use pornography.  Here are some examples.

  • Where: Using pornography at work
  • When: Staying up past your usual bedtime to look at porn
  • Why: Using pornography to escape uncomfortable emotions (e.g., anxiety), or feeling that you need to look at porn
  • Frequency: Looking at pornography so often that it gets in the way of your daily tasks (e.g., making meals, being late for work)

These are only a few examples of unhealthy porn use.  Read this article if you need more clarification on when porn becomes a problem.

What Are My Expectations?

Several people experience guilt when using porn.  This guilt usually stems from unconscious, unsaid expectations.  These implicit expectations often take the form of “shoulds” (e.g., “I should do this; I shouldn’t do that.”).  Essentially, the expectations are rules, and people tend to feel guilty or ashamed when they break the rules that they set for themselves.  Regarding porn, the first action to take is to figure out what your “shoulds” or “rules” are, and whether they are fair.  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Should a person with my background look at pornography?
    • e.g., 45-year-old mother of two children
  • What pornography am I allowed to watch?
  • Should I look at pornography alone?
  • What are my “shoulds” regarding masturbation?
    • e.g., “Good girls don’t masturbate.”
  • Should a morally good person look at pornography?
  • What form of porn media “should” I use?
    • e.g., romance novels, audio, magazines
  • Should I look at pornography if I’m a feminist?

This list of shoulds is not exhaustive.  Take some time and write out all of the personal expectations you hold regarding pornography.  Next, engage in reality testing.

Engage in Reality Testing

Reality testing is a technique in which the person focuses solely on the facts.  The person takes a specific thought and analyzes the data that both supports and challenges the belief.  Do the same thing with your written expectations with porn.  Afterwards, reflect on how fair the expectation still is.  Here are two examples.

 

Sexual Expectation: “As a 45-year-old mother, I should not look at pornography.”

Evidence That Support Evidence That Challenges
Society asexualize mothers Mothers are also human and have sexual needs
Women continue to have sexual desire, even into motherhood
Using pornography does not impact parenting skills
45-year-olds look at and star in porn

 

Sexual Expectation: “As a feminist, I should not look at pornography.”

 

Evidence That Supports Evidence That Challenges
Some women are harmed by the porn industry Pornography is a legitimate form of work for several women
Pornography can reinforce objectification of women Healthy representation of groups can sexually empower those women

(e.g., seeing other black, queer women interested in BDSM)

Pornography can strengthen rigid beauty standards One tenet of third-wave feminism is to validate women’s sex work as work

 

In the first example, it seems as though the expectation isn’t too fair to hold; there isn’t much evidence to support it.  Meanwhile, the second example showcases that some expectations are more nuanced than others.  Being a feminist who looks at pornography is complicated, and many academic feminists debate its ethics.  

Additionally, keep in mind that it is difficult to challenge unfair sexual expectations, even when the person is aware of them.  If you spent decades believing a certain “should,” it’s going to take more than a day to thoroughly rid yourself of it.  It’s crucial to be patient with yourself when challenging these sexual expectations.  You’re going for movement, not perfection.  As a reminder, the main goal of this activity is to challenge the unfair sexual expectations or rules that you hold regarding pornography.  Once you’ve done that, you can find the pornography that properly aligns with your ethics.

Find Porn That Aligns with Your Ethics

Now that you have written down and assessed your fair expectations with porn, engage in pornography that aligns with those beliefs.  For instance, if you believe that pornography needs to have extremely clear consent, read written pornography or view porn with interviews before and after the sex scene.  Additionally, if your fair expectation of porn concerns exploitation, hentai (i.e., drawn or animated pornography) involves no real humans.  Pornography isn’t a monolith; there are many types of pornography that can align with your ethics.  Here are some things to consider when finding the porn that works for you.

  • Medium
    • Written, audio, video, magazine
    • Nonfiction vs. fiction
  • Budget
    • Amateur vs. big porn production
  • Websites
    • Free vs. paid content
  • Performers’ Appearance
    • Race, gender presentation, body type
  • Consent Practices
    • How clear is the sexual communication
    • Are there interviews
  • Reputation
    • Have other people approved this website/book/video
    • Does this performer or director have a good reputation

And here are some pornographic websites that may aid you in your search.

  1. The Crash Pad (“Lesbian/Queer Porn”)
  2. Bellesa (“Free Porn Videos for Her”)
  3. SPIT (“Authentic, Alternative Pornography”)
  4. Lust Cinema (“Intimacy, Love, and Lust in Sex”)
  5. Literotica (“100% Free Sex Stories”)
  6. A Four Chambered Heart (“…To explore the aesthetic and conceptual potential of pornography as a medium for ideas.)
  7. r/chickflixxx (“A place for women to confer about and share porn/erotica.”)

There are several components to assess regarding pornography.  However, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed.  Simply focus on what your expectations are concerning pornography.  After you’ve done that, use reality testing to figure out how fair some of those “shoulds” or expectations are.  Next, try to find pornography that fits with those fair expectations.  There is animated, written, feminist-focused, amateur, queer run, trauma informed, and many other types of pornography that exists.  Reduce your guilt with pornography by finding the type that works for you.  If you’re still struggling to lower your guilt with porn, try scheduling an online session with a therapist at therapyinphiladelphia.com.