Natalie Mills, MFT – Respecting the Value of Porn

As a sex positive therapist, many clients seek my help for concerns they have about their sexuality, looking for guidance as they navigate sexual and or intimate relationships, and supportive treatment for symptoms related to sexual trauma they have experienced. They often have many questions about normalcy and fear of the unknown. Overall, I see a common thread of emotion woven into many of these concerns: shame. So many people feel ashamed of their desires, feelings, and experiences. A common subject broached by clients is porn and their shame around watching and enjoying it. (There are other subjects which I will address in later posts.)

"The Origins of The World" by Dotty Attie | PPOW Gallery
“The Origins of The World” by Dotty Attie | PPOW Gallery

Overall, women who view porn are often seen as depraved sex fiends and antifeminist, in addition to a slough of other misguided opinions. Men who view porn are seen as typical misogynist cads…  So we don’t talk about watching porn. And we definitely don’t talk about enjoying it. Porn is so feared and detested that we, as porn viewers, fear what it might mean about ourselves to watch and enjoy it. We are encouraged to detest the parts of ourselves which derive pleasure from it.

If we did feel safe enough to have an open dialogue with one another about the value of porn, what might we say?

Some of us might say that porn has helped us to connect with our authentic sexuality for the first time. Where previously we had experienced discomfort, fear, shame, or a combination of any of these feelings when accessing our sexuality at anything deeper than surface level, porn has served for some of us to explore this part of ourselves in a safe, nonjudgmental space. Porn has gifted curiosity about ourselves, what we like (and what we don’t), what we want, what we want to try, ways of expressing desire, and what might make us feel desired.

Others might say that they find value in queer or feminist porn, that they like to see people who look like them enjoying their authentic sexuality. These members of our community might say that it’s refreshing and empowering to watch scenes in which they are represented and to which they can relate, scenes that inspire them.

Maybe some of us would share that watching porn has enriched our sexual relationship with our partners. We might have experienced a lull or predictable sex, maybe disconnected sex, and much of it unsatisfying. As we explored the world of porn with our partner(s) we realized things they wanted that they didn’t feel comfortable revealing before. We noticed more ease in talking about the sex we were (and weren’t) having with one another and the se that we wanted. We began to feel more connected to one another and less afraid of talking about what we want, less afraid of the awareness of what we want.

Such incredible connection and growth is happening for people watching porn and we are discouraged form sharing it with one another. We are experiencing a wonderful, life-affirming treasure and yet we are told that it’s toxic garbage.

Let’s stop playing along. We can show the others what they’re missing, those who don’t watch porn and those who pretend they don’t. We can show them there’s nothing to fear and everything to gain by sharing the valuable experiences we have had thanks to porn. I enjoy porn and I am grateful for it! Who else is with me?

Natalie Mills, MFTSan Francisco Counseling and Therapy

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