I recently communicated with Mike Pearl at VICE about the effects of porn consumption on millennials. You can read the full article here (3/29/16). Record of our correspondence in full is copied below.

Mike Pearl/ VICE: Do you have any kind of response to the question in the working title of my piece: “What has porn done for millennials?”

Note from DrCT: I found it interesting that the author described me as “sanguine” and a “porn advocate” in the article regarding my response to his question, which was framed as “done for” — as in positively. [This is why I don’t do spoken interviews.]

DrCT: Porn has done a lot for millenials – porn shows a diversity of everything from body types to sexual proclivities to content form and quality. Whereas the pre-millenial cohort of humanity had to scour the snail-mailbox for a fairly small slice of erotic expression, millenials have access to EVERYTHING. And porn has responded in kind, evolving as the culture and consumers have evolved to meet needs and satisfy interests. So in terms of what porn has done for millenials, if we want to talk about positive impacts, porn has likely helped many millenials feel less isolated or alone and likely empowered by the fact that – as long as consent is involved – there is nothing “wrong” with your desires and you’re not the only one who has them.

 

Mike Pearl/ VICE: A big question that needs quite a bit of data-based reporting. Unfortunately, a search for analyses of content data from porn produces this. Looks questionable.

DrCT: Re Covenant Eyes and their report linked above… Certainly it’s suspect. If you download it and thumb through, you see that it’s not even a presented as study or some sort of attempt to gather stats – it’s just a sum up of other examples of pseudo-science and outright non-science, all firmly grounded in an anti-porn standpoint. It presents itself well though, organized and copyedited with a list of references. To the research-untrained and/or willing reader, it may come off as legit. And honestly, absent the methodological manipulations and conflations of things like interpersonal sexual communication (eg sexting) with porn, which are huge issues, that’s fine. Porn is not for everyone. And though the authors and organization are “guilty” in terms of not actually doing any sort of research, they are far from alone in the practice of crafting compelling-looking arguments to support their particular cause.

The thing that unites this “study” with any other existing “statistics” about porn is that they are all manipulations and fictions. There has never been a rigorous demographic capture of what porn even is – dollars generates, content consumed, etc – much less an idea about how it has changed over time. And this is for one simple reason – we live in a world that is phobic about sex, sexualities, and everything related therein. This aversion is embedded on the structural level of our society, in every institution from universities to government to religion. And in spite of what we may see on the surface and on the Internet, it’s not changing in any sort of significant way. So when you ask if there is any kind of quantitative analysis of what sorts of adult content millennials are interacting with and how frequently, etc, the answer is no.

 

Mike Pearl/ VICE: Can you talk to me at all about the changes in the content of porn, and what millennials have most likely encountered by they time they start having sex? 

DrCT: The content of porn has shifted dramatically in the past ten or fifteen-ish years (which sounds about mid-millennial). There is far less professional content being produced today, as the industry has condensed dramatically due to piracy. Piracy, which has had an impact on its own, has then caused a shift in the wider culture rendering “free porn” sites (read: piracy-based tube sites) the destination of choice, further devaluing porn as a good *not* worth paying for. The skewed “curation” you see on tube sites (which I would argue also include most GIF-type sites) has also had a further porn-phobic impact – as writers and academics unfamiliar look to tube sites as “representative” examples and/or as tube sites release “data” that’s then not taken critically and/or overgeneralized as representing porn and/or erotic interests as a whole, the civilian picture of porn content and quality becomes further skewed. At the same time, because this content is far more easily accessible to a young person than any form of pay site, what millenials are likely seeing by the time they actually have sex themselves is generally a mish mash collection of older and/or orphan content (content whose copyright holder is absent, thus the content cannot be taken down) and/or slices of content that are presented without context. They are definitely NOT seeing the diversity of content available, nor are they seeing more technologically and culturally “modern” forms of content (eg webcam, clips, content from small producers, etc).

 

Mike Pearl/ VICE: From talking to people who have had sex with millennials and non-millennials, they mostly all have a couple of opinions and they go out of their way to make the connection to porn: 1) They say people in their 20s don’t want to hang around and cuddle, and blame porn. 2) They say people in their 20s have a couple quirks: men are more prone to epic episodes of muscular thrusting and (in the case of the gay men I talked to) more enthralled by cum. I can’t find anything in academic literature that links these to porn, so are there any known phenomena in social psychology that point toward an explanation? 

DrCT: Re 1) – the disconnected isolation people are describing – eg no cuddling after sex – sounds like a wider artifact of isolationism and interpersonal breakdown that’s been being described since the mid-90s at least. Porn is a social artifact, synergistically a cause and effect of the context in which it exists, so it is certainly both part and parcel of this.

Classic, big deal, familiar reference: http://www.amazon.com/Bowling-Alone-Collapse-American-Community/dp/0743203046

Re 2) – the “pop shot” has long been thought of as the center piece/grand finale of porn, likely because is “evidence” of sexual pleasure or enjoyment. There’s nothing really new/millennial-centric about dudes being fascinated by cum.

BUT additionally, one could argue that the preoccupation with women squirting – which was considered more of a novel anomaly in porn production, a la Flower Tucci and a few others as recently as 2007/08 – is similar in the sense that it’s comparable evidence of women’s pleasure. Today, squirting is altogether common in porn, with many performers actually working to cultivate the ability

Note: squirting has always been a thing women do, but in porn production it was infrequent until 5 – 8 years ago

Another note: like a lot of trends, squirting’s rabid popularity seems to be settling. I have no evidence other than this is an observation I’ve made as new content crosses my path – less squiring, or less emphasized squirting, these days

…and another note: squirting “controversy” is interesting here – people argue whether or not it’s “real” (Is it cum, or is it urine? — for example). This is another fascinating move in a wider position that devalues/limits women’s pleasure, as well as women performers’ enjoyment of sex/their work.

Well, what has porn “done to” you?

young-woman

(pictured: Google’s answer to “millennial porn”)

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Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com

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