Has the Internet changed how you have sex?
July 17, 2008 10:20 PM   Subscribe

How has sex changed for you since the Internet made porn so easily accessible?

I grew up in the age of easy-to-obtain Internet porn, so I never got to experience what sex was like back in the pre-Internet days. For those of you who have been around longer, have you noticed a change in your or your partners' sexual behavior over the past ~10-15 years? An increased willingness or desire to do certain things, perhaps? Exaggerated moaning? Improved techniques? Unusual positions now more common? Have you not noticed a change at all?

I realize porn stars haven't invented anything new and that what is seen on screen has been practiced by many people for thousands of years, but I'm wondering if the ubiquity of porn has led to a general change in what is now considered to be standard bedroom behavior.
posted by HotPatatta to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Anecdotally, not much. There's sort of been a general trend in the gay world towards more extreme behaviour--those who were into spanking 15 years ago are into serious beating now, for example. I'm not sure whether internet porn has much to do with it.

I would say that masturbatory habits have changed far more, with a trickle-down effect into sex. You can now, courtesy of Rule 34, find anything you want that will turn you on. Indeed, you can now find things that you would have had no clue about twenty years ago that turn you on.

So I think there may be some effect stemming from that, inasmuch as people now focus in much more on their turn-ons. Turn-ons have been elevated to the level of kinks, while kinks are now referred to as fetishes. People probably pigeonhole their tastes more now, I think. Twenty years ago--and yes, this is counterintuitive--I would imagine that people would have been less "I'm a furry into tentacle porn and that's all I'm going to seek out".
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:31 PM on July 17, 2008

Well there sure seems to be a lot more ass fucking these days. Correlative or causal? We may never know. That was nought but a whispered rumor when I was coming up. And every third girl is waxed bald now too. That had to have come from porn.
posted by Askr at 10:47 PM on July 17, 2008

I'm most concerned with how/if it lowers my desire to go out there and meet real women. Porn is damned convenient, whereas dating is a lot of hard work.
posted by wastelands at 10:59 PM on July 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Not one bit really.

Does anyone here really jerk off onto their date/wife's face? Does she like it? Give me a break. Internet pr0n is so not sex, so unreal. If you get your ideas for how sex goes down from internet pr0n you will be one fucked up person. Don't kid yourself, your grandpa got BJs, and your grandma gave it to him, and he reciprocated, but they just felt a lot more uncomfortable talking about it than you do.
posted by caddis at 11:27 PM on July 17, 2008

...Oh and assuming this thread stays (I really think this is chatfilter) I think you are totally wrong that the most influential aspect of the Internet in the realm of sex is porn. To be sure, it is now much easier and cheaper to get one's hands on pictures or movies of naked people. But even more so, it is wide, wide exposure to new kinks and fetishes.

Furthermore, websites have made it possible for pretty much anyone in the US to get their hands on a sex toy if they so desire. While mail order did exist, internet browsing adds an extra layer of convenience and anonymity.

Finally, many people meet their lovers through the Internet. I met my ex and my current girlfriend online, and wooo I had sex. So that's another way that the Internet has changed how I have sex.

Porn can be interesting sometimes too, but really it's the other things that have had a more lasting impact.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:28 PM on July 17, 2008

Oh, and just to emphasize: when I talk about exposure to new kinks and fetishes, I'm not talking about porn. I'm talking about websites that provide instructions about how to use various equipment, support groups for fetishes, pages that talk aboiut different fetishes (my favorite fetish -- not one I have, but one I read about--is getting turned on by getting wet [normal wet, as in taking a shower] while being fully clothed. That, and the one where gay men compare how long they can hold their breath underwater...not exactly sure where the sex comes into for faux drowning play).

If the internet is good for anything, it shows that no matter how isolated you are, no matter how bizarre your interests, passions, or talents, there is going to be a group of people who relate to you. This is also true for sex.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2008

any changes over that period I'd personally ascribe to a natural process of maturing, rather than any external influence.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:57 PM on July 17, 2008

the internet has been around for all of my sexual history, but it seems like far more people are open about what they do in their bedrooms and i think the internet has a lot to do with that. you can't really separate porn from the social aspects mentioned above, though.

also: some girls really like getting cum on all sorts of body parts, face included.

for what it's worth, that didn't come from porn, i don't think - maybe dirty stories i found at nifty when i was 15 or so, but i really want to say it predated even that.

you degrade someone just for liking something different, caddis - how lame is that?
posted by nadawi at 11:59 PM on July 17, 2008 [5 favorites]

I think the waxing thing is more common sense than porn-related.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 12:28 AM on July 18, 2008

degrade? I think you have got it. So much of pr0n is about degrading the woman. It's not a positive advance. The internets have opened communication, but have more than that furthered all the old oppressive aspects of sex and pr0n as well. Cum on the face = degradation. (at least one of the mods seems to think that cumming on someone's face does not equal degradation, and comments about that should be unpublished; shame on them for that)
posted by caddis at 12:39 AM on July 18, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed -- question is not "HAY GUYS WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PORN" so please feel free to save lulz and editorializing for elsewhere (or MeTa) and stick to the question. thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:55 AM on July 18, 2008

The trifecta of our porn-infused culture:
 Facials -------- Waxing         \      /          \    /           \  /            \/           Anal
The two acts and one form of grooming have simply become more prevalent in the post internet porn era. Hands down, if you go back a decade or more ago you did not see these as much.

I'd still think that most people don't go for facials or anal, but they at least know of them, know it's something that other people do and hold opinions on. They are also more likely to try one or the other.

I doubt Justice Scalia has ever sodomized his wife purposefully, but the Right's queasiness over the act in this country betrays a generational divide spanned by internet porn.

Personally I feel that both facials and anal sex (at least male on female anal) is not about degradation, but about ownership. A buddy of mine said once, "I just don't enjoy anal - I don't like doing that to a girl." I responded, "You don't like paying your mortgage either, but your sure like owning your own condo, don't you?" End of discussion.

As for waxing, I can't even remember the last time I saw a non-waxed porn actress (or actor for that matter.) But there was a time when hairy was the norm. Now "all natural" is it's own fetish, something you have to search for.

Hell, porn itself has changed several times since at least the 80s. I remember when penetration shots were simply taboo - now you're lucky to see anything but...

I hope this expanded version of my comment is passed over by the cold shadow of censorship this time around...
posted by wfrgms at 1:17 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm really dating myself here, but what the heck; I remember sex and porn before the home VCR, much less the Internet, if you can believe that. The first "porn" I saw personally was Playboy magazine, which was pretty risque for 1965 Kansas, where I was growing up. The first moving picture porn I saw was a Super 8mm stag film a friend of mine's brother had gotten for a bachelor party, that I saw in the fall of 1968. It was grainy and badly photographed, but it had the first "money shot" I ever saw, and for that reason, I still remember it. There were a couple of porn theaters in Kansas City, MO that high school boys could sometimes sneak into, where 16mm films were on in grindhouse rotations. That was a 2 hour drive, each way, however, and for time and money reasons, not to mention the likelihood of not being admitted if you couldn't grow a mustache, even with fake ID, it wasn't something any one in my circles did regularly. And frankly, before Deep Throat, what you saw in those old porn theaters was mostly boobs bouncing and a lot of over the top moaning. In a lot of locales, the public indecency laws prohibited theaters showing acts of sodomy, including oral sex, or genitalia (so yeah, not even money shots).

Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door really changed all that, around Middle America, although as late as 1975, it was still not uncommon for porn theaters to be prohibited from showing sodomy or genitalia. Cops used to routinely attend in these theaters to check the content of the films, and often, even in that period, movie prints were impounded, and fines were paid by distributors to get prints back.

Once the VHS VCR was introduced in 1977, the first practical mechanism for creating and distributing porn, beyond police regulation, was in place. But it really wasn't until about 1980 that there were enough units around, and enough interest in porn, that a ready market and good supply of titles was available. At first, about all that you could get, from ads in the backs of men's magazines, were bad transcriptions of the same 16mm stuff that was showing in a lot of the porn theaters. Porn film makers and distributors were slower than they might have been about making material for the home VCR market, simply because they were afraid of cannibalizing whatever theater market they had, as well as running afoul of Federal authorities. So, it was probably 1982 or so before the big explosion of VCR porn really happened.

By then, a whole raft of new porn filmmakers were making direct-to-tape, with high speed copy machine farms, strictly for the home VCR market. Suddenly, you could get all kinds of stuff, and porn started to get "cool," simply because anyone with an ounce of common sense could anonymously order what they wanted, and view it in the privacy of their own home. Porn, beyond just print materials like photos and magazines, became familiar to millions of people, who before, never would have looked at it. And because of the nature of film as an action medium, there was a new interest in acts, that probably outstripped the previous static media's focus on size or beauty. Bigger boobs and prettier faces sold more magazines, but hotter "action" sold videos, so there was terrific interest in all kinds of sex acts on VCR, that were just not good material in print. And people seeing stuff they'd only read about now on VCR, like orgies, group sex, girl-on-girl, gay sex, etc. were even looking to try it themselves. Damn if it wasn't "training film" time, and lots of married women were suddenly being asked for this or that, after being shown a VHS tape, that wouldn't have been, otherwise! Oral sex, in particular, was re-normed entirely, as a result of the VCR revolution, in my opinion. If it hadn't been for the AIDS epidemic, the VCR would I think, have gone down in history as the biggest factor in the second phase of the sexual revolution, but by the mid-80s, the fear of AIDS really damped the wave of sexual experimentation that the VCR had kicked off.

I don't really think that the Internet has had nearly as much of an effect on porn, or on sexual behavior, as the VCR did. Sure, the last 5 or 6 years of broadband adoption, and the rise of P2P networks, have kicked any remaining price and age barriers to distribution down. But the Internet hasn't changed content, or main stream sexual mores, to the extent the VCR did, in its time. And perhaps the Internet has even caused some pull back of sexual mores, in some areas, like child porn, where the pervasive nature of the Internet has made people wary enough to enact strong laws around certain acts, particularly if conducted through Internet communications. I think the Internet hookup is here to stay for awhile, in many cultures, simply because men and women are spending more time online, than they used to. If that drops, however, for whatever reason, people will hook up less on line, too.
posted by paulsc at 1:23 AM on July 18, 2008 [21 favorites]

I'm most concerned with how/if it lowers my desire to go out there and meet real women. Porn is damned convenient, whereas dating is a lot of hard work.

Internet port is like having a crack dealer in your living room. I'm sure I read that somewhere, once.
posted by Leon at 2:12 AM on July 18, 2008

Much higher demand for hairless vaginas and anal sex now than before.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:19 AM on July 18, 2008

And every third girl is waxed bald now too. That had to have come from porn.

But also a lot of this porn wasn't just invented out of the blue. The Brazilians have been waxing themselves for a long time (to fit into their skimpy bikinis for one)

What the Internet allowed us to do is to see what, for example, the French and the Spaniards and the Germans were doing. That is, the Internet internationalized sex and probably disrupted the social more and taboos of the more conservative cultures by showing to them that, yes, these things you like to do are more "normal" in other cultures.
posted by vacapinta at 2:32 AM on July 18, 2008 [5 favorites]

I think the waxing thing is more common sense than porn-related.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 8:28 AM on July 18 [+] [!]

In what way is waxing common sense?!
posted by handee at 3:56 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm pre-internet porn and although I agree with the impact of VCR being much greater I can't help thinking I have learned a lot more from french porn books. The History of O was a revelation. Sade and Apollinaire likewise. Even more recently, the diary of Catherine M. was an eye-opener. More than techniques, these books teach you that anything is possible and you won't find out what you like until you try. In many ways, I find that books open your mind a lot more - sex should be a part of your intellectual development also - than watching random people who were payed to have sex on video and who most of the times look like they are faking it. I've noticed men don't even bother, especially in american porn which is extremely boring and cliche, as if ejaculating is all there is to it.

I sincerely doubt heterosexual anal sex, which is about as unimaginative as you can get, is more popular these days especially now that there seems to be a hygiene obsession. Internet porn definitely changed masturbation practices. Just like it changed essay writing. Copy and paste from wikipedia instead of thinking and researching.

Obviously this is all very culturally relative:
Interviews of 5,000 men and women throughout Brazil revealed that over 50 percent of those surveyed in Rio de Janeiro and over 40 percent of those in the rest of Brazil reported practicing anal sex at least occasionally (Santa Inez 1983, 41).

posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:58 AM on July 18, 2008

Depliated genitalia, like pornography, is not a recent phenomenon. Take for instance, this depiction of a woman sporting a bald vulva riding cowgirl. Oral sex, believe it or not, also predated the internet, and once again, pubic hair is conspicuously absent. Finally, we get to depictions of anal sex, which as we all know, was invented in Tim Berners-Lee's basement by Max Hardcore, or so we thought. This last sex act is even uncommon by the standards of modern pornography. I don't even think there is a shorthand term for it. I think "the diode" makes sense, personally.

All the smut I've linked to, by the way, is taken from a series of frescoes found on the wall of the changing room of a suburban public bath. While opinions differ, the prevailing explanation for the purpose of these is that they were there to help patrons remember where they left their clothes and belongings.

That's not to say that pubic depilation and sodomy of both oral and anal varieties haven't been popularized recently by pornography, but I concur with paulsc that VHS had a bigger impact on pornographic and sexual fashions than the internet. Put me down in the camp that thinks the internet's biggest impact on sexual behavior has been in bringing people with very specific interests together, not to mention making finding sexual partners vastly easier.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:27 AM on July 18, 2008 [6 favorites]

Personally I feel that both facials and anal sex (at least male on female anal) is not about degradation, but about ownership. A buddy of mine said once, "I just don't enjoy anal - I don't like doing that to a girl." I responded, "You don't like paying your mortgage either, but your sure like owning your own condo, don't you?" End of discussion.

Can someone explain this one to me? You have to do these things to own your girl? What sort of owning is this?
posted by DarkForest at 5:25 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

According to the survey discussed in this Slate article, rates of anal and oral sex are way up over the last decade or so:

One in three women admits to having had anal sex by age 24. By ages 25 to 44, the percentages rise to 40 for men and 35 for women. And that's not counting the 3.7 percent of men aged 15 to 44 who've had anal sex with other men.

The last time major national surveys asked about this practice, in the early 1990s, only 20 percent of men aged 20 to 39 said they'd had anal sex with a woman in the preceding 10 years. Only 26 percent of men aged 18 to 59 said they'd ever done so.

But I don't really buy that the internet is causative of this, any more than it is causative of pubic waxing -- I would venture that discussions of these topics in mass media sources like Sex and the City are more influential. (And I agree with paulsc and expletive deleted that a) this is nothing new and b) the VHS was huge for porn.)

The way that the internet is changing how many people have sex is not in the mechanics of the act, but in the finding and communicating with partners. Internet dating has gone from being a bad joke to a mainstream activity in just a few years; email, video, VOIP, IM, and other internet options let both prospective partners and people in a relationship communicate cheaply and easily across distance. Particularly for people of less mainstream sexualities, resources like gay.com and all the kink websites allow for much safer, easier, and more convenient screening and meeting of potential partners.

So the internet has been huge for sexuality, just not so much in the pronpronpron sort of way, I think.
posted by Forktine at 5:37 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

To answer this question seriously, easy porn accessibility has kept me out of a lot of trouble. Say I'm out at a bar, looking to hook up. And I haven't really met anyone compatible. Knowing I have an easy "outlet" when I get home, alone, saves me from making bad decisions. Like taking home that crazy/easy person who would inevitably steal my wallet or get pregnant.

And should I meet someone cool, a little "classy" porn sometimes greases the skids, if you will.

Re: owning- that is a component to some people's sexuality. Not "ownership" like slavery, but more metaphorical. More like submission/domination, trusting completely and giving oneself fully to your partner.
posted by gjc at 5:38 AM on July 18, 2008

Can someone explain this one to me? You have to do these things to own your girl? What sort of owning is this?

I'd agree that there can definitely be a "marking of territory" aspect to facials; anal sex is for many people a marker of intimacy and trust and closeness, extending that to "ownership" isn't too far of a reach. In this essay on Nerve, the author writes:

... I refuse to have anal sex.

But there's a reason I refuse, and it's not forever. As a vague nod to the traditionalism I typically reject (yet continue to idealize), I'm saving my back-end virginity until marriage. As an easily bored single girl, I've engaged in an extensive laundry list of sexual behaviors, but have never allowed a cock in my ass.

At some point early on, I decided I wanted to reserve one sexual niche exclusively for my future husband. And I certainly can't offer him my virginity, my first threesome, or my first time fucking in a rooftop hotel pool at dawn. Anal sex is something I've flirted with, considered, but never done, all in the name of keeping something, as they say, "sacred."

But sexuality is complicated, and people are complicated -- you can have facials and anal sex every night and not have it be about ownership, degredation, or whatever other interpretation is being offered here at all. It means what you bring to it and what you give to it -- what people outside your bedroom say isn't so important, really.
posted by Forktine at 5:44 AM on July 18, 2008

Have gotten more ideas and the realization that some of those ideas should not be made reality. Also, a fuller appreciation of the creativity and depravity that humans are capable of.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:02 AM on July 18, 2008

I think the waxing thing is more common sense than porn-related.

I don't think this is true. I've tended to date two groups of men. One my age (~35) and one 15 years older (~50). The older men, who were coming of age in the 60's and 70's pretty much hate the shaved look. It doesn't resonate with their experience of sexuality and what turned them on when they were developing erotic preferences, and they find it a turn off. On the other hand, every guy my age preferred it. I attribute that almost 100% to porn.
posted by kimdog at 6:14 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Did the internet change sex? Well, all the above is debatable.

Furries are not. The internet pretty much spawned furries. It's one of the rare examples of a subculture (in this case a sexual one) whose formation was entirely facilitated by the internet.

So yes. The internet has changed things.

posted by kaseijin at 7:04 AM on July 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

In addition to some of the great comments above about greater awareness of kinks and possibilities, and the more widespread standards on physical appearance and behavior given the relatively narrow norms of the general porn "look" and expected menu of activities, internet porn may have had the inverse effect of making the world of porn a little more boring. Images and ideas that would have been incredibly titillating thirty years ago are now so readily available quickly and privately to anyone at any time, and in some forums so complicatedly and obsessively discussed to the point of exhaustion, that it just becomes much less interesting.
posted by Miko at 8:02 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

kimdog writes "I don't think this is true. I've tended to date two groups of men. One my age (~35) and one 15 years older (~50). The older men, who were coming of age in the 60's and 70's pretty much hate the shaved look. It doesn't resonate with their experience of sexuality and what turned them on when they were developing erotic preferences, and they find it a turn off. On the other hand, every guy my age preferred it. I attribute that almost 100% to porn."

Don't discount general changing norms. The vast majority of group portraits I've seen of guys in the 70s seem to feature at least one if not several guys with full on, practically dwarven class beards. You rarely see that currently. Body hair in general has fallen out of fashion.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wonder how many 50 year old women go bald down there. I doubt many do. Nevertheless, this may be one thing that changed for younger women in large part because of what is seen on the internet.
posted by caddis at 8:50 AM on July 18, 2008

Anonymous reply from another MeFite.
How has internet porn affected my sex life? I haven't had one since my involvement in the net in the early 1990s. I am a woman and not a very attractive one, and the internet brought it home to me pretty brutally that most men are entranced by the perfection of porn. I can't compete, so I just stay away.
posted by jessamyn at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I came of age sexually just before I would have had access to p2p/pornotube/torrented video porn, but did in fact use the net for other sorts of erotic exploration as a teenager in the 90s. It seems to me that for my generation, adopting a porn-heavy lifestyle has bee a choice some have made and some avoided. I think the idea that it's a habit-forming sank in quickly enough, and it has not been used widely in my milieu as a satisfactory substitute for real sex or relationships.

It has, however, been a catalyst for many discussions about openness within relationships, the boundaries of a monogamous sex life, and trust. I've had a friend divorce over secret massive porn debts accrued by her husband, though the rest of us laughed and said if he was too stupid to get free porn, then fuck 'im. And I know the stances of most of my girlfriends on the use of porn by their husbands - "he doesn't," "he can whenever he wants, I don't mind a bit" and "he needs to let me know," all being valid, working arrangements.

There is definitely some uneasiness, or bitterness, maybe frustration, among women about how they should let the "porn standard" affect them, but for the most part, the way women are presented and treated in porn is so abhorrent than the women in my life view as pitiful those who crave or strain to emulate groaning, squirting, bleached, waxed, tanned, hypoallergenic, overlit porn queens. That's just not what "sexy" means to people around me. I can't speak to the gay male experience, and I have NOT seen any porn that foregrounds the performance of straight male sexuality, though I would like that.

Actswise, I personally engage in all kinds of "porny" crap that I get the sense is still a little unusual for people my age in committed relationships. Perhaps it's my own neurosis that I still imagine that weird kinks are usually desired by older, more bored/adventurous (pick your point of view) sex-havers. But I tend to think the more widespread awareness of strange sexual acts and fetishes is just like having a huge menu, and there's no undue pressure on people to try everything on it all at once, though some people just don't venture into the Seafood section because they like Pasta just fine, thanks, and some pressure them to Try New Things. If video porn has made people sexual novelty junkies, then that's nothing out of step with the rest of our culture, but it may not be the best long term plan, hmm?

Because most of the people my age came of age just before the ubiquity of free video porn, I think we escaped unscathed from sex's definition by it in a general sense, and I am so glad about that. I worry terribly for my little brother and sister, teens now, that they'll venture onto the net in the same sneaky teenage ways I did for sexual stimulus, and wind up with altogether more than they can process into their immature conceptions of the role of sex in adult life.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Night and Day, but I think the difference is more about social attitudes and how the tech is used.
The significant driving force I think was not so much the appearance of internet porn as the combined appearance of the internet and the digital camera (plus the internet porn)

The massive social taboo against nudity is largely just gone now (and no-one told the people over 40, hence the regular stream of FREAK-OUT articles about kids txt'ing cam-phone revealing pics of themselves to friends, web-cams, and the rest of it, as if this wasn't fairly normal behaviour that their kids have played with too). Modesty is a personal preference as always, but the fundamentals have shifted.

For example, do some online dating, start chatting to someone where there is mutual interest, and it's not uncommon that you might see them nekkid before you ever actually meet them in person. 20 years ago, the idea of sending nude pics to people you've never met... well it wouldn't even occur to most people.

Here is a related Penny Arcade comic strip

As for what actually goes on in the bedroom, I think that some things that used to be kinky (as in "freak!") are now just kinky (as in "oh - ok")
posted by -harlequin- at 11:12 AM on July 18, 2008

In response to anonymous: a lot of men like the women in idealized porn, a lot of guys don't. But ultimately, all of them need someone to hold. You might be surprised how much the internet has to offer people of all kinds of appearances. There are men out there for you. Like I said, online dating is a great resource.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:08 PM on July 18, 2008

What an interesting question, I think that there have been some fascinating responses.

I think that a lot of the angst that people are expressing about the role of porn in shaping the sexuality of people today are similar to the feelings of people throughout the ages about the state of sex in the next generation.

I think that most of the changes that are happening are pretty unlikely to have a significant negative impact on society. Mores change over time, and in the past societies have had some mores that would seem pretty unthinkable today. I don't really think that a slight change in ejaculation habits and a trend to more heterosexual anal sex is any reason to man the barricades.
posted by jefeweiss at 12:23 PM on July 18, 2008

Internet porn has made me realize that my early sexual adventures were likely to be something that people online would think was hot to watch and/or illegal to own photos of. I'm very very conscious -- usually because of disclaimers and "we have documentation to prove that these girls that we are calling "barely legal" are, in fact, legal" -- that there's the 18-year-old line in most mainstream porn online (esp in the US) and that's created a new edgy "how close can you get?" line that I paid no attention to when I was underage.

A lot of the other distinctions it's difficult for me to say whether they're a result of easily accessible internet porn or just the fact that my partners are no longer teenaged boys. That said, here are a few things that I think easily accessible porn has changed about my sex life or the sexual environment that I'm in.

- the old cliche of taking a magazine to the bathroom to masturbate to is now different. It was easier to be private, especially as a younger person, with your porn, but it was also easier to share it with people without all sitting around a computer. Easier to find your parents' stash and know what they were looking at. Instead of having like one magazine, or even a secret trove of them, you have bookmarks or downloads or, more likely, you can look for an endless stream of the MMF-airplane-cockpit-cheerleader thing (as an example) that pushes your buttons. It was easier to read porn, masturbate and roll over to go to sleep without having to shut down your computer first.
- it was easier to be selective about your porn in the world of print pornography. If I go looking for porn online, there's a very real chance I'll come across something that I find incredibly icky unsexy or creepy, just maybe as a banner on another site or something. If I was reading Anaïs Nin or something similar I could be pretty sure that the next chapter wasn't going to have a description of a woman blowing a horse, for example.
- the wide range of people in porn makes it more likely that you are going to see people like you. I find my experience is the opposite of the person I included a comment for before. I see more people that look like me or "worse" than me having sex online which has sort of broadened my idea of sex into the "everyone does it" idea rather than sex being between two beautiful heavily airbrushed people.
- I think about hidden cameras when I'm having sex and I NEVER did that before. I also think about them when I'm peeing in public restrooms and notice a missing ceiling tile or whatever. I feel like there is a nonzero chance that naked photos of me could wind up on the internet without me wanting them to.
- The wide range of people doing whatever online means that you're less likely to encounter someone who says "that's really WEIRD" when you suggest something just a little off the vanilla path. It may be that they're not into whatever it is, but they're unlikely to try to get weird and shamey about it because there's thousands of people doing it online so in at least some way it's totally normal.

Otherwise I feel like actual people I've had actual sex with don't seem to be different in any real way from "before" Most of the people I've been with seem to have fairly decent divisions in their head between the world of other people having sex in porn (online, in print, whatever) and whatever it is we do together and I attribute the changes in my sex life to have more to do with the fact that I'm 25 years older and may have learned a few things, etc.
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on July 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

"I don't think this is true. I've tended to date two groups of men. One my age (~35) and one 15 years older (~50). The older men, who were coming of age in the 60's and 70's pretty much hate the shaved look. It doesn't resonate with their experience of sexuality and what turned them on when they were developing erotic preferences, and they find it a turn off. On the other hand, every guy my age preferred it. I attribute that almost 100% to porn."

Having had many discussions about this here, that's exactly backwards in our office—Our older guys like the shaved girls because for so many years, there was nothing but. "You didn't grow up with girls so hairy you couldn't see where the hole was!" one of 'em belted at me last week. It's the younger guys here who tend to want to see a little hair.

(And, after many conversations about this—most of the younger women who cop to shaving, especially in porn, say that it's because it "feels cleaner," and that it's more a practical than aesthetic choice).
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on July 18, 2008

Yes. Yes it has.

I grew up pre-Internet and the women in the porn I saw looked like real(-ish) women with at least a shred of dignity, and that's an image I can live with. It's taken my partner a very long time to convince me that he's not interested in me replicating the looks or actions of today's typical porn stars, since that's exactly what the person I dated wanted before him was very clear he wanted (so wrongly assumed that was also true of every other man). It took me a long time to get over not being self conscious that, while I'm decent looking, I don't look like those girls.

The infinite accessibility of Internet porn has also removed some of what I find so special about sex with the person you love: that it's just between the two of you (or not, which is cool, but a totally different topic). Even though I have a stupidly high sex drive, there's times when even I don't want it, and I feel like if my partner does, I'm easily replaced by simply switching on the computer monitor. As several MeFites have pointed out, it's easier to just get what you need on your own than having to depend on other people.

Let me be clear: it's not that I object to self-pleasure -- not at all. I'm also not naive enough to understand that my partner doesn't need the Internet or anything at all to get to the point of, or deal with, being aroused. It's just that now it's so damned easy. Sometimes I want a day or two to let the tension rebuild, meanwhile all he has to do is open one of the "Hey, look at this!" emails his buddies send him, or spend 10 minutes surfing. I miss the days when porn was a last-resort or special thing instead of an everyday option. It's sort of like this: he might be in the mood for ice cream but not enough to drive 15 miles to Ben & Jerry's and get it. OTOH, if it's right there in the fridge...

I have a feeling this is coming out all wrong. I guess what I'm saying is, men and women have looked at porn since the dawn of time, it's no big deal. Until the Internet porn boom, though, its presence was much more subtle in my sexual experiences and partnerships. Now it's like having a third person in my sex life. It sucks ass.
posted by actuallyiam at 1:14 PM on July 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

Oh, and one thing that internet porn has done for me is make me realize that there are more than a few things that I think are incredibly hot to see or read about, but are kinda "meh" to actually do. Prior to the internet, a lot of these things wouldn't have crossed my consciousness, or at least not in such quantity. I realize this is one of those quantitative differences, rather than a qualitative one, in that I'd likely have had similar experiences later and separated my porn-viewer identity from my pure sexual one later.
posted by klangklangston at 1:21 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing I'm very conscious of his how narrow porn is - it's formulaic and really sticks to tropes. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like of commercial porn more closely mirrored some of the interesting experiences of actual sex. What would a really sexy movie that genuinely showed from a woman's point of view what sexual discovery was like, for instance? Something that was much more real-life, but still as hot as sex, in fact, is in real life? I just feel like there is a vast chasm between the porn experience and real sexual experience, and that what 'works' in porn is an extremely narrow bandwidth of human sexual activity. I wouldn't say that's changed in the last 20-30 years, but it's something I'm more conscious of because the internet just plain lets you see a lot more of it, and generates more volume.

Another thing that occurs to me, as a woman, is that I have felt a lot more free to look at the stuff than I did when it was carried on physical objects like VCR tapes or print material. That was always stuff to be very concerned about being "caught" with, and as a teen you had to be secretive about passing it around and looking at it. You knew there was a lot more of it than you could ever get your hands on, and that caused you to wonder what the heck was the content in all those media. People would talk in wowed tones about a film they heard about where "this chick did [whatever] to [whoever]," but unless it was one of the small library of movies/mags you could have access to locally, it was all secondhand. So I think there was this shadowy feeling that there could be any number of odd things out there that you could barely even imagine. With the net, all the subgenres are pretty upfront and clear.

But the private/home access makes a big difference. I can count on one hand the times I had the guts/interest to wander into a skeezy bookstore or the video room behind the secret curtain, and all those times were more jokey/dare-y than born from interest in that sort of entertainment. There were definite barriers to entry in the old days, and porn was much more clearly aimed at and marketed at men, who enculturated one another into visiting these places and viewing themselves as entitled to be consumers of porn. For women, that was a pretty rare attitude, and the outlets felt extremely unwelcoming. A "regular" woman definitely did not belong in those sorts of places.

But of course that's not completely due to the 'net- since the 70s, there was a movement to make sexuality and sex-related material friendly to female costumers, and that's how we got the cutesy, pink-fur-decorated, sex-positive toy and bookstores that had a more fun, less 'dirty' feel to them. So those inroads were being made apart from the internet and, I think, would have moved forward anyway.

The main beef I have with online porn is that it's still really nothing new - not materially different from what porn was in pre-net days, just more of it, more easily accessible - but the standard tropes, styles, and formulas have really not been reimagined.
posted by Miko at 1:29 PM on July 18, 2008

Oh, and one thing that internet porn has done for me is make me realize that there are more than a few things that I think are incredibly hot to see or read about, but are kinda "meh" to actually do. Prior to the internet, a lot of these things wouldn't have crossed my consciousness, or at least not in such quantity.

I may be the outlier on this, but I've had the opposite experience. Pre-internet, the vast majority of my porn exposure was through print (a few porn VHS tapes were traded around in high school, but they were really hard to get hold of as a kid) -- some magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, plus all the variations of those Penthouse letters magazines, but mostly books, ranging from Nin to Miller to weirdo sci-fi porn to far out kinky stuff.

In my experience, most of the easily-available internet porn is reasonably mainstream -- various combinations of hetero and homo sex, with a certain amount of kinkiness, as well as the shock-value stuff like two girls/one cup. A lot of the porn books (calling it "erotica" is better for sales) explore a lot of much more out-there stuff -- severe pain and degradation, rape, pedophilia, incest, and on and on. Compared to the stuff in The Story of O, for example, a lot of the stuff I can see from a glance at a site like kink.com looks pretty tame.

So my experience with internet porn (as a casual observer, rather than as a serious connoisseur), is that a lot of it is pretty homogeneous stuff compared to both print and underground porn over the years. The striking exception to that, and an example of a porn genre that I think of as purely of the internet age, is the phenomenon of slash fiction -- it has always been around, but as a mostly non-commercial product, it took the internet for it to find a distribution channel and a wide audience.
posted by Forktine at 3:58 PM on July 18, 2008

I think porn has made sex a more casual thing. Not necessarily that people are having more sex, but the taboos surrounding sex have perhaps been somewhat loosened. When I was about 16 I saw a porn for the first time. Nowadays anyone with 30 seconds and an internet connection can find more porn than they know what to do with.

One definite trend that very likely stems from porn is the shaving of pubic hair, all body hair on men, Brazilian wax, etc. I read somewhere that to shave or not to shave is an age-old question, and different cultures at different times go one way or the other. IIRC, the Romans were fans of shaving. So if not from porn, eventually that trend might've happened anyway.
posted by zardoz at 6:56 PM on July 18, 2008

IIRC, the Romans were fans of shaving.

See my earlier post with links to bath frescoes from Pompeii; nary a pubic hair is seen, on either sex. The preferred method for hair removal for ancient Romans was plucking, but shaving was also practiced, especially on the face. Hirsute Roman men commonly had all their body hair plucked. I recall an account of the street where pluckers plied their trade as a place where the cries of the pluckers advertising their services were only exceeded by the cries of their clients.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:28 PM on July 18, 2008

For me, the biggest change in my lifetime because of the internet is the ability to indulge in my personal Rule 34 material without having to patronize an adult bookstore, which always was largely distasteful for me, often did not result in finding material that promised the desired titillation, and which by now are all closed in my vicinity anyway. I can now find tons of prurient material for free.

As a youth, the tame by today's standards Playboy was only available to adults and was not openly on the newsstand but under the counter at the local newsstand/pharmacy.

On anything else, I refuse to answer on the grounds, etc. because close relatives will shout TMI if they read anything else here, as they are wont to do.
posted by beelzbubba at 6:00 AM on July 19, 2008

Oh, and internet porn provided gainful employment for a close relative, so I guess I'm in favor. But he says that working in porn is a great anaphrodisiac.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:22 AM on July 19, 2008

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