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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Column: Porn for everyone

When I said I’d talk about masturbation, I didn’t mean that I’d be providing a handy (ha!) how-to guide. Masturbation is pretty private, and most people have figured out their preferred method, so you don’t need my help. What I can do is tell you that masturbating is a normal activity with a number of benefits. For example, the hormones it releases can lower feelings of anxiety and help you sleep. So, during midterm season it might be helpful to take a few moments for yourself (as it were).

Masturbation can also be an educational opportunity for you and your partner. If, for example, your partner is not quite making the right motions during sexy-times, you can demonstrate for them the locations and movements that work best. This way you don’t end up frustrated, they feel more confident about how to please you and they get a sexy show.

Additionally, masturbation is an aid in situations in which you have sexual needs but no outlet. You may be between partners, or your partner(s) are far away or you may be in the difficult situation of practicing abstinence while having human urges that you want to act on. In these cases a little self-love is the easiest way to ease the pressure.

Now, I would be remiss if I talked about masturbation without talking about fantasy and porn. After all, those are the main aids people use when masturbating. Plus, I am astounded by the number of advice columns in which someone is freaking out because they found out their partner has fantasies/watches porn. It’s time to set the record straight.

If you discover that your partner is watching porn, you should not take it as a sign that they are not attracted to you or don’t find you sexually satisfying. Porn is a common indulgence, and is just one of many ways of getting aroused and getting off. I know multiple people who use it as a way of getting themselves in the mood prior to seeing their partner. So, if you find out your partner likes porn, don’t panic (you might even find you like watching it with them). The only time to be concerned is if they are neglecting your relationship or their other responsibilities to watch porn (the same goes for masturbating).

Whether or not you choose to tell your partner about your fantasies or porn preferences is best determined case by case. You need to keep in mind whether the discussion is hypothetical or whether its purpose is finding new activities to try. You don’t want to suggest something that goes against your partner’s beliefs or makes them feel insecure. If you get off on the thought of kicking puppies and your partner is an animal lover, better to keep it to yourself. The best kinds of fantasies to share are broad (such as being tied up). That way, there is likely to be an interpretation that you and your partner can both enjoy.

Now, there are many people who object to porn, and there are reasons why it’s problematic. The mainstream porn industry tends to reduce people (particularly women) to objects, presents some identities or bodies as ideal while fetishizing others, and focuses mostly on male pleasure. But porn encompasses a wider range of images than you think.

I recommend reading Making Authenticity Explicit: How Women-Made Pornography Constructs “Real Sex”  by UC Davis professor Jill Bakehorn (you can find it via the Melvyl database), which examines genres of porn that claim to combat these problems.

If you are someone who finds stereotypical porn arousing in the physiological sense but uncomfortable in the mental one, the best thing to do is shop around. Get a sense of what you like on sites like Redtube and NoFauxxx. Watch straight porn, gay porn, alt porn and everything in between (if something makes you immediately uncomfortable, turn it off). Experiment until you find something that really appeals to you. Whether you choose post-punk-lesbian or horny housewife-meets-delivery boy, at the end of the day it’s your pleasure and comfort that are important.

SAM WALL can tell you much more about porn. Ask for details by e-mailing sewall@ucdavis.edu.

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