I still vividly remember the very first porn I watched.

The framing, the light, the shapes of the bodies on the screen, even the place I was sitting when I watched it - tucked into a corner of our living room while my mum made dinner, with my back against the wall to hide my laptop screen from prying eyes - which now seems brazenly lacking in privacy, but 12-year-old me had far less shame than adult me.

It was lesbian porn, and I clicked on it pretty much at random, because I didn’t know where to start. I simply wanted to devour as much pleasure as I could see and hear and feel. (I’m pleased to report that I still love lesbian porn as much as I did back then, if not more so.)


It started with Youtube, getting turned on by clips of sex scenes from movies and TV shows I was otherwise uninterested in. I would search out as many such scenes as I could find and watch them over and over while getting increasingly sexually frustrated.

I also got just ordinarily frustrated, because the clips that (judging from their thumbnails) looked the most titillating were not accessible to me. I kept running up against Youtube’s age verification and there was no way I was creating a fake account just so Youtube could track my sexual proclivities (even at that age, I knew to be deeply suspicious of technology).

And I wanted more, far more than Youtube was allowed to show me without knowing my age. I knew this hypothetical “more” was out there and it was called “porn”. Just a google search away.


I watched my first straight porn clip immediately after my induction into the world of lesbian porn. I remember it just as vividly. It was set outdoors, by a pool, with bright sunlight streaming down. The people in the clip were standing up. The very muscular man was holding the woman off the ground by supporting her butt, and she had her legs wrapped around his waist. Somehow, presumably by virtue of pure brute strength, the guy was managing to vigorously fuck her in this position, swinging her pelvis back and forth against his.

It was quite an education in physics. My own well-established masturbatory routine at that point involved a lot of humping, but no penetration and certainly nothing I would describe as a thrusting motion. Everything I knew about sexual reproduction was the result of studying insects and invertebrates, who mostly just sorta sit still when they fuck, so you can imagine my surprise.

I was also surprised to learn that humans could have sex in positions other than missionary (the only image I had ever seen of sex prior to this was in a kid’s sex ed book, which of course, being an instrument of the patriarchy, only showed that position).

Everything I watched after that sort of blurs together, but there was one more surprise awaiting me. I had always imagined semen to be essentially clear, like my own sexual fluid. So when I actually saw cum for the first time, I didn’t believe my eyes and thought I was imagining things for quite some time. I can be very stubborn when my long-held beliefs are challenged.


I have never understood the stereotypical reaction parents have to discovering their kids watch porn: “Don’t watch that! If you have any questions about sex, you can just ask us!”

Firstly, it assumes that young people only watch porn because they have questions. Although watching porn answered a great many questions I didn’t know I had, I imagine that, like me, the vast majority of teenagers watch porn for pleasure, not to learn about how sex works.

But let’s just assume for a moment that I had no interest in pleasure at all, and only started watching porn because I had “questions” that needed “answering”. The truth is, not one of the things I actually did learn from porn are things that can be learnt non-visually.

…But let’s further assume that everything I learnt from porn could be taught by a dry textbook or a conversation. What sex-ed curriculum would contain such information? What parent would feel comfortable being asked what semen looks like, or how gravity can be utilised to effectively thrust your pelvis at someone in a pleasurable manner?

In a society that is so terrified of young people’s sexuality that it forbids any intelligent or sensitive discussion of sex with them, such a thing is unthinkable.

And while I have no doubt that sex education is in dire need of improvement, the truth is there are things that only film can convey. There are things you can only learn from seeing them, things I would not be comfortable getting sexually intimiate with someone without knowing. And so the idea that a whole generation of young adults might now grow up without access to those resources I had utterly terrifies me, because as a shy, sexually repressed adolescent with nobody I could trust to talk to about sex, I would have stood no chance of navigating the most basic physical aspects of sexual relationships as an adult if I hadn’t had access to porn when I was younger. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.


So when people talk about “protecting kids from pornography”, I have to ask: what exactly are we protecting them from? The most common answer is that mainstream porn is degrading to women and encourages rape and violence. But consider that our entire patriarchal society is degrading to women and encourages rape and violence; we don’t need porn to do that for us, it just happens to make a convenient scapegoat. Porn only reflects a misogynistic culture that has existed for thousands of years.

In the decade since I started watching porn, my attitude towards mainstream porn has shifted. I took a long break from porn, and when I returned to it as an adult, I discovered I could no longer stand to watch the straight porn I had voraciously consumed in the past. The content of the films hadn’t changed, but in the intervening time I had learnt to recognise the power dynamics that underly misogyny, and I saw them replicated in straight porn (just as I saw them, constantly, in my day-to-day interactions with friends, family, and coworkers). My new-found wokeness made it impossible to watch straight porn without being reminded of my secondary place in society, which was quite a turn-off.

My point is that it took political awareness for me to even notice the misogyny in the porn I was watching. So I’m unsure if mainstream porn could, on its own, teach people to be misogynists. I’m sure they’ve already learnt that somewhere else, anyway. Many of us are taught to be misogynists almost from the day we’re born.

The remaining question, then, is whether particularly violent porn (which I have somehow never encountered, perhaps for the reasons I mention in the next paragraph) might have a harmful effect on how its viewers treat women.

I would like to believe that the majority of young people, if not raised to believe that dehumanising women is normal and ok, would find actually violent porn (as opposed to the more common mainstream porn that simply reinforces existing toxic gender dynamics played out in daily life) disturbing, and avoid it. I do not believe that boys come out of the womb wanting to abuse women. Misogyny is learnt from our peers, our family, our popular culture.

The solution to misogyny is not to ban porn, which at worst only reflects broader societal attitudes towards gender. The solution is a massive cultural shift in how we teach boys and men to relate to other human beings (and to themselves, for that matter).


So I ask again. What are we protecting our kids from? From learning about their bodies, from learning about other bodies, from learning what feels good to them, from learning what sex can look like, from learning about the diversity of desires and anatomies and sexual activities that exist? Because that is what I got from porn. And no, I didn’t live in some kind of feminist porn utopia; this was all stuff I found on mainstream tube sites, much of it made by amateurs, or pirated from the ethical porn sites that I now subsribe to and support.

Whatever it is that we are protecting our kids from, it sure as hell isn’t the normalisation of violence against women. Misogyny and male entitlement is alive and well, and it requires no help from the porn industry.