WOMEN
09/08/2015 03:24 pm ET

17 Women Reveal How Porn Shaped Their Sexuality

"It didn't relate to anything at all I had experienced with actual sex."
GRAZVYDAS via Getty Images

Porn can be a complicated topic for women. Depending on who you ask, it can be considered a source of sex-positive empowerment or dangerous misogyny. Some argue that the increased popularity of more violent acts makes porn generally bad for women, while others point to feminist porn or porn that encourages embracing sexuality as proof it can be a force for good.

However you slice it, there are real-world implications to the way porn depicts sex, especially for young, impressionable viewers just beginning to grow into their sexuality. The average age people are first exposed to porn is around 14, when researchers say they're "age-appropriately curious about sex."  

Women in porn are often represented as instruments of men's sexual pleasure, and recent studies have linked excessive porn-watching to unhappy relationshipsdepression and objectification of sexual partners. According to Gail Dines, an author and researcher who has studied thousands of porn films, some of the most popular acts depicted in recent years, like double penetration and female gagging, are more extreme than ever. 

Of course, interpretations of sexual acts depicted on-screen and on the page vary depending on the viewer. There's a range of pornographic content out there, and women have their own unique experiences with it.  

As explicit content becomes easier to obtain, an increasing number of women are seeking it out. To get a sense of how porn influenced their views of sex, we (unscientifically) polled our female readers and asked them to tell us about the first time they saw xxx content. Experiences ranged from flipping through an older sibling's nudie mag to catching a '70s showing of "Deep Throat" to stumbling upon explicit GIFs online. 

Here's what 20 women had to say about how their first experiences with porn affected them: 

1. "I think being exposed to it at such an early developmental stage has made me take sex less seriously."

I was probably 12 or 13 years old when I first stumbled upon my older brother's porn magazines and VHS tapes. It influenced me tremendously. They piqued my interest, and I could not look away. I think being exposed to it at such an early developmental stage has made me take sex less seriously. Sex doesn't always have to be about love. It can be about raw sexual attraction.

2. "I formed a belief that I should enjoy all sex and that women are subservient to men's needs and desires."

I was 14, curious and afraid of being left out or called out on not knowing the meaning of a sexual term. It made me question my body and the way I should behave during sexual intercourse. I formed a belief that I should enjoy all sex and that women are subservient to men's needs and desires.

3. "My friends and I figured out what blow jobs were." 

I was probably about 14 years old. My friends and I figured out what blow jobs were. They sounded quite scary to us, so we decided to do some research to see how they were done. We did a quick internet search and found a couple of low quality videos and watched them. I think we were thoroughly grossed out, to say the least. To be honest, I personally don't feel that porn has had a negative influence on my sex life. I realize that a lot of the scenes in pornography are not realistic and a bit staged or embellished. I'm almost 30 years old, and I still will watch porn occasionally. I view porn as a view any other type of media, ranging from slightly exaggerated content to downright fiction/fantasy.

4. "Porn helped me have my very first orgasm."

I was 18 and it was on TV at college. I watched it one night when my roommate wasn't home. Porn helped me have my very first orgasm. Before then, I wasn't sure if I could. It's how I realized that I'm a visual person when it comes to arousal. Porn's lasting influence is that I still use my imagination to conjure up images when I want to reach orgasm.

5. "I was really confused after -- I didn't know what would be expected of me when I became sexually active." 

I was 10 and I accidentally found my stepdad's stack of porn DVDS with my friend. We got really curious about what we would see and what sex was like. I was really confused after -- I didn't know what would be expected of me when I became sexually active.

6. "It made me think that women have to almost put on a performance, and they have to look perfect."

I was maybe 16 or 17. I was curious, because I knew my boyfriend and pretty much every guy was watching it. It made me think that women have to almost put on a performance, and they have to look perfect. Also, that a man's orgasm is the most important part.

7. "All it did was confuse me and worry me a bit because it looked rather scary and unnatural."

I was 17 and I was with a group of mixed-gender friends when someone's parents were out. It was weird and uncomfortable watching it with everyone, but I went ahead because of peer pressure. I didn't want to be the prude in my friend circle! All it did was confuse me and worry me a bit because it looked rather scary and unnatural. Couldn't gather the courage to watch it again until three years later when I got intimate with my boyfriend and I understood more about sex. Since then, I enjoy and get turned on by the occasional porn.

8. "I had sexual thoughts at a very young age, and it made me feel like it was OK."

I was about 13 years old. I found a VHS tape that belonged to my dad. I had sexual thoughts at a very young age -- 5 or 6 -- and it made me feel like it was OK. People were doing this and seemed to enjoy it, so I could too.

9. "I remember seeing a GIF of penetration on AOL when I was 12 years old." 

I remember seeing a GIF of penetration on AOL when I was 12 years old. The first time actually watching porn was when I was 18 and wanted to see how sex actually went down. I wanted to know what men liked, what the ideal sexual encounter was and if my boobs were normal. It didn't really influence my view of sex, just emphasized the importance of not having a gag reflex.

10. "It made me more comfortable in my own skin and in bed with my boyfriend."

I was 20 and my boyfriend actually suggested we watch it together. I thought it was so weird, but he thought it would get us both in the mood -- and it really did. After a few minutes, we were enveloped in our own passion, so we just let it run in the background. It made me more comfortable in my own skin and in bed with my boyfriend. I wasn't a very sexually confident person, but it showed me that not all sex is pretty and perfectly romantic like it appears in movies. Ever since then, I've loved every aspect of sex and I can honestly say it's never been bad with my current boyfriend. Plus, when he's not around, I get to masturbate.

11. "It made me excited for sex, but also nervous if I couldn't perform certain positions or make my partner orgasm."

I was probably 14 years old and a virgin at this time. My best friend watched porn and would talk about it often. I saw some weird-shaped and sized penises. It made me excited for sex, but also nervous if I couldn't perform certain positions or make my partner orgasm.

12. "I felt grossed out, embarrassed and turned off all in one."

I was in grade 7 at a party. I felt grossed out, embarrassed and turned off all in one. I remember the boys at the party being more fascinated by it and really staying focused on the imagery. As I've grown older, I like erotic female porn more. And even participate in it!

13. "My first porn was 'Deep Throat' -- big difference in how porn was then to how it is now."

I was 17. An "adult" movie theater opened in our very upscale town, and a friend of my boyfriend's and mine ran the projector. He was also a high school student, so he'd let us in for free. I can't begin to tell you how many parents we saw in the audience! It opened my mind to some things, but it didn't make me view sex negatively. It was in the late 70s, so porn was very different back then. Porn now is disgusting and cheap and so creepy. I'm not sure how it would be if I saw it now for the first time. My first porn was "Deep Throat" -- big difference in how porn was then to how it is now.

14. "It gave me a similar view to most people viewing it the first time -- unrealistic and oftentimes portraying a very dominant male and a more submissive female."

I was 13 years old and curious. I suppose it gave me a similar view to most people viewing it the first time -- unrealistic and oftentimes portraying a very dominant male and a more submissive female. Though I suppose the influence porn has had on modern day sex has caused it to no longer be unrealistic, but actually very common.

15. "I wanted to feel the excitement these people were feeling."

I was 4 or 5 years old and snooping in my dad's dresser. I found a magazine with pictures and adult-themed comics.  I was curious about what my parents were hiding, and then I was curious about my body and the way I felt when I saw the pictures. I wanted to feel the excitement these people were feeling. A few years after that, I began experimenting (waist-up) with my female friends. When I was 10 years old, I found a few more magazines, this time in my mom's dresser. These were more graphic: full penetration, oral sex, cum shots, etc. I lost my virginity at 14, but didn't figure out how to masturbate or orgasm until I was 19.

16. "The video made me believe that I was expected to do what my boyfriend wanted, whether I enjoyed it or not."

I was 17 when I watched porn for the first time. I was in a long-distance relationship, and he and I needed a way to connect sexually. We both picked the same video and watched it at the same time. The video made me believe that I was expected to do what my boyfriend wanted, whether I enjoyed it or not.

17. "It didn't relate to anything at all I had experienced with actual sex."

It was the late 1970s. I went to an adult theatre with my fiance when I was about 19 or 20. I'd never seen one before, so I was OK with it because I was curious. I wasn't embarrassed, but it was just so low-class -- creepy guy nearby jerking off, dirty theater, a somewhat-interesting movie since I'd never seen a porn film. Don't think it affected my view of sex at all, because it seemed very strange and unreal and mostly creepy. It didn't relate to anything at all I had experienced with actual sex. It was like some weird creepy fantasy.

Curious about how men interpreted their first glimpses of porn? We also asked them.

 

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