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Is porn affecting how men date? Q&A with sex writer Rachel Khona

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There's no doubt about it - porn has influenced the way we think we should behave in bed - and there has been a lot of speculation as to whether this is a good or bad thing. Some argue it's been liberating. But do we expect a fantasy instead of a real experience? I had a chance to sit down with sex writer Rachel Khona, who understands from first-hand experience what it's like when you're dating a porn addict.

Do you think men form their ideas about women from porn?

Not all men. In my experience, most men are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. But most men also don't watch porn every day. However when you are watching porn every single day, yes I think it starts to warp your sense of reality. What some of these men miss is that women on porn sets are getting paid. Women don't have orgasms from blow jobs. We're not always dying to go down on a guy every minute of the day. It's just not real. But many men do believe and want to believe it's real. These are the guys that have the problem. It's just total disillusionment. I dated a porn addict myself. The irony of the whole situation is that I wanted to have sex more than my ex did!

But that’s just regular porn. In the more hardcore porn, women are often portrayed "enjoying" pain and crying, or even being raped. I didn’t believe such things were so easily accessible until I interviewed porn researcher Gail Dines and she told me to just Google the word "porn." If you’re watching this regularly, (and chances are if you’re watching compulsively you are), I don’t see how that doesn’t affect someone.

How does this influence the way men date? How does it affect their romantic relationships?

Obviously when a woman realizes the person she cares about can’t get hard without watching a video it’s a serious blow to her self-esteem. The problem is most women don’t realize what’s happening or that it has nothing to do with them. Being unable to properly perform and holding onto to unrealistic fantasies can create emotional distance with your partner too. For me, sex began to feel like a chore. Everything had to be orchestrated according to what he saw online regardless of what I wanted to do. It was tedious. We could never just “do it”. He later revealed he could only really enjoy sex if he wasn’t emotionally involved. That was shocking and scary to hear. And it presents an obvious conflict of interest if you’re in a relationship. There was really very little room for true intimacy.

Haven't most people watched porn? How does their behavior change when they become addicted to it?

Sure it is. So is drinking alcohol. I like to drink a glass of wine with dinner. But it’s a glass or two not a bottle or two. The problem lies when you MUST have something. I think for some people it can become a band aid for stress and/or they may start to prefer porn to a person. My ex felt anxious if he didn’t watch porn. When I asked him why, he said he liked it better than real sex. I was shocked and hurt. Clearly this is a sign of addiction or at least compulsive behavior. It’s not normal to prefer a pixelated woman to the real thing. If you can watch it once in a while, this doesn’t apply to you. If you’re watching porn everyday even when you’re in a relationship and you’re struggling between porn fantasies and reality, then you have a problem.

If your boyfriend does have a problem with porn addiction, how do you best approach the subject?

You just have to be honest. And sensitive of course! I sat the ex down and told him that I thought porn was causing his ED and that I really cared about him and wanted to improve our relationship. He kind of knew it but didn’t want to fully admit it. It was like I was taking away a security blanket. In the case of Gabe Deem, (the recovering porn addict I interviewed for The Frisky) he chose to stop because he wanted to be able to have a proper relationship with his girlfriend. Unfortunately that was not the case in my relationship.

Do you see things changing - will men become more disconnected because of porn, or has there been some backlash?

I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. I’m not a researcher by any means, but it does seem like it’s going to present more of a problem until our society collectively acknowledges it’s a problem. People used think smoking was OK until we realized it wasn’t. When enough young men are calling up their doctors about erectile dysfunction maybe then people will listen up. I would encourage anyone interested to watch the documentary “Your Brain on Porn,” particularly if you’re raising boys.

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