Though I didn't know it at the time, I was fantastically lucky to have had a childhood during which my mother and father never called my penis a "wee wee." Similarly, vaginas were never demeaned as "hoo-hoos," or breasts as "boobies." Sex organs, sex and sexuality were topics of discussion early and intentionally in my house, whether I liked it or not. And looking back, I think that directness served me well. Certainly, it was mortifying on a grand scale to hear from my dad, a bawdy, gregarious guy, that my life began in his testicles. But that humiliation felt worth it when I was the only boy at recess who could effectively call bullshit on the theory that a baby is made when a man pees onto a woman's crotch.

In the ensuing decades, I've remained a voracious pursuer of sexual enlightenment, partially out of curiosity and partially out of my desire to impress a couple of girlfriends who were much more carnally knowledgeable than I. I'm no Lothario by any means, but I'm now smart enough to laugh at the absurdity of lad-mag articles recommending you slather your partner in baby oil in order to be "the best lover she's ever had." (Maybe if she's an unpolished end table, fellas.)

It should go without saying that porn movies serve purposes other than instruction, much like a sledgehammer isn't for setting nails.

I also know not to take lessons on love — and the making of it — from porno. It should go without saying that films called Edward Penishands and Crack Whores of the Tenderloin serve purposes other than instruction, much like a sledgehammer isn't for setting nails. Yet twice in the past few months I've come across arguments to the contrary. Amid the pages of the September issue of Details was the article "How Internet Porn Is Changing Teen Sex," in which writer Eric Spitznagel quoted a young man barely able to drink legally as saying, "Pubic hair is disgusting. Girls should keep their vaginas porn-star trim." Elsewhere, in a recent column on, Mary Elizabeth Williams detailed the obnoxious, belittling effect pornography has had on her sex life: "'You like that, baby? You like that?' he asked, though he didn't notice I wasn't answering. And then, somewhere around the 18th time he said it, it hit me — I wasn't just having bad sex. I was having bad porn sex."

Blame it on the ease with which any plugged-in American can access porn of all types, from amateur to violent to bestial. Across the country, sexually active straight men of all ages are taking bedroom cues from skin flicks, getting wrongheaded ideas about how women's bodies should look and bad information about what's sexy. Subsequently, they're pissing off — and, according to Williams, smacking their erections on — their lovers. That all being said, you might assume women don't like porn. You'd be wrong. According to a 2007 Nielsen survey, a third of people visiting XXX websites were female, with almost thirteen million women admitting to looking at Internet porn at least once a month. And physiologically, men and women differ little in their response to pornographic images. One 2006 McGill University study found that females shown porn clips reached maximum arousal just one minute after their male counterparts, while both genders began displaying signs of arousal within thirty seconds of exposure. Dick-smacking aside, there's definitely something women appreciate about porno, so there must be something men looking to please those women can learn from. The question is, what?

Commentarium (40 Comments)

Nov 10 09 - 2:12am

This was good!

Nov 10 09 - 2:50am

Lux speaks the truth!

Nov 10 09 - 5:40am

thanks for the article, it is successfully reading against the grain of porn-saturated, unimaginative subjectivity, without citing feminist agendas like that of dworkin

Nov 10 09 - 11:49am

When not at work, I have four or five ladyfriends I intend to share this with. Well done.

Nov 11 09 - 1:54am

This is so true it's painful. Though not as painful as having your bf trying to fit all of a clenched fist into your vag.thank you ever so much, porn...

Nov 11 09 - 1:58am

Why doesn't this article approach from the male side? I.E., if men are watching all this porn, shouldn't that tell women something about how MEN want to be pleased?

Rather than taking the knee-jerk "porn is ruining men" attitude, perhaps you could approach it from the "this is what men want, why aren't women listening?" perspective.

Nov 10 09 - 2:17pm

Here here JBA!! C'mon ladies get your freak on tonight. Tomorrow night we'll do it all soft and snugly like you want it.

Nov 10 09 - 2:25pm

My boyfriend and I have tried pretty much everything that intrigued us in porn, and elarned the fairly obvious lessons--the anal piledriver looks cool and is fun for a bit, but then his legs tsrat hurting from the angle and I get a crick in my neck. The standing 69 is a nice party trick, but again, he got a biut tired, and it's hard to concentrate on cocksucking when all the blood is rushing to your head and you're a little nervous someone might drop you. Fisting looks hot, but his hands are really big. Piss play is sort of entertaining, but I don't quite get the thrill. And so on. Still and all, being with someone who is *willing* to try all the silly things we see in porn is a good thing, because it means he's open to experimentation, and won't be grossed out by anything I suggest. And porn has shown us a few little twists and variations that make "regular sex" a bit more entertaining. But don't try "the wheelbarrow" on a hardwood floor. Really.

Nov 10 09 - 3:27pm

Thanks for this--well written and very thoughtful. I don't think porn has to be bad, but I think more often than not it teaches dumb sexual behavior. Good to see some suggestions for using porn without accepting it as some kind of manual for life.

Nov 10 09 - 3:36pm

Porn is a distraction when it comes to real sex. The entire mindset of porn, today anyway, involves clicking from one moment to the next on the internet, barely acknowledging one fantasy before moving on. Real sex requires being actually present, you know? Concentrating, letting yourself feel one thing and not anticipating. Porn's influence will only take a person out of that state of mind, reducing the experience to a sequence of events on a sort of list.... It's pathetically shallow next to any kind of good sexual experience.

Nov 10 09 - 6:43pm

this was an interesting article. you left out how women can be like porn stars during sex though. maybe the next article?

Nov 10 09 - 8:39pm

RP Hit it right on the head. This is one of the best nerve articles i've read. Lux's insight was strangly profound. Leave it to the perverts on Nerve to carefully examine porn without the manufactured outrage and tiresome political and ideological debates that that make the discussion so boring in mainstream media. Great Job Cord, keep it up!

Nov 10 09 - 11:04pm

JBA/SCF- I'm more than happy to get my freak on. I'll do it in public. You can tie me up, or I'll tie you up. I'm glad to hit you, if desired, and more than pleased to walk away with a few bruises. Anal? Well, hey, why not lube up and give it a whirl. But don't whack your penis against my thigh and ignore my WTF look. Don't be disgusted by any hair that suggests I'm not 9 and never do a little manscaping. And for the love of all that is holy, don't repeat one line of "dirty" talk over and over. Sexy is trying new things, not reenacting porn. That's just lazy.

Nov 10 09 - 11:57pm

Excellent piece! For about 6 months in 2003 I was certain I could drive around in a beat up cargo van, offer girls 50 bucks to take part in my documentary, only to have sex with them on camera, take the money back and drop them off somewhere deep in the Everglades.

Nov 11 09 - 10:01am

Nice writing.

Nov 11 09 - 10:25am

i did learn a lot about good starter positions from porn, which proved very useful when i first lost my virginity. i obviously left out the "you like that?" and general lack of respect though

Nov 11 09 - 11:19am

I was annoyed to read this in the middle of an otherwise good article: "When dealing with women in any scenario, but especially ones in which you're having sex with them, it's also important to remember that they're probably smarter than you." What the hell? I'm all for humility and respect, but this is stupid sexist crap that never should've gotten past an editor, and certainly isn't the way to make up for umpteen years of sexism and Larry Summers. Whenever I hear a dude spout this kind of line, I look around for the women's studies major whose pants he's trying to get into.

Nov 11 09 - 12:14pm

Agree with S.F. "When dealing with women in any scenario, but especially ones in which you're having sex with them, it's also important to remember that they're probably smarter than you." What a load of BS.

Nov 11 09 - 4:00pm

@RJ, @SF I think that was supposed to be humor--you know, haha?

Nov 11 09 - 5:36pm

oh, what a good article, thanks. Porn is to actual sex what the x-games are to hiking. You can do it if you really feel the need, but the Injury/pleasure ratio leaves something to be desired. These people are as trained as athletes.
Oh, and parents: since the kids are on the webs, just explaining sex won't do anymore. You guys HAVE to explain porn. 13 year olds shouldn't think facials are standard.

Nov 12 09 - 4:47am

I think every guy should read this.

Nov 12 09 - 4:37pm

ns-true, very true.

Nov 12 09 - 7:47pm

Thank you for this awesome article. It actually described my last relationship where the sex was so bad that I could barely stand it but I liked the guy so much that I was willing to try to put up with it. I never put two and two together til your article that I was part of a porn with the worst dick smacking, clothes ripping, bizarre grunting I'd ever heard. It was really strange compared to other lovers I've had where they were more into figuring out what we both liked and not what had been scripted. I like porn too but for play and not as "a play". You've got it down in my opinion as far as what a lot of women would like.

Nov 12 09 - 10:21pm

Brilliantly written, made me laugh a lot. Yeah, as I start dating gen Y boys, I am definitely noticing the difference

Nov 16 09 - 10:03am

this was a very entertaining read. that being said, im a woman who watches porn and i an NOT turned on by lesbian porn! in fact, i am turned on by seeing both parties enjoying themselves so i have to be really picky about what type of porn i watch. there is an assumption by a lot of men that women are all secretly lesbians or have an inclination towards lesbianism that is untapped...and implicit in Mr. Jefferson's article is that argument that women like to watch women (and secretly like women in general). Some of us don't. Some of us like to watch porn that features that good old fashioned slow grind and also a man pleasing a woman pleasing a man. :)

Nov 17 09 - 10:56am

Except that a lot of lesbian porn isn't women actually enjoying themselves. It's straight women still overacting and doing what they think will please men. As a lesbian, I have to say my sex has never really resembled the lesbian porn I've seen, at least nothing mainstream.

Nov 18 09 - 12:20pm

Hello......Got to agree with jj. I have to disagree with the statement that men should watch more lesbian porn. Lesbian porn involves a lot of chewing on the genitals.

Nov 19 09 - 6:25pm

Couldn't agree more. Check out my website:

Nov 19 09 - 11:25pm

Right on Cord! What's with all this hairlessness? I like a woman to look like a woman, not a child or a plucked chicken. I don't even bother with the modern porno garbage. You've got to go back to the Eighties for decent porn. It was far more imaginative and seductive then than what's dished up these days. Anyhow, porn's OK for a little solo slap-and-tickle, but I have to agree that if you have a woman beside you the best it can hope to be is a conversation starter.

Nov 20 09 - 11:13pm

I was with you up until you got to lesbian porn.
Straight women prefer to watch lesbian porn because it seems more authentic?
That is not true.
What has been found, is that men tend to respond to pornography that mirrors their sexual orientation, whereas women tend to respond equally to all pornography.
Straight men should not use porn as sex instruction. This includes lesbian porn. :)

Nov 20 09 - 11:27pm

I would like to tell everyone a sex secret. I kind of don't want to because then I will have more competition.
However, I am sick of all of the confusion men seem to have regarding sex so here goes.
1) enjoy yourself
2) listen to her body language
so it is that easy, but in case you are confused still here are the steps again...
1) Take pleasure out of everything you do to her. This includes every touch and kiss. Think about how good it feels to you while you are doing it. Enjoy yourself completely. Pleasure is contagious.
2) To further your enjoyment, take pleasure in listening to her. There is a gasp of breath, or a soft moan, or even a sudden silence that will come when you're doing something that feels just right for her. Enjoy the moments up until then, and especially enjoy them.

Nov 23 09 - 12:51am

I assume we'll get a follow-up story on whether romance novels ruin women in bed, right?

Oct 03 10 - 7:51am
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Number One

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