Five Things Porn Tricks Us Into Thinking Everyone Does

Don't try these moves without a go-ahead from your partner.

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Mar 17 2017, 6:03pm

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Teaching sex—or even just talking about it—makes a lot of people uncomfortable, which is one reason why teens and young adults tend to get most of their early education from porn. (Or just as bad, from partners who learned from porn). That wasn't so bad when porn stars looked like real people and the sex looked, well, relatively ordinary. But today's porn is a much different beast: It's way more aggressive, for one thing, and tends to be pretty far removed from reality, as sex educator Cindy Gallop reminded everyone in a classic 2009 TED talk

This is an important point—and one I need to emphasize more than I'd like. For more than a decade, I've been teaching human sexuality to college students. I've also written books about sexual pleasure and satisfaction and doing research with organizations like the Kinsey Institution. Likewise, I've heard plenty of stories about sexual experiences that have left people feeling scared, sad, and even assaulted. And while I don't necessarily expect people to seek verbal consent for every base they cross in a given night, there are some moves that porn is popularizing that always merit a conversation. These are the top five offenders. 

Facials
Ejaculating somewhere other than the vagina or anus may seem almost banal these days to a lot of guys, but there's a big difference between coming on a person's stomach and on their face. Ejaculate can wind up in your partner's eyes, for one thing, causing them to sting for up to 24 hours. And while some people are actually into it, surveys have shown that most people are not. So unless someone literally says "come on my face," I'd advise coming wherever else you've agreed—such as in a condom. 

Rough Sex 
No matter how many times you've seen the 50 Shades sequel together, let's be clear: All of the following should be off the table unless explicitly asked for, begged for, or seductively invited to do: Face fucking, choking, hitting, punching, shoving, or thrusting so aggressively that it's likely to hurt. Tales of unwanted rough sex are some of the scarier things I hear—and when I say scary, I mean people telling me they literally feared for their lives. "Breath play," for instance—which involves choking—is not for amateurs, and it can be terrifying if your partner doesn't know or trust you deeply. Sure, some people are into rough play—but that's a style of sex you should talk about in very clear terms and when everyone involved feels like they have ample time to draw the lines around what they are and aren't okay with. Even more important: Make it absolutely clear how they'll let you know if you've gone too far (i.e., safe words), and what you can do to safely and pleasurably heighten arousal rather than terror.

Anal Anything 
Although anal sex is more common these days than decades ago, it's still not a thing most Americans have tried even once, let alone with any regularity. I often hear from people of all genders who've had an unpleasant experience with anal intercourse, anal fingering, and other kinds of play—including toys—sprung on them without warning. So if you're a woman who has read that guys secretly love prostate massage (Ed note: Guilty)  and would be thrilled to be fingered, don't assume, ask. When you're talking about how great your sex life is and how to make things even hotter, float the idea. If he's into it, he'll let you know. If he's not, don't go there. And if you're the person with the penis or a sex toy of any size, don't slip it into your partner's anus without asking. That may seem obvious, but far too many women have told me that their partner went from vaginal to anal without asking, and they were hurt or scared. Springing anal on someone who's never said they want to do it with you isn't sexy; it's rape. 

Taking the Condom Off 
If you're trying to avoid an unintended pregnancy or STI—which is pretty much everyone—taking the condom off and continuing with sex isn't cool. If you've agreed to use a condom, use it until the very end. If for some reason you want or need to take the condom off—like, it's causing discomfort or your hair is caught in it—then take it off, stop having sex, or do it in a way that doesn't risk pregnancy or STIs. For example: Masturbate or ask your partner for a hand. Under no circumstances does any one partner get to call all the shots; You always need to be in complete agreement. 

Restraints 
Many people love to be tied up with neck ties, scarves, ropes, and handcuffs, but comfort and fear often run on a continuum. If you're bigger and stronger than your partner, you might feel comfortable having them grab your wrists and hold them over your head while they do something naughty to you. But if you're smaller or weaker—or if you're being restrained with something you can't easily free yourself from, such as a rope or handcuffs, then being restrained without warning or consent can be terrifying.

When people describe these situations to me, they use words like "held me down against my will" or "restrained and then forced me to (blank)." What they describe sounds more like assault than consensual sex play. If you're going to do it, agree on some version that works for both of you. Maybe your partner is okay with being tied up, but only with a scarf—and only if you promise to stop when they ask you to. Or maybe they want to be locked up firmly and with something stronger, as they eroticize the trust it takes. Unless you talk about it first, you won't know the line between scary and sexy.

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