There’s an episode of Friends that doesn’t get screened on Channel Four, where Joey and Chandler find a free porn channel and can’t turn it off for fear of losing it forever. Their lives change. They can’t understand why the pizza delivery girl doesn’t want to take a look at the bedrooms when she comes over, or why the assistant in the bank doesn’t want to take them downstairs for an inspection.
Nowadays, the potential for free porn to enter our lives is only a click away. Every time we turn on the computer, the pre-packaged, hairless world of internet porn is there to deliver a dose of disconnected sexuality. But, like Joey and Chandler with their free porn channel, the problem is that porn has an unnerving ability to spread beyond the computer screen and into everyday life.
Firstly it creates a bizarre understanding of women’s behaviours and desires. A female friend of mine recently explained that on two occasions, two perfectly decent guys had asked her to ‘take it hard’ with an uneasiness in their voice, as if it were involuntary. This reaction can only be learned from the world of porn, where the hint of violence is commonly present.
Secondly, it disrupts our real relationships. A Canadian-born psychiatrist called Norman Doidge looked at the way our brains adapt to our experience, and took his patients suffering from addiction to pornography as a prime example. He states that ‘they reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses, or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive.’ Experiencing the sight of sexual climax and prolonged sexual activity with a degree of unnatural regularity undoubtedly leads to a reduced ability to become surprised, intrigued and turned on by the sight of your partner undressing.
And this is a massive problem! When porn becomes a substitute for genuine intimacy, and even affects that intimacy, then things need to change. There’s nothing quite like the brush of hair against the cheek, the meeting of eyes, the value of giving pleasure not just receiving it, the rush we feel when the clothes are shed, the delight of laying together for hours after the moment has passed. These things give a satisfaction that porn can never hope to imitate, but the constant presence of porn not only attempts to replace these things, but it also undermines them.
In the Friends episode, Joey and Chandler eventually turn off the porn and after a moment of satisfied withdrawal can’t help but turn it on again. Porn is addictive. However, while the broadcasters at Channel Four censored that particular mention of porn, the tide is so great and the access so easy that a broader attempt to censor it would be impossible. The best advice to be given is to stay away, keep it real and enjoy the variety and joy of natural sexual intimacy because it really is one of life’s great pleasures.