This week, Chiamaka takes a look at mainstream pornography; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
I grew up watching pornography and this is an experience that I’m certain a lot of young adults like myself share. As early as twelve, I was exposed to some explicit imagery that contained adult content. The honest truth is that naturally, children are very curious about sex and sexual interaction. While the curiosity may differ based on their social background and personal spunk, every child experiences some form of indulgence on the topic. Even asexual children who grow up to be ace adults admit some curiosity about watching others perform sexual acts while they did not crave physical touch personally. The idea that children are curious about sexual interaction is one that holds a lot of fear for many adults. For them, it exemplifies a ‘spoilt’ mind, one that has been badly influenced.
The intricacies of mainstream porn make it a subject that is almost impossible to discuss with older adults. The fact is that Nigerian parents are unable to look at their children as people who will grow up to have ideas of their own, much less sexual beings. A lot of time goes into making sure that much of childhood is spent shaping a child to go in the direction the parent would like them to follow. While structure, discipline and teaching personal responsibility are not inherently negative, they become uncomfortable when enforced with near or borderline abusive methods, something that is common in many Nigerian households. Being exposed to porn and having no one to discuss this with meant that my understanding of sexual interaction was warped from the beginning. For starters, a majority of heterosexual porn did not focus on sexual pleasure for the women involved. When I wanted to actually enjoy it, I sought out lesbian porn. As a bisexual woman, this eventually made sense, but growing up and realizing that some heterosexual women did the same shed some light on how abysmal we expected sexual encounters with men to be.
Within mainstream heterosexual porn, there is also a lot of emphasis on dominating the woman or making sex somewhat degrading and humiliating on her part. A lot of the more popular categories feature a man coming on a woman’s face, breasts or ass. While there is a huge market for visible completion of men, there really is not for women. Even female ejaculation videos are mostly staged, with props acting as the base for squirting. While I have come to understand that often male ejaculation is also staged in porn, there is still a huge market for it.
Watching porn is even more of a rites-of-passage and coming of age marker for young boys. They know who their favourite talents are in the industry and they amass collection upon collection of them. They are also unfortunately less likely to interrogate what they consume. But the fact that some heterosexual women, in my experience, were so early on switching to and consuming lesbian or gay porn while being very much straight shows that there is obviously a disconnect somewhere.
It’s also important to note that mainstream porn and the many sites that offer them for free and those that have a paywall are sometimes incredibly shady. With the exception of OnlyFans which just came into the mix a few years ago, people were, and still are, very much watching adult videos from dodgy sites. These sites often steal independent content from creators and distribute them for free. DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takeovers help creators to pull their content down from websites that steal them, but not every creator is often aware they have this power. Pornhub, one of the most popular porn sites, has been exposed for not only taking unjust advantage and exploiting the talents that work for them, but also for distributing child porn and homemade videos of paedophilia, sexual violence and rape. As a result, porn and the websites that offer them must be scrutinized as it plays a significant part in society.
While older adults can help children to become more understanding and self-aware as they grow, they are often ill-equipped to assist. Many are still very much mentally going through the struggles that they faced while twenty years younger. I am hoping that as adult creators get more autonomy and are able to publish their content with their own rules, the cultural shift around pornography changes. People are aware of what healthy, sexual interaction should look like and there is more focus on pleasuring the vagina rather than using it as a tool for a man’s orgasms.