Why Anti-porn Is Not Equal to Anti-sex

Why Anti-porn Is Not Equal to Anti-sex

By Jenny Webb

Imagine that you are sitting in a chair, facing your doctor. She reads through your chart, thumbing through some recent test results, then looks up solemnly. “I’m sorry,” she begins, “but it looks like you have a very serious shellfish allergy. You will need to go the rest of your life without eating.”

You wait for her to continue: surely she means that you’ll need to not eat shellfish, right? Seeing your expectant expression, she shakes her head. “In my experience, since eating shellfish is potentially life-threatening, the best course of action is to simply stop eating altogether,” she says. At this point, of course, you get up and leave the office. Obviously, not eating anything for the rest of your life is an unnecessary precaution. You know you can avoid eating shellfish.

Now, a shellfish allergy and pornography are obviously two very different things, but the analogy holds: just because sex is a part of pornography does not mean that the way to stop pornography is to stop sex. In fact, developing a healthy, ongoing concept of sexuality (including the part where people have sex!) is vital to combatting the pervasive perversions porn presents to society today. “Sure,” you think, “but I’m trying to protect my child here. And the safest way to do that is to tell them to avoid all forms of sex.”

The problem with the “all or nothing” approach when it comes to protecting our children from pornography is that avoidance of porn simultaneously becomes a negative message about sex and human sexuality generally: when we say “avoid everything!” we are unintentionally reinforcing the idea that sex is in some way immoral, dangerous, or just plain bad.

And that, of course, is simply not the case. Sex as the physical expression of intimacy between two equal partners is, all things considered, a pretty great thing!

Let’s break things down a bit further. If being anti porn does not equal being anti sex, then what exactly does it mean?
Anti porn = anti misogyny
Anti porn = anti sexism
Anti porn = anti violence against women
Anti porn = anti explicit, sensational depictions of sexual subject matter
Anti porn = anti human trafficking

And on the other side of the coin, what does it mean to not be anti sex?
Pro sex = pro healthy sexuality
Pro sex = pro intimacy
Pro sex = pro gender equality
Pro sex = pro respect
Pro sex = pro humanity

It is absolutely vital that we talk to our children about sex in a manner that emphasizes its underlying respect, intimacy, honesty, and enjoyment. When we do this, we open up space for ongoing honest conversations between ourselves and our children. While it may initially feel uncomfortable to speak about sex in positive terms rather than from a place of fear and control, taking this step is one of the best things we can do to help prevent our children from being swayed by pornography’s brutal, destructive vision of sexuality.

And that is the main point of this article: to reclaim sex from porn. When porn steals sex, it corrupts sex, deforming it into hardcore fantasy where sex acts occur in ways that strip both women and men of their humanity. Women are not walking orifices, and men are not life support systems for erect penises. To place women and men in graphic depictions of sexual acts creates a false narrative about sex—porn says to the viewer, “Sex is only about power, and men who treat women as objects for sexual gratification are powerful.”

This is a lie. Sex is infinitely more complex and, the people having sex are, above everything else, individual human beings. Sex has the potential to reveal the very core of our humanity: our ability to connect, to love, to share, to celebrate, to embrace, and ultimately to recognize others as human.

It is utterly ridiculous to imagine a world in which, in response to a shellfish allergy, we stop eating altogether. And it is likewise utterly ridiculous, and even dangerous, to think that being against porn necessitates somehow being against sex.

Hiding from or fighting against sex carries its own damages to the development of a healthy sexual psyche. Enjoy sex. Live that enjoyment such that your children can recognize the important role sex plays in your relationship. Give them something they can hold onto, something that will contradict the ruthless, degrading, and ultimately dehumanizing message of pornography. It’ll be fun ☺

For more information on this subject, check out our book How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. It is also available in Spanish.