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Essays

A Modern Woman Watches Porn for the First Time

Admitting you watch porn is like admitting you eat breakfast.

Most people consume it pretty quietly and without much fanfare. They don’t brag about it, they don’t let it take over their life, and they don’t bother others about how much of it they eat. Sometimes, their breakfast is bland and safe — Cheerios, a bran muffin, or a slice of wheat toast. Other people get a bit creative and have three layer parfaits or crack a raw egg into their mouths. Weirder still are the people who get way too into breakfast — a three course meal of sausage, grapefruit, milk, and bananas – and can’t wait to tell everyone about it. Those people disturb me, probably because I start worrying if those people have an eating disorder

On rare occasions, you’ll meet a strange individual who will admit honestly, ”I actually don’t eat breakfast,” and heads turn suspiciously:

What do you mean, you don’t eat breakfast? Everyone eats breakfast! I’ve been eating breakfast since I learned what Pay Per View was.

“Well,” that person says, ”breakfast makes me sick to my stomach and has a lot of empty calories. I have ethical concerns about the consumption of breakfast. I’ve eaten breakfast a few times before and it tasted gross and uncomfortable. Also, breakfast doesn’t do anything for me. I get nothing out of it.”

Have you thought, comes the counter-argument, that you’re consuming the wrong breakfast and that there is ethical breakfast out there for you?

“Perhaps. I’m willing to try because I don’t want to be seen as a food prude. I like food. A lot. I’ve got a healthy appetite.”

Then maybe give ethical breakfast a shot and see if that’ll change your mind.

“Eh. Fine.”


When I wrote about my very first encounter with pornography two years ago, I didn’t elaborate on my future with the subject matter. I’m happy to report that I never sneaked into the back room of a video rental place ever again. Nor did I ever do anything untoward like “accidentally” rent anything on the Spice channel when my parents were out for the evening. Sometime between the back room incident and when I started having my own personal adventures, the universe blessed my house with a broadband connection so I could start Lycos-ing and Ask Jeeves-ing all my sex-related questions. These were questions I would never ask my parents in fear of my imminent death, so between the hours I got home from school and when my parents got home from work I would hunch over the family computer and breathlessly type in how to give a handjob and hope no one saw me through the mini-blinds.

When I was seventeen, I found myself alone and with hours to kill on my very first laptop, so I decided to do something a bit more out of the ordinary than just mundane sex-related questions. Into my Yahoo search bar, I typed Tommy Lee penis size and found a bootleg of his and Pamela Anderson’s purloined honeymoon tape on some seedy, slow-loading site. I don’t know if it was the whole tape or just a clip or two, but I stared at the page for five or ten minutes deciding if I should close the page.

I can’t describe the quandary in my desperate, hormonal teenage brain back then. All I wanted was to see if Tommy Lee’s dick was as mythically big as I had heard. I didn’t want to see him having sex. But…how could I just see one without the other? And what was a big dick compared to a small dick? Do I want to know that?

I wound up carefully scrubbing through the video (terribly, as buffering was a thing back then) with one hand while my other half-covered my eyes just in case I saw any…penetration. I clicked three times, I think and saw mostly blurs — Tommy Lee’s tattoos, their boat, a morass of tracking lines — and then FINALLY–

I yelped and shut down the browser. And then slammed my laptop shut. Blushing, I got up from my desk desk, walked out of my room, and didn’t touch my computer for two days. Anytime I looked at it I got twitchy, as if the split-second glimpse of fully-erect flesh brought VD to my PC. I lay in bed, both horrified by my behavior and generally befuddled with what I saw, too. So, I thought. That was a big dick. What do I do with this information?

Well, I got more curious. Not about real pornography; just about celebrity sex tapes.


To give you a general rundown of the years that followed — I’d say 2004 to 2012 — a rash of celebrity sex tapes bubbled up for public consumption. Just about every week, you would hear the phrase “so-and-so leaked her sex tape” (it was always the female-half’s fault) in response to an explicit video or nude pictures of a celebrity/socialite appearing on porn sites. While Pam and Tommy Lee were the genesis for celebrity pornography, Paris Hilton — heiress to the Hilton hotel fortune and New York party girl — popularized it. Her video, 1 Night in Paris, filmed by a creepy ex-boyfriend, paved the way for others. The most notorious of all came from Kim Kardashian, daughter of OJ Simpson friend and attorney Robert Kardashian (and Paris’ former assistant), who — seemingly — used her sex tape with singer Ray J to make a name for herself in fashion/television/marketing/beauty.

Others followed — some popular, some not. But around 2012 a few things happened. First, states started passing stronger revenge porn laws around the country. This meant assholes could no longer “leak” sex tapes of their unwilling or unwitting partners without legal consequences. Second, between 2012-2014, a hacker targeted over 100 celebrities in a phishing scheme and disseminated explicit photos and videos from various iCloud and Gmail accounts. Authorities eventually caught, charged, and sentenced the guy, but the damage has been done. While Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton were chided and mocked for being opportunists and accused of using their bodies to get ahead, no one could say the same about the women targeted in the phishing hack. Most were established celebrities with flourishing careers. None of them needed to be naked for the publicity.

Third, Hulk Hogan’s sex tape.

In 2012, Terry “Hulk Hogan” Boella with the financial help of one Peter Thiel (look him up, your mileage may vary) sued internet gossip site Gawker.com to the tune of $100M for publishing a clip of his sex tape with another man’s wife. The lawsuit claimed defamation, loss of privacy, and emotional pain. Eventually, both parties settled for $15M. Gawker sold itself off and shut down.

None of these things were exact turning points in the Celebrity Sex Tape Revolution, but together plus social media’s ugly presence really killed the voyeuristic appeal of watching anyone have sex. If anyone could fuck on camera, was it really that illicit anymore? Furthermore, if anyone could fuck on camera, everyone could fuck on camera. Ergo, was mainstream porn all that exciting? You certainly didn’t have to pay for it if you could get nudes for free.

Again, I wondered, what do I do with this information?


Admittedly, I’ve watched a number of celebrity sex tapes but have not seen much mainstream porn in my life.

I’m not admitting this with any pride, as if watching celebrities fuck is somehow better than actors paid to fuck. I watched 1 Night In Paris because when I was in my early twenties I hated Paris Hilton and wanted to see her get humiliated. To my embarrassment, I watched about ten minutes of the tape before I shut it off — not because I was grossed out by any of the sexual acts but I began to realize that Ms. Hilton genuinely did not realize her scum-sucking boyfriend would betray her when the camera turned off. Several times she, too, seemed repelled by his toxic preening, demanding she do sexual favors for him while she sweetly purrs, “No, tell me you want to kiss me!” Yes, she was humiliated, but not by the sex; but by the shit that came afterward.

I watched the grainy footage of Hulk Hogan, a man who I once saw twirl around in a ballerina’s tutu when I was 9, get oral sex and then complain about his daughter’s choice in dating partners using racial slurs. That’s right — no one remembers that part. Everyone likes to think of the big, dumb, lumbering Hulkamania wedging himself into the marriage of a radio DJ and his insanely hot wife. Everyone remembers, Oh Peter Thiel! Yeah, piece of shit! Libertarian Trump-backer. Used poor Hulk Hogan to get back at Gawker for outing him, right? Everyone forgets that Hulk Hogan is a piece of racist shit, too. He wasn’t lured astray by Thiel; he knew exactly what would come up if he went forward with the lawsuit. It wasn’t Hulk Hogan fucking another man’s wife that ruined my childhood; it was just how much of a casual, blatant racist he was that did it.

And yes, I watched about two minutes of Kim Kardashian’s magnum opus because I, like so many, wanted to know if this was a publicity stunt or indeed an accident. Two minutes of rigorous panting and thrusting for the camera, I had my mind made up. Yet, if all sides are equal, I don’t think there’s any true harm done in using your body’s resources for your own publicity. Your body is one of the only things you truly own in this world. What you do with it should be your own business. I also don’t believe that what you do for free should be penalized if you do it for profit — whether that’s legally or ethically. So no — Kim Kardashian the one-time sex-tape “leaker” doesn’t bother me half as much as Kim Kardashian the FlatTummy Lollipop influencer.

I questioned my own ethics many times. Why would I watch recordings of celebrities fucking when there are consensual recordings of professional actors fucking all over the internet? To that, I remind you of the maxim there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, which means regardless of how it’s sourced, pornography still commodifies sex. I’ve read compelling arguments that due to the violence, misogyny, and disparity in the academic community, pornography is never ethical. In the past decade, Gen Z women have rejected the sex positive feminism that nearly defined my twenties. This astounds me, because as a feminist, I didn’t realize you could reject any of its tenets. The pressure to be Best Feminist is exhausting — how can I be perfectly anti-capitalist, intersectional, and sex-positive? What if one of those tenets contradicts the others?

One such sex-positive feminist is Erika Lust (NSFW), a pornographer, who directs adult cinema that “focus(es) on female pleasure, cinematic values, diversity, and an ethical production process.” She has three film sites: Lust Cinema, which is for feature-length, plot-driven films (directed by her and her contemporaries); Else Cinema, which is for erotic films but with the penetration removed (if you’re not comfortable with the fucking part of porn); and XConfessions, which is for short, erotic films. All of the movies across the three sites are made according to Erika’s strict ethical guidelines and represent all body types and genders. If anything, it’s refreshing to see this level of dedication to making porn a bit more enjoyable to watch. It’s a cis-het white dude’s world out there, and Erika Lust’s movies are improving the landscape.

I chose to watch one of the Lust Cinema movies to see if my feelings on porn had changed.


I picked the most basic, hetero movie I could find because I wanted a baseline for what the site offered. This particular one billed itself as just a handful of sexual encounters between hetero couples, one right after the other, no awkward plotlines. The actors were all perfectly sculpted and tanned, slim and natural. From the trailer, the women were shaved and plucked and waxed; the men were angular and taut. Unlike Erika Lust’s promise of variable bodies, all of these actors looked like Abercrombie & Fitch models from the 90’s. But, I knew that this was just a litmus test of what Lust Cinemas had to offer, so I fired up the iPad, settled into bed, and turned to the person next to me:

“Try not to get too excited. We might have a winner on our hands.”

The first “situation” started with an absolutely stunning woman slinking around in her underwear and encountering a tall, athletic, thick-browed man. In a matter of seconds, her clothes fell on the floor and she and her man friend appeared on a carpeted staircase to do some stand-up cunnilingus. This could have been pretty hot, but something else distracted me.

“Wait,” I said. “Why is she still wearing her shoes? Those can’t be comfortable. She’s going to fall over.”

On screen, cunnilingus continues. The actress seemed to be enjoying it, though she also might have been worried about her balance, too. As I watched, I saw the male actor (and I’m sorry for being direct and crass but there’s no polite way to describe what you see in porn) stop fingering the actress long enough to set his hand down on the stair beneath him and then put his finger back inside her. I gasped.

“What the fuck! Did he just…? That wasn’t clean!

My viewing partner sighed and said, “Are you going to riff on this the entire time, or…?”

There was a quick cut and the actors switch positions on the stairs, so the actress could perform fellatio on her scene partner. I immediately started giggling. First, while I have no issue with the act of fellatio (ahem), there’s something so absurd about them. It looks like you’re trying to syphon gas from a car tank but keep the gas inside the hose at the same time. Second, regardless of the actress’s enthusiastic attempts, our actor could not get fully erect. No matter her attempts — her smiling, her switching to jerking him off, her pulling at his balls — his dick was the American flag at Mount Suribachi. Our dude had a trick up his foreskin, though: he took his yet-aroused penis and bounced it against the actress’s tongue.

I burst out laughing. If there was any established mood in the room, I ruined it.

“He just slapped his dick against her tongue like a doorstop,” I exclaimed.

“Maybe he’s nervous!

“Or he can’t get enough blood to his dick!”

He’s nervous!

Once that bit of nonsense is settled, the scene changes and we get down to business. While keeping her heels on, the actress got bent in all sorts of different ways suitable for penetration. Like most porn, the shots are sliced together with extreme close ups of peg A going into slot B — which messes up the continuity for me. Why do erotic films do that? Is it to prove yes, these actors are indeed fucking? But that doesn’t make sense because you can theoretically replace any set of genitals into those close up shots. Maybe it’s a leftover filming technique from when filmstock was low quality and cameras weren’t good enough to get the shots the first time around. Today, with 4k-quality cameras on your phones, it’s pretty easy to see that, yes, one actor is penetrating the other. But I digress.

During each position, she continued gasping and moaning in both Spanish and English, but the actor stayed eerily silent throughout.

“Why doesn’t he say anything?” I wondered. “He’s clearly enjoying himself more, now.”

“Because his moaning will distract us from her moaning,” my viewing partner replied. “Too much grunting and we’ll get turned off.”

I check the time on the video and realize we’re only 15 minutes in. “I don’t know. I’m not really feeling this as it is. What about you?”

We give it another two minutes of enthusiastic, leg-twisted, whiny, boring, hetero intercourse before we call it. We were too bored to finish — both literally and, well, the other way.


I gave it a shot, but I’m not impressed with my brief taste of ethical breakfast.

Everyone’s preferences for erotica are different, so my criticisms about its content don’t necessary hold water. But despite Lust Cinema’s pledge for equal pleasure, it still had the tired tropes that are in mainstream porn: the actress had to be bent into absurd, uncomfortable positions (backwards and in heels!), she took a LOT of vigorous cervix-pounding in said positions, and other than a three minute pussy-eating session, she didn’t get a lot of pleasuring. Furthermore, what was with the dead silence from our hero? Not even a mutter! Finally, there’s no guarantee that actress truly enjoyed being railed by her silent scene partner, just like there’s no assurance she had an orgasm.

I’ll give this film, and by association all Lust Cinema’s films — the credit and say at no point was I uneasy or repulsed by the film. For all the tropes it included, it also avoided a lot, too (ones, I’m NOT going to mention because they range from being gross to downright appalling). When I turned it off, I turned it off not because I found the film repellent but because I genuinely didn’t understand the appeal. Nothing in the film felt enticing, erotic, or illicit to me. Maybe that’s because I picked the most standard, vanilla, hetero, and basic of pornos to view, or maybe I’m just not a visually stimulated person.

In conclusion, I’ll go back to skipping breakfast. Ethical or not, I think it’s healthier.

Author & Bi-Feminist-Killjoy. Occasionally has something interesting to say. The importance is debatable. Your mileage may vary. Books: "Icarus" and "A Bitter Spring"