It Was Only When I Tried To Give Up Porn That I Realised How Much Was Out There (The Debrief)

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The Debrief: And that sex without any assistance from porn was more than a little nerve-wracking…

It’s been a year since I gave up porn. I’d just escaped a tragic on-off relationship and I kept on finding myself in bed at 2pm on a Sunday having done nothing with my day other than watch people plunging whatever they could into each other’s orifices.

Gangbangs, gay sex, piss sex, those frat parties-gone-wild where a couple have rough sex on a beer-soaked sofa while chubby-elbowed lads bark at them… as I scrolled between clips, I realised I was getting turned on by things that I would just never be able to – or want to – replicate.

Looking at the one-handed comments under the videos was equally disturbing – essentially myriad versions of ‘she’s a slut bet she loved that’ – and I thought, ‘Fuck, what if the people watching this porn are horrible people? What if I’m virtually sharing my orgasms with a 14-year-old boy who’s used this very same video to justify being a prick to his similarly underage girlfriend? Can I actually come with that guilty thought in my brain?’

Porn doesn’t just end when you slam down the lid of the laptop and pad off to the shower. It recurs in your mind, especially when you’re spending more time watching porn than having sex

The answer (no) is almost as obvious as the reality that porn doesn’t just end when you slam down the lid of the laptop and pad off to the shower. It recurs in your mind, especially when you’re spending more time watching porn than having sex. And it occurred to me that it had become second nature to think of porn while trying to come. Either it was flashing into my mind, like the ghost of watching-girls-choke-on-dick past, or I was purposefully thinking about it to help me come – essentially borrowing from other people’s sexual pleasure/monetary gain to get off, right?

So, one sweaty-knee’d Sunday, right after clearing my browsing history for the last time, I decided to give up porn.

But it wasn’t that easy. As well as consciously having to put my phone down when I had a wank instead of looking at lads’ mag shoots of Megan Fox, I then actually had to make the effort of conjuring imaginary wank-bank material. This would involve trying to suppress memories of an ex while struggling to remember my most recent sex without feeling so sad that it was soulless-tipsy-rebound sex with someone I’d had very little spark with.

On top of that, friends seemed more than happy to show me pornographic images – something I only realised happened frequently after I consciously decided to avoid them. Screengrabs of blokes exposing themselves via Tinder and Grindr filtered through on WhatsApp and Snapchat. Slightly riskier mates would pull out their phones at bars to show us gross-out porn videos, like a man with a bifurcated penis sitting on a butt-plug the width of a bin-lid. Yes, really.

And porn wasn’t only being shared with me socially: browsing through online photos of Justin Bieber for work brought me eye-to-eye with photos of his face Photoshopped onto the body of a gay porn model, all puppy dog eyes and massive raging boner. Blue Is The Warmest Colour came out and I turned a multitude of shades of embarrassment as I watched the backwards cowgirl fingering and tapped the sound right down to save me from the gasps and sighs. Way too many times I’ve flicked through a copy of those free papers handed out across London to clap eyes on another celebrity with a double-barrelled surname ‘stripping off’ for charity. Oh, and I’ve got Instagram. Nipples might not be allowed, but people sure find their ways to get naked.

64% of Reddit users who decided to give up porn had noticed their tastes in pornography had, before giving up, ‘become more extreme and/or deviant’

It turns out that my world is littered with porn, like a red light district’s phonebox. Only 14% of all web searches are for porn, which doesn’t sound much until you realise that’s a seventh of our time online. And this doesn’t even account for the fact that some people already know the names of porn sites and so don’t Google to get to them.

We’re now so swamped in porn that a whole anti-porn movement has sprung up. On Reddit, the ‘no-fap’ group (‘fap’ is the sound wanking makes) has 120,855 ‘Fapstronauts’ looking to give up porn. It’s basically a support group for people who feel so addicted to porn that they need an online forum to help kick the habit. Their data says that 59% of them were spending 4-15 hours a week watching porn, and that 64% had noticed their tastes in pornography had, before giving up, ‘become more extreme and/or deviant’.

If guys on Reddit could give up porn, I reasoned, so could I. And, eventually, I did manage to purge it. It wasn’t that I managed to get rid of all of its inlets, but by thoroughly clearing my cache, I was no longer getting banner ads popping up. I also stopped visiting niche websites where ‘banter’ intermingles with porny images of women, and cut down on my daily intake of that infamous news site where topless photos of celebrities taken on beaches with a long lens are seemingly legit.

Telling friends I’d given up porn was a bit of a hurdle because so many of them just assumed I’d stopped wanking. Once I explained to them that I’d given up, they stopped sending it to me so much. One hiccup was The Fappening – pictures were sent to my WhatsApp within minutes of them breaking online, but I held my phone at arm’s length to delete them all.

What impact did giving up porn have on my sex life? My life in general? After a few months without porn, my senses were that more finely tuned to the smallest details. I wasn’t exactly getting Victorian-level horny over ankles, but think about it this way, if you’ve got a huge cymbal crashing next to your head for days, weeks, months on end, the ringing in your ears means you’ll never get to hear a pin drop. And sometimes, well, to stretch this analogy wider than a double penetration scene, sometimes that pin can be really sexy.

After a few months without porn, my senses were that more finely tuned to the smallest details

Porn had made me see sex as an easily obtainable activity, like grated cheese or pre-made carrot batons. If I could watch a girl fellate a row of blokes at the click of a button, why on earth would I really strive to have great sex IRL? Why do things the long way round? Well, after giving up porn, the sex I had became a bit more real.

First of all, I was chasing after it that much more sensitively – if real sex is the only sex you’re going to get, you try that bit harder to get it. Secondly, I felt so much more present when I was having sex. Not only were images of porn way too distant in my memory to flash up in front of me while I was doing it, but without being able to use memories of it to assist an orgasm, I was having to address the fact that maybe I wasn’t sleeping with the right sort of people. If I needed to use porn to get off while in bed with someone IRL, did I really like that person that much?

Still, when it came to having IRL sex, my nervousness was totally heightened. Maybe I became a little needier than I otherwise would have done, but if you haven’t actually seen a naked body – save for lolsy Snapchats of your friends’ boobs with beach scenes drawn all over them (the boobs are islands) – in a while, it’s that much more tangible when you do see one. That anticipation builds, and without the recent memories of idealised porny bodies or activities to compare to, you end up appreciating what’s in front of you so much more. How’s that for a honey shot?

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