Porn or Rom-Coms. Which Damage Relationships More?


We’ve heard plenty from people who say that porn is giving people unrealistic ideas of what sex is supposed to be like. And I’ve been saying for a while that I think that a lot of media also skews our notions of sex, romance and relationships. So I was interested to read a reuters.com post reporting an Australian survey showing that romantic comedies are affecting relationships.

Apparently, “[o]ne in four Australians said they were now expected to know what their partner was thinking while one in five respondents said it made their partners expect gifts and flowers ‘just because’.” The idea that we’re supposed to be able to read our partners’ minds is one of the most difficult and challenging hindrances that people face in their relationships. It makes it harder to communicate and negotiate about your needs and desires.

And while it’s certainly nice to get gifts and flowers sometimes, there are a lot of other ways to show and express love and care. Unfortunately, we don’t see them as often, perhaps because they’re harder to film. By not reflecting the diversity of human interactions, rom coms reinforce the idea that there’s a “right way” to be in a relationship and it’s the sort of thing that ends up sending couples into conflict.

OK, so I am exaggerating somewhat. But given how much the anti-porn folks flip out about the supposed harmful effects of porn, can we expect them to start a “Stop Rom Com Culture” organization? After all, copying what you see on the screen, not communicating about your partner’s actual desires & needs, and modeling your relationship on unrealistic media depictions are some of the negative effects that some folks blame porn for. It only seems fair to me that Gail Dines, Donna Hughes, Shelley Lubben should get right on this.

Just sayin’.

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7 Responses so far.

  1. Roger Fentley says:

    “[porn gives] unrealistic ideas of what sex is supposed to be like.”

    Study what the boy is saying in the cartoon.

    Porn is not about women’s bodies. Or unmanageable positions.

    When men look at porn, they fantasize that women’s LIBIDOS are actually like what they see depicted.

  2. C T says:

    So all guys are looking at porn wishing for chicks so horny that they’re just plain rabid to take it in every orifice from three well-hung bros?

  3. Charlie says:

    That’s pretty much what some people are trying to convince people is happening. Although as usual, reality is much more complex than that.

  4. Lib says:

    While I totally agree with you that romance comedies, and romance novels, and a ton of pop culture relationship books, and advice medias are very, very damaging when it comes to relationships and our concepts of love, I think Lubben types are slightly less interested in the damage done to the viewers of porn, and more interested in the abuse on the porn set. Maybe when the production of RC’s start spreading diseases related to love and relationships, both mental and physical to the actors then there will be more of an uproar, although we can already say those unrealistic views of love and the drug scene has already got a hold on Hollywood.

  5. Charlie says:

    Without wanting to discount Lubben’s experiences, there’s plenty of evidence to show that her sweeping claims about what it’s like to be a porn performer are hardly universal. A lot of porn performers say that they enjoy their work and have built careers that have lasted much longer than Lubben’s short stint in the industry. Unless one is going to say that they’re all brainwashed (which is an argument that some people have made), the only reasonable conclusion is that some people have bad experiences and some have good experiences. I think that the best response is to figure out how to minimize the former and maximize the latter, just as it is in any industry.

    As far as physical diseases among porn performers (I assume you’re referring to sexually transmitted infections), according to the folks who run the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, 2.8% of porn performers test positive for an STI each month and 22% of 15-24 year olds in the US get an STI each year. The CDC groups 15- to 19-year-olds and 20- to 24-year-olds. The majority of porn stars are 18 to 24, which overlaps the two age categories. (from http://www.villagevoice.com/2007-09-04/columns/danger-on-the-set/)

    Given how much more sex performers have than even the most enthusiastic 15-24 year olds, that suggests that they do pretty well at limiting and dealing with STIs. Further, when you consider how many porn performers there are and how many sexual interactions take place, the number of HIV transmissions is tiny compared to the general population.

    Lubben likes to throw all sorts of scary statements out there. That doesn’t make them true.

  6. Lib says:

    Charlie I don’t doubt that Lubben paints the industry in a way that suits her purpose, but I also don’t doubt that those on the opposing side do the same thing. I suppose we could call this the politics of porn. However my post was more to counter what you said in regards to relationships. It didn’t seem to connect. You said Lubben types were interested in relationships, from what I know of her work she is not. What I wrote had nothing to do with Lubben’s validity, only how her work connects to your writing. I apologize if that point wasn’t made more clear. Was the whole point of this entry simply to invalidate the work these groups do? Did I miss your point?

  7. Charlie says:

    While that’s not Lubben’s usual argument, she works with people who will claim that porn damages relationships so porn is bad. Dines makes that sort of claim quite frequently and Lubben goes along with it.

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