To be completely honest, there was a large part of me that balked when it was suggested I write about porn. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of porn (which I’ll talk about later.) But I also remember after one particularly fulfilling session in college, having a That’s So Raven-esque vision of myself becoming addicted to it, watching it every day to the point that it started to interfere with my responsibilities. I saw myself being late to pick my future daughter up from school because I was somewhere getting off. I take my visions seriously and it scared me. So these days I have to stumble across porn, mostly in gif form. And even then, I never linger long.
It was my hesitancy to tackle the subject that let me know that not only did I need to write about it but also ask other women what they felt about it. With so many Black women coming from church and faith communities, the topic of porn is either ignored entirely or discussed with such loathing that those of us who do partake, feel a slight twinge of guilt watching it and certainly uncomfortable speaking about it. Which is exactly why I asked a few brave souls to share what they’d learned about porn growing up and what they think of it now that they’re grown.
Nadia, who comes from a Caribbean background, and was caught watching porn by her mom when she was just 9 years old says,
“My mom told me that it was dirty and sinful, and asked me if I had been molested instead of just realizing that I was a curious pre-teen. I also think she thought that I was being fast when in reality I was the last person to start having sex in my friend group.”
Iris shares a slightly similar experience of discovering porn early (kindergarten) and getting her ass ‘wore out’ every time she got caught watching. Regardless, she has a good relationship with porn today. She shares,
“I appreciate porn and Superhead for everything it’s taught me and those lonely nights it’s gotten me through￼……I’m very into sex and my sexuality and I believe porn is necessary for life. I like seeing new tricks, positions, etc…I don’t have too many friends that will sit and let me watch them and their husband have sex, so with that being said it’s about as natural as can be for me.”
Yvette didn’t watch porn as a child, and her parents never discussed porn with her, however, she figured out that it wasn’t something that should be around her when an older brother had to move out of the house for leaving a porn video in the family VCR where she could find it.
As she got older, things changed…
“As soon as I got to college, I learned all about Pornhub and I kept it a secret from my mom that I watched it until I graduated. It gets brought up in random conversation now because I’m “grown” so my mom and I speak freely about it in regards to like marriage. Now the church I grew up in was another story….I remember them having a 7-week series during Sunday school (for adults of course) about pornography and how it was perverted and it was a sin and blah blah blah. I was in my early 20s having to sit next to my mom while they discuss in all the ways pornography could lead to broken marriages, homosexuality, and other things. I was floored and looking at my pastor like he had 10 heads because surely a man well in his 50s is seriously not spewing this kind of message to other grown folks, half of which are married. I think porn is fine and healthy and can be a great tool in marriages to educate or to spice things up. I also believe masturbation is healthy and normal. But I do have an internal conflict about how I personally feel and how I was made to feel according to my religious practices.”
As for me, I’m actually surprised to recall that my parents didn’t have any extensive conversations with my sister and me about porn, only because other aspects of sexuality were so openly discussed in our household. On occasion, I would see my father’s erotica or Playboy magazines—which he bought for the articles. My mom would make offhanded comments like, “Your dad likes to watch those nasty movies.” I could fill in the gaps. Not only from these throwaway comments but mostly because my parents put televisions with cable in me and my sister’s rooms. During my teen years, I stumbled upon Cinemax and more importantly HBO’s “Real Sex.”
Not only did “Real Sex” go a long way in stimulating me, it also provided some extremely helpful information. With my parents’ (read mom’s) honesty and my cable, I knew more than the average bear when it came to everything from anatomy, sexuality and the woman’s ability to ejaculate. “Real Sex,” even showed me that there was a man who could make women achieve orgasm without even touching them. I saw it with my own eyes. I still think about that from time to time.
When I was a kid, there was a level of guilt watching porn because I knew damn well that’s not why my parents bought us those TVs. Still, I was and still am very appreciative and forever grateful for what the pornographic content was doing for my body—with an assist from my waterbed—and my mind.
Ultimately, I think it’s up to each woman, Black or otherwise, to determine what her sexuality looks like for herself. And if that sexuality includes an embracing of porn or not. Strip away your parents’ hangups and occasional hypocrisy. Imagine that you never heard what the church had to say about the subject, watch a little something, read a little something and then take inventory of your feelings afterward. Did you enjoy yourself? Does it enhance your sexual expression? If you feel a twinge of guilt or a level of discomfort, try to identify whether or not it’s coming from your own opinions or the ones you’ve been exposed to. As women, and Black women particularly, there is so much that often stands in the way of us fully embodying our sexual selves that we have to work hard just to hear our own voice.
What were you taught about porn growing up? Have your opinions changed as an adult?