How do I get inexperienced guys to realize that porn isn't like actual sex?
Sam W replies:I'm a 15 year old girl, and I like guys. But guys my age rarely have too much experience with actual girls sexually. About a month ago I started talking to this guy, and we texted all the time and we were flirty but nothing super serious. (He's 16). I really liked him as a person and everything, and we have a lot in common, but he wanted to talk about sex a lot and he had a lot of questions? He would ask me a lot of personal stuff about my sex life, but mostly just asking me if certain sexual acts were actually a thing, and what were all the differences between actual girls and girls in porn. I wasn't uncomfortable with any of it really, and I was happy to answer his questions to the best of my ability, but literally all the sex ed he had had was from porn.
"He was genuinely trying to understand me and listen and everything, but he just didn't get it, because he's been watching porn for years and never really known anything else? About a week ago we were texting and he asked me if I had ever sexted with anyone before, and I said I had (which wasn't a lie), but I also said that it was pretty underwhelming and didn't really do anything for me. In response to that, he essentially starting telling me what he'd 'rather be doing', and he started trying to describe what he would do if he was with me right then. I told him I was tired and I was just watching a movie on the couch and I wasn't up for participating in his weird fantasy at the moment, and he said that was fine, but then he just kept describing? Needless to say, pretty much everything he said, from the actions he described to the vocabulary he used, wasn't how sex works at all, and even when I just stopped replying he kept going with it, and that was when I started to get uncomfortable. I haven't spoken to him in a few days, not because I think he's a bad person or anything, just because I decided that he isn't worth it and I wasn't comfortable with the stuff he was talking to me about anymore. But I've had interactions like that with probably 90% of the guys I've ever had a flirtationship with (or a real relationship for that matter). Is there something I can do about it? Is this just how it's gonna be until I get to the age where most people have actual experience in the real world? I want to have a relationship with a guy, and I have the opportunities, but their ideas of sex have all been shaped so much by porn that it's actually exhausting trying to start from scratch completely. I've tried to have an open dialogue about it, but that doesn't even work. What do I do?"
Thank you, annoyed, for introducing me to the word "flirtationship", which I shall henceforth incorporate into my vocabulary.
Firstly, good call on dialing back contact with this particular guy. You told him you weren't up for participating in his fantasy conversation and he continued trying to involve you in it. That kind of disregard for boundaries is not a good sign in people, and I'm glad you're already learning how to distance yourself from it.
When talking about porn and expectations in the context of people who have little to no real life sexual experience, there's a distinction we need to make. Some people have unrealistic or inaccurate understandings of sex because they've had little chance to learn about it and little chance to practice it. Their misconceptions generally disappear through a combination of sex ed and, well, having sex. Learning what it's like to be sexual with another person means adjusting your expectations, even if you're someone who doesn't consume porn. Just like we pick up notions of how romance or relationships should be from the people and media around us, so too do we pick up ideas about what sex will be like when we have it. As you move through life, you learn where those expectations differ from reality. Some of the issue you're experiencing will likely dissipate as you, and your potential partners, get older. Until then, pointing them in the direction of good information about sex can help close the gap between expectation and reality. Plenty of teenage dudes (and really teenagers of all genders) will get a clue faster than the one you interacted with. Plenty already have that clue. You're not doomed to spend your young adult life with a parade of ill-informed partners.
Then there's another category of unrealistic expectation: where someone is convinced that what they saw or read in porn, heard from their parents, or were told by a friend during lunchtime is true. Sometimes directing them to those same sex education resources or talking to them about why their misconceptions are just that does the trick. Other times not so much. If their expectations around sex are not only linked to porn but also to deeper beliefs about gender or sexuality, there can be a reluctance to relinquish them. Down this road lies conversations with people who are convinced that penis size is all that matters when pleasing a partner, and any talk about communication, anatomy, or vibrators is dismissed as being an "excuse." It's up to you to decide how far down that path you want to go with someone.
One big thing to remember: you do not owe it to anyone to act as their personal sex educator. You can, of course, provide information and correct their misconceptions if you want to. But most people have access to the internet or a library where they can find accurate sources of information about sex (*hint hint* Scarleteen). Deciding that you don't want to give every guy you meet a "that's not how sex works" talk doesn't mean you're dooming them to never learn about sex. There are plenty of professional sex educators who are happy to answer their questions.
Having knitted that nice blanket statement, I need to put a hole in it. If you're at the point of doing sexy, sexy things with someone, there needs to be a discussion of expectations, desires, and boundaries (our sexual inventory stocklist can be a good place to start that discussion). It's quite possible that what someone saw in porn will come up in the course of that conversation. Pornographic materials of all stripes can influence what we think sex "should" be like. Or, because porn often contains actions that partners could actually do, it can give us ideas about activities we're curious about trying with a partner. Take ejaculating on a body part, which is a common image in porn. Your partner may have seen it in a video and be curious to try it and you may not feel comfortable with it. The opposite could also be true. Or maybe you both love (or hate)the idea. The way to figure out whether or not it's something you'll try is to talk about it. Porn may very well come up in that talk, and you might find yourself needing to explain that just because a woman in porn seems to enjoy something, that doesn't mean that other women (or people of any gender) automatically enjoy it as well.
The other instance in which you'd have to play the role of "no, seriously, it doesn't work like that" educator is if there's an issue that directly affects your health. Porn has a cruddy track record when it comes to portraying safer sex practices like condom use. If you're savvy about the risks posed by different sexual activities and your partner is basing their assumptions about safe practices on porn, that requires a talk as well. It sucks that a combination of inaccurate media and poor sex education leave people without a clue when it comes to safer sex, and it means that sometimes you have to do a little education in order to keep yourself and your partner safe.
If you do want to continuing trying to educate guys in your life, there are a couple of approaches you can use. One way of explaining porn is to have people think of it as being like reality television. Yes, those are real people you're watching and they're actually doing what you see them doing. But the actions and the people are staged and edited to look a certain way, one that generally doesn't reflect off-screen life. Much like the lives of people in New Jersey don't resemble the show "The Jersey Shore," sex off-camera is not going to match the sex you see on screen.
The other way to educate current or potential partners is to point out that regardless of how "real" porn is, you two are not the people in that porn. You each have unique likes, dislikes, and boundaries that don't match up with the images in porn (remember, people in porn get paid to do what they do, so sometimes they do things that aren't their favorite). The interplay between your desires and the desires of your partner creates a distinct series of experiences. That's part of what makes IRL sex so dang neat.
I hope this advice gives you a place to start with the guys in your life. You won't be able to correct every single person's misconceptions about sex in one fell swoop. But you'll be able to make expectations about sex in your corner of the world a little more realistic.