My Toxic Relationship With Porn

Before I started writing guides to BDSM and sex education, the original Submissive Feminist Tumblr was a place for me to reblog images and videos I found arousing so I could share it with partners. I was 18 when I started out, and had little experience with sex or porn (let alone BDSM), so having these images in one place that I could refer to and say, “I think I want to try this,” was very liberating for me. I never used the blog to masturbate, though. Porn was more of an inspiration to me than anything else. I got no pleasure out of using it to bring myself to orgasm, and only felt guilty for trying.

[Image Property of Crash Pad Series]
I have never been a consistent porn user–still to this day. The majority of my porn use was surprisingly in childhood, when I had no other reference for what sex or pleasure looked like. However, as I matured and had the means to talk and learn about sex, I found that I no longer needed porn. I’d imagine anything I desired and it worked well enough where I no longer found myself fumbling with a keyboard in the dark, frantically doing Internet searches for dirty videos and praying I didn’t get caught.

The men in my life, however, were always constant porn users. As I started dating, I found myself confronted with the reality that most people do use porn for its intended purpose. My first male sexual partner claimed to not watch porn for masturbation, but took pleasure in fucking me while it played in the background. From the first time, it gave me a bad feeling. I felt like the porn meant I wasn’t good enough on my own. It felt shameful and dirty, but it continued throughout our relationship.

There were a lot of problems in that relationship, and I chalked up my discomfort with porn to the fact that the partner was abusive in other ways. The bad feelings associated with porn, however, didn’t go away. They carried over into new, healthier relationships and grew worse over time.

My first “serious” boyfriend was a virgin when we met, and I introduced him to sex and kink over time. We had a strong relationship, with very few problems between us until the subject of porn came up one day. I don’t remember how it came up, but my boyfriend shared with me that he had a strong preference for BBW porn (porn consisting of fat women). This surprised me. Being a fat woman, I’ve never liked the BBW fetishization. Unlike fantasy roles of BDSM, being fat was something I couldn’t safeword out of. I couldn’t take it off or stop it. 

Being fat was something I had to live with every day, with all its associated harassment and discrimination. Knowing that someone I loved so much got off to the objectification of fat women really messed me up. For the two years we dated, I refused to watch porn with him and always isolated myself if he brought up the subject. I pretended it didn’t exist because I didn’t want to face the feelings of him objectifying me. Looking back, I don’t think I ever communicated how much his use of fat fetishization porn upset me. It was overwhelmingly difficult for me to discuss, and I avoided talking about it because I didn’t want him to think I was trying to control his use of porn. Even in a relationship, I believed porn use was his private right, even if it greatly upset me.

This idea carried over into all my relationships, but hit a bump with a long-distance partner whose preference for porn was live cam shows and online sex workers. Having done online sex work, I respected the job. However, the new element of a live woman instead of a series of images and videos was upsetting to me. He’d go into chat rooms after I went to bed and talked up the cam girls. He treated them well, tipped generously, and was the ideal client–but it bothered me so much. I felt like such a hypocrite for drawing a distinction between cam girls and porn–as if porn actresses weren’t also live women. However, the element of talking to them one-on-one and getting to know them as people shattered the fantasy aspect of porn for me and felt more like betrayal.

Again, I found myself left with emotions I didn’t want to deal with. I brought it up once or twice, but he got defensive and claimed there was nothing wrong with what he was doing. Logically, ethically, I agreed–but I felt sick to my stomach thinking about it. His favorite cam girl was one I knew personally. She had a similar body type to mine, we both had blue hair, and she was genuinely a sweet person. But it made me sick thinking about him using her services when I was willing and able to do the same things for him. It made me depressed and anxious and we fought about it at times. To this day, I don’t know how else I should have handled the situation. Deep down, I support his right to use porn and I even advocate for patronizing sex workers instead of using tube sites of stolen porn. He was doing the ethical thing. He was paying for his porn and treating sex workers with respect. How could I argue with that?

Money and ethics play a big role in why I use porn so rarely. I don’t have a lot of disposable income, so porn isn’t a luxury I’ve built into my budget. I’ve bought a video or two from sex workers I follow, or a piece of erotica from a writer friend of mine, but for the most part, it’s not something I think about because I can’t always afford ethical porn.

In addition to money, I’ve found it difficult to find ethical sources of porn that doesn’t negatively impact my self esteem. Mainstream porn consists of skinny white women and ripped white men. I craved something more diverse than that but everywhere you look, fetishization is an issue. Porn consisting of black men is marketed as BBC porn. Black women only star in ”ebony porn.” Fat women are unseen in videos that aren’t titled degrading things like, “PAWG (phat ass white girl) chubby titty fuck.” Fat men don’t really exist, according to porn. And transgender men and women are subjected to transphobic marketing, catered to fetishizing men.

I gave up on porn as a whole for a while, and I didn’t miss it. Then a few months ago, I was gifted a membership to Crash Pad Series. It was different than mainstream porn, but still high quality and easily accessible for those willing to pay a little for ethically-made porn. Crash Pad is made up of a queer, diverse staff. Their videos mainly depict queer, non-cis, non-white individuals. They have plus-size actors and actresses but don’t label their videos as “BBW” or other degrading references to their body size. The POC who star in Crash Pad episodes aren’t marketed as “ebony,” “BBC,” or other racist terms. They’re simply respected actors and actresses not otherwise distinguished from white performers.

The more I explored Crash Pad Series during my month subscription, the more I fell in love with it. They were kink-inclusive, showed safer sex methods like condoms and gloves being used regularly. They used toys and lube and dialogue that conveyed consent between the performers. I loved it. I had never seen porn like this before. I could search for specific performers or videos based on the sex acts or kinks involved. I was able to watch videos of trans men, like my partner, that didn’t fetishize the fact that they were trans. This was new to me, even as someone who had been exposed to pornographic material on a daily basis on my Tumblr–keeping that strange and distant relationship with porn all these years by reblogging images I found aestetically pleasing but didn’t use to mastubate, trying not to question the sources of the images too much for my own sanity. This seemed like a new way to consume porn entirely for me, and I ate it up.

I did my first-ever porn review of a queer and kinky Crash Pad episode last month, and I have several more banked up for review. Crash Pad is a wonderful resource for ethically-made porn, not only for users who want to pay their performers and involve more diversity in their porn collections, but for people like me who never felt represented in porn and felt trapped by the toxic hold it had on me as a sex-positive person with a complex relationship with it. Crash Pad feels like the light at the end of the tunnel–a way to rebrand my relationship with porn into something positive, inclusive, and ethical. Porn is, after all, supposed to be a pleasurable luxury.

After all these years, it felt constantly tainted by the way we market and consume it. Indie companies like Crash Pad have the opportunity to change the way we view it. Maybe they won’t be the biggest name in the industry anytime soon–but for those of us who feel marginalized by mainstream porn, they provide a way to redefine what porn means to us and finally experience the pleasure we have been denied.

This post is NOT sponsored by Crash Pad Series but does contain affiliate links.
Opinions on Crash Pad and Pink & White Productions are entirely my own.
Featured image is property of Crash Pad Series.

xx SF

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