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Monday, Oct. 20, 10:41 a.m.
Style & Culture

This Week in Sex: Pop Porn

Britney Spears did it. Amy “Long Island Lolita” Fisher has one. Rumormongers say Vivica A. Fox has, too. Even the Minister of Health for Malaysia, Chua Soi Lek, has one. Saucy, right? Add Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, a slew of B-list celebrities and the phenomenon has passed the trend barrier and is now a cultural mainstay: homemade porn is sweeping the globe.

The good news for budding sexual documentarians is that the technology is cheap and accessible to everyone. The bad news is, so is the result: your spring break exploits are only a bitter ex and a Google search away from the most awkward dinner conversation you’ll ever have with your parents.

If you’re tempted by such harbingers of celebrity status as Amy Fisher and Britney Spears – oh, and Chua Soi Lek – there’s a few things you should consider before making the leap into amateur porn. Make no mistake about it, videotaping yourself having sex, even for an audience of two, is amateur porn. In this day and age, where porn stars are as mainstream as pop stars – and some, as we know, dabble in both – it may be tempting to think that getting on on the TV is cool and real, and getting it on the TV is even cooler and more glamorous.

The widespread nature of pornography has an impact on your sex life, whether you know it or not. Before I sound like a total prude, let me extol some virtues of pornography. For one, evidence across several studies has concluded that pornography reduces incidents of rape. A 10 percent increase in Web access to porn cuts down a state’s rate of sexual assault by about 7.5 percent. So, would-be date rapists and sexual predators: the university is providing you with a high-speed Internet connection – enjoy it to your heart’s content.

For the rest of us, there’s another side of porn. These days, when the ABC network can be fined $14.3 million for showing female buttocks on an episode of “NYPD Blue” that it aired five years ago, porn may be the only place left allowed to acknowledge the existence of sex. If that’s the case, it has a real impact on ideas of sexual performance and expectations for men and women.

Men might get concerned that their ejaculation isn’t adequate because it fails to travel to Europe – or even the edge of the bed. Porn-damaged boys expect women and women’s bodies to live up to unrealistically molded proportions and they forget what real girls look like.

Women getting their ideas of sexual expectations from porn are a tragic case as well, since the women of porn never experience any kind of pleasure from it. Female porn viewers, in many cases, get used to the idea that some degree of physical discomfort must be involved in pleasing a partner, which is setting women’s sexual education back to the ’50s.

If porn makes your actual sex life look dry and boring, well, that’s what it is supposed to be doing. It brings a completely new meaning to “the free hand of the market.” Competition for customers propels producers into ratcheting up their content to extremes. If you haven’t seen “Two Girls, One Cup,” consider yourself a better person, and respect the fact that you can still look your mom in the eyes – but it’s the perfect example of where porn goes to catch desensitized viewers. Remarkably, it’s gone mainstream enough to be mentioned on VH1.

Watching porn could make anyone feel overwhelmed by the idea that being real is enough to please anyone these days. People get used to seeing increasingly extreme kinds of sex acts on the Internet, and suddenly, real sex can’t compete. To compensate, partners try to imitate the stuff they’ve seen in porn. This is a problem.

If you lose yourself in bed – or wherever you choose to get it on – you’re losing a big part of your relationship. That’s the downside of even mild porn: Instead of actually enjoying sex, you’re dedicating precious naked-time to an act of performance. When two people are “performing” for each other, they’re getting rid of actual intimacy: instead of sex being about generosity and mutuality and communication – you know, healthy, normal attitudes – it becomes about trying to look and act like a porn star.

Expressing your personality and the complicated dynamics of a relationship sexually may seem messy and unthinkable, which is tragic – because that’s the whole point.

Add this recent drive for couples to document their sex lives on videotape. Some people fetishize a computer screen to the point where they just have to see their own naked torsos thrusting in full-fledged high-definition glory.

Don’t get me wrong, if it makes you happy, anything is acceptable – as long as both parties are honest, consenting and everyone is aware of the risks. The trouble with the naked amateur cinematographers of the world is that the risk isn’t always clear. Even if you trust your partner, there’s no guarantee the pictures won’t be found by a third party – a camera gets lost, a computer is repaired, who knows? Then there’s the issue of the tapes or files getting around – maybe to a close friend, who then sends it to just one more close friend, etc. Even if you trust your partner now, how can anyone predict how trustworthy they will be after a breakup?

There’s nothing wrong with adding some kink to your sex life, but homebrew porn is one of the riskier endeavors a person could take. Emotionally speaking, it’s not safe sex. If you want to pump more adrenalin into your sex life, there’s plenty of room for your imagination to express itself. If you really can’t help yourself, watch it once and then take a hammer to the tape. For the rest of us, if you want to try your hand at imitating celebrities, stick to karaoke night.