It’s easy to take for granted the modern omnipresence of pornography. If you’re like me, you grew up with the Internet and never knew the difference. For a long time, porn was the only type of sexual content one could view on video. Most of us think of porn as being synonymous with “on-screen sex.” Sure, you can see simulated sex in movies and TV shows, but it’s just not the same. You’re lucky if the actors even have chemistry.
I used to hunt around the bigger free porn sites when I was younger, which seemed like the normal thing to do. For the most part, I didn’t find much that piqued my interest. I just didn’t connect to the mainstream mores: genital close-ups, theatrical moaning, boringly strict beauty standards, and of course, the legendary “money-shot.” Porn had never been an integral component of my self-love routine, but when I did seek it out, my preferences were pretty specific.
I almost exclusively browsed videos tagged as “amateur,” looking for something that didn’t feel quite so staged. I sought pleasure that felt believable (especially from the women), an actual rapport between the subjects, and a broader range of skin color and body type. I figured the “amateurs” were more likely to be regular people filming themselves with folks they were actually intimate with, and that really appealed to me. If I found something I liked, I’d revisit it over and over until my favorite moments were memorized.
Sure, my taste for this type of porn was mostly about my own pleasure, but not exclusively. I didn’t realize it at first, but I was totally starved for visual stories about sex that were free of artifice. What did sex in the real world look like, anyway? I understood the mechanics perfectly well, but I just knew there had to be more going on. I was missing the sensual aspect of sex, the acknowledgment that it occurred within the context of some sort of relationship. Porn never showed me any sign of connection or communication between performers, and nothing else in my world was explaining or modeling that behavior for me.
After a few years of exploration, I strayed from watching porn altogether. It was usually more trouble than it was worth to find something that actually turned me on. I figured I just wasn’t a porn person and didn’t think too much of it. I relied on my vivid selection of memories and fantasies, which of course were always available. These have always been my preferred “visual” aids, but my occasional desire for actual video content remained. Then, as an adult, I finally discovered real-world sex videos.
I discovered MakeLoveNotPorn.tv after a friend of mine joined the company. Part video-sharing platform and part social movement – they call it the #socialsexrevolution – Make Love Not Porn collects video submissions from real people having real-world sex in order to smash cultural taboos around watching and discussing the act. The idea is, the more comfortable we are doing these things, the better and more often we’ll communicate about it, collectively and within our relationships. Healthier relationships mean healthier families and a happier society. It made perfect sense to me, and I became an instant supporter.
The first video I rented was of two women hooking up in one of their homes. I loved the minor interactions that were included, like flirting, laughing, and cuddling. There was even a cat making an occasional pass across the floor. It was so cozy, domestic, affectionate… they weren’t in a romantic relationship (which viewers learn from their intro video), but you could sense the love and respect they had for each other. It wasn’t just a sex tape, but an intimate vignette.
Then it hit me: I’d just discovered a source of erotic content that incorporated all of my previous porn consumption habits and preferences. These videos were personal footage of real, intimate sex from a variety of creators. People of color could express and present themselves freely, without being limited by stereotypes. The women featured were experiencing genuine pleasure. The rental model was totally affordable and encouraged rewatching. I also loved knowing I wasn’t supporting an exploitative business model, as half of each rental fee goes directly to creators. I couldn’t believe there was a whole system built around my personal viewing habits.
I had never felt inclined to do this in my life, but suddenly I was contemplating making and sharing my own content. The creators of MakeLoveNotPorn.tv had completely inspired me to help heal the world’s relationship with sexuality by sharing my personal expression of it. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? My understanding of the power of social media platforms expanded tremendously. I believe social media has a responsibility to help foster social change, and this particular platform does too.
I do still enjoy porn on occasion, especially since I discovered ethical, feminist porn that affirms marginalized identities, like the brilliant Crash Pad Series. But now I know that it’s also possible to see sex that’s grounded in the reality of being a human, and all of the ways in which that is raw, intimate, messy, and beautiful.
Witnessing sex its most natural state shows me the transcendence of tenderness and encourages me to share more of it with the people I keep close. It inspires me to seek new erogenous zones, switch up sex techniques, and explore new locales. It reminds me that every individual is worthy of love, regardless of what we look like or who we choose to be with. I’m a better lover and a better person for all of this, and I’m so grateful.
Aria Vega is an Atlanta-based sex writer and educator doing her part to build a more sex-positive world. On her blog, Your Heavenly Body, she reviews pleasure products and writes about sexuality, bodies, and trauma.