By Gareth Johnson | @GTVlondon


Let me just put this out there – I really enjoy a good jack-off.  It’s not compulsive in any way, I just enjoy a bit of ‘me-time’.  I jack off about once a day and I pretty much always use porn to help me get off. I have sex too – I’m in a monogamous relationship with a guy I’ve been seeing for about eight months. The sex we have is good – really good – but it’s nothing like the porn I watch.

In my jack-off sessions I tend to get off watching Tumblr feeds of rugged, masculine men, having rough and ready encounters – often it’s group sex or sex in public of some kind. Within my relationship the sex is intimate – I feel a physical and emotional connection. It’s pretty vanilla.

One of my best friends in the world is David Levine – he lives in Toronto now but we used to share a flat in London. Sharing a small flat means that you get to know each other pretty intimately, so we’ve got that kind of friendship now that has an inappropriate lack of boundaries. He’s seen me at my best but also at my worst and most ridiculous. He’s seen me shave my balls. Nothing is too personal or embarrassing for us to share and discuss.

The other day we were talking in fairly graphic detail about the sex that we have with our respective boyfriends, when David said:

“I think it’s a bit weird that you’re still jacking-off so much even though you’ve now got a boyfriend. It’s almost like there’s something missing from your sex-life.  Don’t you think it’s odd that you get off watching big, beary guys, but that’s nothing like your boyfriend?”

Hmmm... controversial.

One of the benefits of being a pseudo-journalist is that you get to call up intelligent people and ask them questions. For this topic I went to Nicholas Rose and Justin Duwe – both of whom are counsellors who specialise in working with gay men and gay couples.

You could argue that I was just fishing for a bit of free psychotherapy, but in my mind it’s bona fide research.

I put my ‘porn versus real-life’ quandary to them both:

“When I’m working with gay couples, use of porn is something that is often raised,” said Nicholas thoughtfully.

“There has been a lot of research about pornography,” added Justin. “What we know is that both men and women find it sexually stimulating to watch porn; men watch more porn than women; and a lot of men watch porn when masturbating simply because it is sexually stimulating.”

“So there’s no downside to watching a bit of porn?” I asked hopefully.

“Whether porn use is healthy or harmful can only be decided once you understand the impact that it has on your experience of sex and life in general,” cautioned Nicholas. “An example of a harmful impact is that it could lead to you developing unrealistic expectations about sex.”

“Another example of how it could be harmful,” continued Justin agreeing, “is where your use of porn begins to change the way that you enjoy sex – some gay men I work with watch porn while edging, or delaying their orgasm for long periods of time. This can be enjoyable for obvious reasons, but it isn’t something that you can generally replicate when you’re having sex with another person.”

I was beginning to recognise a lot of myself in this analysis.

“So if you were thinking you might have some issues in relation to your use of porn... what could you do about it?” I asked.

“The first thing to do is identify the specific area of concern and then look for factual information – people are often surprised at just how much information is available on sexual concerns” said Nicholas.

“Sex is meant to be enjoyable and fun,” added Justin. “People need to feel comfortable experiencing their sex lives and speaking about their fantasies. Watching porn can help with this process but there are often many complex reasons why someone is reluctant to talk about sex – generally the issues of shame and guilt come into play.”

It’s always good to be able to workshop quite personal and private thoughts and fears with someone who you know isn’t judging you and isn’t going to be shocked by anything you reveal.

Somehow I’m Facebook friends with David Stuart from London’s CODE sexual health clinic and I was interested in whether the team at CODE see any negative impact from gay men’s use of porn. I sent him a quick message asking whether he thought that gay men put themselves under pressure to have intense, amazing sex like we can see in porn:

“Certainly – we’re so exposed to plush pornography that some of us can’t even consider or imagine having sex unless we or our ‘shag du jour’ are super-groomed, gym-fit, douched and ready for our close-up,” said David.

“So we develop unrealistic expectations?” I quizzed.

“Yes – if you have an unrealistic expectation of what sex should be like, then you’re likely to feel disappointment or rejection which can feed into low self-esteem or a poor self-image. What we are seeing at CODE is that gay men may then make dangerous choices in pursuit of the sex or the affirmation we seek.”

“I guess there’s a lot of emotions at play when we’re negotiating a sexual encounter?” I ventured.

“It’s not rocket science; drugs and alcohol impair our judgment. And we’re at our most vulnerable when we’re having sex. Possible rejection, feeling unfit, unattractive, not well-enough hung, getting hard and staying hard enough to ‘perform’; just being naked with a stranger is the definition of vulnerability. Being horny is intoxicating enough, so add drugs and alcohol to that mix and you have a recipe for potential harm.”

It’s fascinating stuff. I’ll probably have to watch a lot more porn – for research purposes obviously.  However I might try a slightly different approach and see if my boyfriend is up for watching it with me. 


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