What is good sex? What is healthy sex? We dip our toes into the case for a sex re-education.
The barometer for sexual experiences, and sexual preferences is as it should be - plentiful.
Within the home of pleasure, we welcome the exploration of desires, and celebrate the life-changing potential that honest, open, respectful and reciprocal sexual experiences can have on a person.
We believe that healthy sexual relationships include curiosity and adventure. Respect, communication and education are key factors for this. The combination of learning for yourself and understanding a partner creates such a blissful intimacy and can be a bedrock for discovery ahead. A sprinkling of humour too - sex can be slightly unflattering at angles, it can certainly get messy, but with a pinch of salt (not a literal recommendation) the joy it brings is a wonder of the world.
The good, the bad and the ugly come into the mix more than many would care to admit; but in this denial, in this lack of honesty and a blurring of the truth, evolves misconceptions and poor experiences, in the more severe instances come shame, trauma and pain.
The case for re-education
There is a reason a call for a re-education of sex is needed. Just look at what we as adults remember growing up seeing on the screens and reading in those top shelf magazines. Was it empowering? Was it equal? Would we be happy for the future generations to have that as examples of what they should experience?
Consider this and add in the traumas of #EverydaySexism to the ruptures in Hollywood from #MeToo, the infuriating existence of FGM, sexual assault being used as a weapon, among other horrific acts of inhumanity - the momentum for this has been building for generations. When you include the new kinds of violation happening today, including the increasing rate of cyberflashing for women and girls alike (there are reports of girls as young as 9 receiving airdropped messages from strangers on a daily basis). According to Tender, choking is a notable conversation happening between children at school, in a sexual context. That momentum has reached a tipping point. It’s time to change for the better.
The rise of online pornography
The Financial Times have a bold podcast, Hot Money: Who Rules Porn? It’s a brilliant series, with a world of facts around the business of pornography. As a starter, it is worth $98bn globally and currently accounts for 8% of all global traffic. That’s just the visible traffic.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the viewings are high and regular. YouGov’s most recent studies show 76% of British men say they have ever watched porn, compared to 53% of women. 36% of men say they watch pornography at least once a week, with 13% of these watching porn every day or most days, 4% of women say they watch porn at least once a week.
From this growth, comes a range of notable findings, these from Enough is Enough feel particularly important to address:
- 8/10 18 year-olds think it is too easy for young people to accidentally see pornography online.
- 46% of teenagers polled by the organisation felt that "sending sexual or naked photos or videos is part of everyday life for teenagers nowadays."
- 66% of young women and 49% of young men agree, "it would be easier growing up if pornography was less easy to access"
- Children under 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption under 18, according to the British Journal of School Nursing.
- The average age of first exposure to pornography is 12
- 75% of teenagers have viewed pornography by age 17
- 41% of teenagers say they have seen images of nudity or sexual acts online during the school day (bypassing existing WiFi filtering)
- 58% of these children said they came across the pornography accidentally, whilst scrolling online or on social media
It’s not just an external physical shift at play here. The exposure of children to internet pornography harms their developing brains, with the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry – 2014 stating that “pornography consumption is associated with decreased brain volume in the right striatum, decreased left striatum activation, and lower functional connectivity to the prefrontal cortex.”
Domestic abuse and a lack of regard for female pleasure
“Policy has such a huge role to play when it comes to protecting people. We can’t change society unless we set the boundary. More people use Pornhub than Google. Most of that content is non-consensual, so to ignore its significance is irresponsible and perpetuates disrespect for women and female pleasure.”
Nimko Ali OBE, Founder, The Five Foundation
The sobering correlations are hard to ignore and important to address.
In 2010, Hald, G., Malamuth, N. & Yuen, C. found a clear link between increased pornography use and the likelihood of adults believing violence against women is acceptable.
The National Library of Medicine published findings in 2011, with longitudinal research showing that childhood exposure to violent pornography predicts a nearly six-fold increase in self-reported sexually aggressive behaviour later in life.
Just scrolling through the swathes of content on free xxx sites like Pornhub will show you the majority of content being degrading to women, and often inflicting pain for male pleasure.
Many men who may have ‘grown up’ on the Loaded, Viz and hidden websites of ‘xxx’ experiences, may well have believed this was enjoyable for all. And many women went along with this. It may well have been for many, but we know from so many stories how much pressure was involved across all kinds of sexualised performances (Just look at a 15 year old Britney Spears on the Cover of Rolling Stones as a lukewarm example). From so many experiences, acting out scenes from pornography isn’t always pleasurable for everyone either, despite how unforgettable a script, or a position might be on the screen. Discovering revelations such as these can be a fun, enjoyable experience, and indeed many learnings will no doubt have been of huge climatic benefit, but open conversation, clear boundaries and respect are integral to the process being enjoyable for so many more in the future.
But many people have grown up without the conversations or tools to realise that what they were seeing was not always ‘good’, pleasurable or expected. A ‘hyper’ version of anything is often counterbalanced with an alternate version. Yet, with the barometer of pornography, hard core has been notoriously degrading, while soft core rarely touched on the female experience in a positive, empowered way, so it’s no wonder this has been disregarded for so long.
So, what do we do about this? What can be done?
With this increasingly empowered sense of society, grows a rallying call to arms. The men we want to be, the men we want to be with simply do not want to be associated with the idea of not truly considering their partner’s feelings or experience, no matter how serious or established a relationship. By all means, there is roleplay for that, but with that aspect comes aftercare - it is not a permanent state of being. Likewise, the empowered woman does not want to live in sexual servitude. (A starter for ten: May we recommend having safewords in the mix to keep things comfortable without killing the mood.)
“From art to culture, education to pornography, the female perspective on pleasure in all its forms has been little discussed or truly understood, more often than not negated. And yet it is so crucial to general happiness and confidence, to deepening and nurturing our relationships - and a fundamental appreciation of ourselves. Representation and education are imperative. We need to give female pleasure the platform that it is so often lacking in the media and in educational spaces. We need to enable conversations that inform women, and men that empowering women is the most life changing act a society can do. Trying to curtail a female’s pleasure is all about control. And we have to remember that pleasure is power.”
Lucy Litwack, CEO & Owner, Coco de Mer
As ever, education and communication are integral. Variety and curiosity are two invaluable effects of this. We need to normalise the understanding that porn is a healthy escapism, taking away the shame for those who enjoy it - and who can distinguish between fantasy and reality. This is of huge importance for creating better, healthier sex for all.
The benefits of longitudinal SRE for both genders and multiple age-groups are seen in the nation’s economy beyond birth-rate statistics: More healthy gender dynamics, less domestic violence, increased sexual health and well-being, and less depression are all invaluable benefits.
Given that our purpose is rooted in female pleasure, it was only a matter of time before Woman’s Hour was referenced. In a recent episode, the wondrous actress Olivia Colman discussed her role as a patron of the arts charity Tender, discussing the work the organisation does to try and prevent domestic violence. As a mother of two boys, she also gave an unsurprisingly refreshing take on pornography, saying that drama, akin to porn, can be a way of escapism showing a different narrative.
Tender’s CEO explained that their workshops and campaigns used to be about avoiding being a victim but these have become increasingly about avoiding becoming a perpetrator. A positive shift away from victim blaming if ever there was one. Having age appropriate workshops at schools have had a notable difference. Results from schools hosting these workshops have seen 60% of negative behaviour is reduced, creating a healthier, more content basis for relationships.
When we talk about porn being good or bad, we want to establish a clear distinction between the consent of the viewer and the conscious effects - the distinction between children and adults watching is distinct and the message should be clear from the outset - this is not sex education, it is fantasy.
Safe, consensual, intimate fantasies are ready for you to explore. Erotica is not a threat. It is a way for you to realise your dreams, one exhilarating experience at a time. You can read more about this in our piece ‘Tech, Sex & Romance’.
Using analogies is a brilliant way to educate appropriately. In the aforementioned Woman’s Hour episode, Olivia Colman quoted a friend who said “Have you seen Fast & Furious? Would you drive like that on a road? The sex you might encounter in porn might not be the sex you encounter everyday, a lot of it is not enjoyable or loving. Don’t imagine for a moment that’s what you have to do.” Inspired parenting and analogy in equal measure. Listen here. Thank us later.
Looking more towards education, we have a few people and places that inspire. In 2020 Soma Sara created ‘Everyone’s Invited’ and published an inspiring book, sensitively sharing the experiences of many and exploring the impact education and porn have on what can be expected from, and by, a sexual partner, turning to an encouraging avenue of healthy conversation, respect and reshaping the universe of our sexual experiences. We love this book so much that it featured in our recent Reading List, it really is such a thought-provoking and important read.
In 2021, Refinery29 launched ‘Sex Re-Education’, an unforgettable series of long lasting content, aiming to bridge the sex education gap in the US. You can see a wealth of brilliant resources by clicking here.
"The free, online, mainstream pornography that teenagers are most likely to see is a completely terrible form of sex education," says public health researcher Emily F. Rothman. Her Ted talk is jarring and inspiring in equal measure, looking at the clear correlation with pornography - she keeps an inspiringly open mind and being sex positive, we encourage you to do so too. Watch here. The bigger issues she highlights as public health crises are fascinating.
Porn vs Ethical Porn
It is a choice, as it should be. We are not saying porn is bad and shouldn’t exist - far from it. Hiding, shaming and quashing desires can have a disastrous impact on people. Exploring your fantasies, understanding your kinks, enjoying your pleasure is a fundamental right for us all.
Ethical porn involves consent surrounding partners, pay, conditions, time, health, and the acts themselves. It is often realised through the female gaze, rather than the majority of Pornhub’s content and other free sites. There are paywalls often incorporated, creating a welcome security barrier for children and younger viewers, and a safer environment for all involved. A clear case of consent for viewers and performers. The International Journal of Sexual Health published a journal on the importance of ‘healthy’ pornography and how to define it - worth a read and a number of notes.
Pornography is an incredible escapism for so many of us, and with the growing appetite for ethical porn, there are so many different avenues for erotica, so many more female-friendly and holistically liberating avenues to explore now. Erika Lust, Make Love Not Porn from Cindy Gallop and FrolicMe are a few team favourites. Audio erotica is getting its due attention - taking away any preconceived visuals, encouraging your imagination to work its magic. Dipsea is a brilliant platform with so many great stories to titillate and more. The written word, as you might be able to tell, is something we are devoted to, especially when it comes to evoking pleasures. A great introduction to all things self love is Florence Bark’s ‘This Will Make You Feel Something’. With tips and erotic stories - inspiringly penned as ‘mindful masturbations’ - it’s a wonderful book with incredibly fun ideas to set the scene.
At Coco de Mer, we believe in the Female Gaze holding a realm of benefits, and the origins of the moment were so important, undoubtedly enabling companies like ours to exist. Its heritage steeped in feminist empowerment, its potential even more important than ever. The male gaze has shaped the sexual journey for so many. The impact of broadening that gaze is bountiful, for all.
We have been at the leading edge of erotica for a long time. Personal experience is something of an essential to us. We have said it before and we are more than happy to repeat ourselves; in all its myriads, sex will always be here and at Coco de Mer the experience will always be beautiful and extraordinary.
It is ours to own and explore… Enjoy it.