Why I started watching porn when I turned 50

I suspected my teens knew more about porn than me. I didn't want to talk to them about it until I did some research

By Rebecca Morrison

Published April 16, 2022 2:00PM (EDT)

Mature woman lying in bed and looking at her laptop (Getty Images/Riska)
Mature woman lying in bed and looking at her laptop (Getty Images/Riska)

I was sipping a cup of herbal tea at the breakfast table when I looked up at my husband of 18 years. 

"I want to start watching porn," I said abruptly.

I could tell from his expression that this was not the conversation he was expecting this early in the morning. His spoonful of oatmeal frozen mid-bite, he looked up at me with widened eyes, and chuckled.  

"Sounds good."  

He's a man of few words married to a woman of many words. His kind, non-judgmental Midwestern sensibility is what attracted me to him. And my endless need to entertain and make him laugh might have drawn him to me.

"Okay, I'm going to do it," I replied, as though I were embarking on some exotic voyage.

Of course, I wasn't: Porn is quotidian these days, just a click or a tap away. A 2015 YouGov poll found that 56 percent of American adults say they have watched pornography before, although men are much more frequent viewers than women. I suppose that I hadn't explored internet porn because of my anxieties of watching it on the same laptop on which I do work —  that, and trepidation about my kids accidently seeing an image or video on one of my devices that would scar them for life. But now I was at the tail end of my legal career, and my kids were off to college in a few years and had probably already seen plenty of porn. 

Much of my interest was to satisfy my own curiosity. Perhaps I wanted to see what I had been missing, but also I wanted to be able to talk knowledgeably to my kids about this thing that they, presumably, knew more about than I did. Indeed, the youngest generation are avid consumers of porn, studies have found. And I wondered if my teenagers were consuming it in an unhealthy way. 

A few years ago, a fellow mom found shockingly explicit sexual images on her middle-school-aged son's iPad. She was shocked. And concerned about the effect of it on him. She had to talk to him about a subject she never thought she'd have to broach so early. When my kids were her son's age, most of my friends were certain their children hadn't watched porn. Unfortunately, they were most likely wrong. Recent studies have found that 90 percent of teenagers — boys starting at around 13 and girls at 14 — have seen online porn, with 10 percent watching it daily. I had no idea what my kids had seen. 

That night, after I'd closed my bedroom door and shimmied into my flannel sheets, I reached for my iPhone and reading glasses (yes, I'm old) and got ready to explore.

 Hoping for some less overwhelming videos, I typed in: soft porn for women. 

Immediately my screen was filled with a bevy of options. The only website I'd heard of was PornHub, so I clicked on it, and was greeted the most in-your-face, sexually graphic images I'd ever seen: gadgets pumping male parts, up close images of holes being entered, and lots and lots of – how should I put this – bodily fluids. 

RELATED: My sexuality after porn: how years of internet smut screwed with my mind

Now, I'm sure many people have plenty of experience with this, but to the uninitiated it was startling. Every corner of my screen was filled with exaggerated human parts and positions I had not asked to see, which were now, unfortunately, embedded in my memory. 

Once I stopped cringing, I scrolled through the thumbnails and silly titles: "I was on my iPhone when he showed me his magic wand," "my neighbor was my sugar daddy" and "a romantic walk turns into hot sex in public." If this is what you get with "soft porn for women," what would a straightforward search for "porn" provide? I was not ready to find out.

I clicked on a video of a petite woman who looked like she might be in her late twenties — the oldest looking one I could find — and a tall husky man with a muscular body.  

As I watched the actors strip, the first surprise was the lack of pubic hair. I had heard about this, but my first thought was concern for the young woman. It is typically painful to wax those areas.

Curious about the prevalence of this in the real world, I asked my OBGYN about it during my next visit. She told me that pubic hair grooming falls straight down age lines: younger women, no hair, older women, hair. I wondered if it has to do with porn-consumption habits. 

It turns out, it was the other way around; the hairless look came to porn after it had proliferated in the United States. In the late 80's, seven Brazilian women known as the Padilha sisters opened a waxing studio in New York that offered "the Brazilian"  – a technique that removed most or all pubic hair. Then in 1998, the New York Observer published a story about the waxing craze with a titillating opening line, "It's not your mother's vulva anymore." The piece circulated widely throughout the country. But it wasn't until a Sex and the City episode — reputedly based on a real-life incident that happened to Sarah Jessica Parker, in which Carrie accidentally gets a Brazilian and tells her friends in a huff, "I feel like one of those freaking hairless dogs" — that women went in droves to remove their pubic hair. It was around this time porn actors fully embraced the look. Since then, this practice has stayed popular for young women, but it's unclear whether it is driven by their own preferences or by the influence of porn's massive consumption.

According to 2019 Google Analytics data, women make up 32 percent of PornHub's 30 billion views annually. A 2006 study at McGill University assessed the effect of porn on genital arousal and found they were equal in men and women. And a Northwestern University study done two years earlier found while men responded more intensely to porn reflecting their specific gender orientation, women tended be aroused by a wider range of sexual situations and orientations.  

Science has come around to showing women are at least as stimulated by porn — and by a broader range of it — as men. The myths perpetuated about women's sexual arousal and porn were not just wrong, but undermined women's ability to feel empowered to take their sexual gratification into their own hands.

* * *

Ultimately, that first time I went searching for porn, I found what I came for and understood the popularity. It may take some Sherlock-Holmes-level investigations to find good porn for yourself but once you do, it's a fast easy way to obtain self-pleasure.

In the next few months of exploration, what I also found was a porn orgasm was akin to fake sugar: it was a fast shot of sweetness, hitting your taste buds with its force. And even though you like the flavor and it does the job, it can sometimes leave an awkward aftertaste. At least it did for me. The first several times I tried it, I felt shame and disappointment in myself for using porn. 

Concerningly, porn has had a long and well-documented history of horrifying misogyny and violence against women. An Australian research study from 2021 noted that many women who reported intimate partner violence cited porn as having influenced the way their partner treated them. Some reported their partners trying to normalize sexual behavior and violence by citing pornography practices or fetishes as normal.

On the other hand, there are female-friendly websites like Bellesa, Bright Desire, Dispea, and Literotica. These sites are a good place to look for female empowered, mutually respectful sex, and lots of content to help with self-pleasure and sexually charged entertainment. Sites like these with ethically sourced porn – porn made legally, respecting the rights of performers, good working conditions and celebrating sexual diversity — are not always free, but they are safer for your computer and make the entire industry more female friendly both for the performers and the viewers. 

* * *

Watching porn freed me from the fear and judgment about it I had been carrying around, and gave me concrete information to talk to my teenage boys. 

What I told them was porn is a form of entertainment. Like superhero movies, it's exaggerated to make you feel strong emotions and excitement. The men and women are actors playing a role — even those verified amateurs are performing for money in most cases—and the scenes and actions in the videos are not necessarily an accurate representation of what intimacy, love and sex is or should be. 

They shouldn't compare their bodies to the ones on the screen, nor should they see the female bodies as the symbol of ideal beauty. Whether it's the slim waists, big breasts and hairless bodies of the women or the acne-free, chiseled, large membered bodies of the men, these performers are not representative of the majority of humans. 

I wanted them to understand that porn is absolutely not a step-by-step tutorial of sex. And it's not a guide to intimate communications with another person, including important discussions about consent with your partner, nor does it depict an accurate timeline of events when you're having sex or engaging in intimacy. 

And they should not feel shame about looking at it. I did emphasize, however, that if and when they look at porn, they should see it for what it is, purely entertainment. 

On a personal front, as I explored different parts of this world, I also learned about myself. 

Turning 50 was a thing. I didn't think it would be, it's just a number, but it was a thing. I felt old. A great portion of what I did during those years was wrapped up in my wife and mom identities. I loved being those selves, and I loved being a mom to my children. But now, as they prepare to leave the protected shell I built for them and start their own lives, I want to rediscover all the sensations that made me feel alive and vibrant when I was just me, a woman. 

Watching porn once in a while can help us feel a little wild, a little free. It can also help us enjoy our bodies and our fantasies safely, privately and without any restrictions or limitations. 

As I thought further about it and researched people's behaviors around it, I noticed, as a general matter, men weren't embarrassed telling each other they watch porn but a lot of women my age were. They either didn't do it because of the implication that if they did, they were immoral, unethical or anti-woman. Or they did watch it but hide it and felt shame around it, treating it as a dirty secret. 


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It's not dirty and shouldn't be a secret.  

Now when I talk to friends who've been hesitant to try this type of entertainment, I tell them not to wait until they're 50 to take a look. I advise them that it takes some work to find the right fit but when they do, it's a fun and versatile tool that can easily be accessed, alone or with a partner, for pleasure and self-discovery. 

But I also let them know that when they start, they should choose their search words carefully. It's like a hot bath, I tell them. You've got to go in slowly and get used to the water a bit at a time. But once you're in, you'll feel comfortable splashing around and enjoy exploring your body.

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Rebecca Morrison

Rebecca Morrison is a lawyer, writer and painter. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area. She’s writing a memoir about leaving Iran and pursuing her American dream. You can follow her on Twitter @contactrebecca and read her work on www.rebeccakmorrison.com.

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Parenting Pornography Sexual Health Sexuality Teenagers