How To Stop Imitating Porn & Performing During Sex

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today’s topic: how to stop imitating porn and performing during sex.

Q: My question involves the effects that porn can have on your sex life. I started watching porn before I ever had sex with a partner. I’ve watched a lot of it over the years, both alone and with boyfriends. One of my exes was really into watching it while we had sex, and imitating what was going on on the screen. Even though we’re no longer together, I’ve noticed that I tend to imitate porn actresses and scenes when I’m having sex. It’s gotten to the point where I feel really phony, like I’m putting on a show or playing a character. It doesn’t feel healthy, and I’d like to stop, but I don’t know what else to do in the moment. It’s like I’ve picked up all these bad habits from watching porn, like moaning when I'm not that into it, and now I don’t know how to get rid of them, or what I actually want. How do I stop performing during sex?

A: Thanks for the question! Porn can be a really thorny issue. Many people fail to realize that there’s not always a lot of overlap between porn sex and real-life sex. A lot of people look at porn as this ideal version of what sex is supposed to look like, and start losing their connection with what they actually want out of sex. If you’re ready to stop acting and start feeling more authentic during sex, follow these steps to unlearning porn habits.

1. Ask Yourself What This Is Really About

Our relationships with porn can actually be pretty personal, so there may be a lot for you to learn about yourself here. Maybe you just watch it because you think it’s hot, but maybe there are some deeper dynamics at play too.

What drew you to porn in the first place? What kept you watching? What types of porn do you enjoy? Why do you catch yourself imitating it? A lot of people imitate porn moves because, as I said above, they think that’s how sex is “supposed” to work. Other people copy porn because they feel insecure about their sexual skills and want inspiration. Some people turn to porn for the distraction it provides from their bodies or their feelings. Or maybe porn allowed you to play with your fantasies or desires in a way you can’t in the real world. Knowing what’s at the root of your relationship with porn is the first step to discovering strategies to leave your porn performance behind you.

2. Consider The Effect Imitating Porn Is Having On Your Sex Life

Next, you want to think about the impact that your role-playing is having. It’s having enough of a negative effect to motivate you to write in to this column, but try to get into even more specifics. How does imitating porn hurt your relationships with yourself, with your partners, and with sex?

For example, maybe you feel disconnected or lonely in the moment. Maybe you wind up having sex that isn’t actually that pleasurable for you. Maybe you feel like your behaviors cause your partners to have less respect for you. Maybe it makes you feel inauthentic. Identifying the side-effects will give you motivation to make real change.

3. Identify The Specifics

What, exactly, about porn do you imitate? Below, I'll go over some of the main themes I’ve seen in my experience working with my clients, but they may be different for you. Make a list of the things you typically do during sex. For each item, try to identify whether it feels authentic or whether it feels like an act.

For example, let’s say you talk dirty during sex. Is that something you genuinely like doing, or is it something you’ve been imitating? Some items on the list will be easier to categorize than others, but this exercise is a great way to start changing your relationship with porn.

4. Don’t Fake Orgasm

One of the main ways women imitate porn is with over-the-top fake orgasms. In porn, women almost always orgasm. In reality, there are tons of women out there who have never had an orgasm. In porn, women orgasm from penetration alone (something only 20-30 percent of women can actually do), and after just a few minutes (when the average is 20 minutes). They have multiple orgasms, and squirting orgasms. And they scream like the world is ending.

If you’ve been faking or exaggerating your orgasms, stop right away. You’re only hurting yourself, because you’re losing out on the opportunity to learn how to orgasm, and the chance to teach a partners how to help you orgasm. The best way to have a more authentic relationship with your orgasm is to masturbate, and learn what you like — without any room for faking it, or judging yourself.

5. Check Your Moans

Another major way women imitate porn is with their moans. The phrase “over-the-top” applies for porn moaning as much as it does for porn orgasms. If you actually listen to the women moaning in porn, you quickly realize how fake it usually sounds. It’s more about putting on a show than it is about being a genuine expression of pleasure.

The best thing you can do is to stop purposefully making noise. Moaning should happen naturally. It should be a direct expression of the pleasure you’re feeling in your body. If you catch yourself making a loud, exaggerated groan, take a second to ask yourself, “am I actually feeling pleasure right now?” If you're not, stop moaning and take a few deep breaths. See if you can redirect your partner to do something more enjoyable (even with a simple piece of feedback, like, "can you go a little slower?").

You can even experiment with telling yourself you're going to try to be absolutely silent during one sex session — that way, you'll know any moans that escape anyway are genuine.

6. Practice Enthusiastic Consent

In heterosexual porn, women are hardly ever in charge. The man usually takes the lead, and does whatever he wants, without ever asking. Unfortunately, a lot of porn is also horribly degrading — and even violent — to women. You may find yourself replicating these dynamics by going with the flow and letting your partners do whatever they want. Being more direct about consent is a great way to break out of porn patterns.

Enthusiastic consent means you don’t agree to anything you’re not excited about doing. When you’re with a new partner, tell them, “I like to be really clear about what each of us does and doesn’t want to do, so can we both make sure to ask each other before doing anything?” When your partner asks you to do something, take a moment to ask yourself, “can I enthusiastically say ‘yes’ to this?”

7. Examine Your Desires

Boundaries are one thing, desires are another. Are you engaging in the specific acts that you really enjoy during sex, or are you doing things just because you’ve seen them in porn? For example, maybe you let your partners forcibly gag you during blowjobs. If you step back for a moment, is that something you actually enjoy? Take it a step further by also allowing yourself to consider activities you might not have tried yet. Are there things you’re interested in doing, but haven’t yet? For example, maybe you realize you’ve never given yourself permission to receive oral sex without giving a performance.

8. Cut Yourself Some Slack

It's also important to recognize that you don't have to be perfect about this. Sometimes performing is unavoidable. Even if you had never watched porn in your life, there would still be performative parts of you that might want to boost your partner's ego or be seen as a sex goddess. It's impossible to be 100 percent authentic 100 percent of the time.

If you catch yourself performing in the moment, the best thing to do is give yourself a gentle reminder. Say something to yourself like, "oops, there I go again." Take a few deep breaths. Then try to bring yourself back into the moment by focusing on what your body is feeling. If you're with a partner you trust, you can ask them to take a little break with you. Say something like, "can we just make out for a second? I want to slow down and really enjoy this."

9. Consider A Porn Hiatus

If, after all of this examination and reflection, it still feels like porn has a firm grip on your behaviors, you may want to consider taking a porn hiatus. Try to go for one or two months without watching any porn. See if having this kind of a break allows you to be more authentic about your own desires.

10. ... Or Watch Better Porn

Porn doesn’t have to be a black-or-white issue. If you genuinely enjoy watching porn, another solution would be to watch better porn. Porn that shows real people enthusiastically consenting to real sex. There are a number of fantastic, ethical porn producers out there. Check out companies like XConfessions, Bright Desire, MakeLoveNotPorn, or Pink and White Productions, or the Feminist Porn Awards.

Good luck!

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