'Porn Portraits' Photo Series By Patrick Struys Captures What People Look Like When They Watch Porn

Generally speaking, watching porn is done alone, or perhaps in small groups. Either way, most people probably aren't thinking about what they look like when they watch porn, but photographer Patrick Struys' 'Porn Portraits' flip this script by putting the viewer front and center. Shot over the course of a few months, the series captures the reactions of dozens of people as they spend five and a half minutes enjoying the Internet's favorite pastime: Watching porn. Needless to say, the results are nothing short of compelling, although probably not for the reasons you think.

Struys tells Bustle that he was inspired by his friends' reactions to movie sex scenes, which varied drastically from person to person. "I thought it was fascinating how different people reacted, processed and expressed themselves around sex when it was presented to them in a 'public environment,'" he writes over email.

Struys put out an open call to friends and advertised for subjects online, intentionally omitting the series' subject matter to avoid putting people off or giving them time to emotionally prepare. "I simply outlined that this was a ‘social experiment’ series and how I needed each subject to dress," he tells Bustle. Furthermore, in an effort to ensure more natural reactions, subjects were shot using a peephole camera lens inside a viewing booth, so the only indication of Struys' presence was his camera. All the subjects were shown the same video, which included a "little bit of everything for all sexual orientation, preference and/or taste," according to his website.

Unsurprisingly, most people took some time to get over the initial awkwardness, but some subjects never loosened up at all — particularly heterosexual men. Struys found a noticeable difference in the way most straight men reacted on camera, which he attributed to his own presence.

"It seemed as though that women and gay men were much more comfortable showing their interest or expressing their sexuality in front of a straight man (behind the camera)," he writes to Bustle in an email. "That was something I hadn’t really taken into consideration when I first started. ... However, all the straight men seemed very uncomfortable watching the film with me present and expressed this by laughing, joking and talking throughout the entire shoot."

This discrepancy makes sense when you consider that straight men are almost always the default audience in society. Even in the modern day, the vast majority of media is created with the straight male gaze in mind; in turn, women and gay men are often taught that the most powerful part of their sexuality is the performance. It's no wonder that women and gay men tended to be less awkward when they were scrutinized in a sexual environment — it happens on a subtler level every day.

Of course, this doesn't mean everyone was totally comfortable with being photographed while watching porn. According to Struys, pretty much everyone was weirded out for the first few minutes. "Initially people did laugh/smile. ... Usually about 2-3 [minutes] in is when I would get their more 'honest’ or 'natural reactions,'" Struys says.

Overall, the series is a fascinating look at different attitudes toward sexuality. Check out a few portraits more below, and head over to Struys' website for the rest of the series.

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.

Images: Courtesy of Patrick Struys (5)