It's about time we talked about pornography, says TSJ contributor Lauren Razavi.

The twenty-first century world is openly motivated by sex. Everybody’s doing it, thinking about it, talking about it and, of course, watching it. Pornography is part of weekly or even daily life for a great many citizens of the modern world. According to the FPA, $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second; in that same measure of time, 28,258 web users view it and 372 people use search engines to find it. Porn is here, it’s real, and a huge majority is engaging with it.

The list of those who disapprove of pornography’s now mainstream status includes both the Icelandic government and the EU. While the latter quietly proposed “a ban on all forms of pornography in the media” in a report earlier this year, Iceland’s interior minister is working on legislation to prevent access to pornography through computers, tablets, consoles and smartphones. I just can’t quite figure out why.

In 2009, scientists from the University of Montreal set out to investigate the difference in the attitudes of men in their twenties who watch pornography and those who had never been exposed. Only they found themselves unable to find even one test subject who had never watched porn, demonstrating an interesting new reality. Today’s twenty-somethings are the first to have had pretty much constant access to free high-speed internet porn throughout their teen years and into early adulthood. The men of today are a different breed to those of the past; before ever engaging in a sexual act themselves, they’re likely to have watched just about every way of doing it on a laptop screen.

Even if regarded as a problem by politicians and policy-makers, this phenomenon is inescapable. But at the very least, watching porn does mean that young people have some idea what they’re doing when they find themselves having sex for the first time. That’s no bad thing. While I’m not saying we should break out the naughty vids for schoolchildren during sex education lessons, I am saying that porn is no longer just about entertainment. It now serves as many people’s first real, visual introduction to sex, and it is educational.

The internet has opened doors that were previously nailed shut. YouTube-era porn isn’t all about busty, glamorous blondes giving blowjobs to the tune of elevator music. People from every corner of the world film themselves having sex and share it with a ready-made audience online. This is often just because they want to, rather than because of a financial incentive. Generation Y pornography has evolved considerably; it isn’t all about the perfect fantasy anymore, and content of all kinds is easily available to all – from amateur to hardcore to gay scenes, BDSM to fetish to softcore. The world of modern porn is a democracy; there’s a vast range of material on offer, much of it for free, and something for almost every taste or desire. And that includes both men and women.

I also believe that pornography is changing the way we have sex, offering us more freedom to be expressive in the bedroom and honest about what turns us on. In my own sex life, I’ve experienced a frankness to the way people operate; whether it be by unveiling porn-inspired moves between the sheets, to openly expressing bold fantasies or by engaging in unashamed dirty talk whilst doing the dirty. My generation is more open than any generation that’s come before, and much of this can be attributed to the availability of porn. I don’t think it’s something that’s damaging for sexual relationships – I think it’s invigorating them and liberating people. One night stand? Get ready for surprises, perhaps something more experimental than you’ve done before. Long-term relationship? Keep it fresh by drawing inspiration from porn.

Whether it’s knowing where to find a clitoris or that missionary might not be your position of choice, the modern impact of porn is knowledge. And that has to be a good thing. Rather than trying to restrict pornography through policy or shying away from it in the media, I think we need to stop the negative spin and start exploring the social benefits and educational value of porn.

Originally published by The Student Journals and featured as one of the 10 most popular stories of 2013. Image above by Miles Cave (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)