The other day, Debauchette wrote the introduction to a post called On Boys and Pornography that promised to be a very interesting one.

If you say, “Can I come on your face?” or if you try to come on my face, I’ll assume you’ve watched a great deal of porn in your life.

Indeed, porn influences men’s (and women’s) expectations and ideas of sex, what it should feel like, what it should look like, and what we should think about it. I first discovered pornography back in 1994 when I was ten years old and was given free reign to explore the Internet. “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” most parents would cry in knee-jerk outrage, but I’d urge adults to entertain a more level-headed approach to the situation (which is not to say that I, nor my parents, approve or have ever approved of minors having free access to pornography by any means at all—but that is neither here nor there at the moment).

Since then, I do see certain and undeniable ways in which my exposure to pornography has affected my sexual development, and it has definitely impacted how I have sex today. I have, of course, seen a lot of visual pornography. Despite this, I think anyone who knows me would agree that there’s a distinct difference between how I approach those parts of social interaction that are sexual and how people of whom they say have “seen too much porn” do so.

This is why I was looking forward to Debauchette’s second piece: why are some men’s exposure to porn seen as the cause of an issue that I clearly know can not possibly, in isolation, be the entire story that explains the malicious intent these “porn-addicted” men seem to have? Turns out, she didn’t write the post I thought she might have, which makes me smile and want to take her out to diners to keep on talking about it over coffee re-fills somewhere.

When I take issue with porn, it’s the quality I dislike, not the genre. I dislike the tedium, the predictability, the fake tans, the plasticky breasts, the baseball caps, the lack of imagination, the boredom, the soundtrack, the lighting, the dialogue, the inauthentic orgasms, the lingerie, the decor, the overall assault on my sensibilities. But when porn’s good, it blows my fucking mind.

Nodding as I read this, these reasons are also why I consistently decry porn, even “alternative” porn, to be monotonous representations of the very same going-through-the-motions activities that are just not exciting on anything other than a vicarious, or worse, detached experience after the first or second viewing.

Yet two things beyond Debauchette’s well-made points struck me about her post. In this paragraph,

When I say that I can sense if someone’s watched a lot of porn, or too much porn, what I mean to say is that I can sense that their relationship to sex is largely visual. […] Since 90% of my libido is fueled by the physical chemistry and psychology (or, in rare cases, emotion) of the experience, in those situations I just prefer to go home and jerk off on my own. Sometimes to porn.

Debauchette claims that 90% of her libido is fueled by the “physical chemistry and psychology” of the experience of sex. Only rarely, she says, are her emotions involved in the lust. This is very interesting.

It’s interesting to me because, with recent analyses of my own thoughts and feelings, mostly regarding no-strings-attached (or “NSA”) sex, my explorations are increasingly leading me to discover what it is about sex that I find arousing, and therein lies a new distinction. Things that I find arousing are not necessarily the same things or the same reasons that get me to orgasm. In other words, things that make me attracted to a person are not necessarily the same things that I want to get off to.

The best example of this is intelligence, a display of which is the easiest way to get me to crush on you. Meeting someone who displays intelligence and talks about sex that way makes my dick rock hard. I mean real hard, and real fast.

Anyone with enough intelligence can probably turn me on in one way or another. Even exceptionally smart people I despise, I’ll admit, have sometimes appeared in fantasies torturing me with their arguments with which I disagree—and with a lot of psuedo-consensual, psuedo-forced sexual advances, of course! (Seriously. They’re some of the absolutely nerdiest fantasies I have ever had.) Smart people are sexy to me by virtue of their smarts.

However, that said, I don’t always (though, again, I do sometimes) find that their intelligence is what I’m after when I ask them for play, or for sex. To put it really painfully bluntly, the horribly politically incorrect phrase “it doesn’t matter if she’s got a brain when your dick is in her” holds true.

When it comes to sex, the reasons I’m attracted to someone are often the reasons why I want to have sex with them, but they’re not necessarily the same. Maybe the key to understanding “casual” sex, then, is to be able to consciously shift my focus from the thing that was attractive to the thing that is hot. Practically, still using the intelligence example, this means that I’m not going to be very attracted to a gorgeous bombshell who can’t put a sentence together, which means I’ll never have sex with that person in the first place.

This is enlightening because it highlights a distinction between what is attractive and what is orgasmic, for want of a better word. That’s an important distinction, because it plays right into the reasons why some people can find themselves fulfilled by cruising for no-strings-attached sex and why I seem to have been unable to do so, yet it also offers an explanation (or at least hope of one) to explain why my interest in “casual sex” (and, to a lesser extent, “casual play” in the kinky sense) is not a doomed endeavor.

The second thing that struck me about Debauchette’s post was this following part, not because of any unique insight but because of its common-sense value:

Porn will get better. But also, I suspect extensive sexual experience and a modicum of self-awareness will mitigate its influence.

Specifically, extensive experience with sex is valuable, when tempered with self-awareness. Those of us with a sex drive know this intuitively, and we are drawn to sex by our instincts. It’s a part of what makes us happy, and human.

Sex, especially the kind of sex I like to have, is also risky. Kinky sex is much riskier than vanilla sex for a whole host of reasons, many of them plainly obvious; my kind of kinky sex typically involves the heavy use of restraints, percussive implements, lots of roughness, and intense psychological stimuli that crank up the volume for things like power inequality skewed to my disadvantage. If I place this power in the wrong hands, such as someone with malicious intent, it’s obviously going to be dangerous and perhaps even downright lethal for me.

Yet even for vanilla people, sex can be dangerous, and is risky. This is why extensive experience is often denounced as a “Bad Thing”; the more you do it, the higher the chances of something going wrong. Nevertheless, extensive experience is obviously valuable, because it’s the only way to corporeally understand (duh!) what’s going on physically, emotionally, and even spiritually (if you’re into that sort of thing). This isn’t to say that it’s necessary to do this with multiple partners, unless the whole many-partners-thing is what you want to corporeally understand of course, nor is it to say that there aren’t other ways of learning about these things that aren’t intrinsic to the physical experience, but—especially for me—experience is the greatest teacher.

So how do you balance this risk with its obvious potential reward? Like anything else, you have to become educated about the topic in general and, more importantly, about you specifically. It’s nothing new, and you’ve heard it before, but it’s true: “know thyself,” and then when it comes to sex, I’d like to add “and then explain thyself.” As it happens, pornography can be a very helpful tool to learning more about your sexual self but it can’t be expected to be a good substitute to corporeal self-examination or emotional self-awareness.