No matter your stance on pornography, let’s acknowledge two facts:
A) It’s everywhere, and B) it’s not going anywhere.
It also tends to evoke very personal responses, which can make for some fairly difficult conversations if you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on the subject. But if we accept those first two facts (“everywhere”; “not going anywhere”), why’s it so hard to talk about porn with your partner?
According to Dan Savage, it can be done. In fact, having a meaningful conversation about blue movies with your partner could actually be the best thing for your relationship.
And he would know. In addition to being one of the country’s most popular sex and dating columnists, Savage runs the Hump! Film Festival, an annual amateur adult film festival he founded in 2005 that will stop in 30 cities between now and November.
We asked him how couples can best navigate the porn question, and how Hump! Fest can actually be beneficial for any soul willing to brave it.
The first conversation you need to have is one with yourself
Savage describes Hump! as the “porn festival for people who hate porn.” And it’s true. The amateur shorts share few of the conventions of commercial porn, and run the gamut of orientations and kinks, so it’s not even porn you’ll even necessarily enjoy.
“The porn you see at Hump! is very deeply humanizing porn,” says Savage. “These films are highly personal; clearly made by friends and lovers. And I think that lifts a burden people have in their heads — consciously or subconsciously.”
Which is something that exists all of us: desire, vulnerability, passion and friendship. And therein lies the conversation you should have with yourself about the way you watch porn, and the jumping off point for having that conversation with your partner.
Stop conflating rejection with shame
Once you better understand your own fantasies and desires, and are ready to share them with someone else, you’re probably ready to broach the topic with a partner. But you need to be prepared for rejection — which also means not being ashamed should that be the outcome.
“It’s all about rejection,” says Savage. “It’s a direct window into your soul, especially for straight people. It usually goes like this: men pretend they don’t watch porn, and women pretend their partners don’t watch porn.”
He goes on: “Straight people need to come out of the closet, too. My advice: rush towards rejection. Whatever the kink is. And if your partner is too freaked out, then fuck them [Ed. note: ahem, he means “forget” them]. You can’t live the rest of your life with someone who you’re not sexually compatible with.”
That said, understand that everyone has boundaries — respect them
Acceptance is a two-way street. Just because your partner rejects one of your fantasies doesn’t mean they don’t accept who you are. Likewise, appreciate your partner’s boundaries and don’t pressure them into something they’re not comfortable with.
“Consent is the magic sauce holds everything together,” says Savage. “Take into account your partner’s feelings and privacy. You don’t have to watch porn together. My husband and I are as sexually liberated as can be and we don’t watch porn together.”
But remember: getting to that point begins with open, honest communication.