Culture

Is Comparing Porn To Romcoms Really Honest?

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  6 min read
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how-to-lose-a-guy Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Many men have made the comparison between porn and romantic comedies. They claim that romcoms give women unrealistic emotional expectations of men, just like women claim that porn gives men unrealistic physical expectations of women. But is it really an honest comparison?

Are Romcoms Just “Emotional Porn”?

Romantic comedies are sweet, heartwarming, and often cheesy. They make women sigh and wish someone would pull out all the stops for them. They see the hunky male lead pining for the woman of his dreams and wish they could be that woman. 

This fantasy can be fun so long as the women crushing on them consciously remember that these movies are exactly that, a fantasy. They’re not real life, and expecting something similar to them to happen is unfair to real men. Real men don’t have Hollywood chefs, personal trainers, and wardrobe technicians. They also don’t have hair stylists (at least not the straight ones). Women know this, and we can remind ourselves as we watch a man perform his grand gesture to demonstrate his love for the Hallmark heroine. 

Romcoms are not real life, and expecting something similar to happen to us in real life is unfair to real men. 

Unfortunately, our subconscious doesn’t always listen and that leads us to be harder on real men. It’s one thing to want a man to comb his hair once in a while and actually take you out on a date, but it’s another to expect him to surprise you with a rooftop dinner in Manhattan or wish for him to whisk you away to another country unannounced. That’s not only usually impossible, but if a man were to do that a few weeks into a relationship we’d probably get freaked out (and rightly so). Even if we’ve already decided he’s Mr. Right, a surprise trip might upset us if he didn’t consult us about our schedule, plans, or other obligations (like watering our favorite plant every day). 

Porn Hurts Real Women – and Real Men

Everywhere we look nowadays porn is emerging. It’s considered a healthy and natural aspect of society – or at least that’s what we’re told. Support for sex workers is so mainstream, and they’re making six figures on OnlyFans now, so what’s the big deal? It’s just sexual activity between consenting adults, right? 

What seems fun and safe when you’re young and beautiful changes as you age. Sex workers who use their looks and/or sex to get ahead in the world can only do so for so long before someone else takes their space. Sure it’s a fun ride for a while (maybe), but things get pretty intense when stalkers, guys who get off on violence, and age catch up to these women. 

Men who regularly watch porn seem to overlook that every woman they’re watching is someone’s daughter, and many of them were abused as children before turning to sex work. These women are people with thoughts and feelings, baggage, and a past that is ignored for physical pleasure. They might have turned to sex work as a last resort, if they didn’t have the opportunity or confidence to learn a skill in a field that offers more longevity, one that allows them to be the whole package, instead of just eye candy for someone to get off on. 

Some may be freely chose this field, and they may even argue that it’s “empowering” in their prime, but aged sex workers — who are no longer fit for the industry — who open up about the after-effects tell a different story. In 2006, Oprah aired an episode where she interviewed prostitutes and women who have left the profession. The older prostitutes spoke about experiencing emotional distress and how they feel “all used up.” 

This isn’t just anecdotal. Sex workers do struggle to find long-lasting meaningful relationships or succeed in other fields. The point is porn is not fake – it includes real people with real existences that go on long after the men who watched them forget what they look like. 

So What’s the Difference?

Romantic comedies are fictional movies. Porn is full of real-life sex acts displayed for others. You could easily argue that some sex isn’t emotional for men so porn doesn’t hurt their relationships. They’re just looking around. But porn does hurt men. Viewing porn regularly changes the structure of the brain, leading to a need for more extreme forms to receive the same kind of dopamine hit. It’s also correlated with less grey matter volume in the brain, reduced sexual desire in their real-life sexual relationships, and higher incidents of erectile dysfunction.

There are no doctors specializing in curing romantic comedy addiction, but porn addiction is a real thing.

On the other hand, playing the uptight, corporate, city woman who gets stuck in a small town or the rugged bar owner in said small town doesn’t cause physical, psychological, or emotional damage to the actors. Instead of harming the people making them, these movies directly mess with the viewers’ relationship expectationslike porn does. Does that mean that watching romantic comedies is just as harmful as watching porn? No. 

The kinds of expectations vary greatly. Women who watch romcoms expect men to be strong, charming, clever, and to show their love and devotion in thoughtful, grand gestures. (Nothing inherently harmful or wrong there, just potentially disproportionate.) They expect men to sweep them off their feet, whereas men who watch porn can have expectations for sexual acts or behaviors that are disrespectful and degrading to women.

Closing Thoughts

Living in a fantasy isn’t healthy for anyone. Whether women are crushing on a romantic-comedy lead or men are compulsively masturbating to porn, neither is healthy for real-world bonds and connections. But claiming that romcoms are as harmful as pornography is just inaccurate.

There are no doctors specializing in curing romantic comedy addiction, but porn addiction is a real thing, with real, lasting, negative consequences for the addict and their relationships. Women can easily skip watching the latest Channing Tatum flick and avoid the fantasy for weeks, but ask a man to give up his porn addiction for a month and watch him bulk. 

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