Is Porn in the UK Becoming Mainstream?

This is a question I've heard asked before but didn't take too much notice of until recently when my parents returned from holiday in the US and my dad gleefully told me he'd watched a porn film on the cable TV in a hotel room. I must admit I was a bit surprised, not particularly that he'd watch one but that he was happy to talk about it with me. However, what was even more surprising was that my generally conservative mother wasn't at all concerned by this and although she didn't watch with him, she was totally fine with dad's late night viewing adventure. To me this is absolutely fantastic and its always nice to be surprised by your parents but it did start a thought process about the way we view adult entertainment and where we think it slots into our every day lives.

Is it ok for porn to enter our lives without too much resistance, should it be openly embraced or should we be wary of it? Does the middle ground that most "normal" people occupy consist of an attitude of careful, by invitation only, restricted use of pornography? The fact is that it generally isn't something you talk about with your friends and family (apart from my dad!) so its sometimes difficult to get a real sense of where people are with it. My wife and I decided to change this by simply asking our friends what they think about porn DVDs, adult cinemas, adult magazines and erotica in general. The results were surprising, not only because of what we heard but because of the openness with which people were prepared to talk about it once they got started.

To being with we tried gently dropping the topic into any conversation that could conceivably, with a little imagination, be extended to include the use of adult material. This yielded mixed results but about half of our close friends opened up enough to tell us they had seen a porn DVD or magazine. This seemed quite easy to admit for the male friends, particularly when framed in the context of half forgotten memories of hidden copies of Playboy on their friend's dad's top shelf. Stereotypically this scenario was related to us several times and I for one know it was often the case because my friend and I used to sneak a look at his dad's porn magazines quite regularly! As suspected, the female friends were rather less forthcoming with their revelations but on a one to one basis my wife was able to (compassionately) extract somewhat red confessions of undisclosed porn exposure from about a third of her friends.

Armed with this initial success, we decided to dig further and revisited the topic with those who were more prepared to talk about it. Framed under the context that our previous conversation had caused us as a couple to talk about porn we broached the subject again by "confessing" that we regularly used porn DVDs in our own sex life. This seemed to be the key catalyst in opening up what many of our friends clearly held as a deliciously dark secret they could finally share with like minded people. It turned out that nearly half of the male friends who initially admitted having exposure to adult material watch adult films with their partners, the other half still watch them regularly but usually not with their partners' knowledge. Even more surprising however was the fact that every single female friend that responded to questions by my wife went on to say that they also watched porn with their partners or that they wanted to but didn't know how to broach the subject.

It was genuinely enlightening experience to share this naughty little secret with a few friends and although our small scale experiment has by no means definitively answered our questions about how our societies consider pornography, it was still fun. We were both left with the feeling that porn is very much like drugs and alcohol, none of them are inherently bad, it is just a question of how you use them. It also seems that parallels can be drawn with issues like domestic and sexual violence in that they are usually not themes that the people involved feel are for public consumption. Really nobody can know what goes on behind all those closed doors in endless suburban streets, some of it is undoubtedly very bad, some very good and probably most of it simply boring and mundane. I'd like to think porn is like this too; for sure it is there, we just don't know where and how and with who and this is probably ok. Its certainly a lot less threatening than drug abuse or domestic violence and as our friends showed, can be a very positive naughty little secret.