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What everyday men and women really think of porn

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Porn is either vilified or glamorized in the media — so we asked everyday people what they really think of it

It should come as no surprise to you that porn is kind of a big deal.

According to a report by Gizmodo, 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites, and the industry pulls in $2.84 billion in revenue each year. And it's not just men and teenage boys who access porn — in fact, one in three porn users is a woman.

That's a lot of people with a lot of different perspectives on porn, and their valuable perspectives tend to be drowned out by the most polarized voices in the debate over the health of the industry. For instance, internet filtering site Covenant Eyes states that porn trains you for who you are as a spouse. "If you train to become a people-consuming, selfish monster that's what you become," reads one of its blog posts. On the other hand, pro-pornography writers herald its usage as a way to learn about one's sexuality without risk. "Porn allows all users a safe space to work out proclivities they might be uncomfortable with elsewhere," writes a blogger at the Daily Dot. "Practice makes perfect, people."

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Maybe, but many people seem to have a more moderate and nuanced approach to porn viewing, including those who consider themselves regular consumers. I caught up with everyday men and women to find out what average porn users tend to think about porn, and their responses were enlightening.

1. It's positive if you use it in moderation. Twenty-something Janet reports that her experience with porn is overwhelmingly positive. "It has helped me discover what I like, which has improved my relationship with my husband," she says. Porn enhances her marriage because both she and her husband use it, and it makes them feel safe talking about their fantasies and desires. However, she also sees that some people use it as a substitute for their relationship rather than a tool for their relationship. "I think that's a dangerous road to travel down," she says.

2. Lesbian porn, thank you. SheKnows' writer Bethany Ramos chose to embrace pornography in moderation once she emerged from a strict upbringing, and she found that her tastes were surprising. "I found it interesting, based on some recent survey, that women are more likely to look at lesbian porn because it's less aggressive," she says. "And I prefer it, too."

3. Porn is saturating the way we view sex. Ron is a 20-something professional who watches porn by himself and with his partner. He largely views it as positive, but also shares some concerns about what our society does with the images on a screen. "It is now saturating the perception of how sex is viewed," he explains. "As the influence of the porn industry grows, I hope people can discriminate between expectations of sex with a porn star and sex with a real person."

4. It's fantastic for starting conversations. Molly likes to use pornography by herself and with her husband. She says it is good for beginning conversations about fantasy and how to keep things spicy in the bedroom. "I also hope my kids as teens are curious about porn because it's a great way to start a conversation about realistic bodies and consent," she says.

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5. The industry needs improvement. "I am not against pornography," says 30-something Jenny, "but I think the industry has a lot of room for improvement." She explained that the industry doesn't do much to look after the health of its workers, and that she is concerned about young people accessing porn before they develop critical thinking skills. "I think [some viewers] can view porn as instructional and not fantasy," she says. "And that's really problematic, especially for people who feel like they need to adhere to standards like extreme acts or hairlessness."

6. I feel weird afterwards. "I love porn! It's my favorite hobby," my 26-year-old guy friend laughed when I asked him about his usage. He went on to explain, though, that he has complex feelings about it. "While I'm watching it, it's great. But sometimes I feel a little weird about it afterwards, or maybe even more lonely," he says.

7. Porn preys on vulnerable performers. Finally, an acquaintance of mine surprised me when she shared that she worked in the porn industry for several years. As a result, she has special insight about the inner workings of the industry, and she feels concerned about its workers. "In theory, porn can be incredibly healthy," she explains. "In practice, the industry preys on performers who are in vulnerable situations and may not be capable of making well-informed decisions."

I tend to fall in the conservative camp, since I know myself and know that porn would not make me feel safe and respected in an intimate relationship. Moreover, I share the concerns of the women who posit that sex workers may be exploited. But tell us: What do you think about porn?

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