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Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student


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Pillowtalk: Guilty arousal: Coming to terms with your taboo sexual interests


Today’s article has content warnings for mentions of abduction, sexual assault and incest.

Dear Pillowtalk,

So, since quarantine, I’ve been watching more porn. But, I don’t really like the “normal stuff”— I like stuff that’s pretty questionable. It’s not stuff I really agree with ethically in real life, so why does it turn me on? And how do I deal with the guilt of it? It’s not stuff like bondage, because I can get with that, but things like acting out rape scenes, kidnapping, stepsiblings, teacher/student stuff, etcetera.

Thank you for being this vulnerable with me! I hope I can answer your question well and assure you that you aren’t alone; the fact that there’s even a market for this kind of porn makes that very clear. The word I believe you’re looking for to describe your taste in porn is “taboo.” Taboo porn or taboo sexual interests generally subvert cultural norms and trigger anxiety, exhilaration and excitement: conditions that often accompany arousal.

Think of how you felt as a child or teenager when you first starting talking about sex and/or watching porn. Sex itself felt taboo! Watching porn made you nervous, it felt wrong in a good way, it made you embarrassed. Maybe that wasn’t exactly your experience, but it’s definitely a common one. As we get older and are exposed to sex more often, we seek out things that get us excited the way that “normal” porn used to. The same thing often happens in relationships; eventually, you might want to spice it up and try new, sometimes nerve-wracking things.

Of course, some people don’t experience this, but regardless it’s very normal and not something to be ashamed of. It’s important that you critique the misogyny and rape culture present in your porn viewing habits, and make sure you don’t normalize that kind of behavior in your real sex life (unless, of course, it’s a consensual, communicative situation). However, it’s not inherently unethical to be aroused by these things. We largely cannot control our sexual arousal patterns, and feeling total shame for them is as unhealthy as being totally non-critical of them. 

I would suggest paying attention to the things that turn you on and coming to terms with them, building a positive relationship with them. It might be that you’ve experienced some of these things (sexual assault, incest) in real life; it can be a really healing thing to engage in this form of “trauma play” in a safe way, and to decontextualize them from your personal trauma. That said, if you find yourself feeling worse or feeling triggered by watching these things, they might not be a good fit for your mental health. Shop around for other porn. 

Finally, I want to suggest looking into more ethical porn creators and websites that make the kind of content you like. Learning that there are spaces that cater to your interests and also care about the wellbeing of their actors and the ethical implications of their work can be very comforting. 

I also want to note to some of my readers that I do not and will not ever shame someone for their sexual interests, regardless of the ethical implications of those interests, unless they are actively disregarding the consequences of their behavior or directly hurting others by engaging in those interests. I believe that a person’s sexual arousal does not reflect their morality or character in any way; their actions do. We do not choose what turns us on. If we did, we would live in a very different world!

I hope this helps. Be safe and well, and know that by asking this question in the first place, you are already more critically self aware than many, many others who share your interests.

Have a question for Elleri? Send it to to http://bit.ly/2LZTHeY or scan our QR code here!

Have a question for Elleri?

Send it to to http://bit.ly/2LZTHeY

or scan our QR code here!

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