Written by Taylor Smith

I know what you’re thinking. “Rom-coms and porn? Where’s he going with this?” On the surface, these two things seem to be nothing alike. And before we get into a moral argument about whether pornography is an innocuous or destructive influence in people’s lives (because there’s evidence for both sides of that argument), let’s just compare the two as they appear as forms of entertainment, setting morality aside for a moment. What we find might just change the way you think about entertainment and the way that you perceive the world around you.

Even though romantic comedies are not the most popular genre of movies, they are socially accepted, high-budget, high-profit blockbusters that star America’s sweethearts. Even though many romantic comedies are torn apart by film critics, audiences around the world still gather to watch two star-crossed lovers come together on screen. Every nation in the world is crazy about a good love story. No one is picketing in the streets to have rom-coms removed from theaters.

Pornography, on the other hand, is often seen as the dark, seedy underbelly of the cinema world by both devout members of different faiths and irreligious people alike. Many argue that it’s simply entertainment of the same variety as rom-coms, yet there is a definite stigma attached to pornography consumption. No one’s ever been accused of being addicted to Meg Ryan movies, but millions of people struggle with a “pornography addiction.” So, on the surface they couldn’t be more different, could they?

Well, yes and no. Both forms of media revolve around similar themes: intimacy, relationships, attraction, etc. Now, before you start writing me your letters, I’m not saying that porn equals love. It doesn’t. The acts depicted in pornography are about as far removed from love as possible. But that’s the point: pornography is fantasy and undeniably unrealistic. But then again, so are romantic comedies.

Case in point, why don’t more husbands or boyfriends bring women flowers in the pouring rain, using all manner of obscenely sentimental and beautifully phrased compliments before apologizing for being a fool and doing something wrong? Because that’s not very likely, considering men are human and make mistakes (just like women). But Hollywood sells us on the aforementioned scenes as enhanced versions of real life. Pornography is arguably an attempt to do the same. The problem is that enhanced versions of real life are not real life.

Much has been written about the toxic effects of pornography and its consequences for relationships (particularly for men). Decidedly less attention, however, has been paid to the negative influence mass media (romantic comedies, books, TV, et al.) have all had on our understanding of relationships (particularly for women). If pornography is responsible for warping men’s perception of women, then it seems fair to say that romantic comedies are just as much to blame for some of the unrealistic expectations women harbor when it comes to relationships.

There are numerous studies—all done within the last 5 year—that say teens ages 13-18 who view pornography are more likely to have an unhealthy attitude toward sex. One study published by the American Psychological Association found that the more often young people sought out online porn, the more likely they were to have a “recreational” attitude toward sex—specifically, to view sex as a purely physical function like eating or drinking. In teen boys, increased exposure to porn leads to an increased likelihood to view women as sex objects.

What about romantic comedies? Surely, a rom-com with no explicit material is pretty harmless, right? Well, maybe not.

TIME Magazine recently reported that researchers at Heriot Watt University’s Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory in Edinburgh, Scotland found that problems typically reported by couples who participated in relationship counseling at the laboratory’s counseling center reflect misconceptions about love and romance depicted in Hollywood films.

“Relationship counselors often face common misconceptions in their clients—that if your partner truly loves you they’d know what you need without you communicating it, or that your soul mate is predestined. We did a rigorous content analysis of romantic comedies and found that the same issues were being portrayed in these films,” the university’s Dr. Bjarne Holmes says.

This all begs the question: how do we distinguish between the expectations fostered in us by the pseudo reality of romantic comedies and porn, and healthy, well-adjusted expectations for real relationships? It’s not easy, especially considering how inundated we are with this false conception of romance. The first step has to be realizing that Hollywood makes its money selling us an enhanced version of life. These fake, albeit fun to watch, versions of reality are very capable of making us think that real life should look and feel like scenes from the movies. The problem is that life rarely (if ever) feels that way. If we perceive Hollywood magic as reality, we’re in for some real problems.

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Healthy Staff

Healthy Magazine is staffed by a team of journalists and health experts who have a goal of presenting you will useful information that you actually want to read.

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