Hey Rashida Jones, don't change your mind about porn. It's still harmful.

Rashida, why the change of mind? How is porn all of a sudden really not that bad?

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  • The latest The New York Times Magazine included an article with the headline: "Why Rashida Jones Changed Her Mind About Porn."

  • Let's get caught up on why this interview and her change of heart is even newsworthy. A few years ago, Jones very publicly called out the entertainment industry for its "pornification of everything" that's ultimately harming our girls.

  • Since then, she's been exploring the porn industry by producing a Sundance documentary and a follow-up, a recently released Netflix series offering a peek into the lives of amateur porn stars.

  • However, now, in her Sunday Times interview, Jones she says she watches porn because "it's nice that you can separate the idea of personal pleasure from the pressure of a relationship."

  • Like most any conversation about sex, things can get complicated really quickly. But, Rashida, why the change of mind? How is porn all of a sudden really not that bad?

  • "Pornification of Everything"

  • In a December 2013 article in Glamour, Jones questioned why pop stars and others always seemed to be getting naked and the "pornification of everything."

  • "Every star interprets 'sexy' the same way: lots of skin, lots of licking of teeth, lots of bending over," Jones wrote. "I find this oddly...boring. Can't I just like a song without having to take an ultrasound tour of some pop star's privates?"

  • Jones pointed out how an abundance of sexy visuals in popular culture make it harder for us to raise strong, confident daughters.

  • "What else ties these pop stars together besides, perhaps, their entangled G-strings?" she wrote. "Their millions of teen-girl fans. Even if adult Miley and Nicki have ownership of their bodies, do the girls imitating them have the same agency? Where do we draw the line between teaching them freedom of sexual expression and pride in who they are on the inside?"

  • Amen.

  • Regardless of your sensitivities and definition of what porn is, there's no question that porn is prevalent and easy to find. Is that ease of pleasure really harming us? Or, is it like Jones said in an interview with Vox last week, "There doesn't have to be an inherent problem with [the porn industry]."

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  • Thanks to Jones, we get another chance to talk about this intimate subject. Here are four reasons that should get us thinking - and talking - about what's really going on when we're stimulated by what's on the screen.

  • Porn offers an unrealistic expectation of sex

  • Drs. John and Julie Gottman, a renowned researcher and a highly respected clinical psychologist, respectively, have been studying marriage, relationships and surrounding issues for four decades. Recently, they countered the prevailing theory that casual porn isn't that bad.

  • "When watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner," they wrote. "Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person's control."

  • Even in causal use, pornography acclimates the viewer to a distorted sense of reality: that this is how sex should be, at any time, with any one. Those faulty expectations make it easy to lose sight of the real reasons for sex, like deep connection with another person.

  • Porn isn't real life. And watching it makes real life seem less real

  • The people and situations depicted in porn aren't real. Lighting, Photoshop and exaggerated expressions that make porn enticing can make real life - and the challenge of real life relationships - rather dull. Which was the point of Jones' documentary and Netflix series, Hot Girls Wanted, to show how unrealistic the porn industry is and how it is a constructed fake reality.

  • In research, porn users are reporting less love and trust in relationships. They are prone to separation and divorce, and often see marriage as a 'constraint.' People who use porn tend to be less committed partners, less satisfied in relationships and more cynical about them. (See studies here. And here. And here.)

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  • Watching porn can change your brain. And not in good ways

  • Columbia University researcher Dr. Norman Doidge explained, "porn creates the perfect conditions and triggers the release of the right chemicals to make lasting changes in your brain."

  • Basically that means your brain is constantly rewiring itself and creating new pathways, but when porn use gets involved and becomes compulsive, those connections are so strong that it starts impacting the pleasure you get out of other activities, such as sex with a real partner.

  • Porn isn't good for kids

  • OK, most everyone agrees X-rated films and, heavens, pornography featuring children, is not good for kids. But what about mainstream porn and the general ease of access to industry material?

  • In an article in The Huffington Post, Jane Randel (co-founder of NO MORE, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to domestic violence) and Amy Sánchez (CEO of Break the Cycle, which empowers youth to end domestic violence) wrote:

  • "With the average age of first exposure to pornography around 11 years old, kids are simply unprepared to distinguish the messages they encounter in porn. Without the knowledge or understanding of what a respectful, mutually agreeable, intimate relationship is, pornography then becomes a major source for youth to learn about sex."

  • It's hard enough to stop your snuggly newborn from growing out of footed PJs, but there's no way to install enough internet security measures to prevent a 9-year-old from stumbling across sexually suggestive images online.

  • Porn that's created for adults is still seen by children. Being OK with that means allowing the world - and researching fourth grade science projects - a little less safe for kids.

  • An article in TIME magazine last year reported on the trend of young men who were exposed to porn as kids are now finding it hard to get excited about sex as 20-something adults. Here's an excerpt:

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  • "A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic—more prone to permanent change—than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning. The results of the experiment, they claim, are literally a downer."

  • Let's Keep Talking

  • One thing Jones did get right in her interview: communication and dialogue is important. We should be talking about sex in an open, less shaming way and about the realities of how porn hurts individuals.

  • Couples should be talking about realistic expectations of intimacy and ways to build real connections.

  • Parents should be looking for age-appropriate (and non-awkward) ways to talk with their kids about sex. Sites like EducateEmpowerKids.org provide great resources and conversation starters for parents.

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Emily Hellewell is the managing editor of FamilyShare. She previously worked for NPR, Brigham Young University and for the Alexandria, Virginia Visitor's Association. She is currently pursuing an MBA from BYU.

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