What is Pornography? Explain Like I’m Five

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated December 5, 2023

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What is pornography?

Pornography is any kind of material that shows or describes sexual acts, with the intention of causing sexual excitement. It could be a drawing, a picture, a cartoon or a movie, for example, that shows raw sex acts or shows people's private parts.

Pornography fast facts

  • Pornography, or porn, can be pictures, movies, drawings or cartoons.

  • Porn can be found everywhere, but the internet is the easiest way to watch it.

  • There are free porn websites with ads and sites for adults that look like Netflix.

  • You need to be an adult to watch porn. For children and teenagers, it is forbidden. 

  • Not everybody agrees about what porn is. And not everyone who likes porn, prefers the same types.

  • Some people get offended by porn, while others like it as a form of entertainment, fantasy, or even education.

  • Pornography can pleasure some people by getting them aroused, while causing negative emotions on other people, such as shame, guilt, disgust, and so on.

Pornography is a popular form of online adult entertainment. It has many categories and not everyone likes the same type of sex videos. Photograph: Faphouse

Is pornography like a movie or a TV show?

Yes, pornography is like a movie or television show. There are actors, there is a camera, and often it is made in a studio. Also, it is often not real. Someone can, for example, be a stepmom in a porno movie, but in reality, she is not.

One can watch pornography on television or on a tablet or phone. There are websites that only have pornographic movies or pictures. They look a bit like YouTube or Netflix, but these sites are only for adults.

Pornographic movies are usually with real people, but they can also be cartoons. They look like manga, but they are not for children.

Pornography can look like cartoons. Just as on YouTube, adults can watch them on the internet. Photograph: HentaiSexSchool

How does someone make pornography?

There are different ways to make pornography. People can draw it, make pictures or movies with a camera, or use programs on a computer or a smartphone. 

There are also cartoons with pornography. Hentai is an example of this. It looks like manga animation movies and comics, but there are sex scenes in it.

It is also possible to make pornography that looks real, but is not. People then use a computer or a phone and remove the clothes from a picture. Or they put someone’s face on the naked body of somebody else.

Do you have to pay to watch pornography?

On the internet, people can watch it for free, or pay for it. It is very much the same as YouTube. 

If somebody watches it for free, they might see ads at the beginning and sometimes in the middle of a movie. Some people don’t mind this, but others find this very annoying.

There are also websites like Netflix, but with pornography. People then pay a small amount every month for movies they cannot see anywhere else. We call this a subscription and when someone no longer wants to watch the movies, they can stop paying for it.

What are the different sorts of pornography?

There are many types of pornography, and like ice cream, not everybody has the same taste. Here are some popular types:

  • MILF pornography: moms are the stars of these movies.
  • GILF pornography: this is with grandmoms.
  • Bondage pornography: these are movies where people blindfold each other, get spanking, or even hurt others, for sexual pleasure.
  • Lesbians: this is with women that like other women.
  • Gay: this is with men only.
  • Erotic: these are more romantic, with candles, roses, etc.
  • Hardcore: you can see the pee pee and wee wee.
  • Amateur pornography: movies with people that are not famous movie stars.

Is pornography for adults only?

Yes. Only adults can make pornography and watch it. In many countries, you become an adult when you are 18. In some countries or states, you have to be 21 years old to watch porn.

Pornography is forbidden for children and teenagers. That’s a bit like driving a car. A child can learn to be a good driver, but it is still forbidden.

That is the reason porn sites ask you if you are 18 years or older before you can see the movies or pictures. Nobody can check if you are really an adult. But if somebody finds out you lied about your age, you can get into trouble.

Before you enter a website with pornography, you need to confirm that you are a grown-up person. Photograph: SpiceVids

Why do some people say pornography can be harmful?

Pornography is like chocolate. Some people like it and others don’t. Sometimes, pornography is really bad.

  • Child pornography: these are pictures or movies with children that are touched and kissed. That is forbidden. 
  • Fake porn: a movie or a picture with someone’s face on a naked body of somebody else who doesn’t want this. These people were not naked for real, but other people can think they were and then bully them.
  • Revenge porn: if someone has a picture or a movie of somebody else naked and gives it to somebody else. That can hurt the people in the picture because they trusted the person and now they feel ashamed.

Are paintings and drawings of naked people pornography?

Sometimes, yes. Before there were cameras, people made drawings and paintings of naked people. That is normal, because everybody has a body and it is nothing to be ashamed of. 

There are beautiful paintings and drawings of half dressed or fully naked people and some of these are in museums. We call that art and people around the world find nothing dirty about it.

But some paintings and drawings are pornographic and even forbidden. Somebody can, for instance, go to jail in some countries when they have hentai drawings with children.

The painting “Olympia” by Manet shows a naked woman. Today, many people find this art, but when it was shown for the first time, people thought it was pornography. Photograph: Britannica

Do people like it when someone makes a movie or picture with them naked?

Some people like it. 

Nobody likes to be filmed naked when they don’t know someone is doing that. It is also not nice to force somebody to take their clothes off to take pictures of them. 

Some people make pornographic pictures or movies, but they don’t want anybody to see it. When somebody steals this movie, or sends it to friends, that can really hurt.

Why do people watch pornography?

Not all adults like to watch pornography. That is the same with, for instance, a basketball game. But the people who watch pornography can do it for many reasons.

  • They can be curious and want to know what somebody looks like without clothes.
  • Others watch it because they are bored and they want to see a movie, but not one that kids also can watch.
  • Others sometimes watch pornography because they feel lonely. Seeing other people kissing and touching each other makes them feel less lonely.
  • People can also find naked bodies beautiful and exciting.
  • Some grown-ups are addicted to pornography. That is a bit like smoking cigarettes or eating chips. They do not really want to do it, but they cannot stop doing it.

Can kids accidentally see pornography?

That can happen because pornography is almost everywhere. It’s on the internet, on television, in comics, magazines and books. Adults can do some things so kids don’t see it by accident.  

  • They can not watch it when children are around or in the house.
  • Parents can turn on kids mode on phones and tablets, or install apps that are safe for children, like e.g. YouTube for kids.
  • Adult channels on television can need a pin code.
  • Parents and teachers can talk with children about pornography in such a way they understand what it is.

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