Relationships

What Porn Stars Can Teach Us About Having Great Sex

Published: MARCH 14, 2024 | Updated: APRIL 12, 2024
What can we learn from Porn Stars? They understand great sex, and, even more so, they understand intimacy.

Four people are standing in nude-colored underwear, frozen to appear like mannequins. A camera follows them as they come to life, find their way to a mattress, and begin kissing and touching until their bodies are entangled.

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I’m on the set of the ethical porn site Forplay Films, and director Inka Winter is shooting a foursome. Mid-scene, Winter and the actors pause to discuss what they’ll do next, deciding to have each person take turns receiving pleasure from the others until they orgasm. Tears come to my eyes as I witness their attentiveness, care, vulnerability, and laughter.

Porn stars understand great sex, I think. Even more so, they understand intimacy.

Afterward, I chatted with the actors — Saint Arson, Megan Mistakes, Lowlita, and Steve Rickz — to find out their secrets for great sex and how the rest of us can apply them to our lives.

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What can we learn about great sex from porn stars?

1. Discuss desires and boundaries in advance

“If you want to have great sex, vulnerability requires not only communicating what you want, but also what you want to explore and what you know doesn’t work for you,” says Arson. I witnessed the cast do just that: Before the shooting, Winter had everyone share if there was anything they weren’t open to that day. This kind of pre-sex conversation helps ensure that everyone feels safe and won’t feel pressured to do anything they don’t desire.

“The best thing [porn] taught me was going over all the important stuff before sex: checking tests, going over what each person likes and doesn’t like, or asking where is OK to cum,” says Rickz. Having the opportunity to voice boundaries is especially important for women, who are “conditioned to put the others’ needs first by sacrificing our own wants and needs,” Winter says. “While part of great sex is being open to your partner's wants and needs, being open is very different from sacrificing your own wants.”

2. Enthusiasm is everything

The actors’ smiles, giggles, and squeals made the scene sparkle; their enjoyment was palpable. “At the end of the day, great sex is about communicating your needs and allowing yourself to have fun,” says Mistakes. “Sex doesn't always have to be serious; it can be silly, goofy, messy, and imperfect.”

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3. Praise goes a long way in bed

What also made the scene stand out was the actors’ use of verbal encouragement and praise; they uttered words like “good girl” and “your face is so perfect.” Who wouldn’t feel more at ease when a partner speaks to them like this?

4. Focus on one thing at a time

In everyday sex, particularly heterosexual sex, the focus is often placed on intercourse, with the expectation that both people orgasm from it — which is not realistic for many vulva owners. On Forplay Films’ set, in contrast, the focus was on one person’s climax at a time, which allowed everyone to get what they needed and leave satisfied.

5. Female orgasms are not elusive

I learned from watching Winter direct that there’s a practical reason porn scenes end with male ejaculations, AKA “money shots”: placing them early on would require the cast to pause for clean-up. Although the scene I saw followed that format, Winter assured me that her female actors typically orgasm many times before the men. Female orgasms may appear elusive to some, but on this set, it was a given that all the women would orgasm. Their pleasure was put first, literally and figuratively.

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6. Let your freak flag fly

The creativity and fun of the scene stemmed from the actors’ willingness to play and explore different kinks. “Being a porn star has taught me the free will of my body,” says Lowlita. “It’s OK to go out of the societal norm when it comes to eroticism. It’s OK to want to explore deep fantasies with yourself and with your partners. Letting go of sexual embarrassment was something that challenged me for years. The older I got, the more I was able to say, ‘This is OK, it may be a little weird, taboo to some, but this is me.’”

Read more: Better Sex - Ten Things to Start Doing Right Now

Why are people interested in great sex?

“Great sex” means something different to everyone, but it generally means sex that feels good for all involved. “I would define ‘great sex’ as pleasurable sex or sex that you enjoy having,” says Rhiannon John, sexologist at BedBible. “And the beauty of pleasure is that it is subjective, so this means that what may be great sex for some might not be great sex for the next person.”

Many people aim to have great sex because it helps them feel closer to their partners — and the better the sex you experience, the more sex you’ll want. Research has found that the quality and quantity of the sex you’re having correlate with overall happiness. So, whether we’re talking about porn stars or us regular folks, improving one’s sexual skills pays off.

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What happens behind the scenes of an ethical porn set?

While porn has a reputation for reinforcing sex myths and gender norms, ethical directors like Winter — many of them female and/or queer — are making porn that aims to send more positive messages. “Porn — and sexuality itself — can be actively healing,” Winter says. “It just needs to be done with authenticity, with connection, with empowerment, with enthusiastic consent, and with the genuine pleasure of all people involved.”

Ethical porn is “about being inclusive creatively and showing healthy, positive, realistic sexual experiences which focus on consent, pleasure, and intimacy,” says Anna Richards, sex educator and founder of the erotic ethical porn site FrolicMe. “All those involved are fairly compensated and looked after, and the style of content you are watching shows a positive experience for all.” On an ethical porn set, the actors consent to exactly how the footage will be used, and the scenes offer an accurate depiction of sex — for instance, they show real orgasms rather than fake ones. A sign that you are consuming ethical porn is that you have to pay to see it, as this means the actors are being paid, says Richards.

Closely related to ethical porn is feminist porn, which prioritizes “considering and highlighting female pleasure,” says Winter. “I collaborate with the female talent on what she wants to film, what kind of sex she wants to be having, and with whom she wants to have it. Anything from romantic porn to consensual non-consent can be feminist as long as the person doing it wants to be doing it. I always make sure there is either explicit or implied consent from the female talent that is visible and obvious.”

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Read more: What Porn Performers Can Teach Us About Safer Sex

Porn should not be used for sex education — or should it?

Many experts say that porn is not sex education. “Porn is produced, performative, scripted, manufactured entertainment,” says Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of Make Love Not Porn. “It's not porn's job to educate about sex; it's the job of society in the real world — one that our society is failing at miserably.” That said, ethical porn can be educational and even inspirational. Winter tries to show “consensual, mutually pleasurable sex” to set a good example for viewers, and some of her videos even offer sex tutorials.

“Research has found that we can learn a lot by watching porn, from learning about our bodies and sexual skills to developing our sexual identities,” says John. “The problem arises when people rely solely on pornography for sex education without having media literacy skills. When we watch movies, we understand that Hollywood often exaggerates things, and we shouldn't take everything we see at face value. And we should take the same approach to porn, particularly mainstream pornography.”

Porn stars can actually serve as great sexual role models, as they typically are very conscious of consent, boundaries, safer sex, and regular STI testing, explains John. Unfortunately, this isn’t always portrayed on screen — particularly not in mainstream porn. “The majority of mainstream porn does not adhere to many aspects of good sexual practice as it isn’t created to be sex education but a fantasy-led sexual stimulus for adults,” says Richards. “The nature of the positions, although many very doable, are very much structured to enhance the viewer's pleasure. Yes, porn can offer a wonderful sexual laboratory through which we can explore and understand our own sexuality, interests, tastes, and kinks and learn what it is that turns us on. However, it’s not meant to be imitated in all its forms.”

Ultimately, no matter what you have learned from porn or elsewhere, the best way to be a good lover is to talk to your partner about what great sex means to them — and to you. That’s another thing we can learn from porn stars. “When we as humans communicate, we find a new level of comfort,” says Arson. “With each new level of comfort, we find safety within ourselves and a home within our kinks and fetishes — not as things to be shameful of or parts of ourselves we need to hide, but parts to integrate into our sex lives to have a hell of a good time.”

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Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a feminist writer, certified sex educator, and sex/love coach. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more.

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