Book Review: Ethical Porn for Dicks (A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure)

I do not own at dick. At least not by default. I sometimes take ownership over someone else’s dick, or even wear my own dick. As of recently I’ve even thoroughly enjoyed having my dick sucked but the fact remains that, generally, I am not the dick-owning individual that this book is primarily addressing.

But when it comes to Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure this is no issue whatsoever. Instead, the author, David J. Ley, Ph.D., has wrote this book with the average dick-owning individual in mind but with an appeal to everyone—no matter where their gender or sexuality may fall on the spectrum.

David makes this very clear in the beginning of Ethical Porn for Dicks. And it was this careful and considered framing of this obvious elephant in the room that made me aware of exactly what kind of book I was about to read when the time came to review Ethical Porn for Dicks.

Frank, informative, considerate, and comprehensive; David’s book manages to be these things and more, all while providing a practical issue for the statistically average male user’s consumption of pornography and some of the common fears and obstacles that such an individual may face. The result is a read that is incredibly compelling and unabashedly ballsy, both in its concept and approach.

Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure

Porn is a hot topic. Arguably it always has been the case (and thus, lamentably, might always remain so), but at the moment things are particularly volatile.

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Many new approaches to porn, sex, and sexuality more are being discussed, with more consideration to exactly how these things interact with each other. On top of this many people nowadays (such as myself) choose to actively celebrate their sexual desires and speak on the topic without shame. Social media and the internet has also made pornography and porn stars more visible than ever and many view this as a double-edged sword.

Amidst all this Ethical Porn for Dicks asks its reader: Just how does one go about viewing porn in a responsible (read: ethical) manner? And how, specifically, do men do so without becoming intimately associated with their genitalia in more ways than one.

It’s an interesting question—one whose answer could fill a whole book, as it happens!—and yet so few individuals ever ask themselves this question. In an act of extreme forethought David’s book not only addresses how to view porn ethically but why there is such a need, why men may not have explored this question much before, and just what might have led to this hesitance to inquire further in to the ethical standards of pornography.

Of course, this inevitably brings seasoned individuals in the adult industry to topics with which we’re all familiar: Censorship, stigma, the demonization or infantilization of porn stars, personal shame, governmental agendas, etc. But the compelling nature of David’s book isn’t necessarily the content (though it is all very compelling!). Instead, it’s how David chooses to present and explore the content surrounding porn debates which is of greater significance.

Part insightful resource, part informal conversation, and wholly useful as a guidebook, Ethical Porn for Dicks provides an in-depth and practical exploration in to each of the issues. It does so through various methods—including bullet pointed summary sections and questions which prompt self-reflection—but perhaps the most effective method is David’s own writing style, which makes for an incredibly easy and enjoyable read.

The man behind this glorious publication.
The man behind this glorious publication.

David holds a Ph.D. and is an internationally recognized authority when it comes to sexuality, pornography and mental health and well-being. In his professional capacity David has been in various publications, had multiple media appearances, and has published extensively on his chosen topics (both in academia and through more general markets). Despite these very high accolades, David’s writing style remains down-to-earth, very easy to digest, and wonderfully informal. And, yes, there is swearing. Deal with it.

But, beyond this, David’s words hold even more power.

As if with minimal effort, David’s professional background shines through in his writing—reassuring you that what he has to say is valuable and makes perfect sense—while also being very comforting and supportive. It’s clear that David cares a great deal about sex and sexuality and that he’s got your back when it comes to these issues. I may be pretty much sold on the idea that porn is not a bad thing if approached correctly, but not everyone is and for those people I do feel like David’s book can present a voice of reason and reassurance during a time of potential confusion, anger, or distress.

This guy knows his shit (and he's not afraid to swear about it).
This guy knows his shit (and he’s not afraid to swear about it).

No matter the topic at hand David’s main points arguably remain the same—that Pornography is what you make of it and that it only need have as much hold over you as you let it. And, despite writing an entire book on the topic, David strongly argues that way actually place far too much influence and attention on porn and, by the end of this book, I think most people would be convinced of this fact.

When it comes to issues surrounding sex porn is just one form of cultural output for larger social, psychological, and physical influences. These are where David believes we should redirect our attention and he often emphasises the power of introspection when it comes to overcoming any of the potentially ‘troubling’ aspects of porn.

That’s not to say that David rejects the idea that there are problems in porn. Of course there are. But he’s very pragmatic when it comes to the extent of these problems and how best to approach them. David’s solution, as you’ve probably guessed, lies in investing one’s porn patronage in ethical porn companies and independent porn makers who promote and encourage ethical porn practices. To this end David has included a wonderful list of ethical porn superstars which includes some familiar faces (such as Jiz Lee, Jerry Barnett, and Erika Lust, all very near and dear to me). There is also a very interesting Afterwards presented by someone in the industry which is well worth a read.

All of this sends a very strong message—This book does not end when David stops writing. In fact, that is just the beginning.

Final Thoughts

For the individual reading this book David makes a strong and compelling argument for taking up an active and self-accepting role when it comes to how we all view, discuss, and address the topic of pornography.

If there is a fault with this book it is that it can be inherently reliant upon societal norms when it comes to gender roles but, much like porn, whether we like it or not these are systems that exist in the world and so need to be addressed.

David does so with extreme insight and leaves the reader feeling informed, impassioned, and perhaps a bit more forgiving when it comes to their own approaches to porn and the options that are available. I cannot recommend it enough and hope to read more from this fantastic author.

Recommend to:

People who are interested in porn.

Couples or parents struggling with porn.

People struggling with difficult porn issues (including rape fantasies, child pornography).

Do Not Recommend to:

People who feel that reading about porn is too much at the moment (please seek other forms of help).

People who prefer wholly academic texts (the lack of footnoting did bother me a tad).

People who find sensitive topics to be a trigger for them personally.

Ethical Porn for Dicks was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.