What do we mean when we talk about porn for women

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What do we mean when we talk about “porn for women”? Google it and you’re met with terms like “sensual” and “romantic,” “tasteful” and “erotic”. So far, so predictable. For the purposes of search engine optimisation at least, “porn for women” equals deep kissing, soft lighting, and slow, sensuous massage. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, of course. I’d happily take all three of those things on any given day. But it’s far from being the whole picture.

In 2015, a survey of more than 3,000 women found more than a third watch porn every week. Another report published earlier this year showed almost half of women had watched porn in the last month. So what are we watching? And what do we mean when we talk about “porn for women”?

“I much prefer kinky, filthy porn that pushes the viewer’s boundaries,” says Sammy. “I particularly love indie porn as I love the personal connection I can often have with the performers through regularly purchasing their clips and interacting with them on social media.”

“I like some BDSM stuff, lesbian and bi, electro sluts, fisting, group sex- things that push my own erotic boundaries,” says Missy.

While both these people have clear personal preferences, it’s not immediately apparent that the porn they enjoy is more “female-friendly,” at least as far as the internet would define it. The idea that women are looking for something softer, more gentle, is borne out of a variety of social and cultural tropes. Firstly, the long-standing notion that women simply aren’t as interested in sex. Despite much evidence―both empirical and anecdotal―to the contrary, a study this year showed that almost half of us still adhere to the belief that men have stronger sex drives than women.

Secondly, there is the widely critiqued idea that men are “more visual”. In fact, research has shown that the differences are not so much in whether we respond to visual sexual stimuli, but how different genders respond, which aspects we respond to, and what strategies we employ when viewing visual sexual stimuli. Furthermore, a statistical review of existing neuroimaging studies by the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, earlier this year, concluded that women were just as likely as men to be turned on by sexual images.

“There is culturally accepted idea that men are more visual than women, and this is just not true at all,” says Gigi Engle, sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: a guide to sex, love, and life. “Women are just as visual as men and they like dirty sex as much as men. The idea that porn for women should be soft and gentle is not only not an ideal way of thinking, it’s downright inaccurate. Do some women want romantic, scene-based porn? Sure! That doesn’t mean everyone wants this.”

That’s not to say there are no differences at all in what we look for. From my point of view, I’m much more interested in the overall dynamic of the scene than I am in close-ups of dicks hammering holes. It is also fair to say that the majority of mainstream porn is (and has been for a long time) made by men, for men. Many women say viewing sex exclusively through the male gaze is off-putting.

“I hate it when women pretend to be on the brink of an orgasm even though no one’s touched them for the last five minutes,” says Jen. “Quite a lot of porn is focused on a man having sex with a woman as if she’s not even human and just an object, whereas I like my porn to portray sex as something that two (or more) people do together.”

Engle agrees: “The problem is not the raunchy sex in mainstream porn, it’s how the sex is presented,” she says. “It’s made by cis men for cis men. Much of it contains violence against women and basically none of it shows realistic portrayals of female pleasure. What we see is less sex and feels more like punish-fucking.

“Scenes can be super dirty, kinky, and hot without punishing women or showing violence against women. Just think about real life! Plenty of us like it down and dirty without wanting to feel victimized by a partner.”

Perhaps this is where so-called feminist porn comes in. The trouble is, defining feminist porn is almost as difficult as defining feminism itself. For some people, for porn to call itself feminist, it must have equal pay, fair working standards and a good understanding and respect for performers boundaries.

“Good porn is where I can feel performers actually want to have sex with each other in the ways they have sex,” says Rita. “Consent is either explicit or never in question. Ideally, performers would get royalties as well as their performance fee. I want to know performers are treated respectfully and are actually safe, that they can say no without having to fear for their career or income.”

For others, it’s about whether the scenes lend themselves to their particular feminist ideals. This might include showing a diversity of body types, genders and ethnicities. Or it might be about the way agency and consent are presented.

“Seeing cis women and queer folks ask for what they want in bed made me feel empowered to do the same. Feminist porn changed my sex life for the better,” says Tawny Lara.

For others still, the sex itself must fit with their ideas of feminism, including what they consider to be respectful or desirable. One of the main arguments against so-called mainstream porn is how degrading the sexual activities are.

“I hate it when the woman is in tears or pain because that happens a lot,” says Lucy. “Girl on girl is also much nicer because it is more reflective of what women need, or what I feel I need anyway. We don’t all want some dude jack-hammering and then baptising us with cum every day.”

Girl in BDSM role with man in collar, great porn for women

But many women do enjoy rough sex and kinky scenes involving pain. And in seeking to define feminist porn as “respectful,” we risk erasing those legitimate desires and tastes. Rather than needing to meet an elusive standard of feminism, perhaps “porn for women” might instead be defined as female-positive? This need not mean softcore scenes, but rather scenes that centre female pleasure, show agency and consent, and depict realistic―attainable―sex.

The lack of realism in male-centred porn was something many of the women I spoke to complained about.

“A lot of porn is impossible or unsafe like ass-to-mouth,” says Lucy. “I hate that because I then worry about them getting a UTI and I get distracted!”

Tawny Lara admits: “Traditional porn is part of why I faked orgasms for so long. I just assumed that a penis going inside of me would make me climax within minutes like it did to the women on screen. When it didn’t I resorted to faking because I thought something was wrong with me.”

“For me, good porn is convincing,” says Jen. “I’m not saying I want a whole backstory of how the people in the video met, but it needs to feel realistic enough that I could imagine people having sex like that in real life.”

In fact, many said “good” porn wasn’t about whether the sex was gentle or rough, vanilla or kinky, queer or straight. What made them want to watch it was seeing genuine chemistry, real orgasms and sex scenes they could relate to (or at least realistically aspire to).

“I can’t be the only one that will skip through a dozen videos trying to find a woman actually cumming,” says Megan. “I can’t get off unless I believe they are.”

Images of loving couples in porn for women

Engle says: “We don’t want to see stuff that is less raunchy or nasty or dirty. We want to see stuff that shows female pleasure, is focused on both parties, and is depicted as pleasurable sexual experience for both (or all) the people involved in the scene. Many women want to see real bodies, women who look like them; women they can relate to.”

Perhaps then, when we talk about ‘porn for women’ what we really mean is porn made by women. Many of the people I spoke to mentioned female directors or female-led studios as being among their favourites or said they often checked to see if a film was made by a woman. It doesn’t necessarily have to be of better quality either. While some women cited high production values as being of importance, others told me they were more interested in amateur scenes.

“For me, it’s all about authenticity,” said Carrie. “I want to watch people who were so horny they wanted to film themselves fucking or wanking.”

Sex blogger Girl in Old School Trouble agrees: “For me, realism is way more important than production quality. If I can believe that I’m watching a couple genuinely getting it on and really enjoying it, I find it far more arousing than a beautifully shot scene where they are just doing it for the camera.”

So what do we mean when we talk about “porn for women”? Somewhat unsurprisingly, women’s preferences are highly personal. But on one particular subject they seem fairly unanimous: “By-and-large women want to see porn that actually shows women experiencing real pleasure,” says Engle.

Beyond that, the definition is as broad as your imagination.

 

Franki Cookney

Franki Cookney is a freelance journalist specialising in sex and relationships, gender politics and social development. You can link to her website and TwitterRead her other article on Mindful BDSM

The post What do we mean when we talk about porn for women appeared first on FrolicMe.