What’s the big deal with lesbian porn?

The post What’s the big deal with lesbian porn? appeared first on FrolicMe.

The first pornography I ever saw was lesbian porn.

I didn’t go looking for it. It was 2006, I was sixteen years old and using my boyfriend’s computer while he was out at work. I noticed he’d left a tab open, went to close it, and… there on the screen was a full-on, hardcore girl-on-girl scene.

I couldn’t look away. I turned the sound right down (his parents were home!) and watched the entire scene beginning to end. I don’t think I masturbated to it, although I was definitely extremely aroused by the end. And that is how a three-year-long battle with my sexuality began.

It turned out that I was bisexual. I’d had crushes on girls before that point but dismissed them as youthful curiosity that didn’t mean anything or as simple admiration for that one girl in the year above who I couldn’t keep my eyes off. But finding lesbian porn on my boyfriend’s computer, and eventually graduating to watching it together with him as a precursor to sex, was a defining moment in my journey of coming to terms with myself as a queer woman.

“It’s not like I actually want to do it with a girl!” I protested to my boyfriend when he tentatively broached the idea that I might be bisexual. “It’s just fantasy. Loads of straight girls watch porn. It doesn’t mean anything.”

It turns out that I was both wrong and sort of right about that. I was wrong in that, in my case, it definitely did mean something. I really did like women. However, I was right in so far as it’s true that a huge number of straight-identified women really enjoy lesbian porn. And this doesn’t necessarily make them anything other than straight.

There’s no denying it – lesbian porn is huge

At the end of 2018, Pornhub – the world’s biggest free pornography streaming site – released some fascinating statistics about what their visitors are looking for. [1.] “Lesbian” was, by a comfortable margin, the most-viewed category of the year. Interestingly, lesbian was the top most popular porn category for female viewers – and only fourth for male viewers (outranked by “Japanese”, “MILF,” and “Mature.”) The stereotype that men love lesbian porn does hold up, to a certain extent, though it seems that women love it even more! [2.]

A similar set of statistics released in 2016 focused exclusively on the USA and revealed the most popular porn search terms state by state. “Lesbian” was the most popular search term in over thirty of the fifty states.[3.]

Interestingly, the overwhelming popularity of lesbians does not entirely stack up when it comes to written erotica. Though the “Lesbian” category on Literotica, the world’s biggest free smut site, boasts a healthy 16,237 stories at time of writing, it is comfortably outstripped by categories including “Erotic Couplings” (56,884,) “Incest” (46,673,) and “BDSM” (35,045.)

So what, exactly, is it about the visual portrayal of sex between women that makes it one of the most enduringly popular porn genres? Well, I asked a number of people of different sexualities and gender identities – and the answers got interesting. Even more than that, the answers got diverse.

Lesbian porn helps queer and bisexual women to learn about their sexuality

As I spoke to other women for this piece, it turns out that my early experience with girl-on-girl porn was fairly typical. Many bi women discovered—either by accident or through deliberately looking for it—lesbian porn in their teens or early adult years and through it, came to understand something about their own sexuality.

“Yeah, I definitely sought out the girl-girl stuff when I started watching porn,” Emma [4.] tells me. “Silly, really, that it took me so long to figure out I actually wanted to do stuff with girls myself!” she laughs.

Cheryl agrees. “When I started watching porn with my boyfriend, I noticed it was always the girls I wanted to look at. The guys did nothing for me, and it was the lesbian stuff that really got me going. It was definitely part of how I realised I wasn’t straight.”

Not only is the appeal of lesbian porn a part of many bisexual women’s journey to self-acceptance, it also helps many of us learn more about the different ways in which sex between women can actually work. Of course, pornography is not sex education, or should it be used as a substitute for such. However, the sex education most of us receive is woefully inadequate and tends to focus exclusively on intercourse between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman (and, usually, the risks therein of pregnancy and STIs.)

I grew up, as many of us did, under the final years of Section 28 (a law which expressly forbade schools from “promoting” homosexuality, which in practice meant there was no support for LGBTQ+ students and no mention of same-sex relationships in sex education.)[5.] Even now, with no such law on the books at least here in the UK, mainstream sex education rarely includes more than a cursory mention—if that—of gay sex and relationships, and lessons designed to combat homophobia can result in outraged parents pulling their children out of school.[6.]

All of this means that gay, bisexual and trans people have to turn elsewhere for the sex education they did not receive at school. For many of us, this means that the first things we learn about queer sex are from pornography.

When I started dating my first girlfriend and it was clear we were going to have sex, I watched tonnes of lesbian porn in an attempt to learn what to do with a vulva that wasn’t my own. Was it an imperfect education that didn’t fully prepare me for the reality of a real woman in my bed who wanted to have sex with me? Absolutely. But it gave a starting point. And that is better than nothing.

Straight girls love lesbian porn too!

The appeal of lesbian porn is perhaps a little more readily apparent for queer and bi women who fancy other women. However, lesbian porn is hugely popular amongst straight-identified women too. And doesn’t necessarily mean that they are secretly gay or bisexual.

“I only want to have sex with men,” Amber says. “But something about lesbian porn always gets me going! Maybe it’s a glimpse into a world I’m not part of. Maybe it’s just because the women in lesbian porn look like they’re having more fun.”

Similar sentiments are echoed by other women. Many straight women say that the fantasy of being with another woman is hot to them, even though they wouldn’t want to actually act on it in reality and therefore still consider themselves to be straight. Others say that they enjoy the focus on sex acts beyond the penis-in-vagina intercourse and blowjobs that tend to dominate heterosexual porn. In other words: women like porn where female pleasure is a big focus. And in many cases, this means porn featuring women having sex with other women.

Good lesbian porn puts female pleasure front and centre

Remember those Pornhub statistics? They also included an infographic on categories of porn which have a large disparity between male viewers vs female. The “Lesbian” category was 151% more popular with women than with men in 2018. Most interestingly, though, was the category with the biggest gender divide of all: “Pussy Licking.” That’s right—cunnilingus porn is a massive 281% more popular with women than with men.

It’s not hard to see why. The vast majority of people with vulvas do not reach orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. For most of us, extended and focussed clitoral stimulation—an average of 20 minutes’ worth, although this varies hugely from person to person—is how we reach orgasm. One of the best ways to achieve this? Cunnilingus! Not all cunnilingus porn features two women, obviously, but it’s one of the most common and popular acts depicted in lesbian porn so the crossover between the two is huge.

My research revealed one common thread again and again: people with vulvas who watch lesbian porn love it because it often puts female pleasure front and centre in a way that heterosexual porn comparatively rarely does.

“I like how some [lesbian porn] really focuses on pleasure rather than how fast they can do it like in other porn,” Violet told me on Twitter.

Others agreed, citing the fact that women’s pleasure is the focus rather than an afterthought in lesbian porn.

We all know straight men love lesbian porn—but the reasons are more diverse than you might think!

There’s a stereotype that all heterosexual men love lesbian porn. Obviously, this isn’t actually true. Among any demographic of people, there is a huge variance, and there are many straight men who don’t care for lesbian porn (and even some who really don’t like pornography at all!) “Lesbian porn doesn’t really do anything for me,” Matt, a straight man, confided in me. “I think it’s because when I watch porn, I like to imagine myself being in the position of one of the performers. Like, I’ll see a guy receiving a blow-job from a gorgeous woman and imagine myself in his place. That’s what gets me going. It’s much harder to do that when there’s no man involved.” Chris expressed something similar to me on Twitter: “as a man, I feel like I am supposed to love lesbian porn. I enjoy it, but to get off I need to see penetration by a penis.”

What about the straight men who do love lesbian porn, though? And there are a lot of them! The reasons for this preference were, I discovered, surprisingly diverse.

They range from the obvious – “I love women’s bodies, so two or more women together is perfection!” – to the sweet – “I feel like girls know better what other girls want, so I feel like watching lesbian porn gives me more ideas about how I might be able to please my girlfriend in bed.” For some, it’s the fantasy of getting involved in the scene that speaks to them (though these men were generally quick to add that they know lesbian-identified women wouldn’t actually want to have sex with them). While for others, the knowledge that the women they’re watching wouldn’t want to have sex with them is part of the allure. One man, who identifies as a submissive and a cuckold, confided in me that lesbian porn speaks to his fantasy of being made to watch but not allowed to join in.

Interestingly, a number of the straight men I spoke to expressed frustrations with lesbian porn that they felt was too focused on the male gaze. Despite it being ostensibly “for” them, it seems that this type of content misses the mark with a surprising number of men. “I love good queer porn, but so much of it looks so very insincere and played to fit a few stereotypes,” James told me on Twitter. “I sometimes get bored just by browsing and go look at something else!”

Richard expressed something similar. “I don’t like most mainstream lesbian porn because I feel it’s made purely for straight men, and as the sex acts are there to titillate men rather than to give the performers pleasure—such as “scissoring.””[7.]

Trans views on lesbian porn

For transgender people, finding good pornography that accurately reflects the reality of their bodies, identity and experience can be even more fraught than for cisgender queer people. Porn which is cis-centric and made with a heterosexual male gaze in mind simply does not cater for them. If trans people are featured at all, they’re often shown as the object of a fetish or presented in a way which can only be described as dehumanising.

Kelvin, a trans man, explained to me on Twitter: “I watch lesbian porn sometimes because there’s only so much trans guy porn out there (and not going to lie, I dislike a lot of it.) So if I want kink stuff featuring somebody with a vulva, lesbian porn is normally the best place to find it.” He explained that a lot of porn featuring trans men with vulvas involves vaginal penetration by a cis male partner, an act in which he has no interest.

One follower who identifies as non-binary queried the definition of lesbian porn, and pointed out that “I like porn which has women in it, and sometimes those women have penises.” It’s certainly true that “lesbian” has become a shorthand for “featuring two or more people with vulvas,” which is of course far from reflective of the true diversity of bodies, genders and sexualities that exist within the wider queer community.

 Fake lesbians vs real lesbians

Something that came up again and again in the conversations I had with people for this piece, regardless of their gender or sexuality, was the issue of “fake” vs “real” in lesbian porn. I probed a little into what this means, and it seemed to come down to whether the performers seemed to really enjoy having sex with other women, or were simply performing lesbianism for the male gaze. “Fetishisation of lesbians is a big issue that can often be recognised in the porn that’s out there,” Aki lamented on Twitter.

Pornography is, by definition, a performance to a certain extent. Even the specific type of amateur porn wherein a couple simply records the sex they usually have at home, there is an unavoidable extent to which awareness of the camera and the potential viewer will alter the dynamic.

However, there is a huge difference between somewhat performative but ultimately real sex, and the aggressively staged and airbrushed arena of high-budget mainstream pornography.

“What annoys me about mainstream lesbian porn is how it’s not about [the women’s] pleasure at all,” Violet said. “Plus the nails. Oh my god, the nails! Manual stimulation with a French manicure looks terrifying!”

The issue of nails came up more often than any other single topic of conversation during research for this article.

“I don’t even have a vagina but when I think about fingering with long false nails, I just want to cross my legs!” Andy joked to me.

“In porn with two vagina-owners, I am always put off by the claws rather than nails! They seem counter-intuitive,” Morgan responded on Twitter.

The issue of real vs staged goes beyond the issue of fingernails, though. Some women mentioned that they struggle with mainstream pornography, including lesbian content, because it makes them feel inadequate or insecure about their bodies in much the same way that glossy magazines do. These women expressed that watching porn with their male partners makes them feel uncomfortable because they became concerned that their partners wanted them to look like the women they were seeing in the porn. When watching alone, they tended to gravitate more towards women who looked like them. Of course, plenty of women also do enjoy high-end, professionally made porn, which caters to fantasies that are harder to realise in reality and to a specific type of luxurious experience. It seemed, interestingly, that straight-identified women who enjoy lesbian porn tended to gravitate more towards this end of the genre (though this was by no means universal.)

“It’s fantasy, not reality – and that’s why it’s fun,” one anonymous woman confided. “I watch porn to get off, yes, but also to be entertained. I use porn to get an experience I can’t easily get in real life.”

Additionally, the degree to which the pleasure depicted in porn felt real or staged was important to many viewers. Excessively over-the-top moans, screaming and exaggerated facial expressions were mentioned as factors which people found off-putting, while genuine-seeming noises and expressions of pleasure were broadly considered among the most appealing features of porn.

So what does all this mean?

It’s clear that lesbian porn is enduringly popular and not going anywhere. What I found the most surprising in all of this was the diversity of people who enjoy lesbian porn, and the wide variety of reasons why they enjoy it.

There’s still a lot of shame around pornography usage, particularly among people who are not cis men. However, porn can be great! Ethically produced porn, where the performers are enthusiastically consenting and compensated fairly, can be an amazing addition to your sex life either solo or with a partner. There’s nothing wrong with watching and enjoying lesbian porn (or any other kind of consensual adult content!) – regardless of your gender, sexuality, or reasons for enjoying it.

I’m thankful that queer porn helped me to learn something deeply important about my sexuality over a decade ago, and I continue to enjoy it now.

Amy Norton

 

Amy Norton is a sex blogger, online sexuality journalist, adult product reviewer and erotica writer. She runs her own site, Coffee & Kink, and has written for platforms including Lovehoney, Sex Tech Guide, Kink Academy and many more. Amy identifies as a queer feminist and a polyamorous swinger. She lives in the UK with her primary partner and frankly ridiculous collection of vibrators.”

 

[1]    https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/sex/news/a52061/most-popular-porn-searches/

[2]    I apologise for the unavoidable binary gendering of my language here – unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the available data is very binary and cis-centric.

[3]    https://gizmodo.com/what-kind-of-porn-is-most-popular-in-every-state-1761551304

[4]    All names have been changed to protect anonymity.

[5]    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_28

[6]    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/04/birmingham-school-stops-lgbt-lessons-after-parent-protests

[7]    “Scissoring,” also referred to as tribadism or tribbing, refers to two women rubbing their vulvas together. While it is certainly a sex act that some queer women engage in and enjoy, many say that the popularity of it has more to do with male fantasy than the lived reality of female-female couples’ sex lives.

The post What’s the big deal with lesbian porn? appeared first on FrolicMe.