Feature: Searching ‘Porn for Women’ taught me a lesson and you need it, too!

Often, when a product is marketed as being ‘for women’, you can safely assume it will be a rip-off, covered in pink. See the ‘Bic for Her’ ballpoint pen or women’s razors. In fact, I have made it my policy to avoid anything that shouts about being made especially for us ladies.

The one exception, though, just might be porn.

PornHub, one of the world’s genre’s biggest websites, has released a deep dive into the search terms entered by people all over the world, combined with their location and gender. It might sound a bit like Big Brother is watching you masturbate, but it’s a fascinating insight.

Interestingly, the year’s top search term was ‘porn for women’. Combine that with 359 percent increase in female users and you are faced with an undeniable truth: women like porn. Women watch porn. But is this sweeping generalisation, ‘porn for women’ really good enough? Is there really a consensus on what women want to get their rocks off to?

When I started to explore porn online, I turned first to the ‘female choice’ category.

Is this sweeping generalisation, ‘porn for women’ really good enough?55233625ee8c7985a841c4bd068dd5e1

It felt like a safe niche among some quite intimidating sites. More importantly, it made me feel like I wasn’t weird or bad. Every cultural reference I had, was about men watching porn. Girls, as far as teen movies and magazines had taught me, didn’t do things like that. So the fact that there was a ‘female choice’ at all, came as a huge relief.

But the porn I found there was disappointing and adhered to the cliched ‘romantic’ style that porn produced ‘for women’ traditionally follows. As if half the population could be turned on by the same thing: soft music, gentle lighting, lots of kissing, sensual shots of people looking wistfully at each other. A gentle attempt at a plot.

Porn producer and activist, Blake, explains: ‘Women are stereotyped as preferring porn which is somehow less pornographic – because it is entertaining in other ways via storyline, pleasing aesthetically as well as sexually via high production values, and implicit rather than explicit with soft lighting.

“This suggests that women can’t possibly seek out porn because they’re horny; they must be getting something else out of it as well. It’s the same stereotype that codes “romance” as feminine. It simply doesn’t hold up to reality.’

No woman should feel that she is different or broken because her sexual tastes don’t lean towards lacy lingerie and gentle backing tracks! Kissing and whispering was not what I was looking for when I started exploring porn. But, I rationalised, if that was the ‘female choice’ and I didn’t like it, that must mean there was something wrong with me – not the porn. Other women clearly liked this gentle way of getting off and because I had fled to the dark, nasty section which was clearly aimed at men, I was probably broken.

Over time I made my peace with it. I wasn’t broken, I decided. I was probably just different from other women.

Years later, after building a career around talking about sex, I was browsing a porn site (for work) and the title ‘female choice’ caught my eye. It had been six years since I had visited that section because I’d written it off as vanilla and boring.

But, interested to see if anything had changed, I looked.

Things couldn’t have been more different. The plethora of videos on offer spanned everything from BDSM to threesomes to good old-fashioned missionary. There were home videos, professional videos, and solo films. The section might have been aimed at women, but it certainly wasn’t peddling that same old female myth.73d755b14026c0332281e29402db85e7--werewolf-girl-werewolf-romance

No woman should feel, as I did in my teens, that she is different or broken because her sexual tastes don’t lean towards lacy lingerie and gentle backing tracks. That’s exactly what the outdated perception of ‘female porn’ does and why one detail of the PornHub research is very important indeed.

Women aren’t one homogeneous group. We don’t all like or want the same things
Women aren’t one homogeneous group. We don’t all like or want the same things
Because the top search term for women on the site wasn’t ‘kissing’ or ‘romance’ or ‘love’. It was ‘Daddy’. So, please, take me at my word when I say that women are capable of being just as kinky, filthy and inclined towards dirty sex as men.

Eventually, after a lot of years of talking about sex and coaching women into believing that their urges aren’t bad or wrong, I realised that I’m not different. We’re all turned on by different things.

That diversity of tastes is why I find the expression ‘porn for women’ worrying – a sentiment which Blake shares: ‘It think of it as being quite a dated phrase, originating in the Nineties, which referred to porn created specifically with female interests in mind. It was already out of use by the time I launched my porn site in 2011, and had been replaced by ‘feminist porn’.

“Nowadays I hesitate to use even that, as if implies that porn isn’t feminist unless it brands itself as such – whereas a lot of so-called “mainstream” porn is produced in a way that aligns with feminist values, and some porn branding itself as “feminist” is produced under poor working conditions, in a way that does not align at all.”

Women aren’t one homogeneous group. We don’t all like or want the same things. Calling a type of porn ‘female friendly’ is just as stupid as calling a type of job or activity female friendly. It’s reductive, short-sighted and it does women a disservice.

Women, like men, want different things at different times, Mr Darcy in a billowing shirt one day and a full-on orgy the next! But there’s nothing wrong with thinking about what a female consumer might enjoy, as Justine Elyot, erotica author, explains:

“I write ‘porn for women’, but what I’m really writing is ‘porn for women who like the same things as me’, and I’m not just talking kinks. I mean women who like a story, a developing relationship, a sense of the protagonists being real and complex people rather than just sex avatars.

“Most female consumers like their porn in context. But I’d be very wary of extending this to ‘all women’ or ‘all the time’. Now and then I just want to read something quick and dirty without the frills. Women, like men, want different things at different times, and it might mean you want Mr Darcy in a billowing shirt one day and a full-on anonymous dungeon orgy the next. There’s room, or there should be, for a rainbow of tastes.”

If porn is going to be produced ‘for women’ (and given the popularity of the search term, I’m sure it will) then it needs to avoid the Bic for Her mishap. Don’t just make a half-hearted guess at what women, in general, might want, relying on a stereotype and wrapping it in pink. Listen to them. Do the research.

Realise that women are sexual creatures too, and we don’t need a four poster bed or a handsome prince to get our rocks off.

By Drew Darcy

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