Porn For Women: What Do Women Really Watch?

The idea of creating porn specifically for women has been around for some time. The “need” for female porn has always been justified by the fact that the majority of porn consumers have historically been male, and therefore (the assumption goes) the needs of women are not being served by the industry.

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My first encounter with the genre came in the late 1990s when I met a woman who thought she had the idea for the perfect female porn site, and wanted me to develop it for her. She created a site called The Hotel which was altogether more artistic than the average porn site. The site worked around the concept of a dirty weekend in an upmarket hotel. The user could check in, flirt with the bell boy and buy toys and shoes as well as – naturally – look at porn.

Unsurprisingly, the site bombed. It was based on the idea that women have fundamentally different porn tastes to men, and require a more tasteful/romantic/gentle approach to smut. This idea has proven to be largely false.

When I ran Strictly Broadband, the UK’s largest pay-per-view site (prior to the rise of free tube sites), I was able to access, for the first time, large amounts of data on female vs male porn tastes. I created a top 10 movies list for each sex and wrote an article on the subject for the (now defunct) Scarlet Magazine. The findings were surprising, and overturned much of the “porn for women” and “feminist porn” narrative that I had heard. In particular:

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  1. Women and men did show some differences in taste, but not the differences predicted by porn for women “experts”.
  2. Women showed no more interest in porn created for women than men did. In fact, titles by producers such as Anna Span and Petra Joy were viewed by men and women in roughly the same proportions as all other titles. While some women may have viewed these titles because they were marketed at women, so did some men, curious to see what women were watching.
  3. Women – including straight women – are often more interested in watching other women than watching men.
  4. But some women enjoy gay male porn, where the men are typically better looking and fitter than their straight porn equivalents.
  5. The most marked difference was that women were interested in watching a gang bang title, while men were not.

The last point came initially as a surprise, though in hindsight should not have done. Anyone who has watched a gang bang will know that these titles are not great for the average straight male viewer. They generally consist of long lines of naked men queueing (and trying to maintain hard-ons) for a couple of minutes of sex each with one or two women. Although the gang bang is often presented by anti-porn feminists as the worst possible example of mistreatment of women in porn, it is easy to understand why women, rather than men, would want to watch these titles.

In a gang bang, the action revolves completely around the woman. Her sexual satisfaction, not the satisfaction of the males, is the objective. In porn, the men are often anonymous studs; pieces of flesh who are simply required to fuck the star, not to add their personalities to the scene. In a gang bang, this becomes even more so. The men worship the star, but she is in control. Whether or not each man manages to come in his allotted time slot, he is turfed out to make way for the next one. The star of a gang bang is in the ultimate position of power, using and discarding countless anonymous males in an attempt to sate her apparently endless lust.

More recently, Pornhub have confirmed, based on far bigger datasets than I had available, that female tastes are very different to the soft-and-gentle ones previously assumed.

In their list of categories that are accessed by women more than men, “for women” is understandably at the top of the list: many porn viewers have little idea what they are initially searching for, so will be guided by other people’s recommendations. “Lesbian” comes second, followed by “solo male”. But these are followed by the categories that are often listed by anti-sex feminists as examples of why porn is abusive towards women: “gang bang”, “rough sex”, “double penetration”, “fisting” and “orgy” are all listed in the top 15 female-preferred categories.

The myth of the demure female is blown away by the realities of porn viewing. By and large, women watch the same content that men do, but err towards rougher sex rather than away from it.

However, men still watch a lot more porn than women do, and probably will continue to do so. Erotic fiction however is read more by women than by men, but this does not reveal a more prudish attitude towards sex – on the contrary, the subjects tackled by much erotica are far more taboo than the porn industry can deal with, for censorship reasons. Erotic literature, much of it written by women and mostly read by women, deals with fantasies including kidnap and rape by monsters and aliens.

It turns out that men, not women, are the ones with the more predictable, gentle and dull sexual fantasies. Whatever “porn for women” might be, it isn’t what many experts in the genre seem to think.

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12 thoughts on “Porn For Women: What Do Women Really Watch?”

  1. Personally, I feel completely left out of the porn market. I’m a lover of bondage, but most of the stuff does seem made by men and doesn’t really connect with the real, emotional side of power transfer and the hit of duration bondage, and it doesn’t encourage people to investigate the human side, or the documentation/creation of things. So, I don’t particularly watch anything. It would have been great, for example, to have a documentary made of the work we did on the red suit … link attached and the gorgeous result contained at the bottom of the page.

  2. Personally speaking I’ve got to the stage, age and complete dissatisfaction with the industry, that just to get work now, I’d be prepared to shoot anything.

  3. Always found women liked pretty girl on girl action on tube sites or if theyre a bit twisted, man on man action or…Rocco Siffredi movies but the real porn I reckon women secretly like is this….

    Shoes! https://youtu.be/Iz3fePUpXb8

    Other than that, do women really like porn? Seems to me that women find these things immature and aimed at boys and complain about what the girl looks like, bored, or how awful the curtains look in the background.

    That said , female producers are on the rise and speaking to Scarlett Revelle would have me beleive they are just as, if not more filthy, twisted and imaginative than us blokes because they like to get turned on in their heads before they get turned on between their thighs so i imagine it depends on a variety of things that are interesting , a bit drawn out but dont think for a second that the ladies shy from hard, fast and nasty…It just depends on what mood theyre in.

    One things for sure, if you find the winning formula women would be buying pornos just as enthusiastically as designer shoes Im sure of it

    Interesting video with a porn star should offer some insight into what women watch in porn …Well this women snyway

    https://youtu.be/ufh2bB8kveA

  4. Hi Jerry
    I have been making and curating online porn aimed at women since 2001. My site ForTheGirls.com has been running consistently well since 2003. From the very beginning, I have defined “porn for women” as simply being a matter of actually targeting a female audience, speaking to them and trying to cater to them in some way. From very early on, I knew that, while what you call “tasteful/romantic/gentle” porn had its place, women were more likely to click on the “hardcore” sections of our link sites and view the more dirty pics and videos we posted. And they also loved the solo male masturbation, something that “straight porn” never shows (and a genre which could very easily said to be porn for women).

    I would argue that using traffic and category searches on sites that use language aimed at men (Pornhub uses descriptions that assume the viewer has a cock – as does Strictly Broadband) is not the best way to work out “what women want” because there may be a degree of frustration and “having to settle” for what they can get. And maybe they’re just trying to find something that doesn’t call them a bitch or a “cum guzzling slut”.

    Or you may be only dealing with the proportion of women who get off on mainstream male-gaze porn and don’t care about that stuff. Because I know there are women who are totally fine with “There’s a Negro In My Mom!” But I’m not certain that they are representative of all women, just as those who like softcore romance porn aren’t necessarily representative either.

    For me, porn for women easily includes multiple male gangbangs. Indeed, one features in my new film. I have no problem accepting that women’s fantasies are hugely diverse – Nancy Friday showed that back in 1973. The problem is that the vast majority of porn doesn’t try to show those fantasies with a female perspective. Often it features negative or sexist language, cuts the guy out of the frame, doesn’t bother with clit stimulation or female orgasm and always ends with a male cumshot.

    For every woman who watched a male gangbang, how many didn’t bother because these porn “standards” turned them away or made them feel like it wasn’t worth watching? My efforts for the last 15 years have been spent trying to cater to *those* women. And I can say, anecdotally at least, that there’s a lot of them out there.

    Indeed, there’s also a lot of men who feel the same way. Half of the visitors to my site BrightDesire.com are men (80% of members of For The Girls are female).

    One other thing: there are now an entire generation of young people for whom there’s always been the internet and for whom there’s always been internet porn. I’m finding that the tastes of today’s young women are broader than those of the women I first catered to in 2000. But back then, I had a hard time convincing people in the industry that women even looked at porn. So that’s a fairly big change in 15 years.

    I totally believe that porn needs to diversify and change and be more inclusive to women – in its language, in its content, in its production and in its promotion. That goal doesn’t change, no matter what individual tastes women actually have.

    1. It seems you’ve found a good formula with ForTheGirls.com that appeals to some women and some men – and doubtless there are many women and men for whom the site doesn’t work. Much of today’s niche porn marketing is based on the idea that “the patriarchy” runs mainstream porn. That’s not particularly true, nor has it ever been, but it’s a good marketing hook. In reality, porn always came from the counter-culture, and has always been hugely experimental and diverse. In fact, it’s becoming more mainstream and less quirky today because it’s become acceptable, and has been fairly well gentrified as a result. Middle-class people (and attitudes) would never have gone near the industry 2 or 3 decades ago, but are comfortable there today.

      I know plenty of women who make porn; they just don’t make porn specifically for women. There were female porn directors long before feminist porn became a thing.

      In the case of Strictly Broadband (which closed a while back), it was always curated by a team largely consisting of women as well as trans and gay people. From my experience in the industry, women tend to play a big role in most adult businesses, and I’m sure that’s as true for Pornhub as anywhere else. There are no massive businesses involved in porn – even the very biggest, Mindgeek, is pretty small compared to the businesses involved in any mainstream industry.

      I’ve actually seen the “There’s a Negro in my…” series. I decided not to publish them at SB, because they weren’t aimed at a British audience and wouldn’t have sold well. However, I took the DVDs home and my (black, female) partner enjoyed them and found them both funny and sexy. I’m not sure why you have a problem with these titles, which are basically a parody of racist American attitudes… allowing political correctness into porn would be a sad thing, and result in a censored, decaf product.

  5. Oh anti sex feminists will always tell you women who watch porn even porn aimed specifically at them (inc lesbian porn) have “internalized misogyny”.

  6. I really enjoyed this piece, but to me, it confirms that women and men are exactly the same when it comes to viewing porn.

    It isn’t about WHAT they’re watching, it’s about WHY their watching. These numbers show that women are watching things they probably will never do, things they probably would never even bring up! It’s about fantasy fulfillment, just like it is for men – our fantasies are just different.

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