Nothing perplexes people quite like the combined topics of women and pornography. Do ladies love porn or hate it? Do they hate it but still watch it? What kind of woman gets into porn? What kind of woman gets off to it? Can Fifty Shades of Grey be blamed? Or Sasha Grey? Porn has been a hot-button issue for years now, but what do we actually know about the roles, consumption and viewing habits of women? Once you get past the heated rhetoric and moralizing, it turns out we know a lot.
10. Women Watch Porn…
This should be a resounding “doye,” or if you’re feeling emphatic, “Doyes ‘R’ Us” or “Doye Story III.” Some women have been consuming and enjoying porn for a long time. And not just a fringe minority. One in three adults browsing Internet porn sites are women, according to Nielsen ratings. In 2007, almost 13 million were watching porn on a monthly basis. Despite this, the myth persists that all women hate porn (and certainly many do). But their Internet habits tell another story.
9. They Just Don’t Like to Pay for It
According to the neuroscientists who wrote A Billion Wicked Thoughts,women do not often pay for porn. Authors Ogas and Gaddam write: “According to CCBill, the billing service most commonly used by the online adult industry, only 2 percent of all subscriptions to pornography sites are made on credit cards with women's names. In fact, CCBill even flags female names as potential fraud, since so many of these charges result in an angry wife or mother demanding a refund for the misuse of her card.”
8. Porn Origins
Porn has been around since the Paleolithic period, and yes, it was conducted on cave walls. In addition to woolly mammoths, engraved images of nude women and crude vulvas (think Pac-Man meets ice cream cone), and doggy-style drawings exist as early as 10,000 BCE. Granted, some of them look like they’ve been drawn by sexually precocious first-graders, but hey, we can’t all be Vincent van Ho.
7. Porn Stars Have Higher Self-Esteem Than You
The stereotype that all female porn stars are damaged goods, come from backgrounds of abuse, and have poor self-images is finally being put to bed. According to findings in the Journal of Sex Research, porn stars have higher self-esteem, are more spiritual, and feel better about their bodies than women not in the adult industry. The study also found that porn stars were far more likely to identify as bisexual (67 percent, compared to the match group's 7 percent), that they had sex at an earlier age (15, compared to the match group's 17), had more sexual partners (on average, a porn star has more sex partners in one year than a non-porn star has in her lifetime, and this doesn't include their work partners), enjoyed sex more, and were more concerned about contracting STDs.
6. The Average American Female Porn Star Looks Like…
Picture a porn star in your mind. What do you see? Blonde? Triple-D rack? Stilettos, tans and talons that would make most lesbians recoil in terror? According to writer and researcher Jon Millward’s study of 10,000 actors in the Internet Adult Film Database, your average porn star has brown hair, is from California, has a 34B cup, is 5’5″ and is probably named Nikki Lee. The stereotype of the busty blonde bombshell turns out to be just that, a stereotype.
5. The Most Popular Female Roles in Porn
Millward’s study also looked at the most common female roles in porn and found that “teen” won by a landslide; the word appeared in 1,966 titles. Curiously, “MILF” came in second, with 954 titles. (If you haven’t seen How I Banged Your Mother 6, you simply must!) This seems like a curious age gap — women in porn are desirable as teenagers and then not again until motherhood? — until you realize that “fuckable moms” in porn are on average 33 years old, and many are far younger. The third most common role in porn is “wife” at 499 titles, which would be sweet except that every film title that had “wife” was actually about the concept of fucking someone else’s spouse.
Authors from A Billion Wicked Thoughts came to similar conclusions. They analyzed a year’s worth of terms entered into search engine aggregators, and found that, of the searches that were sexual, the term “youth” was No. 1, “MILF” was No. 3. and “cheating wives” was No. 5.
4. What Kind of Porn Women Like
You’ve no doubt heard the expression “different strokes for different folks,” and this applies to the porn-watching habits of women, which are just as diverse as the habits of men (except when it comes to teen MILF wifes, obviously). But as with anything, some trends have emerged. If you’re trying to get your ladyfriend to watch porn with you, you should avoid cum shots above the neck, overt fakeness (women tend to like porn that looks/feels “real”), porn with no storyline (though please, no more Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Bone), and porn with no foreplay. While softer images, lighting and music are a theme, this isn’t to say women can’t get down with more hardcore action. According to sex columnist Violet Blue, female director Candida Royalle's hard-core erotic videos, which are made for women viewers, sell at the rate of approximately 10,000 copies a month.
3. Female Porn Stars Outearn Male Peers
Porn is one of the few professions where women make more money than men do. “While female performers often earn between $600 and $1,000 for a scene, men are usually only paid less than $150 for a scene,” according to All Time 10s, and theGuardian. Take that, wage gap! Way to stick it to the man…by sticking it in yourself.
2. Women Get Aroused by … Everything
A 2008 study by Meredith Chivers, detailed in the New York Times, found that straight women showed signs of physical arousal when shown images of just about everything — masturbation, straight sex, girl-on-girl action, guy-on-guy action, and even footage of bonobo chimps mating. What didn't turn them on, you ask? Pictures of naked men. However, even though women showed strong signs of arousal, there was a marked disconnect between what was happening to their bodies and what was happening in their brains. Meaning they were turned on, but didn’t know it.
1. Don’t Know What Porn to Watch? Ask Oprah
Porn makers and distributors are tuning into the fact that women are getting on the porn bandwagon. Nothing speaks truer to the mainstreaming of porn than the fact that Oprah Winfrey has porn recommendations, filtered through the wisdom of Violet Blue. She recommends sites like SugarDVD.com and GreenCine.com, Comstock Films’ Real People, Real Life, Real Sex Series (which focus on an actual couple), vintage erotica, and one Jenna Jameson flick with her husband for good measure. There’s no word on whether the recommendations will continue, but I think we can all agree that’d be a club we could get behind.