A First Timer’s Guide to Watching Porn by Violet Blue

XXX Files September 2001

So, you think you might be interested in watching some explicit sex onscreen? You’re not alone, and it’s not a new concept — for women or men. According to the Free Speech Coalition’s 1999 survey of adult retailers, during 1998 stores in the United States reported a total of 686 million rentals of adult tapes. Just consider how much that has changed in the free-tube, Internet era where it can be done in total privacy.

Typically when we think of the people who rent the videos, we think of sleazy men in raincoats and all those stereotypes — and while that may be true for part of the population, these guys are practically extinct today. It’s certainly true that the average viewer is male, but the viewership has changed over the last 25 years to include a greater amount of women and couples of all orientations. While a 1997 study by The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality concluded that most explicit books, magazines, and videos were marketed to heterosexual men, the researchers noted that in recent years more material had been produced by and for heterosexual women.

If you’re female, admitting to yourself that you want to watch a dirty movie may take some — or a lot of — forethought. One of the major obstacles that we women face is the widely held notion that women don’t respond to sexual imagery as men do — a notion that is absolutely untrue. In her 1994 study, Dr. Ellen Laan of the University of Amsterdam proved that women respond physiologically to sexual images, even when the women said that the porn they watched was boring or unarousing. When seeing the sex onscreen (whether from male or female directors), their genitals congested quite robustly, thank you very much.

Once you feel okay with using porn as a sex toy, there are a few things you need to know before you get started. First, keep your expectations in check — you’re not going to see anything like the mega-budget Hollywood blockbusters (but with sex included) that you’re used to. Why not? Because outside of Hollywood studios, no one has that kind of money, or those resources to throw around, especially in a film genre that’s controversial.

The quality you’re going to see is like daytime soap operas; with simple sets, standard lighting, digital cameras, and barely there acting. Unless you go with a film from a bigger studio — because the world of porn has a studio system just like in Hollywood. The big studio filmmakers (like Vivid) have bigger budgets, better sets, actors who might have gone to acting school, writers who have writing experience, and directors who are more likely to take their craft seriously, with some using real film stock in their movies.

Just like with any other sex toy, it helps if you’re aroused before you begin watching porn. When you’re ready to put the tape in and press play, be sure to have the following items ready: lube, a dildo, vibrator, and/or towel, and the remote control. Having a sex toy ready if you need it is handy because if the video turns you on (and you subsequently want to get off), then you won’t have to interrupt the moment to search around for your toys.

But why the remote control, the fast forward button, or your mouse? Physical control over what you see is the only really required item for porn viewing: you’ll need to fast forward through anything you don’t like, or whatever distracts you from your arousal — be it lame dialogue, a sex act you don’t prefer, or an unsightly boob job. For some people this seems like a hassle at first — why can’t they just make the “perfect” porno?

Porn comes in so many flavors and viewers bring so many different appetites to the table that the makers of porn try to appeal to as many tastes as possible in a relatively short amount of time. Porn has to get to the point pretty quickly in order to retain horny viewers who usually want instant gratification, and so like Hollywood, they’ve boiled down what they think viewers want into formulas. Typical-male type formulas — that is, typical males of about twenty years ago.

The formulas always include six to seven sex scenes, a standard set of positions and couplings, actors and actresses with mostly-shaved genitals, men with larger than normal penises, and women with larger than normal breasts — with a few notable exceptions. An oft-voiced complaint is that the men are acceptable when unlovely in fitness and form, while the women’s bodies must conform to a standard: underweight, blonde hair, big lips, and big boobs (the Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Association is always well represented). Without fail, the men always pull out before orgasm and ejaculate on the women’s breasts, face, ass, or vulva, so the viewer can see it. To say the least, little emphasis is placed on female orgasm and ejaculation, but that’s changing as we speak.

Think about what expectations you’re bringing to your first adult video and you can make a selection that won’t leave you high and dry, or in the worst-case scenario, angry at the genre. What ideas turn you on — small breasts, big butts, women in charge, realistic plots, blowjobs, two gals and a guy, male anal penetration, group sex? This may not be your list, but you get the idea. Get clear on what you want to avoid by making another list of things you don’t want to see — do you get turned off by fake breasts, hairy men, rimming, toe-sucking, facial ejaculation, two women together, or watching anal sex? These are just examples to get you brainstorming about what you’ll want to look for, and what you’ll want to fast forward through. You may find more to add to either list as you view tapes — sometimes we find things that turn us on or off that we didn’t even know about.

Knowing what you like and dislike can help enormously when selecting a tape. You can single out many of your preferences before you rent or buy, and then skip the parts you don’t care for. The reviews on the Good Vibrations’ and Babeland‘s websites are very helpful in these matters — I know, I wrote those reviews for years. The reviews and ratings can also help you select videos that address finding things you don’t usually see on the blue screen, such as an all-natural cast (enhancement-free), internal ejaculation, attention to cinematography and lighting, great acting and excellent plot.

As a general rule, these stores never carry a film that is demeaning or abusive toward women, or includes any racist or discriminatory content — of any kind. They make sure our tapes portray healthy sexuality, meaning that they depict positive attitudes about sex (no sexual shame allowed!), and women getting off as much as the men — there’s always attention to female pleasure involved. The porn they carry can’t model unsafe sex practices, such as penetration that goes from anus to vagina (which causes infection), or inserting toys anally that can get “lost” in the rectum. Whenever something that’s borderline or potentially button-pressing comes up, but the tape has an overwhelming redeeming quality (such as a stand-out sex scene or contains something underrepresented in porn), we make sure that the descriptions our customers see warns them about it.

There are certain things in porn that are going to be hard to avoid if you don’t like them. Facial ejaculation (men ejaculating on women’s faces) is pretty much a standard. So are boob jobs. I hear a lot of complaints about both of these things. I can’t offer much by the way of explanation when people find these things icky or strange, except to say that some people, somewhere, like these things. Well, I hope they do, because they have an awful lot of porn to watch. But if you want to avoid facials, look for porn made by women directors, like Tristan Tarormino, Maria Beatty and Candida Royalle. Both women make excellent plot-driven movies, and if you want to avoid anal sex, so does Candida and she avoids it in her films for the most part. Finding all-natural starlets is a little tricky, but there are more of them now than five years ago. Look for porn made by independent movie companies like Pink and White Productions (The Crash Pad Series), or porn that features all-naturals.

Or, explore on sites like YouPorn.com — there’s a wide variety, and even if you don;t see anything you like you’ll at least know what not to look for. But chances are good you’ll see at least *one* thing you like…

Violet Blue

The London Times named Violet Blue "One of the 40 bloggers who really count" and Self Magazine named TinyNibbles one of the “Best Sex Resources for Women.” Blue is an autodidact and pundit on sex and technology, hacking and security, porn for women, privacy and bleeding-edge tech culture. She is a journalist for ZDNet, CBS News, CNET; she's an educator, speaker, crisis counselor, volunteer NGO trainer, and the author and editor of over 40 award-winning books.

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