Women: First Time Watching Porn

If you’re female, admitting to yourself that you want to watch porn or explicit sexual imagery 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.

A great start is to read this excerpt of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn on Oprah.com.

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. And if you think that all porn is nothing more than pool boys and women with poor payment negotiation skills and eternal bad hair days (or worse: women being coerced into doing something they don’t want to), yes, it’s a surprise.

According to many studies, lots of women watch porn, and like it, too. Now that the Internet has given female porn performers a voice for themselves, we’re finding out that they have thoughtful opinions about the decisions they make about doing sex as a job. In late 2003, Nielsen Netratings revealed that 1 in 3 users of porn were women, and over 9 million American women accessed adult sites in September 2003 alone. And in women-friendly boutiques such as Babeland, women make up 80% of the porn rental and purchase market.

Women like to watch, and — guess what — it’s not exactly “breaking” news. Going back one whole decade, in a 1987 Redbook survey of over 26,000 female respondents nearly half stated that they regularly used porn. And it’s not just the “wild ones”, either: the 2003 poll by taken by Today’s Christian Woman readers found that even good church-going women were peeking at the odd bit of porn: over 34 percent of female respondents to their online survey self-disclosed that they had deliberately gone looking for porn. Articles from sources such as The New York Times and MSNBC have asked “What Women Want” and answer themselves with the resounding response, “Women are hungry for porn.” In 2004, the New York Times told us in no uncertain terms that Women Are Tailoring Porn to their Eyes. In the 1996 book Defending Pornography by ACLU president Nadine Strossen, “Women, either singly or as part of a couple, constitute more than 40 percent of the adult videotape rental audience. . .” In 1989, Good Vibrations added adult videos to their catalog, at the demand of female staff and customers. And as consumers, women are changing a market once considered a boys’ club — female directors like Candida Royalle are selling hardcore erotic videos made by women, for women at the rate of approximately 10,000 titles a month.

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 studios 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. Or, if you go to amateur free sites like xTube or YouPorn, you’ll see a range of quality, all the way to down to exhibitionists with phonecams. And yes, the websites make sure it’s all legal.

Just like with any other sex toy, it helps if you’re aroused before you begin watching porn. When you’re ready to click play, be sure to have the following items ready: lube, a dildo, vibrator, and/or towel, and the remote control or mouse. 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 and/or your mouse? Controls are 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. In mainstream porn that means typical-male type formulas — that is, typical males of about twenty years ago. With online porn makers, indie studios, European and global directors, and women directors, you’ll find a much wider range of porn because they perceive their viewers as more diverse.

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 you read this right now.

Think about what expectations you’re bringing to your first porn watching experience and you can make a selection that won’t leave you high and dry, or in the worst-case scenario, angry at the genre, or feeling bad about yourself. 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. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it might make us feel uncomfortable. Don’t blame yourself or feel bad if you get turned on by a fantasy that you would otherwise find offensive in your day to day life. Porn is constructed as a fantasy, and if you knew the work behind the scenes that went into making these videos convincing, I’m guessing you’d be more turned off by how fake porn really is.

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 Babeland and Hot Movies for Her websites are very helpful in these matters — I know, I’ve been writing these 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, the websites I screen and recommend never carry a film that is demeaning or abusive toward women, or include any racist or discriminatory content — of any kind. They make sure the porn they endorse (and that I endorse) 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 we recommend typically won’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 video has an overwhelming redeeming quality (such as a stand-out sex scene or contains something underrepresented in porn), we all make sure that the descriptions you see warns you 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 surgically enhanced bodies. 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.

Here’s a great example of indie porn from the UK, directed by a woman — a free video samples from Cinema Erotique, directed by Cherry Chapman.

You may also want to check out the exciting female pro-porn movement at Our Porn, Ourselves.

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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