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Is there any point making porn for women?

A misinformed, under-researched article was published in the New Statesman last week, asking if there was any point making porn for women. This article, written by "Rhiannon and Holly" who appear to be so unfamiliar with porn that they don't even know what the phrase "money shot" usually refers to, argues that:

  1. Studies have found that women are less turned on by erotic imagery than men.
  2. This isn't surprising, because those studies probably showed women either close-ups of genitalia or Mills and Boon covers.
  3. All porn is hollow and fake so women will hate it.
  4. "Feminist porn" is shit, so it's a shame no-one's actually making porn women won't hate.

Pretty much every stage of this argument is wrong.

Let's take the first two claims first. Cliterati recently published a two-part article by sex researcher Brooke Magnanti on this exact topic. Rather than incorrectly reporting the conclusions of studies and ignorantly pontificating about how they might have been carried out, Dr Magnanti provides links to peer reviewed articles.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis measured the brainwave activity of 264 women viewing a series of slides. The pictures contained scenes from water skiers to snarling dogs to undressed couples in sensual poses. What did they find? That when women viewed erotic pictures, their brains produced electrical responses that were different than when looking at the other pictures, suggesting different neural circuits are involved in processing erotic images. Women, in other words, are susceptible to the visual. It’s not only men.
[http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16712815]

Repeated studies by other research groups support these conclusions. Studies also show that women are consistently physically turned on by gay porn even when they’re not gay, and that they’re turned on by hetero porn too. They also respond to footage of some of our closest animal relatives, bonobos, mating.And interestingly, even when they identify themselves as heterosexual, women’s physiological response to images of sex is wide-ranging. It’s not category specific.
[http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18072857]

And from Part 2:

A research group in Atlanta set out to [answer the question of how men and women respond to the same stimuli]. Digital photos of oral sex and intercourse were downloaded from the internet.Researchers rated the photos for overall attractiveness to come up with seventy-two test images – the ones considered most attractive. Not a bad day’s work in the lab, if you ask me.
[http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17362952]

Both men and women were recruited to look at the same set of photos.

It was the non-HBC [ie not on hormonal birth control] women, not the men, who had a truly roving eye.Those women who were not on birth control and therefore experiencing more natural hormonal infl uence had more first looks towards genitals. They also spent markedly more time looking at genitals, and not only that, were more likely than men to do so overall.

In other words, not only have studies found that women are more aroused by erotic imagery than men, but that the women's eyes were drawn towards genitalia more than the men's. So much for Rhiannon and Holly's half-baked theory.

As for the second half of their argument. I don't have to tell you that the last ten years have seen a huge boom in the number of women making porn. Independent, performer-driven porn is on the up and up. Check out the links in my blogroll for starters; half of those sites are made by and for women (the Filthy Feminists list in the sidebar of my other blog has a more extensive list of porn sites for women).

Secret Spanko recently wrote an interesting post about how everyone seems to have a clips store these days. Finally technology has made it cheap and easy for performers to produce, share and sell their own content. It's not just high-brow female directors with big budgets and film studios who are making porn: anyone with a mobile phone and an internet connection can do it. Porn performers who previously had to make themselves employable by big studios can now make whatever the hell they want and sell it themselves online.

And it's not just pros. Modern technology has made porn production so accessible that anyone can have a go. I know more people who visit amateur tube sites for a wank than who tend to subscribe to members sites. The number of enthusiasts making and sharing homemade porn online breaks down the barriers between creators and consumers. There's no point arguing against a "porn monopoly" any more because it doesn't exist. This isn't the 70s; porn isn't controlled by a megalithic high-budget industry we can only rail against helplessly. Porn is what we make it, and anyone can join in. The more people are creating the images that turn them on, the more diverse, representative and accessible porn will become. And that can only be a good thing.

No-one's making porn women like? Bullshit.

Whether you get off on highly-crafted videography provided by high end members sites and film studios, or prefer surfing RedTube or Chat Roulette, chances are people are already making something you like. And if after all that you still haven't found anything that turns you on - well, you can always make your own. Chances are, someone else will like it too.

Comments

Great post. I am curious about this topic. I didn't think I liked porn, preferring to read (and write) spank-erotic fiction, but lately I've been quite interested to watch it on the screen...

I think that's a really common experience. I felt the same way for several years. As women, I think we're taught that erotic fiction is something we'll prefer to visual erotica at a young age - erotic fiction is marketed to women in a way that visual porn isn't, and everyone assumes that's what women will like, which means there's more erotic fiction catering to female fantasies and it's all just one big feedback loop. But it's cultural, not innate. The more women are making visual erotica that caters to their own fantasies, and marketing it to women, the more that will change.

I'd love to hear more about the kind of video you enjoy.

Considering the queues of womn in Waterstones wanting to buy 50 shades of Grey, I'd say there is a definite market for porn for women. Part of the question is to do with marketing - should it be sold as porn, erotica or something else? I'm pretty sure that a lot of those buying 50 shades would not consider themselves as purchasers of porn - so part of the trick is to find out how these women would describe it and using those terms to sell it.

The customer is almost always right and if they say they will buy erotica, but not porn, then sell thme erotica, even though it is indistinguishable from porn.

It very carefully doesn't say "porn" once in the intro text on the homepage, for exactly that reason! I rejected "erotica" as being pretentious though.

This whole marketing to different groups thing perplexes me. Maybe I should have two sites containing exactly the same content, one billed as a hardcore site of girls getting the punishments they deserve, and the other as an erotic romance where true love wins in the end. But that would be sexist and re-inforce all our cultural issues with porn; besides which, it would be cheap.

Every time I go round this I come back to the idea that being honest to myself, and producing and marketing material that would appeal to me, is the best policy.

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