Male/Female Equality: Discussing the Stigma Behind Women Watching Porn

By Patrick Banks

Posted 2 weeks agoSEX

Times have changed and more women are becoming open with their sexuality, from watching porn to pleasuring themselves and having multiple sexual partners. Yet, there is still a stigma surrounding female sexuality, especially the enjoyment of watching porn, and we’re here to discuss it.

For many years, porn was something only considered appropriate for men to watch. You might have heard, “it’s not ladylike for a woman to watch porn”, creating an umbrella of shame around the topic for women and girls everywhere.

Although UK pornography laws are clear about the types of videos that are legal to watch, the rest is fair game. So, why does society still make women feel like it’s ‘illegal’ for them to enjoy it?

There’s no doubt that women want to sexually please themselves just as much as men do, especially with the high volumes of online articles aimed at women and self-pleasuring. It is noticeable that the world is moving forward, and society is slowly catching on to normalising female porn consumers. However, there is still a stigma surrounding it, so let’s investigate it a bit further, busting some myths along the way…

Is it True That Women Don’t Enjoy Porn as Much as Men?

Humanity has been made to believe that men are the horny devils of the world, constantly craving sexual pleasure. But, news flash: many women are just as horny too and appreciate the creation of porn.

The question is, where did these myths come from? We’ve considered some potential answers…

The History of Female Sexuality is Fraught

Another reason why there is a misconception that women don’t enjoy watching porn as much as men is due to the lack of scientific studies and exploration of female sexuality. This, coupled with the ‘control’ that women’s bodies have endured throughout history, has led to a society that attaches a lot of shame to female sexuality.

In medieval times, women and their ‘deviant’ sexuality were to be feared, alongside the devil. This fear perhaps stems from the misunderstanding of female bodies back during the age of Hippocrates; the female’s “travelling womb” was surely something to frighten anyone!

Even in the early 19th century, gynaecologists and psychiatrists believed that female “disorders”, such as masturbation, nymphomania, hysteria, blindness and insanity were all life-threatening and were thought to be brought on by women reading novels considered inappropriate or from playing romantic music. On top of this, it was believed that the clitoris was the cause behind these maladies, therefore removing it was seen to be the only solution.

In the 1860s, gynaecologist Isaac Baker Brown and endocrinologist Charles Brown-Séquard favoured the clitoridectomy (something which later ended Baker Brown’s career after it was found he was performing these procedures on patients without their consent). What’s more, other horrific procedures were used to remove the clitoris, such as cauterisation, radiation from x-rays and the application of leeches.

There’s a Huge Lack of Research Surrounding Female Sexuality

These beliefs prevailed right up until the beginning of the 20th century! So, it’s clear that there’s been a lack of knowledge surrounding female sex organs since time began. This is most likely due to two things:

  • History, literature, and medicine has been domineered by men since we began writing and researching. Why would they focus on female anatomy when theirs is more of interest?
  • The Christian religion is shrouded in shame surrounding female bodies and sexual pleasure.

That said, slowly the world began to change and, in 1918, Marie Stope’s book ‘Married Love’, which talks about the importance of maintaining a satisfying sex life within a marriage, became a bestseller (although it was later banned in the US). It was the first book to consider women’s sexual desire and it was one of the first books to openly discuss birth control, i.e. sex purely for pleasure and not for procreation.

It wasn’t until 1953, however, that sexologist Alfred Kinsey discovered that the clitoris was the main source of orgasms in women. Around the same time, gynaecologist William Masters was conducting his own experiments to understand the nature of human sexual response and sexual dysfunctions. He discovered that women could achieve multiple orgasms, and his life and work were recently dramatised in the TV series ‘Masters of Sex’.

It’s worth noting, however, that there are still mysteries surrounding female sexuality due to the lack of scientific studies into it. The first MRI of the clitoris which showed its structure was only revealed in 1998 by Dr Helen O’Connell. In her 2005 paper, she writes:

Although there has been some recent progress, advances in understanding male sexual function and dysfunction have not been paralleled by similar advances in female sexual function, even in basic anatomy and physiology.”

This lack of study into female sexuality and, in particular, women being left out of scientific studies altogether, is something author Caroline Criado Perez discusses in her 2019 book ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”. She writes:

Alongside insisting that sex differences don’t matter, some researchers advocate against the inclusion of women in research on the basis that while biological sex may matter, the lack of comparable data arising from the historical data gap makes including women inadvisable (talk about adding insult to injury). Female bodies (both the human and animal variety) are, it is argued, too complex, too variable, too costly to be tested on. Integrating sex and gender into research is seen as ‘burdensome’. It is seen as possible for there to be ‘too much gender’, and for its exclusion to be acceptable on the basis of ‘simplification’.”

The Myth that Women Don’t Like Porn

Many people believe that, because more men watch porn, that it means that women don’t enjoy or react to it the same way that men do. That said, research conducted over the last couple of years comparing both men and women’s responses to pornography has shown that there aren’t many variances between the two. The female brain responds to porn closely to the way that the male brain does.

Each human is different. There might be some men who don’t enjoy watching sexual videos, just like there will be certain women who won’t like watching them either. Similarly, there’ll be people from all genders who do appreciate it; gender has nothing to do with it.

Sex Education at Schools Needs a Makeover

This lack of research from the adults of our world makes its way into the minds of our youth through the appalling sex education system. Sex education in schools has been criticised over the years for not giving young adults all the information they need as they step into the world of relationships and sex.

Usually, girls and boys are taken into separate rooms where the girls learn about periods and how not to get pregnant and the boys learn about wet dreams and how to put a condom on correctly. Right from the get go, sex education for girls heaps an enormous amount of pressure on them to be the ones to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexual assault.

Sex education in schools also tends to talk more about heterosexual relationships and sex, and there is very little or no effort to talk about gay sex or the wide variety of kinds of sex people may engage in. This type of non-inclusive and often confusing education was highlighted in the latest series of the hit Netflix show, aptly titled ‘Sex Education’.

This separation in sex education leaves young adults confused and with major gaps in their knowledge. In particular, at no point does sex education discuss sex for pleasure and how it is perfectly normal and healthy, but focuses more on sex for reproduction (or avoiding it).

This gives sex an aura of fear, which is something that has left young women all over the world not really understanding their bodies or how they work. It also means they often feel ashamed for wanting to become more educated about their own sexuality.

Sex education in schools was due to get a new curriculum in 2020, which covered topics such as sexting and the importance of social media and online pornography. But, this was delayed until September 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, there are people out there who want to help young people, and girls in particular, to explore their sexuality safely and to ask all the questions they may not be able to ask in school. Split Banana are an organisation who are dedicated to giving young adults quality sex education that doesn’t sugar coat, patronise, or exclude. They actively encourage questions of all kinds so that young adults feel prepared and armed with all the right knowledge to have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship and to really know their bodies and what feels good.

Omgyes is another company, famously championed by the actor Emma Watson, who have created a revolutionary guide to help women rediscover their bodies and to figure out what feels pleasurable, either alone or with a partner. The idea came about when the creators wanted to find this information for themselves online or in books, but couldn’t. A plan was formed, and a group of researchers, sexologists and educators came together to create this no-nonsense, practical resource for women of all ages everywhere.

This resource can (and should) be used by men and women. If more men understood what women desired, perhaps pornography sites would change and there would be more pornography aimed at women.

Porn Sites Are Usually Aimed Predominantly Towards Men

Compounding this issue is the fact that many porn sites are aimed towards men, meaning women are often left out of the picture. Porn has previously been designed and advertised towards the male gender, with surveys aiming questions about explicit content towards men and their pleasure rather than women’s preferences.

Not only this, but porn is, more often than not, created by men for, you guessed it, the pleasure of men. This can make it hard for women to find content that they enjoy on popular porn sites. But how has this happened?

The Male Gaze

In society, the ‘male gaze’ is something that originated on the big screen, but has now infiltrated many media formats, from TV and advertising, to books and magazines. The term was coined in 1973, when British feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey, described it in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.

In her essay, she describes the male gaze as the way mainstream media objectifies women by portraying them as objects purely for the enjoyment and possession of heterosexual men. This can be displayed in the way a woman is dressed on screen, the lines she delivers, the camera framing of her body, and even her expression.

In 2016, New York stand-up comedian, actor and writer, Marcia Belsky, created the now infamous Tumblr account ‘The Headless Women of Hollywood’. The projects aims to bring more awareness to the way women are portrayed in film, TV, book covers and even advertisements in the hope that mainstream media would start to treat women with more respect. In her bio she writes:

By decapitating the woman, or fragmenting her body into decontextualized sexual parts, she becomes an unquestionably passive object to the male gaze. The question of her consent is removed completely alongside her head, and her purpose becomes solely that of being looked at by men obediently. Her value is that only of her sexual appeal to men, and not of her personhood.”

It is not surprising, therefore, that the male gaze has dominated the porn industry. When young adults grow up seeing women in the mainstream media depicted in this passive and purely sexual manner, it can influence their perceptions of women, and their purpose and value in society. It also perpetuates stereotypical ideas about women, particularly in marginalized groups, such as the fetishizing of black or Asian women resulting in some troubling ‘categories’ on various porn sites.

Although porn still has a long way to go (as does the male gaze) until it becomes more inclusive and respectful of women, society is finally realising that women do watch porn.

Statistically, Women Watch Less Porn Than Men

With this male gaze across porn sites, as well as the historical issues surrounding female sexuality, there’s no doubt that females are a minority when it comes to watching these explicit videos. Unfortunately, it is still not seen as entirely acceptable that women enjoy sex just as much as men do.

Still, the amount of women who watch porn has significantly increased in previous years, with popular porn sites PornHub and xHamster reporting that nearly one-third of their viewers are of the female sex. Although that does still leave two-thirds of their viewers identifying as male or non-binary.

It shows that still, fewer women are watching porn than men, but why is this? There are several reasons as to why fewer women are watching porn in comparison to men, some of these are:

  • The majority of mainstream porn is aimed towards male pleasure.
  • Many generations of women have been told porn is ‘sinful’, that it is shameful, and objectifies women – unfortunately when this has been drilled into someone’s mind, it might be hard for them to enjoy it.
  • Some religions define watching porn as a sin.
  • It might seem like less women watch porn because some keep concealed about it, not wanting to announce that they do publicly.
  • Although some women might enjoy the porn that is found on sites such as PornHub, some find it can be degrading to women, involve sexual activities which they don’t find arousing, or they may just find it plain boring.

The Truth is That Many Women Hide That They Watch Porn

As we’ve now established, there is certainly a stigma surrounding women watching porn. In some instances, it might be easier for some women to keep their habits tight-lipped. Some women hide that they watch porn for numerous reasons, these include:

  • They feel that they will be judged by their peers or elders.
  • It’s considered ‘unladylike’.
  • They’re embarrassed.
  • Privacy – as the saying goes, what goes on behind closed doors can stay behind closed doors. Maybe they want to keep their sexual enjoyments a mystery.
  • Worried about repercussions, e.g., religious reasons.
  • Because they don’t want to be the only women they know to admit it.
  • It’s no one’s business but theirs.

If a woman wants to keep it from someone that they watch porn, then that is ultimately their decision. It is no one’s business to know and is especially not okay for anyone to try and pry it out of them. However, reducing the shame surrounding the topic is sure to help more people come out of the closet.

In recent mainstream media, there appears to have been a shift and we’re seeing more women in TV masturbating, but not in a way that’s made for men. It’s often portrayed as a completely normal thing to do (which it is!) and it’s refreshing and almost ground-breaking to see after so many years of watching men engage in such activities on screen. This will hopefully also help more women realise that it’s ok to self-pleasure, and it’s ok to watch porn and it’s even ok to talk about it.

Could Porn Sites for Women Change This?

Alongside this new move by the media, perhaps these statistics would change if pornography was geared towards women. After all, one of the main things that comes up in conversations with women about what porn they like is that they often find aggressive sex off-putting and there’s often a concern for the women in the videos. It’s not surprising then that women seek out porn that is more in tune with what turns them on and that they can be sure the women in the videos are safe and treated with respect.

Pornography websites aimed at women are few and far between, but they has been an increase in recent years. Some new and upcoming sites are explicitly being designed for women and their sexual desires.

Websites such as XConfessions, Frolic Me, and many other female porn sites are being created to give women those mind-boggling orgasms they crave. What’s more, sites such as Bellesa and Good Vibrations After Dark, are popular amongst women looking for an alternative to the mainstream porn sites.

Bellesa is not just a pornography site, it is also a community for other like-minded women to share their stories and express their sexuality freely. The porn places women at the center – not as objects of desire, but as subjects of pleasure.

Good Vibrations After Dark is a sex-toy store that also hosts a video collection that caters to women’s desires – however diverse they may be. The collection includes female-directed films, feminist porn and even sex education guides that discuss some of the unrealistic aspects of mainstream porn. It also proves once again that there are still many gaps in sex education around the world and it is never too late to learn something new.

Also, stereotypically male-centric porn sites such as PornHub, now have categories specifically targeted at women.

Not only do women have more options these days in terms of female-centric porn sites, but some women are also even going to the extreme of creating their own porn outside of the mainstream because they can’t find what they’re looking for on sites like PornHub. Websites such as Reddit and Tumblr are used to share erotic stories, gifs and images with very specific category tags that often include high fantasy or are fantasies of extreme sex that they wouldn’t normally engage in in the real world.

Audio porn is also increasing in popularity, especially with women. Audio porn is exactly as it sounds, you can either listen to people having sex, listen to an erotic story, or even take part in a guided masturbation session. This type of porn opens the doors to women who may feel uncomfortable watching porn for body image reasons or just because it’s not their ‘thing’.

Apps are also available, like Emjoy, a self-care app with some eroticism thrown in. It focuses more on helping women with body acceptance and learning more about their sexuality and how to increase their arousal. Quinn is a fairly new website that boasts a huge collection of audio porn, with a diverse range of categories, all aimed at women.

Despite the number of female porn watchers on the rise, there will always be opposing opinions. There will be those who just aren’t interested in watching porn or self-pleasuring themselves, and others who are. This can also be said for men.

Let’s Normalise Women Watching Porn

In 2021, things have moved on a fair bit since the 1950’s. We have TV advertising for sex toys which opens the conversation about better sex, women can freely access contraception (in most countries) and are allowed to be sexually active outside of marriage, and more laws are coming in to protect women against domestic abuse, online abuse and upskirting.

However, there is still a taboo around women watching porn. But, as history has shown, we can hopefully move beyond this to a place where women feel just as free to discuss and watch porn as men do.

We all have our needs in life, and as much as some people like to shame women for it, sexual pleasure and watching porn is one of those needs. So as a society, we need to normalise it by talking to our peers, talking to our elders, and letting the world know that women do like to watch porn!

About the author Patrick Banks

Patrick is a Berlin-based dating advisor, motivational speaker, a huge fitness and vegan diet enthusiast and the main editor at Wingman Magazine, specialised in men's health. His ultimate goal is to share with men around the world his passion for self-development and to help them to become the greatest version of themselves. He believes a healthy body and successful social interactions are two main keys to happiness.

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