Fem­i­nist porn an­swers a need

Women view­ers are in­creas­ing and that could help to usher in the sex revo­lu­tion we are han­ker­ing af­ter

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis - Kagure Mugo

Peo­ple are al­ways pre­tend­ing they do not watch porn. Ask peo­ple whether they do and they will give you a look as if you had just sug­gested they smack pup­pies in the face with a bag of can­dies.

Watch­ing porn, es­pe­cially as a woman, is still taboo de­spite the fact that it some­times feels as if that is all the in­ter­net is made for. PornHub, the world’s largest porn site, at­tracts an av­er­age of 81-mil­lion vis­its a day.

And there is enough to watch. In 2017, 68 years — 595 680 hours — of porn were up­loaded on to the site. Clearly we are not run­ning out of ma­te­rial any time soon.

But even though there is enough (free) ma­te­rial to keep even the most in­tense of voyeurs vis­ually sat­is­fied for decades, a lot of this ma­te­rial is made for men, which is sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing how many women watch porn.

PornHub has re­leased in­sights and stud­ies on the porn habits of its fe­male users. For starters, porn for women came in as the top search, “show­ing that peo­ple are more in­ter­ested than ever be­fore” in the cat­e­gory. It was the top-trend­ing search through­out the year, in­creas­ing by more than 1 400%.

This was cou­pled with sta­tis­tics that showed women are 132% more likely than men to browse the les­bian cat­e­gory and 193% more likely to browse for women cat­e­gory. There is also the fact that, on av­er­age, women spend more time on these sites than men, with women spend­ing an av­er­age of 11 min­utes to men’s “less than a minute”.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Laurie Betito, a sex ther­a­pist and di­rec­tor of the Pornhub Sex­ual Well­ness Cen­tre, “2017 seems to have been the year where women have come for­ward to ex­press their de­sires more openly.”

But de­spite the deep pen­e­tra­tion by women into the world of porn the mak­ers of the ma­te­rial on PornHub and other sites are not ask­ing them­selves the hard ques­tion: Is this good for women?

A quick browse through sites like these is enough to know that porn is not in touch with its “fem­i­nine side”. The de­pic­tion of women is still wildly prob­lem­atic and does noth­ing for the av­er­age per­son’s sex life or sense of self.

There are enough stud­ies and ar­gu­ments about the ef­fect of porn on the way peo­ple view sex, par­tic­u­larly porn that presents women as ob­jects to be filled up and with no de­sire, wants and pas­sions. With lit­tle to no sex ed­u­ca­tion, porn is where peo­ple are learn­ing to do the naked two-backed tango and this can be wor­ry­ing when the ma­jor­ity of it shows faked or­gasms, in­ter­ac­tions that seem bor­der­line, non­con­sen­sual sex and get­ting slapped in the face by the rather large gen­i­talia of your lo­cal friendly ser­vice provider.

Porn, as it stands, is pre­dom­i­nantly about the male gaze, what a straight man would want to see, right down to the an­gle it is filmed from. As one blog­ger ar­gues: “Most porn made for men is shot in such a way as to al­low the male viewer to project him­self into the scene.”

But with so many women in the mar­ket, what can be an al­ter­na­tive?

That is where fem­i­nist porn steps in, which Wikipedia de­fines as “a genre of film de­vel­oped by and/or for those ded­i­cated to gen­der equal­ity. It was cre­ated for the pur­poses of en­cour­ag­ing women and their self­be­liefs of free­dom through sex­u­al­ity, equal­ity and plea­sure.”

Porn that shows men and women as sex­ual col­lab­o­ra­tors rather than men as con­querors could do a great deal to change peo­ple’s per­cep­tions about them­selves and their sex lives. As one con­nois­seur of the coitus arts, Rus­sell O’Con­nor, says, it would have the abil­ity to pro­mote “pos­i­tive, healthy at­ti­tudes about sex­u­al­ity and, in­deed, about gen­der it­self”.

Porn leg­end Nina Hartley echoed this when she said that kind of porn could “change men’s and women’s at­ti­tudes at their deep­est neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal level”.

With porn be­ing viewed by women ap­par­ently as much as by men, those who are mak­ing it are go­ing to have to start think­ing about the ways in which women are pre­sented. Sim­ply hav­ing them as ves­sels of plea­sure and re­cip­i­ents of the male gaze is not go­ing to cut it, and with ev­ery­one and their neigh­bour mak­ing a porno, the mar­ket is slip­pery and sat­u­rated.

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