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8/29/2009
MEN AND WOMEN AND PORN: A LOVE STORY
CATEGORY: History, Manzine

It was 10 years ago that I decided to write a piece on “Mainstreaming Pornography.” I had recently gotten out of a relationship with a woman who liked porn, was turned on by porn, and was turned on even more when we watched it together. Believing this was something of an oddity, I researched the subject and discovered to my surprise that there were millions of women who were porn consumers, and that many more actually found certain types of pornography sexually stimulating in the lab.

Unfortunately, I never sold the piece. Perhaps I was ahead of my time because today, the fastest growing segment of porn consumers are females - single, married, involved - and the younger the woman, the more likely they are to have their own porn collection stashed away at home.

There is still a stigma attached to porn viewing by women (”nice girls don’t do it”) but mores in America are changing fast and if you haven’t noticed, porn sellers are making it a point to market all kinds of adult products to women. Several chain stores like Starship and Good Vibrations report almost half their walk in business comes from women.

But what of the porn industry itself? Industry analysts say that more than 70% of all adult films made still cater to the tastes of men. And while those “tastes” may not have changed much since the first guy figured out that a woman has three orifices, and that it feels good sampling all of them, there has been a decided shift in what is considered “mainstream” today as opposed to 30 years ago.

Yes, real men like anal sex according to today’s standards. This survey from 2006 revealed changes in attitude toward the act that, according to my unscientific observations, mirror the rise in popularity of anal sex porn in the 1990’s:

The survey, released last year, showed that 38.2 percent of men between 20 and 39 and 32.6 percent of women ages 18 to 44 engage in heterosexual anal sex. Compare that with the CDC’s 1992 National Health and Social Life survey, which found that only 25.6 percent of men 18 to 59 and 20.4 percent of women 18 to 59 indulged in it.

Here we have a classic case study of media influence; did the rise in interest in anal sex drive the porn industry to make more films in that genre or did the explosion of films portraying anal sex in the 1980’s and 90’s drive the curiosity seekers to try it in their own lives? This leads to a further question; what influence does pornography have on sexual practices in America?

Modern pornography - dating to the Victorian era where the camera was first employed to take risque pictures - has never been much of a mystery for men. If you’ve viewed any classic porn, you know that much if it is rather vanilla in nature. Classic woman alone, one or two women with one or two (or more) men, two women — all catering to common males fantasies and are still staples of the porn industry today. Of course, there were examples of homosexual porn as well as rare fetish porn, but by and large, the market catered to men with “ordinary” tastes in sex.

This held true through the 1970’s after the breakthrough films Deep Throat, and Behind the Green Door made it hip to take your date to the local “art house.” But the invention of the VCR changed the porn industry forever. Now, because porn consumerism exploded, even fetish and gay videos could find a niche in the market and make big money.

Today on the internet, I challenge you to invent a fetish and not already find dozens of porn titles that cater to it. Everything from head to toe, hair to ankle worship, and all the bodily functions in between now has its own sub-genre on streaming porn sites. I suppose this is progress but since I’m pretty much of a vanilla sort of fellow myself, I have refrained from investigating.

Most of these fetish films cater to men. But interestingly, women seem to get aroused watching just about any kind of pornography:

Even more compelling were the results of a 2004 study at Northwestern University that also assessed the effect of porn on genital arousal. Mind you, a copy of “Buffy the Vampire Layer” and a lubed-up feedback device isn’t most girls’ idea of a hot night in. But when the researchers showed gay, lesbian, and straight porn to heterosexual and homosexual women and men, they found that while the men responded more intensely to porn that mirrored their particular gender orientation, the women tended to like it all. Or at least their bodies did.

Today’s internet porn recognizes the surging female audience in a variety of ways. The two biggest pay-per-minute sites — HotMovies.com and AEBN.com — feature a “For Women” genre that streams movies with more of a storyline, as well as films that realize specific female fantasies. HotMovies has a genre with movies directed by women, another fast growing facet of the adult film business.

No stats are available from the two streaming video sites regarding female viewership, but Hustler’s Theresa Flynt reports that 56% of their DVD sales are made to women.

The cultural earthquake being caused by the widespread acceptance of pornography by both sexes has yet to be measured. How does it affect our attitudes toward partner sex? Toward women? Men?

Seeing that porn is an estimated $57 billion dollar industry world wide ($10-14 billion in the US), the social scientists will probably have enough data to keep them busy for years.

By: Rick Moran at 11:41 am
5 Responses to “MEN AND WOMEN AND PORN: A LOVE STORY”
  1. 1
    Dean Esmay Said:
    1:59 pm 

    Yes, for good or ill we some time ago entered an era where couples commonly use porn to excite each other, and wherein women use the stuff almost as much as men. Women are also highly involved in making the stuff–not just appearing in it, but writing it, directing it, producing it, etc.

    It’s hard to know what to say about this; for me, what’s most obvious is that the people making it are likely more damaged, psychologically and spiritually, than the married couple who simply use it to spice things up between them in the privacy of their own bedroom.

    Personally, little of it sits comfortably with me, although I admit to finding erotic drawings less uncomfortable than films with live actors. Maybe that’s TMI, I’m just saying: while making porn is probably a lifestyle some enjoy, I think it’s pretty obvious most don’t in the long run and that it’s destructive to them. There should be some guilt associated with that if nothing else.

  2. 2
    Russell Miller Said:
    5:40 pm 

    I have very mixed feelings about porn, but to me, it is a very “conservative” thing - or at least libertarian, to be able to make porn if one chooses and to consume porn if one so chooses. It is also a very “conservative” thing to be able to criticise those who make or consume porn.

    Personally, it doesn’t bother me at all, except when certain, very specific lines are crossed, regarding, specifically, consent or age.

  3. 3
    sota Said:
    6:48 am 

    “I had recently gotten out of a relationship with a woman who liked porn,…”

    “Believing this was something of an oddity, I researched the subject”

    Did you research in the same way the rest of the male population does when their girlfriend breaks up with them? Or was this more clinical?

    Interesting article, Rick. Although I’m always dubious of surveys or polls that are sexual in nature. I firmly believe there is a tendency in these types of topics to exaggerate or fantasize through the act of answering “naughty”. Your point is still made, but I’m not sure we can ever get a real accurate measure of these kinds of statistics.

  4. 4
    Transplanted Lawyer Said:
    11:35 am 

    News flash: women have sex drives, too.

    Men have enjoyed pornography for centuries; there’s porno up on the walls of bathhouses and bedrooms in Pompeii. And who’s to say the ladies didn’t enjoy it back in ancient times, too? As for our society, seems to me that women consuming porno is really just the endgame, or at least the next iteration, of nearly a century of female sexual liberation taking place across Western society. So I don’t think that we can call pornography any thing new; it’s as ancient a form of art as exists, and conservatives should understand that.

    Now, I can see conservatives having caution about the erosion of social institutions — that is the essense of conservatism. Reasonable conservatism assesses actual evidence, though, instead of scare stories. So the evidence shows that despite the prevalence of pornography, people continue to be faithfully married, continue to have kids, and continue to behave normally in public despite what we presume to be all the masturbation and non-procreative sex inspired by the porno. So after nearly ninety years women behaving in an overtly sexual fashion can be called “mostly harmless.”

    One thing I would add — sex in general, and porno in particular, is a whole lot more fun when it’s a little bit naughty, something that “nice people” don’t do (but which you do because it’s fun and feels too good not to). So we all have social conservatives to thank for keeping the whole subject a little bit taboo. But at the same time we should keep in mind that this is really not a big deal.

    Aside from a couple of gratuitous slaps at conservatives, I generally agree. I personally don’t view pornography as a problem at all. I also think it an outmoded concept that porno as an “art form” or simply an adjunct to partner sex undermines anything. I wrote a piece a while back on why conservatives could support gay marriage and pointed out the changing definition of marriage over the years and how society’s mores change with them. What was once taboo - gay sex - is now viewed as “normal” by the vast majority. As far as I can tell, this hasn’t toppled the republic or created a “moral crisis” that so enamors those on the religious right.

    Bottom line; nothing more personal or private than sex. And while the making of porno may exploit and harm some men and women, it is still an individual choice made by performers to participate in the industry. Sensible restrictions relating to age as well as some self-regulating guidelines in the industry regarding violent imagery and the like are about as far as I would go in limiting what anyone should be able to view in the privacy of their own home.

    ed.

  5. 5
    Whitehall Said:
    2:21 pm 

    While pornography has a stimulating effect on libido in the short term, it does saturate like most stimuli. It then enters the definition of “vice” in that it is another way to fool ourselves, it this case, that we have a sexual appetite and an avenue of release for it.

    So a little is OK but a lot is bad. Sounds like the moral verdict on chocolate, doesn’t it?

    Speaking of “chocolate”…. to “the three orifaces,” the Incas were very big on the back door if their pottery and other surviving artwork is any indication. Maybe it was a state-encouraged method of birth control?

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