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Women have a long, complex relationship with porn. In being commonly stereotyped as less visual and less sexual creatures than men, we are not expected to even like porn — but we do. Pornhub reported that 26% of their traffic came from women in 2016, and an adult entertainment website created for women, Bellesa, received almost 150,000 unique visitors in its first month alone.

20% of women said they felt embarrassed or ashamed after watching porn

Despite this reality, there is a lot of shame involved when women consume porn. In a survey conducted by Marie Claire in 2015, 41% of women reported that it was something secretive that they didn’t want anyone to know about, and 20% said they felt embarrassed or ashamed after watching. I asked my female friends and followers about their porn preferences and there weren’t many who felt comfortable expressing what turns them on — which is understandable and reflective of a culture that has consistently repressed our desires. Interestingly, I also stated that I didn’t want to hear from men during this impromptu survey, as mainstream porn is created with them in mind and reflects their already obvious preferences, but so many of them insisted on responding anyway. Still, their unwelcome input highlighted the difference between discussions about porn with men and with women.

Women want to see themselves and their experiences in porn

The most common answer I received from women was: lesbian porn. For the queer women who reached out, this makes perfect sense; women want to see themselves and their experiences in porn. Plus, I think porn has the additional value of affirming that our same-sex desires aren’t evil or abnormal. Studies show that for gay and bisexual youth, porn can help them feel less alone. And porn allows women who are exploring same-sex attraction to do so without judgment or interference.

68% of women who preferred girl/girl porn identified as heterosexual

But even heterosexual women I spoke to admitted to watching or preferring lesbian porn. In a survey conducted by Bellesa, 68% of women who preferred girl/girl porn identified as heterosexual. Pornhub also reported that women overall are 132% more likely than men to watch lesbian porn. Heterosexual porn typically features penetration as the main event, with male ejaculation as the conclusion, but only 15% of women even orgasm reliably from that. Unsurprisingly, women probably find lesbian sex more erotic when it centers oral sex — the kind of sexual act that actually brings women to climax.

IAWP, I AM WOMAN PRojectTHE I AM WOMAN Project,

The second most popular answer I received was double/triple penetration porn. While I don’t personally prefer these videos, I think it makes sense for women who are attracted to men to love them. They’re about being dominated, being the center of attention, being wholly desired. And I think it’s particularly liberating to see female desire that includes multiple partners when women are shamed and guilted for even casually dating two men at the same time.

It’s particularly liberating to see female desire that includes multiple partners when women are shamed and guilted for even casually dating two men at the same time

Another very popular answer was erotic stories. Some women even mentioned erotic fanfiction and the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Per Marie Claire, 40% of women reported using erotic stories to get off. While this seemingly supports the idea that women aren’t visual, I think this has more to do with our overall exhaustion with a visual porn industry that exists for men exclusively. 56% of women polled by Marie Claire said that they felt conflicted about porn because it perpetuates negative stereotypes and 44% said porn options were too male-centric. Pornhub also reported that in 2017, “porn for women” was one of their top trending searches, increasing by 1400% throughout the year. Clearly, it’s not that women do not like porn, or that we prefer to imagine porn. Its that there is something missing in the porn we have access to.

40% of women reported using erotic stories to get off

In porn, women are willing to fix most problems with a blow job, whether it’s a traffic ticket or a poor grade or a slow day at the hospital. Threesomes are easily negotiated on the spot — and never in advance, and never with a thorough discussion about boundaries. We can go even deeper when we consider how racist and misogynistic porn tropes can be. Videos with Black female entertainers often get housed on websites that call them ‘ghetto’ ‘ratchet’ or at minimum, ‘ebony’. They are so often aggressive and dominating, which doesn’t reflect all Black women — and certainly, doesn’t reflect me. Black men are also sensationalized in porn, whether it’s for having unrealistically large penises or for being a white woman’s first time with a person of color. Latinx entertainers always have to be ‘spicy’ or ‘fiery’. Asian women are often submissive and infantilized; Asian men literally don’t exist.

Videos with Black female entertainers often get housed on websites that call them ‘ghetto’ ‘ratchet’ or at minimum, ‘ebony’

Even though women consume more lesbian porn, it’s still clearly created for men. Lesbian porn always portrays two very feminine women, but rarely studs or people who are gender fluid. There’s also a lot of scissoring, probably more so than occurs in actual lesbian relationships. It’s clear that a heterosexual man decided that, in the absence of penetration, the only logical thing for two women to do was smash their vaginas together. And of course, every woman in porn has long acrylic nails that I would never personally allow inside of me. It’s no wonder women turn to erotic stories alternatively.

IAWP, I AM WOMAN PRojectTHE I AM WOMAN Project,

If we’re making one sweeping, declarative statement about what kind of porn women like, I’d say: we like authentic porn. We like women with agency. We like porn that centers female desire and considers us a member of the audience. We like seeing women receive oral sex and seeing people who enjoy giving it. We like porn where male ejaculation doesn’t signify the end of the experience.

We like porn that centers female desire and considers us a member of the audience

Women like porn that features people of color, masculinity in women, and lesbians who actually like sleeping with women. Maybe some of us do like porn that displays greater intimacy, but we also like porn that displays authentic roughness beyond just what is visually stimulating for men. So much of that is absent from mainstream porn.

More and more women are enjoying porn that is ethically made and consumed

The bright side is that so many amazing female producers are stepping up to fill those gaps. Erika Lust produces ethical adult content, which means that female pleasure matters, diversity is important, people are paid fairly, and consent is prioritized. Pink Label TV acknowledges that porn websites often utilize language that is offensive to people of color and those who identify as trans. In response, they feature content that is broader than the usual target audience. Tristan Taormino is also creating authentic porn videos via her website Pucker Up. None of these websites are free, but paying for porn is an integral part of making it more ethical. Porn isn’t free to make, especially when it’s shot at 1080p, and sex work is real labor that deserves to be compensated. The popularity and ease of free porn websites help to keep the porn industry racist, misogynistic, and heteronormative. More and more women are enjoying porn that is ethically made and consumed.

Most importantly, we need to clarify that women like porn period. We aren’t sexually delicate, we aren’t inherently asexual, and we are capable of being visually stimulated. We can even get off on the current mainstream porn that dehumanizes, objectifies, and offends our identities — we just shouldn’t have to.