When it comes to porn, what do women really want?

A new trend in blue movies finds the answer

19 August 2018 - 00:05
Women are taking a more active role in the porn industry by creating content that focuses on women's pleasure.
Women are taking a more active role in the porn industry by creating content that focuses on women's pleasure.
Image: 123RF / Egorr

Close your eyes and think of porn. Not the bodily fluids and the genitals, but the audience.

Picture the face on the other side of the screen, the one whose eyes are laser beams of concentration. The body teetering in a state of forced calm, waiting for the right moment in the video ... Chances are the person you are thinking of is a man, and that is because the history of porn is a history of the male relationship with fantastical sex.

For decades men did the directing, the producing and the casting. The result is that for decades porn has been packaged and produced for men, by men. Not any more. Last year women accounted for about 600 million visits to Pornhub and, according to its 2017 stats, searches for "porn for women" increased 1,400%.

Sex therapist and director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center Dr Laurie Betito says 2017 was the year "women came forward to express their desires more openly. This is a sign of things to come."

Producers like Erika Lust and Jacky St James are changing what kind of porn gets made and executives like Michelle Shnaidman, CEO of Bellesa.co, are creating platforms catering specifically to the desires of women. In short, the gender long associated with the colour pink is taking more of an active role in making blue movies - and people love it.

"I looked at the industry at large and was kind of shocked at the few options women had when it came to adult entertainment. The entire female demographic was so incredibly overlooked," says Shnaidman, whose Bellesa.co is one of the biggest female-centric porn sites in the world.

When a woman signs on to a website that was so clearly made for men - as most porn historically has been - it creates a feeling of alienation
Michelle Shnaidman, CEO of Bellesa.co

"There's already this unfortunate and antiquated stigma that surrounds female sexuality, so when a woman signs on to a website that was so clearly made for men - as most porn historically has been - it creates a feeling of alienation. A feeling of shame, a feeling of intruding on something not meant for you.

"I wanted women to have access to content and a platform that empowered them. I wanted to create a community, a movement, of unapologetic, sex-positive women. That's why I started Bellesa," she says.

But what is "porn for women"? The patrons at your local pub would have you believe it is essentially Mills & Boon made visual, but the truth is thankfully much sexier.

"The biggest misconception about porn for women is that it's strictly softcore. People often imagine this piano music, slow-kissing, vanilla kind of stuff. It's so not the case. In fact, one of the most popular categories on Bellesa.co is 'rough'," says Shnaidman.

As it turns out, female porn habits are as varied as bird species in the Amazon. What a shocker.

"I think what really differentiates porn for women is that it's porn made with women in mind. It's porn that prioritises female pleasure and female desire. You'll typically see more natural bodies, less exaggerated orgasms, more real-looking sex. Women tend to care more about storylines, characters and tension."

Porn for women is also as much about addressing the kind of demeaning imagery that is often associated with porn made by the male gaze as it is about prioritising female pleasure. Men seem just as interested in seeing this shift as women.

In a world where porn is affecting the way a lot of people have sex, the burgeoning popularity of porn for women could well have a bunch of positive consequences.

"I truly believe that if we can change the kind of sex that people are watching ... we can change a whole lot more. Porn today is, in a way, sexual education," says Shnaidman.

"Sex is not something that happens to a woman - it's something in which a woman and her partner(s) choose to engage, together. On Bellesa, we believe that women should be portrayed as subjects of pleasure, not objects of conquest."

Whether we would like to admit it or not, it's not just women who are getting tired of essentially seeing the same type of porn we have seen since Debbie Does Dallas. Especially in mainstream circles. One doesn't need a vagina to see that this state of affairs cannot continue.

Styles of music change. Movies do, too. The same must happen to porn. The difference is that this time, the age-old question of what turns us on is being answered by the gender that has always turned us on.


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