Stigma, not lack of enjoyment, stops women from watching porn

Contrary to popular belief that sexual images arouse men more than women, research has found that the female brain responds to porn in the same way as the male brain

31 July 2019 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
New research has found that the brains of men and women respond the same way to porn.
New research has found that the brains of men and women respond the same way to porn.
Image: 123RF/Sakkmesterke

If you’ve been told that men are more “visual” than women when it comes to sex, think again.

According to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the female brain responds to pornography in the same way that the male brain does.

It is largely believed that men are more interested in pornography than women, a notion that is backed by statistics of online viewing of porn – the bulk of people accessing porn online are men. Using this logic, we are often told that men are more interested in sex and sexual gratification.

This study seeks to dispel this notion. “We are challenging that idea with this paper. At least at the level of neural activity … the brains of men and women respond the same way to porn,” Hamid Noori, co-author of the research from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, told The Guardian.

Through analysing the results of 61 published studies and data from thousands of MRIs that sampled adults of varying biological sex and sexual orientation, the researchers found very little evidence of functional differences between biological sexes.

There is one catch: even though the researchers observed the same brain activity and changes across the research subjects, the women who participated in the study reported reacting less positively to the images they were shown as compared to men.

“Female sexuality has quite a lot of stigma around it,” said Noori, who suggests that it may not be that women do not like pornography or are not as visual as men. Rather, it appears the findings of this study are challenging the status quo: men are not more visually stimulated compared with females — women are simply less inclined to watch pornography because of the social stigma attached to watching porn.

SA relationship expert Paula Quinsee says she agrees that for women the stigma around watching pornography is more of a driving factor than women not wanting to watch or enjoy porn.

“Much of the research done on pornography up until recently has been aimed at men and men’s porn habits rather than that of women, so there is limited research on women’s experiences watching porn when it comes to how often, what kind, their preferences, etc, leaving more assumptions than actual evidence,” says Quinsee.

“Porn has traditionally been aimed at the male market so majority of the scripts showcase women as the subservient/controlled/dominated party and that the man’s satisfaction is the priority, ie he gets the blow job or he gets to orgasm and you seldom see the opposite happening for the women,” Quinsee adds, saying the pornography industry caters predominantly to men, ignoring women in the process.


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