Why Don’t Straight Women Like Straight Porn?

For years, there’s been a lingering stereotype that women just aren’t interested in watching porn. Well, not only do we now know from a number of studies that that stereotype is patently untrue (although frankly, all you’d need to do is look at my browser history to figure that out), we also know exactly what—and who—they’re watching, thanks to the latest Pornhub Insights study in collaboration with Buzzfeed.

Like most Pornhub Insights posts, most of the results of the study weren’t exactly surprising: Of course women are more likely to search for “porn for women” than “double penetration” or “gang-bang,” and of course women are more likely to search for James Deen than any other male porn star. Yet Pornhub did unearth one fascinating tidbit about heterosexual women’s bean-flicking habits: namely, how many women are tuning into lesbian or gay male porn.

In fact, women are 132 percent more likely to search for lesbian porn, despite the fact that “lesbian” is the sixth most searched-for term for straight males. Perhaps less surprisingly, they’re also 900 percent more likely to search for the term “eating pussy” than men are:

To be fair, the Pornhub Insights study doesn’t differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual viewers, so it’s certainly possible that the source of these numbers are predominantly from lesbians, rather than heterosexual women. But assuming that’s not the case, and that heterosexual women are increasingly watching porn online (which recent studies tell us they certainly are), why would so many straight women prefer gay porn to porn that would ostensibly be targeted at them and their desires?

For starters, most heterosexual porn isn’t targeted at women, with the vast majority being directed and produced by men, for men, featuring sexual acts that aren’t intended to be pleasurable for women. Although there’s been a lot of lip service paid to the rise of “female-friendly” porn, it doesn’t seem like women are logging on in droves: In fact, a 2011 study found that the majority of women who regularly watch porn prefer hardcore content over so-called “female-friendly” websites.

Part of this discrepancy probably has to do with two things: 1) Many of the assumptions made about what women want from porn are inherently sexist (sorry, guys, not all ladies want to be ravished by a Fabio lookalike at the top of a castle, no matter how many romance novels might’ve told you otherwise), and 2) Much of the so-called “female-friendly” porn isn’t any more “female-friendly” than the hardcore 10-minute Brazzers clips on Pornhub.

For instance, while Buzzfeed cites the erotica website X-art, which produces gauzy, soft-focus, narrative-driven content, as an example of “porn for women,” the website features a fairly narrow range of female bodies—thin, white, able-bodied, often surgically enhanced—and features just as many shots that men generally prefer as traditional hardcore porn films do.

That’s not to say that truly “female-friendly” porn that emphasizes female pleasure doesn’t exist: It does. It’s just much harder to find than, say, lesbian porn, which, although most of it is ostensibly targeted at heterosexual men, features enough closeups of female-centric sex acts and women’s faces experiencing pleasure to prove to female viewers that the performers are actually having a good time.

“In straight porn, there’s usually cunnilingus, but it’s only for, like, two seconds, and then they move onto something else,” my friend, who self-identifies as straight but exclusively watches lesbian porn, once told me. “But in lesbian porn it’s pretty much the main event. And considering that [receiving oral sex] is basically the only way I come, it’s no contest for me what I’d rather watch.”

Women who prefer gay male porn to heterosexual porn do so for similar reasons. Because so much heterosexual porn features degrading or exploitative sex acts, there’s a widespread perception that the female performers are being degraded or exploited as well. Because gay male porn doesn’t actually feature any female performers, there’s no chance of seeing some poor eastern European girl gag on a giant phallus or get expectorated on during a gangbang.

“With gay male porn, the actors look like they’re having fun and enjoying sex,” one commenter on the lesbian site Grace the Spot puts it. “With all other types of porn, more often than not, it looks contrived, overacted, unbelievable, ridiculous, or just plain unfun.”

Of course, the question of whether women in the porn industry are actually being exploited is much more complex than many feminist critics of porn would care to acknowledge. But considering that so many women get that impression from the female performers in heterosexual porn, it’s no surprise that they’re turning to different sources to get off. The results of the Pornhub Insights study should send a clear message to producers of straight content that the stereotype about women and porn is wrong: Women are watching porn, and lots of it. They’re just not watching your kind of porn, for good reason.

This post was republished with permission from our friends at The Daily Dot. Check out more from The Daily Dot: