This is one of those posts which generates a lot of traffic to my site… from Google searches.
That's not why I'm blogging about it…. it's just that there seems to be several schools of thought on this, and the social psychology major in me is interested things like this.
The schools of thought on the women/porn question, watered down to their basics, are:
SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #1: No, women do not like porn — because porn degrades and objectifies women, which encourages rape and other violence against women. (I call this the "uptight feminist view")
SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #2: No, women do not like porn — because women are interested (or are conditioned to be interested) in wistful romantic fantasies and not the crude grinding of naked bodies. (I call this the "Harlequin romance view")
SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #3: No, women do not like porn — because porn is icky and ungodly and women should only have sex when it's time to make babies or relieve their husband's stress (I call this "the WTF view")
SCHOOL OF THOUGHT #4: Uh, yeaaaaah, women like porn. A-duh!
I don't think these four schools of thought are mutually exclusive. For example, a woman can acknowledge that the porn industry in general "objectifies" women, and still enjoy porn. Of course, the porn industry (I'm told) is pretty diverse, and obviously not ALL porn objectifies women. In fact, a lot of porn is tailor-made by women for women.
But enough of my conjecture. Let's see what the experts say, via Oprah.com via CNN:
….the fact is, millions of women use and enjoy "explicit sexual imagery."
…In the first three months of 2007, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, approximately one in three visitors to adult entertainment Web sites was female; during the same period, nearly 13 million American women were checking out porn online at least once each month.
Theresa Flynt, vice president of marketing for Hustler video, says that women account for 56 percent of business at her company's video stores. "And the female audience is increasing," she adds. "Women are buying more porn." (They're creating more of it, too: Female director Candida Royalle's hard-core erotic videos, made expressly for women viewers, sell at the rate of approximately 10,000 copies a month.)
And biologically, studies show that women DO enjoy it:
In a 2006 study at McGill University, researchers monitored genital temperature changes to measure sexual arousal and found that, when shown porn clips, men and women alike began displaying arousal within 30 seconds; men reached maximum arousal in about 11 minutes, women in about 12 (a statistically negligible difference, according to the study).
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.
That's right — women like porn so much that they're less selective about what is depicted.
But that's not universally true:
Not every woman feels empowered to enjoy the show. For years we've been told that we won't — or shouldn't — be turned on by porn, end of story, sleep tight.
…When everyone tells you that what you might be curious about, or even secretly like, is wrong, bad, sleazy, and shameful, you don't have to cast a line very far to land a set of inhibitions.
And, indeed, many a smart, strong, sexually self-reliant girl has popped in a porn DVD and ejected it just as quickly because she saw something that offended her or made her uncomfortable.
Some of that discomfort has less to do with the societal stigma of women/porn, and more to do with body images:
The biggest roadblock for women (and men) to enjoying explicit imagery is the fear that they don't "stack up" to the bodies and abilities of the people onscreen. Erotic models and actresses bring up a whole range of adequacy issues, from breast size to weight, from what you look like "down there" to the adult acne we all periodically fight.
Yeah… I don't think the whole "body issue" thing is as big a problem for men as it is for women. We don't even look at the dude, really. But for those women who do have some misgivings, the author closes with this advice:
We (women) don't have to think of rationality and animalistic urges as mutually exclusive. If we desire, we can let them play together like tennis doubles. Porn is one more pleasure to add to life's sexual buffet, one that can be enjoyed with a partner or alone.
And I got through this entire post without making one immature sexual innuendo. I want some credit for that. It was pretty hard. I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up.