Feminist porn answers a need

BODY LANGUAGE

People are always pretending they do not watch porn. Ask people whether they do and they will give you a look as if you had just suggested they smack puppies in the face with a bag of candies.

Watching porn, especially as a woman, is still taboo despite the fact that it sometimes feels as if that is all the internet is made for. PornHub, the world’s largest porn site, attracts an average of 81-million visits a day.

And there is enough to watch. In 2017, 68 years — 595 680 hours — of porn were uploaded on to the site. Clearly we are not running out of material any time soon.

But even though there is enough (free) material to keep even the most intense of voyeurs visually satisfied for decades, a lot of this material is made for men, which is surprising considering how many women watch porn.

PornHub has released insights and studies on the porn habits of its female users. For starters, porn for women came in as the top search, “showing that people are more interested than ever before” in the category. It was the top-trending search throughout the year, increasing by more than 1 400%.

This was coupled with statistics that showed women are 132% more likely than men to browse the lesbian category and 193% more likely to browse for women category. There is also the fact that, on average, women spend more time on these sites than men, with women spending an average of 11 minutes to men’s “less than a minute”.

According to Dr Laurie Betito, a sex therapist and director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Centre, “2017 seems to have been the year where women have come forward to express their desires more openly.”

But despite the deep penetration by women into the world of porn the makers of the material on PornHub and other sites are not asking themselves the hard question: Is this good for women?

A quick browse through sites like these is enough to know that porn is not in touch with its “feminine side”. The depiction of women is still wildly problematic and does nothing for the average person’s sex life or sense of self.

There are enough studies and arguments about the effect of porn on the way people view sex, particularly porn that presents women as objects to be filled up and with no desire, wants and passions. With little to no sex education, porn is where people are learning to do the naked two-backed tango and this can be worrying when the majority of it shows faked orgasms, interactions that seem borderline, nonconsensual sex and getting slapped in the face by the rather large genitalia of your local friendly service provider.

Porn, as it stands, is predominantly about the male gaze, what a straight man would want to see, right down to the angle it is filmed from. As one blogger argues: “Most porn made for men is shot in such a way as to allow the male viewer to project himself into the scene.”

But with so many women in the market, what can be an alternative?

That is where feminist porn steps in, which Wikipedia defines as “a genre of film developed by and/or for those dedicated to gender equality. It was created for the purposes of encouraging women and their self-beliefs of freedom through sexuality, equality and pleasure.”

Porn that shows men and women as sexual collaborators rather than men as conquerors could do a great deal to change people’s perceptions about themselves and their sex lives. As one connoisseur of the coitus arts, Russell O’Connor, says, it would have the ability to promote “positive, healthy attitudes about sexuality and, indeed, about gender itself”.

Porn legend Nina Hartley echoed this when she said that kind of porn could “change men’s and women’s attitudes at their deepest neurobiological level”.

With porn being viewed by women apparently as much as by men, those who are making it are going to have to start thinking about the ways in which women are presented. Simply having them as vessels of pleasure and recipients of the male gaze is not going to cut it, and with everyone and their neighbour making a porno, the market is slippery and saturated.

Kagure Mugo is the co-founder and curator of HOLAAfrica!

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Kagure Mugo
Kagure Mugo

Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online pan-African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman. She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay.

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