Why gay porn appeals to women

The research found that “the gender split viewing gay male porn is actually much higher at 37% female” and that “proportionately, that means women are 69% more likely to be viewing gay porn than their male counterparts”. (John McCann/M&G)

The research found that “the gender split viewing gay male porn is actually much higher at 37% female” and that “proportionately, that means women are 69% more likely to be viewing gay porn than their male counterparts”. (John McCann/M&G)

‘In the period before my periods, it gets crazy,” Grace Malope* laughs. “I get very horny all the time and obviously want to get off. So, in a month, it’s about one week of chill and two-and-a-half weeks of obsessive porn-watching.
And gay porn is the default mode on my Pornhub searches.”

Expanding on what she finds appealing about gay male pornography — in particular, scenes featuring “uber-masculine” men — the 32-year-old says: “A part of me actually loves seeing them being humbled by dick. I love it. Because in that, they are as vulnerable as I am as a woman every day. It’s a fucked-up thing for me to want to see, but it’s beautiful nonetheless — just to see them being softened.”

Malope is one of a number of women who are ditching heterosexual porn in favour of the gay male variant.

Titled “Girls who like boys who like boys”, an October 2017 article by Pornhub released the findings of research into the porn interests of women visitors to the site.

The research found that “the gender split viewing gay male porn is actually much higher at 37% female” and that “proportionately, that means women are 69% more likely to be viewing gay porn than their male counterparts”.

It found that gay male porn was, overall, the second-most popular category among women but “for those over the age of 45 it surpasses ‘lesbian’ to become the number one most-viewed category”.

The number of 18- to 24-year-old women watching gay male porn was slightly higher at 40.3%. The same age group was “83% more likely to watch this type of video than their male counterparts”.

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Lucy Neville, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, said in an article published by The Conversation in July: “A lot of the women I spoke to were keen to find a way to look at men and appreciate male grace and beauty ... There was also a desire to flip the ‘male gaze’ so prevalent in both porn and cinema — where everything is shot from a straight male perspective, ignoring the desires and agency of viewers who might appreciate the male form.”

Although she prefers heterosexual porn, Giovanna Mokoena* says she watches gay porn because of the sense of agency all participants appear to have. “My favourite [porn] would be ones with traditionally masculine men — ones that are not feminine and don’t behave the way women ‘should behave’ in a sexual encounter. The reason I do that is because I want to tap into male vulnerability in such an intimate action as sex,” she says.

Mokoena, a 26-year-old transgender woman, adds that watching gay male porn translates into how she would like her sexual encounters with men to be.

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“I don’t necessarily want to be performing any stereotypes of being ‘fucked like a woman’. I just want sex to be sex and have it be on equal footing where I have agency with what I like and what pleasures me. Where it doesn’t necessarily have to rely on me proving to the man I am sleeping with that I am a woman. Because part of that is also problematic. Like, what does it mean to be a woman? Does it mean being submissive and lying there thinking of England and having no agency in your pleasure?”

For Mokoena the genre is “much more egalitarian, in a way”.

“You actually have people who have agency in this act, together. And it’s beautiful to watch, too. Because there are two men, being vulnerable in front of a camera and you kind of get to see how sex should be — or how it should be performed — regardless of the gender of the person,” she says.

Neville’s research found that 55% of the women she surveyed “imagine themselves as a man when masturbating, indicating that some women are able to easily cross-identify between genders during sexual situations”.

For clinical psychologist, Itumeleng Mamabolo, this makes sense because, he says, “you can go anywhere with fantasy and are only limited by as far as the mind can go”.

Mamabolo adds that women are generally more in touch with the fluid nature of sexuality and that there is less stigma for women to explore this aspect of themselves.

The reasons for women choosing to watch gay male porn are numerous, says Mamabolo.

“In heterosexual porn, the focus is on women, with less visuals of the men. A lot of the women watching [gay male pornography] are attracted to men and the focus is on men, so it speaks to their attraction. Also, [in herterosexual porn] women are portrayed in an often demeaning manner — that they are there only for the pleasure of men. So there is a degree of discomfort for a lot of women in the way these women are portrayed. With gay porn, the position is more of equality.”

Neville also notes that “for a subset of women who are rape and abuse survivors, [gay male porn] is one of the few types of sexually explicit media they can enjoy without feeling triggered or retraumatised”.

Agreeing with this, Mamabolo says that the violent nature of a lot of heterosexual porn, “with women getting slapped around or whatever”, can prove triggering and also give women a sense “of those women not enjoying the sexual experience”.

For Mokoena, gay male porn offers a sense of empowerment. “What I enjoy seeing is people having real agency in sexual encounters in porn, whether they are trans or gay or whatever. And as a woman with a transgender experience, [gay porn] gives me hope that there’s a possibility of agency for pleasure and decision-making within sexual activity.”

Malope adds that she now finds it “hard to watch anything but empowered sex”.

“Whether it is straight, gay, bi or whatever, disempowered sex turns me off. And with gay porn, I know that these two bodies are empowered in this thing they are doing. I know that what I’m looking for — and what I’m getting — is empowerment.”

* Pseudonyms

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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