Maybe we have Cameron Diaz to blame. Since mouthing off about her penchant for porn, it seems a stale debate has been resurrected. Several news sites have been reporting on the amazing, mind-boggling phenomenon of "Women vs. Porn!" They ask gripping questions like, "Do women watch porn?! What kind of porn? Is there porn FOR women -- BY women??? OMG, there is!?"
There IS. But I really don't get why this is big news all of a sudden. Or why the writers of some of these stories act like this is the first time in the history of the world that women have shown interest in enjoying adult entertainment. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, in 2007, approximately one in three visitors to porn sites was female. In the same period, nearly 13 million American women checked out porn online at least once a month. And I wouldn't be surprised if the actual stat was a lot higher than that ...
Because if this is self-reported data, it seems like most women tend to downplay just how horny we are, for fear of coming off like a ho. And therein the problem has lied.
Maybe this isn't the first time women are watching porn, but maybe -- finally? -- it's coming out that women are admitting to enjoying it? The stigma surrounding women enjoying porn isn't as strong as it used to be? I hope so, but I'm not sure.
At the same time, there's a new generation of female porn directors who want women to know that they're making a type of porn that's less "intimidating" because it's made for women/by women. Hence, an article that ran in The Guardian this week, profiling several female porn directors.
One of them, Erika Lust, explains where she's coming from in making porn exclusively with women in mind:
It is a prejudice to say that women don't like porn. Sex images make you hot, but pornography has been made by and for men. In mainstream porn everything is about male pleasure and women are objects. Oral sex for men can last forever, but when women's turn comes it lasts 10 seconds. Female orgasms are not an issue in most of the films. And women are shown mostly as prostitutes, which is sad.
I get what she's driving at because the majority of mainstream porn could probably be described that way. By contrast -- and I can't speak for Lust's work -- it seems like the alternative, the "by women, for women" porn, tends to err toward lesbian-only, artsy-fartsy, or overly romantic/sentimental (think Fabio/HBO softcore/drawn-out kissing and cheesy storylines) crap. And that, to me, is almost more annoying than the machismo, male-centric porn. It's patronizing.
There will always be types of porn that appeal exclusively to men, i.e. filled with in-your-face closeups that are filmed in a "reality" style where women are, honestly, objectified in a dehumanizing way. The kind that makes us cringe, not sweat. And whatever, let them have that. I'm not of the old-school feminist belief that we should shut that down (as long as everything's safe and consensual) because there's an audience for that, too.
But what I do think more porn directors should aim toward is making skin flicks that are just HOT -- plain and simple. (It already exists; it just seems to get overshadowed sometimes by the almost freaky-extreme-style porn.) Because I really don't think women and men are all that different when it comes to what turns us on visually. Men don't NEED the extreme "gonzo"-style porn all the time, and likewise, most women would probably enjoy porn that gives both sexes equal screen/pleasure-time.
Maybe the best solution is that more women follow Cameron Diaz's lead and admit they like porn in the first place, so they can start figuring out what exactly they like. So they can enjoy that on their own and/or with their partner. Hey, you know -- it could be as empowering as it is a turn-on.
How do you feel about porn made specifically for women? Do you think it's patronizing or could be more enjoyable than what's already out there?
Image via Polina Sergeeva/Flickr