A Billion Wicked Thoughts

The world's largest experiment on human desire.

What Kind of Porn Do Women Like the Most?

Online data reveals the secret erotic tastes of women.

One question we get asked quite frequently is: What kind of porn do women like the most?

Of course, this presupposes that there must be some kind of porn—and by porn, we mean visual pornography—that women find arousing. But do women actually like porn? This has always been a perplexing and contentious question among scientists, scholars, activists, and even Reddit, but fortunately, the Internet finally provides us with enough hard data to answer this question pretty convincingly. In fact, there appears to be two fundamental truths about women and porn: 

Fact #1: Most women don’t like porn.

Fact #2: But those women who do, tend to like the same kind of porn that men do.

We describe the data behind these two facts in detail in the fourth video in our series on the sexual brain, but basically the argument runs like this:

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

First, there have been many attempts over the decades, dating back to the 1970s, to create commercial visual pornography that appeals to women enough that they would be willing to pay for it, and each time these efforts have either (1) failed completely, (2) only survived because of the financial support of gay men, or (3) survived with a female customer base that is a tiny fraction of the customer base for pornography targeted at men. 

Second, sometimes it’s argued that women would like porn if only the adult industry would create “female friendly” or “feminist” porn—porn that appealed to women’s tastes. It’s suggested that if women directors and women producers created porn that was consciously designed for women, that many women would come on board. However, over the past decade, there has been a flood of so-called feminist porn—sex-positive visual pornography that emphasizes respectful relationships, mutual consent, and the personalities of the participants—much of it by female producers and directors. However, sites featuring this kind of content continue to get very little traffic and even less business. There have only been two enduring and profitable websites featuring porn targeted exclusively at women (sites the consciously try to cater to the tastes of heterosexual women and avoid catering to the interests of gay men): sssh.com and ForTheGirls.com, and at the best of times they each get less than 1/100th of the traffic of the leading porn sites targeting men. These are sites that have been honing their business model for years (for almost two decades in the case of sssh.com), trying to develop porn that appeals to women, and each of the two women who have run the sites are completely dedicated to their  female subscriber base, and yet they seem to have maxed out the potential international paying audience for the material somewhere under 50,000 women total. 

Third, it’s often argued by activists that most online porn is misogynistic, treats women like objects, and features themes of exploitation and dominance. That is, in fact, a pretty fair characterization of the majority of content on the most popular porn sites, the tube sites like PornHub, RedTube, XNXX, and XHamster. However, many activists go further and suggest that women would prefer to see porn that features more equitable sexual relationships and less objectification of women—again, the idea that women want to see “female friendly” porn. Perhaps politically and intellectually, women may genuinely endorse the notion of sex positive pornography featuring mutual consent and mutual respect. But if you compare the number of women who choose to watch the female friendly porn and the number of women who choose to watch the misogynistic stuff on PornHub and XHamster, you find a very different reality: the available data suggests that somewhere between 50 and 100 times the number of women who visit the most popular “porn for women” websites each month will visit the most popular tube sites. 

So does this mean that women prefer hardcore, misogynistic porn? Hang on, because the fourth argument is crucial here. The truth is that most women simply don’t look at porn at all. In our video we review a few sources of data about the fraction of women who actually watch online porn, and though there’s a range of data points they are all comfortably below 50%. Our own best guess is that somewhere between 8% and 20% of women online visit porn sites with any regularity, though it’s a lot more difficult to nail down women’s online erotic habits than men’s. But the data overwhelming suggests that only a minority of women ever visit porn sites at all. 

There are women who wonder if their complete absence of interest in porn is normal. Other women wonder if their interest in graphic, hardcore porn is normal. Both are common. The only variation that seems to be relatively rare is for women to have a strong, abiding erotic interest in softcore, “female friendly” porn.  

Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., studies computational neuroscience. He is co-author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

more...

Subscribe to A Billion Wicked Thoughts

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?