Women's pornography

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Women's pornography, sometimes referred to as sex-positive pornography, is pornography often produced by women and aimed specifically at the female market [1] – rejecting the view that pornography is only for men.[2][3][4]

In the 1980s, writer Susie Bright pointed out that women's pornography "is a contradiction in terms for many people, so convinced are they that pornography represents the darker, gutter side of lust."[5]

More recently in 2015, scholar and director Ingrid Ryberg said that feminist pornography is defined “less by specific content or style and more by the ways in which it is based on a political critique of and challenge to dominant notions of gender and sexuality and aims to empower women sexually.”

Since that date, women have become accepted as a growing market when it comes to pornography.[6][7]

Producers and directors[edit]

Women's pornography is produced and directed by women, and it is intended for the female audience.[1] One of the goals of women's pornography is to produce something that the customers want to see and will enjoy.[8] This type of porn is a minority on the internet, but is high quality, based on women's actual feedback.[3] It is a common misconception for people to assume that women are not as easily aroused by sexually explicit images as men.[9] Women that produce porn believe that male-produced porn ignores the sexuality of women and objectifies them.[9] Anti-pornography feminists believe that the solution to this is to abolish pornography, but pro-pornography feminists think the solution is create porn that attends to women's sexuality.[9] Pornography produced by women is placed in the category "romance" by the Adult Video News awards.[10] This new category was added to the AVN awards in 2010.[10] The AVN awards are movie awards that recognize writers, directors, and producers for their achievements in the creation of American pornographic films. Women's porn directors focus on different styles, but pay particular attention to the actual story, the actors, music, locations, and aesthetics of the scenes. The directors main concern is making sure women enjoy the porn by making it realistic.[3]

The women's porn industry allows more women to have control and be in positions of power as directors. The directors encourage the performers to voice their creative input and hold more power than in pornography that is not women's pornography.[3] Erika Lust is a feminist porn director, producer, and screenplay writer.[8] She is also the founder of Erika Lust Films.[8] Lust got her start in directing and producing feminist adult films because she found mainstream porn "unrelatable, unimaginative, and unattractive", so she wanted to do something about it.[8] In 2005, Erika began to film her series called XConfessions.[10] Lust Productions subscribers submitted their fantasies to Erika and she picked two each month to film for her new series.[10] In everything Lust produces, she wants the viewer to see realistic scenarios, real characters, and real pleasure.[8] For Lust, an important component in feminist porn is consent and respect; making sure the actors want to participate and that they want to experience arousal.[8] Lust's films want to demonstrate real passion and connection between the actors.[1] Lust says, "We make love, not porn. And we do all this with a feminine, aesthetic and innovative approach."[1]

Angie Rowntree is a director, writer and producer of women’s pornography who got her start in the 1990s, launching her flagship site, Sssh.com, in 1999. Of female porn directors, Rowntree says “There may not be a lot of us, but we’re passionate about what we do, and we’re working hard every day to provide women with porn that does appeal to them.”[8] Rowntree said Sssh’s mission is straightforward: “We want to create movies that our customers want to see and enjoy watching. The only real difference between what I do and what producers of ‘typical’ porn do is that I’m serving a different audience, and instead of assuming we know what they want to see, we ask them what they want to see.”[8]

Contrast to mainstream pornography[edit]

Mainstream porn depicts women as objects for men's pleasure, with no concern for the female performer's comfort or respect. Although the majority of porn audiences are male, more women are opening up about their interest and how they would prefer porn that considers female viewers and isn't as crude or rough as mainstream pornography.[11] A number of women are dedicated to creating this alternative to mainstream porn. They care about making films that don't include horny schoolgirls, naughty nurses, or "bad step-mom and daughter" relationships. They also banish stereotypes about women's sexuality and expectations surrounding body shape and size.[12]

The ideology is founded on a belief that sexual activity in a patriarchal society is intrinsically male and that male sexuality is naturally aggressive or destructive.  Furthermore, it assumes that women cannot choose to be free participants in an industry that's purpose is to satisfy the male gaze and contributes to male aggression. Radical feminist scholar and writer Andrea Dworkin named male power as the “‘raison d’etre’ of pornography,” as well as stating that pornography in itself is a means for expressing male power in her 1981 book “Pornography: Men Possessing Women.”[13]

Jae Woong Shim, author of Analysis of Representation of Sexuality on Women’s and Men’s Pornographic Websites, describes her work, “We investigated how the sexuality of men and women is represented on pornographic websites aimed at women and pornographic websites aimed at men. We analyzed 200 pornographic images randomly selected from 4 websites (2 aimed at women and 2 aimed at men). The criteria for comparison were based on concepts of sexual inequality and sexual objectification that have been commonly used in the literature on analyses of pornography content. The findings showed that websites containing pornography aimed at men were more likely than the websites aimed at women to include content with elements of sexual inequality, whereas websites aimed at women were more likely than the websites aimed at men to include content with elements of sexual objectification."[14]

Erika Lust has a lot to say about how women's pornography differs from mainstream porn, “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. Mainstream porn lacks creativity and a narrative. They only care about sets of genitals banging together as the woman enjoys fake pleasure until they get their money shot. The man is enjoying his orgasm with no thought to the woman’s pleasure at all. The performer’s are cloned stereotypes, everybody abiding to the same standards. Body hair is seen as something undesirable, or God forbid if you’re not thin and muscular like an action man. There are no interesting stories, relatable characters, or good sex. It’s bad sex that’s given porn a bad name. I want others to continue to be inspired by the work I do, I want to encourage other women to get into leading roles within the adult film industry, as directors, producers, and scriptwriters. That way we can get more of the porn we want out there and express our perspective, our desires, and our pleasure. I create an environment which satisfies the viewer with realistic interpretations of real fantasies. The performers look like and play characters that are like the guy or girl on the street, they are natural, individual and attractive in their own unique way. The sex is real, you can see the pleasure. To get excited women want to see something that looks like us. We want to see independent women exploring their sexuality, who are not afraid, but are not sex heroines either. We want to see attractive men who share our lifestyles, our ideas. My films portray men and women as equals with consideration to everyone’s pleasure, fantasies, and desires. Viewers can see themselves in my films, they feel like they could live out that scenario. That’s what makes it more satisfying, erotic, and fun!” [11]


Porn stars have differing views on the idea of women's pornography. Some performers embrace the movement, like Asa Akira, an award-winning porn star. Akira stated “I’m part of the new era of porn. We’re feminists, very sex-positive people. We’re not victims of rape, not drug addicts, we don’t have any daddy issues.” [15] Some performers also note the problems in the industry and then turn to directing themselves, like Madison Young. Young felt that most mainstream adult film videos lacked substance and sent confusing and potentially harmful signals about sex and body image to viewers. As a result, she turned to directing to add to the new movement of porn. Madison makes sure to include verbal consent, body positivity, and inclusiveness to all her performances.[16] Meanwhile, other performers fail to see the need for a specific type of porn just for women. As porn star James Deen put it, “Why is there porn explicitly only for women? By saying there needs to be porn for women, you’re basically isolating women as a gender, and saying, “This is how women should think. This is how their sexuality should be.” It's counterproductive (from what I understand) to the equality movement.” [17]


In a lot of typical pornography, women are mistreated, disrespected, and degraded; this is accepted as normal and is expected to appeal to a male audience states Bryan J. Lowder, writer for the magazine Everyday Feminism.[18] He elaborates that most pornographic movies are filmed by men in a way that allows their target male audience to portray themselves in the role.[18] As a result, women are presented as objects of desire and not as subjects of pleasure.[18]

In women’s pornography, however, the main function is fulfilling the desires of a woman audience.[19] As a result, the focus emphasizes women as subjects of pleasure reaching real orgasms.[20] Women’s pornography audio that emphasizes what is being felt; the use of the female voice to display pleasure enhances the performance of orgasms.[20] The camera shots, such as close-ups of the face, also emphasize pleasure and emotion.[20] Other camera shots that are sometimes used include angles that display the faces of the male performers, rather than just their penises, in attempt to eroticize the male body more.[20] Showing more of the male bodies negates the objectification of the female body in typical porn.[21] Furthermore, women’s pornography pays special attention to the care of performers by ensuring their comfort and consent with their performance and performance partners.[20] Director Erika Lust says mainstream porn is "fake" and "crappy", instead she wants to show "real sex".[21] Not being slandered and disrespected by a man is what women's pornography is supposed to look like. Women's pornography portrays real connections and real pleasure.[21]

Individualist feminism and sex-positive pornography[edit]

Individualist feminism considers that each woman can individually undertake the responsibility of making her decisions, deciding her actions, and controlling her own life - "for example without trying to put some failures onto the account of gender differences."[22] As with liberal feminism, Individualist feminist focus on the ability for women to be metaphorically freed from the taboos and prejudices of sex within society, while also allowing women to become a sexually active element.[23] Typically, the male is considered the sexually active element in a sexual act, while the female is passive.[23] Individualist feminism as well as sex-positive feminism is attempting to change the view that the male is the active member of sex by creating an equality between the two so that male and female are both passive and active.[22]

An individualist feminist view upon pornography is that both male and female derive pleasure from consuming the pornography.[21] Women state that they "see their consumption of pornography as both a source of sexual pleasure and affirmation of their sexual identities, as well as an exercise of freedom of choice.[24]" Another belief that is shared within the Individualist feminist community is that pornography should be legalized. This thought is derived from reasoning that female pornographic actors would no longer be subject to the stigma placed upon them by society while allowing women to control and censor themselves and their sexuality individually.[22] In correlation to making pornography legal, prostitution would become legal, supporting the idea that women could individually censor and control their actions and sexuality.[22] Wendy McElroy, a prominent individualist feminist, shared her views of pornography by saying "Individual feminism insists on the principle of self-ownership: a woman's body, a woman's right. It insists that women be free to choose, regardless of the content of their choices."[25] McElroy's quote embodies the ideals behind women's pornography according to individualist feminism and leads to the thought process that a woman can exploit her sexuality using her own discretion, through lesbianism, pornography, masturbation, or any consensual sexual act.[22]


There are many concerns that mainstream, male oriented pornography causes rape and sexual aggression in males, calling for more porn created by women for women. A study by Berl Kutchinsky showed that rape crimes did not increase with increased access to pornography, despite popular misconceptions. It is important to note, however, that this study took place prior to widespread access to the internet.[26] A response to Kutchinsky by Steven Alan Childress notes that his study contrasts many other studies, and that he only measures reported “serious” rapes (not including date rape, etc.). In addition, Kutchinsky focuses on the availability of pornography rather than consumption.[27]

Women consume pornography differently than men. Pornhub's statistics from 2017 show that 26% of the site's average global visitors have indicated that they are women. The site reported that 36% of its total visitors who indicated to be female accessed the site from the Philippines, while 25% accessed it from the US and Canada, and 19% from Japan.[28] Additionally, Pornhub data shows the most searched terms and most viewed content by its male and female users.[29] For women, the top five most searched terms were: "Women on women ('lesbian')", "Lesbian scissoring", "Threesome", "Hentai", and "Japanese", while men searched for: "Milf", "Stepmom", "Japanese", "Hentai", and "Mom".[29] The top five most viewed categories for women were: "Women on women ('lesbian')", "Threesome", "Big Dick", "Popular with Women", and "Ebony". Men viewed: "Japanese", "Ebony", "Milf", "Mature", and "Anal".[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d May, Catalina (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  2. ^ XBIZ (2012-12-18). "Director's Chair: Erika Lust Promotes Sex-Positive Porn". XBIZ.com. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  3. ^ a b c d Catalina May (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women | Life and style | guardian.co.uk". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  4. ^ Susie Bright, Totally Heterotica (1995) p. 384
  5. ^ Susie Bright, Totally Heterotica (1995) p. 3
  6. ^ "FoxSexpert: Porn Isn't Just for Men Anymore". Fox News. 2009-11-09. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  7. ^ Sykes, Tom (2013-02-11). "Porn Isn't Just For Men! Why Women Love Watching". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "4 Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn for Women". The Huffington Post. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  9. ^ a b c Sun, Chyng; Bridges, Ana; Wosnitzer, Robert; Scharrer, Erica; Liberman, Rachael (2008-09-01). "A Comparison of Male and Female Directors in Popular Pornography: What Happens when Women are at the Helm?". Psychology of Women Quarterly. 32 (3): 312–325. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00439.x. ISSN 0361-6843.
  10. ^ a b c d "What a girl wants: The rise of porn for women". s.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  11. ^ a b "The problem with mainstream porn". The Independent. 2015-04-21. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  12. ^ May, Catalina (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  13. ^ Dworkin, Andrea (1981). Pornography: Men Possessing Women. Perigee. ISBN 0399505326.
  14. ^ Shim, Jae Woong; Kwon, Mahnwoo; Cheng, Hong-In (2014-10-15). "Analysis of representation of sexuality on women's and men's pornographic websites". Social Behavior and Personality. 43 (1): 53–62. doi:10.2224/sbp.2015.43.1.53. ISSN 1179-6391.
  15. ^ "From prep-school kid to millionaire porn star". The New York Post. 2014-04-26. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  16. ^ "Madison Young Aims to Revolutionize Pornography". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  17. ^ "James Deen Shares His Thoughts On 'Porn For Women'". The Huffington Post. 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  18. ^ a b c "What Does Feminist Porn Look Like?". Everyday Feminism. 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  19. ^ Schauer, Terrie (2005). "Women's Porno: The heterosexual female gaze in porn sites "for women"". Sexuality and Culture. 9 (2): 42–64. doi:10.1007/s12119-005-1007-8.
  20. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Eithne (1993). "Excess and Ecstasy: Constructing Female Pleasure in Porn Movies". The Velvet Light Trap: 30–49.
  21. ^ a b c d "Porn director says her sex films are feminist because she treats women as people". Evening Standard. 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  22. ^ a b c d e Schussler, Aura (March 2012). "The relation between feminism and pornography". Scientific Journal of Humanistic Studies.
  23. ^ a b Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality.
  24. ^ Easton, Susan (1994). The problem of pornography: regulation and the right of free speech. Routledge London & New York.
  25. ^ McElroy, Wendy (1995). XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography. St. Martin's Press.
  26. ^ Kutchinsky, Berl (1992). "The Politics of Pornography Research". Law and Society Review. 26 (2): 447–455. JSTOR 3053904.
  27. ^ Childress, Steven Alan (1992). ""Serious Rape," and Statistics: A Reply to Dr. Kutchinsky". Law and Society Review. 26.
  28. ^ Seager, Joni (2018). The Woman's Atlas. New York: Penguin Books. p. 100. ISBN 9780143132349.
  29. ^ a b c Seager, Joni (2018). The Women's Atlas. New York: Penguin Books. p. 100. ISBN 9780143132349.
  • Ann Snitow, 'Mass Market Romance: Porn for Women is Different' (1983)
  • D. Cornell ed., Feminism and Pornography (OUP 2000)

External links[edit]