The Horizontal

Porn: Is Everyone Doing It?

Gif by Lea Carey

This is part one in a three part porn series we're featuring on The Journal. Stay tuned for parts two and three!

By Emma McGowan

Who knows about the porn you consume? It’s not a stretch to assume that your answer is “almost no one” or “no one.” And many of you are probably blushing at the thought of even talking about porn with your loved ones. But don’t feel embarrassed by that embarrassment: Porn is still highly stigmatized. Even people who feel pretty comfortable talking about sex don’t always feel comfortable talking about porn.


“It took me years to talk to my wife about it,” O*, a trans woman who enjoys porn that features “happiness and smiles” and “fit men with huge round stomachs” says. “Even after attending sex parties, there was something too personal about porn. Some of my most sexually open friends still are reserved in talking about their porn habits. You can share your recent pegging story in detail, but don't you dare be a perv and talk about watching pegging.”


But here’s the thing: Basically everyone is consuming porn, even if almost no one is talking about it. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.


First, PornHub. As the biggest streaming porn site in the world, PornHub’s statistics give the broadest view of people’s porn consumption. According to their 2017 Year in Review, the site saw 28.5 billion visits and 25 billion searches in 2017. And the top search that they say “defined” 2017? “Porn for Women,” which increased by an amazing 1400% from the previous year.


But what is “porn for women,” anyway? PornHub acknowledges on their site that the category is more nebulous than other porn categories, like “MILF” or “interracial,” for example. Luckily, there’s another data set that can give us a clearer picture of “porn for women.” Let’s drill down a little further by looking at statistics from a site that caters primarily to women and and feminine-identifying people: Bellesa.


Bellesa’s own Year in Review found that “porn for women” basically just means… Porn. The most popular category on Bellesa was Threesome (MFM), followed closely by Eating Out, and then Threesome (FMF). The top three searches on Bellesa were Lesbian, Sensual, and Rough. That last one is particularly interesting, as stereotypes about “porn for women” tend to include a lot of softer scenes and more plot lines. But, fun fact, women were three times more likely to search “rough” than “romance” on Bellesa in 2017, even if “sensual” beats out “rough.” And 61% of the women who consumed lesbian porn identified as straight.


J*, a 30-year-old woman who is married to a man, could be one of that 61%. She primarily watches lesbian porn in either free online videos or Tumblr GIFs. J sometimes “mentions [porn] in passing” to her husband, but doesn’t really talk in depth about it. And that could be a missed opportunity, because her husband is likely watching lesbian porn, too: According to PornHub’s statistics, “lesbian” was the number one searched term worldwide.


“I have a lot of shame around it,” J says. “I started consuming it pretty young, before I knew it was ‘okay.’ My sense was that only boys were allowed to even be curious about porn, and that only skeezy men watched it regularly. As I got older and learned more about sex positivity and feminism, I felt more okay about it, except that I consume very mainstream stuff (not feminist) and also a small part of me feels like it’s almost a betrayal of my husband that I get off on lesbian action instead of hetero porn.”


J’s mixed feelings about porn — turned on, ashamed, confused — are a common reaction for porn consumers of all genders. Isaac, a 33-year-old man, is into gang bangs, simulated rape, incest, and humiliation; porn that he says he’s driven to by “subconscious impulses.”


“Sometimes I'm freaked out about myself afterwards,” Isaac says. “It’s the complete opposite of what I like in real life. My partner of eight years definitely has no clue what porn I watch.”


A disconnect between what people enjoy actually doing and what they enjoy fantasizing about is also common. Feminist women who are turned on by rape fantasies and businessmen who are into dominatrixes are so common that they’ve become cliche. And yet, so many of us — like M*, a 30-year-old woman who is into teen, Asian massage, public transportation, and step dads — still carry shame around what goes on between our ears.


“I like older men taking advantage of younger girls, even though I'm a heterosexual woman,” M says. “I would never want to see in real life what I watch in porn. It would probably make me sick and angry. I would never want someone to think I want that to happen to me or other girls in real life.”


With statistics like Bellesa and PornHub’s year end reports, it’s safe to say that in 2018, porn is everyone’s dirty little secret. But if we’re all doing it, why are we still so afraid to talk about it? Maybe it’s time to take our porn consumption out of the closet and accept that it’s part of human sexuality now, for better or for worse. Because, really, what did shame ever get us?

Fin by Dame



*names have been anonymized at the request of the participant.

 

 

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