The surprising habits of women who watch porn

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Photo via Stadratte/Getty Image (Licensed)

Spoiler: Women like watching other women.

We can cast aside the idea that women are clutching their pearls at men’s shameful, disgusting porn habits and are instead heading over to free tube sites for a “milf lesbian milkshake.” Or whatever sounds good on a plan-free Saturday afternoon.

Studies have found that as many as one in three women watch porn every week. While women are not a monolith—with preferences and opinions on the many, many genres of porn, from BDSM to hentai—research has found there are a few common threads when it comes to their viewing habits. 

1) Women like to watch other women. 

This may only be a surprise to men who think women only watch porn to learn how to please men. 

In survey after survey, women have said they find the female form more erotically pleasing than the male, and of all categories of porn, “lesbian” is the most watched by women on Pornhub and YouPorn—and likely every other site Google can dredge up. For instance, here are some terms that were searched by women more than by men on YouPorn: “hardcore pussy licking” (ladies searched this 630 percent more than dudes), “lesbian scissor” (570 percent more), “lesbian threesome” (351 percent more), and “lesbian orgy” (295 percent more).  

Image via YouPorn

Two years ago, the Daily Dot set out to discover why lesbian porn is so popular, especially among straight women. We found that some just don’t find “’roided-up male actors” attractive, while others were more into “the making out and dry-humping,” instead of the hetero porn that “goes straight to BJs.” You could also say that above all else, when there are two women in the frame, the focus is on a woman’s pleasure (i.e., “hardcore pussy licking”)—even if it’s all-too-often still done from the gaze of a male director.

2) Women watch porn by themselves. 

In 2015, Marie Claire conducted a survey of over 3,000 women and found that only 12 percent said they watch porn with a partner. In other words, women use porn how most people use porn: to get off when they feel like getting off. 

“Your relationship to porn is mostly about you—your sexuality, unencumbered by a partner,” the study's author, Amanda de Cadenet, said about her findings. “Most of our respondents, at least, are using porn to find what they want, and to figure out how to please themselves.”

“Your relationship to porn is mostly about you—your sexuality, unencumbered by a partner.”

3) Women spend a longer time watching porn than men. 

American women on average spend about 11 minutes per session on popular free site Pornhub. Men spend about a minute less. The easy explanation for this time difference could be the ol' stereotype that women take longer to orgasm than men (but this is usually in relation to vaginal sex alone and not what often works faster—stimulating the clitoris). However, my suspicion is that that extra minute might have to do with video selection. Because “lesbian” isn’t a narrow enough category, you gotta whittle it down to “brunette big tits tattoos” or whatever you're into.

4) Women like “plots”—i.e., something more than a man banging a woman. 

A lot of studies say that women are drawn to porn with a plotline, often suggesting that ladyfolk need narratives and dialogue to get off because, you know, we’re talky or can’t be visually stimulated. While an easy-to-follow story arc wouldn’t necessarily hinder the masturbation process, the idea that women like chatty porn or deep, romantic characters isn’t quite right, either. Some women like rough, hardcore pounding (you know, just like men), and others, as Nikki Gloudeman at Ravishly points out, would just like more porn made with their interests in mind—which could mean porn made by women.

When Gloudeman talked to several female porn directors, many called their work “erotica,” saying that tube sites are made for getting the job done fast. But if you want to enjoy the experience, even build up to it, then that’s where "fuller" characters and plot points can tease out those fantasies. Angie Rowntree, owner and founder of porn-for-women site Sssh.com, says she even gathers feedback to make porn that women will like. “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,” she told Ravishly.

5) Kim Kardashian is a favorite. 

Go with what you know, I suppose. Kardashian, star of the most popular sex tape in our country's history, was the top “female performer” on YouPorn for the past three months (and that tape was released nine years ago). This was followed by former porn star Mia Khalifa, who has been in the news lately for her social media exchanges with athletes, and Sunny Leone, who retired from porn three years ago. In other words, ladies are into the classics.

Image via YouPorn

6) Women like what is both familiar and seen as “taboo” in their communities. 

According to Pornhub,  the “ebony” category is big in Southern states, an area where interracial hookups are often still frowned upon (and where the vast majority of site membership is likely white). In the Bible Belt of Ohio and Missouri, “bondage” is the top category.

Image via Pornhub

On the other hand, in some states, what is the cultural standard of beauty is exemplified in its top searches: “big tits” in California, “Asian” in Hawaii, “big dick” in Alaska(?). Since the majority of those surveyed are straight, it’s safe to say the unifying factor is “wanting what you can’t have but perhaps see all the time.”

7) Women aren’t into stuff they can’t pull off in their own bedrooms. 

I’ve heard quite a few female friends say that what they like about strip clubs is watching women “do tricks” that they can’t pull off themselves. Well, it seems the same doesn’t go for porn. A 2014 survey for Cosmo found that only 14 percent of women like to watch stuff they couldn’t do. Apparently, we’re not there to be amazed or entertained, per se, but to get a job done. Who knew?  

The bottom line: Porn for a woman is often nothing more than a means to a satisfying end. You know, the same as it is for men—or anyone else lucky enough to be equipped to pleasure themselves.

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