Kristina Lloyd, whose novel Undone has just been published (and is phenomenally well-written – buy it), has been doing the blog tour thing. Today, Anna Sky hosted an interesting post by Kristina: “Do Women Prefer Erotica?” Whether you’re a reader or a writer of erotica, it’s worth your while to read it.
At the end, she makes the point that our society is consistently asking the wrong question. Let me quote:
Perhaps it’s time we started asking different questions: not ‘why do women prefer erotica’ but why are women less likely than men to incorporate adult content in their lives? Why is female desire not fully acknowledged by our culture? Why can’t we have the same sexual freedoms enjoyed by men? And why, oh why, aren’t our desires more widely catered for?
I think these are powerful questions worth unpacking, examining, and attempting to answer.
Why are women less likely than men to incorporate adult content in their lives?
I’m going to debate this first one, or rather, I’m going to specify that I think women do incorporate adult content into their lives just as much as men do, but not commercial content, and often the content is self-generated.
Women don’t consume anywhere near as much commercially available adult content – that’s a fact. But I think Kristina addresses this well in the post: so little of what is available is targeted at women. Yes, there is a little, but quite often it is re-purposed gay porn (and I can tell when it is; it makes me feel like I’m using a hand-me-down dildo. The gay gaze and the female gaze are NOT the same.) Much of the stuff produced by women for women has undercurrents of political correctness or activism about it that, frankly, just spoil the ‘dirty’ for me.
There is not a lot out there for women, porn-wise, because it isn’t a lucrative market. Many women won’t pay for porn. So there’s little commercial impetus to produce it for them. Why is that?
I think it comes back to another question Kristina asked: “Why is female desire not fully acknowledged by our culture?” My hypothesis is that most women won’t purchase porn for themselves because they are products of their culture and that culture has very ambivalent feelings about female desire. The lie that ‘women aren’t visual’ (beautifully dismissed by Kristina in her post) translates in our society to ‘women shouldn’t be visual’; ergo women who are visual are abnormal.
The one place where, I think, the marketplace has proven the lies of how women want romance, how they’re less visual, how they have lower libidos than men, how it all needs to be personal and caring and shit is in the sales of sex toys.
It’s hard to get solid numbers on this, but according to a survey by Adam & Eve, almost half of all women in the US own a sex toy. And those are the ones who will admit to owning one. Excuse me if I feel that there might be a little under-reporting going on. Also, is anyone counting conveniently shaped shampoo bottles, deoderants, etc.?
Women DO spend money on getting off. They spend about $15 Billion a year on it. We get off wild and we get off hard and love has nothing to do with it.
But the other aspect of the first question is about content. Here I’m going to venture into speculative territory. I wonder if, because a lot of adult content is not made for women and so the sexually arousing fantasies are not as easily found externally, maybe women manufacture more of their own? I’m not saying some men don’t have marvelous interior fantasy machines, but I’ve noticed that once you can find your fantasy represented externally, you’re not as hard-pressed to generate your own. (I began writing erotic fiction because I couldn’t find much out there (porn, erotica, whatever) that addressed my particular perversions. Had I found a lot of stuff that hit the spot, I might not have bothered trying to write it.)
What I’m trying to say, poorly perhaps, is that imagination is a muscle. You don’t use it unless you have to. And a LOT of women have to because their erotic fantasies may not be represented in porn or represented in the right way.
Kristina’s second and third questions: Why is female desire not fully acknowledged by our culture? and Why can’t we have the same sexual freedoms enjoyed by men? are really inextricably bound together.
I think the spectre of female sexual desire unmoderated and made safe by an accompanying cuddly love-bunny thing is a frightening thing in our culture. Certainly there are porn memes about insatiable women, but they aren’t really about insatiable women. They are about the benefits a man might reap from a sexually insatiable women, who is really not quite insatiable, and finds satiation with YOU (the male consuming the meme).
But, let me flip this around. There is a small community of men who fetishize the humiliation of not being potent enough, large enough or well-equipped enough to satisfy a woman with a rampant sexual appetite. That fetish, I think, reveals the true horror of an insatiable woman. She doesn’t care one wit for you or your feelings. If you can’t get her off fast enough, often enough, hard enough, she’ll walk over your exhausted, drained and prostrate body to get to the next candidate, muttering ‘pussy’ as she goes.
My guess is that for most men, a woman who knows exactly what she wants sexually, is demanding of it, and intolerant of a man who falls short is a terrifying prospect. Yet if we were to look at most male-centered porn, that is the message reflected back to us all the time. Men are so horny, they just can’t get enough. No one woman can satisfy them – they need five. As women, we live with the constant spectre of not being hot enough, tight enough, wild enough, wet enough, multi-orgasmic enough all the time.
My guess is that if we ever made porn that DID reflect women’s sexual desire, unmitigated by shame or the limiting narrative of affection, there would be more massively insecure men in the world than there are already.
Ironically, what I think men ought to be scared of is the ubiquity of the stereotypical uber-rich, permanently erect, led-by-his-penis alpha male in most contemporary romances. Believe me, the vast majority of you can’t live up to that at all. But your doomed-to-fail attempts keep the free-market system ticking over.
We’d all be a lot healthier if this were really about sex.