Do Women Watch Porn?

by Cay L. Crow

Woman relaxing on couch with laptop

What Percent Of The Porn Audience Is Female?

Dear Cay,

I read an article on Psychology Today that said 30% of individuals who watch porn are women. I simply cannot believe this is true. I don’t watch porn. Most of the women I know do not watch porn. Could you look at the article and tell me if this is accurate?

Carina

Dear Carina,

I reviewed the article in question, The Porn Audience is 30 percent female, why do so many women watch by Michael Castleman, a well-respected journalist in the field of sexual health. Castleman wrote one of my favorite books for men, Great Sex: A Man’s Guide to the Secret Principles and Total Body Sex. In the Psychology Today article, Castleman states that women who watch porn are divided into four categories according to the research. One group, in the absence of sex education, watches porn to learn more about sex. The second group is women with high libidos who use porn to masturbate. The third group is women who watch feminist porn, that is porn made by women for women. And the fourth group is women who use porn to spice up partnered lovemaking. However, Castleman does the math and finds that the prevalence of each of these groups does not equate to a third of porn watchers being women. The author explains that, in his opinion, many women watch porn to indulge their BDSM fantasies of sexual submission.

Back to your question, Carina. I always recommend reading anything in the popular media with a degree of skepticism. I reviewed the Psychology Today article and Castleman’s citations at the end. Each research article was published in a peer-reviewed journal that represents the best in the field of sexology. A review of the research articles demonstrates a small pool of participants and the usual sampling difficulties with this type of research; most of the participants in each study were Caucasian and heterosexual. Some of the data extrapolated may not apply to BIPoC (Black and Indigenous Persons/People of Color) or to those on the LGBTQ spectrum. Castleman reports the data from each study accurately.

When I first read the article, I wondered how Pornhub could verify whether a given porn user was male or female. But the website uses Google Analytics (based on multiple data points) to determine the gender breakdown, not an individual’s report. So, in my opinion, Castleman’s article is accurate and 30% of the Pornhub users are people whose gender identity is female.

Just keep in mind, that this is data from one porn website. A more accurate gender breakdown would look at similar data from multiple porn websites.

Why People Watch Porn?

Carina, the idea that so many women watch porn seems to cause you distress. May I propose another way of thinking about porn use? Porn is to sex what movies are to life. Movies take life and blow it out of proportion for entertainment purposes. Thrilling car chase scenes are a staple in movies but no one expects to see a scene from Fast and Furious on the highway. Porn does the same with sex. Porn takes sex and blows it out of proportion. Each body is fit and functions optimally. Everyone is enthusiastic and ready to go. But sex in real life rarely happens that way. Porn is fantasy. Porn is an escape. Porn cannot replace the connection possible between two people.

CAY L. CROW, LPC, AASECT-CERTIFIED SEX THERAPIST

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