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What women want: why the porn industry needs to wake up to female desire

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Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's regular column tackling issues on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st Century context. This week, Cindy Gallop, founder of real world sex site, Make Love not Porn, explains why the porn industry needs to take women's sexual entertainment seriously and better tap into the female pysche

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Feminist Cindy Gallop says:

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching porn to get myself off, I can’t avoid processing it through the lens of female experience.

My brain keeps up a running commentary along the lines of:  ‘I know that hurts,' or 'If she keeps her leg up there one more minute she’s going to get cramp,’ and  ‘I know she’s not coming because nothing in that position could conceivably cause her to come…’ Result: end of turn-on. 

As with every other entertainment industry – Hollywood, television, publishing – porn is dominated by men at the top, misguidedly focused only on men as the audience. As a result, most mainstream porn reflects a male-centric worldview in all sorts of ways.

Mainstream porn’s entire purpose is to get the man off – which, with porn acting as default sex education in the absence of discussion of real world sex - results in men and women growing up believing the entire purpose of sex is to get the man off.

Be aware when the male lens is in operation, and look for the porn that focuses on you and your pleasure.

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As with every other entertainment industry, porn is dominated by men at the top

Women’s sexuality – the universal human driver – lends itself to tremendous creativity that has for too long been censored across every artistic field.

The day we have a porn industry that is driven, designed, managed and led from the top by women just as much as men; that targets 50% of its output at women just as much as men, and that therefore – importantly – makes 50% of its money out of women just as much as men, is the day we have a porn industry that looks completely different: more creative, innovative, disruptive, lucrative, and a better, healthier industry overall.

I have an issue with the use of the terms ‘feminist porn’ and ‘porn for women,’ though. Whether or not it's the reality, the terms tend to conjure up cliched misperceptions of what 'for women' means: gentle touchy-feely stuff, white curtains fluttering in the breeze...

Additionally, inherent within those descriptions is a belief that men won’t go near that kind of porn.  Men haven’t even begun to see what innovative perspectives porn created through the female lens can bring, and they haven’t even begun to realize how incredibly hot and arousing they will find it.

There is a huge amount of money to be made out of taking women seriously.

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"Men haven’t even begun to see what innovative perspectives porn created through the female lens can bring."

Some of the most interesting things in porn and sextech today are coming from women owning their own sexuality, expressing it in a way that has never been seen before, and men who come across these ventures are loving them.

In a world where at the top of every industry there is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys, women’s needs, wants and desires go unacknowledged, unappreciated and unfulfilled. The porn industry is leaving a huge amount of money on the table by not opening up to women as consumers and welcoming more women as porn producers and directors.

Additionally, the sheer shame, embarrassment and guilt that we are made to feel around anything to do with sex, and consequently about watching porn, is damaging people most.

We need more women leading the porn industry

"Be aware when the male lens is in operation, and look for the porn that focuses on you and your pleasure."

The issue isn’t porn, but that we don’t talk openly and honestly about sex in the real world. It is the most natural thing in the world to watch porn, to get turned on by it and to use it as a masturbation aid and a tool for exploration of one’s own sexuality.

Everything you see in porn, somebody somewhere enjoys doing. An awful lot of somebodies, in fact. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to sex – what is ‘normal’ for you is simply anything you genuinely enjoy doing and that your partner equally enjoys and wants to do as well.

Using the word ‘porn’ to generalise as if it was all one big homogeneous mass, is like using the word ‘literature’ as if it was all the same. The landscape of porn is like the landscape of literature – as full of genres and subgenres, as rich and infinitely varied. Porn celebrates and caters to a vast range of tastes, inclinations, sexualities, body types, fetishes and desires.

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"Everything you see in porn, somebody somewhere enjoys doing."

Right now the highest income-grossing author in the world is E L James, author of Fifty Shades Of Grey. James has out-earned every other bestselling writer by creating the first erotica that not only tapped into the female psyche but could be openly shared as doing so.

When you give us what we want sexually, and we make it socially acceptable and socially shareable, the impact is extraordinary. Which is why I encourage you to celebrate your sexuality, know there is nothing wrong with watching any form of porn you choose, and seriously consider what you might want to create – and make money out of – that would help break down ridiculous taboos and give us even more choices for sexual entertainment and enjoyment.

Send your feminist dilemmas to stories@stylist.co.uk and we'll get one of our brilliant panel of feminists to cast a discerning eye on the issue at hand.  

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