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SEX INDUSTRY

Someone Finally Surveyed Women Who Watch Porn

Published: MAY 25, 2022 | Updated: JULY 21, 2022 10:12:14
Study results said 'authentic' sex in porn by producer-directors like Erika Lust may finally be getting some real recognition.

In January, a small study was published in peer review The Journal of Sex Research. Study authors interviewed 24 women in the U.S., from 22- to 53-years-old, of whom 62.5 percent identified as white and 79.2 percent as “other than heterosexual.” While that may seem like a tiny sample group, the results of the study are significant because researchers – or anyone else really – rarely ask women a) if they watch pornography, and b) if they do, what do they like about it?

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Most research into porn consumption has been focused on hetero males – after all, they’re the primary and largest consumer demographic, and most erotic content – whether it’s mainstream or adult entertainment – has been produced to appeal specifically to straight men. But, as it turns out, women who watch porn do have opinions about what they like and why they like it.

The January study found that survey subjects said sexual “authenticity” was an important aspect of what the women found most enjoyable, and they defined authenticity “in three primary ways: [by] analyzing appearance, performance, and intimacy.”

Study subjects also said that, while they still felt shame and guilt associated with viewing sexual content, their negative feelings could be mitigated if they watched content that actually turned them on.

Read: Why You Should Start Watching Porn and Not Feel Ashamed of It

So, what turned them on? They enjoyed watching performers with more natural body types that could portray a sense of intimacy and pleasure, and stories that included more LGBTQ+ performers and diverse scenarios, but with less formulaic portrayals of actual sex acts. They also preferred scenes and storylines that, in some way, might mirror their own erotic experiences.

Such refined views on adult content may come as a revelation for the stereotypical viewer, who’s probably wondering, Well, where do you even find porn like that?

Erika Lust/credit: Monica Figueras

But the study results don’t surprise award-winning adult content producer-director Erika Lust.

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“People aren’t usually educated to consider porn as a space for positive sex inspiration but are more likely to consider it as a secret, ‘forbidden’ place to head to when they need to jerk off,” Lust observed. “However, there are also more people than ever before that are realizing that alternatives to what they are used to watching exist and are craving for more porn that includes more varied perspectives and relatable storylines.”

“Where people aren’t represented solely as sex machines, but their emotions and feelings are also there. People want to see themselves in the films and be inspired by the sex the performers have,” Lust continued. “What happens is that it is still a very small portion of the whole [adult entertainment] industry that’s trying to make a change, so many people out there aren’t even aware that this can exist.”

Lust, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, graduated from the University of Lund with a degree in Political Science. In 2004, she moved to Barcelona to start adult production company Erika Lust Films, which has been specializing in socially conscious “feminist” erotic content, with more than 70 titles to her credit as a writer-producer-director.

“Porn, as a medium, can be used positively or negatively as everything else,”

“Porn, as a medium, can be used positively or negatively as everything else,” she commented in an email response to questions about her work. “It is possible and necessary to create porn that is not rooted in gender imbalance and racism by changing the narratives and making a positive shift in the production process; adult independent productions like mine have been working in this direction for more than two decades now.”

In 2021, Lust released the first season of a 5-part series titled “Three.” In it, an affair blossoms between characters Ingrid (Gia Green), Andrea (Bunnie Bennett), and David (Sylvan), as they explore “the joys, trials and tribulations of ethical non-monogamy and the start of a throuple’s love story.” Lush with Mediterranean light and locations, the production quality feels like any contemporary romance movie.

Ingrid, Andrea, and David look like any attractive people you might meet, travelling around Europe. The multilingual script, in English, Italian, and Spanish, conveys emotions that feel fraught and sensuous. The sex looks natural, not choreographed.

Read: What Is Ethical Porn?

“Three” star Gia Green described having her period on a day when she was scheduled to shoot a masturbation scene. While sponges were used to staunch any obvious flow for the shoot, Green confessed that it was hard for her to feel comfortable with her performance and afterwards, approached Lust to shoot the scene again, under more natural conditions.

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“I felt empowered because I was feeling that I was doing something ultimately political. I felt like I was giving a chance to other bleeding folks who would watch this scene to empower themselves, too, through their periods,” Green explained. “Period sex with a partner is great, but I think that period (self) sex is even greater. It can lead you to a deeper connection with your sexuality… This shows total acceptance of your body and bodily fluids, therefore, of your whole self – and in the unequal society we live in, it’s a political act indeed.”

Read: Bloody Hell: What's the Big Deal with Period Sex?

Lust described her approach to performers and on-set action. “All sex scenes are shot in freestyle mode, and that’s what makes them more natural and relatable. I don’t want for me, nor do I want for the guest directors who create their movies for [content line] XConfessions and Lust Cinema, to provide performers with a list of actions they have to perform.

“Having a talent manager-intimacy coordinator on set ensures that performers are being taken care of at all times and feel safe to explore their sexuality alone or with one another in a comfortable and relaxed way,” she added. “It’s important to have someone on set whose sole role is to check in with performers and make sure they are aware of other people’s boundaries and affirmatively consent to any key shots the director wishes them to do. We don’t want anybody to feel obliged to do anything, or unsure/uncomfortable about anything related to the sex scene. In general, we want performers to feel supported and free to voice their opinions and feelings at any time.”

Three/Lust Cinema Credit Sabela Eiriz

Lust and her peers – performer-director-producers in the adult industry like Joanna Angel, Kayden Kross, Dana Vespoli, Aiden Starr and others – are pushing the boundaries of authenticity, diversity and inclusion in their work with award-winning results. When the AVN Awards, oft referred to as the “Oscars” of porn, were held online in January, top awards were dominated by female-helmed productions.

The Grand Reel Award went to “Casey: A True Story,” directed by alt porn pioneer Joanna Angel for online adult streaming platform Adult Time. Based on the real-life story of transgender webcam performer Casey Kisses, who goes from an unknown drifter to the associate of a biker gang (Kisses is portrayed in pre-transition by actor Dante Cole), and eventually coming out as trans. Post-transition, Kisses portrays herself, conflicted and abused by a dysfunctional ex-con dad (portrayed by Tommy Pistol) before evolving into a popular webcam performer.

Best Directing categories for 2022 were also ruled by women, with Kayden Kross and Vixen Media Group taking top honors domestically, for “Psychosexual.” In Europe, Julia Grandi took the category for her performer showcase “Jia,” also for Vixen Media.

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It’s a striking comparison, when you drive over the hill to Hollywood for the real Oscars, held this year in March, as the glitterati emerged from two years of pandemic-imposed restrictions. The Academy Award for Best Director was presented to Jane Campion – only the third woman in the Academy’s nearly 100-year history to win that coveted statuette. In any case, Campion’s triumph for female filmmakers was arguably overshadowed by Best Actor Award winner Will Smith’s slapping outburst.

Take the Quiz! Are You a Pornography Connosieur?

Female directors in the adult industry stand on the shoulders of women that previously pushed boundaries, including late, legendary performer/director Candida Royalle, who helmed Femme Productions until her death in 2015. Royalle began her career as a performer in 1975, eventually starring in 25 titles. She called the movies she produced “sensually explicit.” Royalle also spun off racially diverse line Femme Chocolat in the mid-2000s, at a time when black and POC female adult performers were rarely depicted. Femme Chocolat’s 2007 release “Aphrodite Superstar,” debuted black adult actress Simone Valentino, and was well-received by consumers and critics.

For the next generation of women (and those of diverse gender identity) in the adult industry, options have greatly increased for roles both in front of and behind the camera. At Erika Lust Films, performer and budding director Casey Calvert’s 2021 featurette “Spark,” is a bittersweet story about Maggie (Maya Wolfe), a stressed student who hasn’t dated in a while and leans on advice from her gay uncle (Bryn Pryor) for posting a profile on fictional dating site Spark. First dates, awkward emotions and hot sex ensue.

Online commenter Paolo reviewed a favorite scene from “Spark” and said, “It is hard to find such an anal scene so well included in the story, out of the most usual clichés. She is so excited that anal is a consequence for her and not just a fetish for him. It is not his initiative, but hers looking for the limits of pleasure. Excellent scene direction, well exposing the details, the anal penetration, but maintaining the focus on pleasure. Thanks and congratulations.”

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Photo for Joanne Cachapero
Joanne Cachapero

Joanne Cachapero is a free-lance writer with a diverse background and expertise in cannabis and the adult entertainment industries. She and her dog Jackson are based in West Hollywood, CA. Her work has appeared in Vision Magazine, SD City Beat, Playgirl, NY Arts Magazine, XBIZ Magazine, MG Magazine, CBD Today, and others.

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