• Sharon Chau

Let's Talk About Sex II: Porn


In debate training a long time ago, I was with a team several years my senior. A motion about porn came up, and inevitably, the giggles and jokes started rolling. One of my teammates made a joke about "Fake Taxi" and everyone laughed along - except me. I knew what it was, but felt like it would be improper to admit to that as a fifteen-year-old girl.


In the same training session, an argument for porn was made: that porn allows women to explore their fantasies in a safe, controlled environment and at their own pace. I didn't think too much of it then, but after getting into a relationship, I increasingly see the value of this argument. Different genres of porn allowed me to understand the world of sex and to figure out what I liked and didn't like. I was able to get into a relationship with a clear picture of what I wanted, instead of naively following what my boyfriend said or stumbling through trial and error. Because let's face it - it's more likely than not that boys would watch porn and have a better understanding of sex, and hence be in the driving seat in heterosexual relationships. Porn allowed me more control over my sex life and made it more fulfilling.


Another relatively obvious argument for why porn can be good for women is because it facilitates masturbation, which is another way for women to figure out what they like and don't like and explore their own bodies. It also increases the total amount of pleasure in the world, so from a purely utilitarian standpoint, porn is great! In addition, masturbation also brings a whole host of benefits, including alleviating PMS symptoms, lowering anxiety, and releasing serotonin and dopamine, which give you a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction (check out this Forbes article for more information on the benefits of female masturbation).


The porn industry has also been reforming to cater more to women. On Pornhub, the new category "Popular with Women" was created, with videos that women watched and liked. This is an important category in a largely male-centric site. Pornhub has also released statistics for "Most Viewed Categories by Gender" and "Viewed More Often by Women Compared to Men", which are quite informative. Women watch much more of "pussy licking" and "fingering" compared to men, which is unsurprising given those are the acts widely acknowledged to give women the most pleasure. Surprisingly, women are also more likely to watch "double penetration", "threesome" and "gangbang" compared to men as well.


And contrary to popular belief, women watch quite a lot of porn and made up around a third of all visitors on Pornhub in 2019. This proportion has been steadily rising, thanks to the gradual destigmatisation of female sexuality.


This graph provides illuminating statistics on the relative prevalence of female visitors around the world. Many Latin American countries reign top, while the UK, Russia and Germany have a relatively small proportion of women visitors. Maybe this says something about the openness of these countries towards female pleasure - or maybe the guys there just really like porn..?


As for "The World's Most Viewed Categories", lesbian porn is the most popular in most of North and South America and Oceania, while hentai (Japanese animated porn) is the most popular in Russia. Arab and ebony porn are the most popular in Arabic countries and Africa, while Indian porn is the most popular in India. Go figure.



People's favourite times to watch porn also produce rather anti-climactic (no pun intended) results. Midnight and 11 pm are the most popular time to wank. What is more surprising is how even though 5 am is the least popular time to watch porn, people still do so at such an early (or late?) hour. And quite a lot of people watch porn at 4 pm - presumably many should be in the office during that time. Hmm.


As for "The Searches that Defined 2019", it is an illuminating list of ten searches that were important last year. A few are worth exploring in more detail. "Alien" was a popular search apparently because of the hype surrounding storming Area 51. Cosplay was also popular, characterised by Belle Delphine, a YouTuber known for her cosplay on Instagram. ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a new trend that creates tingling sensations through soft sounds. It was a big thing on YouTube which inevitably spread to Pornhub. As for the defining search "amateur", this signals how people increasingly wish to watch realistic porn instead of that produced professionally, a welcome change from unrealistic, edited scenes.


Obviously, porn gets a lot of bad press, and for good reason - some porn glamourises violence and porn could also lead to warped expectations of what sex should be like. However, two trends alleviate this problem. The first trend is the shift from professional to amateur porn. As discussed just now, amateur porn is one of the most popular searches on Pornhub. This portrays more realistic sex, especially with Pornhub's "Verified Amateurs" label to identify real-life individuals having sex without all the Photoshop and fancy video editing. The second trend is the regulation of the porn industry. Mainstream porn sites have banned rape porn, and Pornhub has banned searching for keywords like "drunk" and "grope". Even though there is still violent and BDSM porn, people watch it knowing the individuals involved fully consented to being recorded. Porn is far from perfect, but these organic improvements will hopefully eradicate the worst excesses of it.


I maintain, controversially, that porn is a force for good for women. In a world where guys are likely to watch porn and have relatively detailed knowledge about sex, women watching porn levels the playing field and allows them to enter a sexual relationship with full knowledge of what they want out of it. It also allows women to explore their fantasies and their bodies in a safe, controlled environment. We should destigmatise porn and encourage women, if they so wish and are held back by stigma, to explore porn on their own terms.


Stay tuned for Let's Talk About Sex III, where I will look into consent! Please DM me with any comments about this article and suggestions for Parts IV and V!

P.S. Related to the statistics shown above, a great book I'd recommend is Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. This book looks at big data for surprising and taboo trends. Unsurprisingly, a sizeable chunk of the book discusses preferences in watching porn. One of the most memorable trends identified in the book is how one of the most popular porn searches in India is "breastfeeding".


P.P.S. Just wanted to incorporate comments from readers who have kindly sent me their thoughts. Thanks Jonny, Tina, Eli, Luca, Melissa, Gwyneth, Angus, Ellee, Sofia, Gracie, Pomme and others!

  • Jonny reminded me to put in certain caveats - 1) the lack of ongoing consent and how there is little ability for pornstars to remove images or videos of themselves; 2) revenge porn; 3) problems about consent within the porn industry itself and the rape culture within it; and 4) human trafficking. All of these are massive problems that require a lot of regulatory oversight. However, porn is something that cannot abolished in the internet era, and we should be pushing for much better regulation. (Side note: Jonny thinks we should be pushing for nationalisation. The solution is not always nationalisation. Pomme points out he would not like a Department of Porn checking on citizens' fapping habits, which I wholeheartedly agree with)

  • bellesa.co is a good example of porn that caters much more to a female audience

  • Youtuber Ashley (channel "bestdressed") in this video discusses sex and masturbation really well

  • Girls On Porn is a podcast where two actresses explore different genres in porn. Might be a bit much for some, but they promote an open and honest conversation about porn

  • Porn can harm young women because of the unrealistic and overly narrow ideal of beauty and the female body. Examples include breast size, hourglass figure, weight and what a vagina "should" look like. This is something young women should keep in mind when watching porn

  • The benefits of porn depend on its nature and content. Much of porn is catered solely towards the male gaze and what men fetishize eg. rough sex and violence. Destigmatisation should be coupled with better porn

  • This link provides good alternatives to Pornhub

  • Regulation is needed for porn, and addiction is a large problem that should be dealt with seriously

  • We need more female porn creators!

  • There are problems within the pornography industry such as abuses and exploitation. For example, you can read here why Mia Khalifa, one of the most popular pornstars, quit Pornhub

  • Professional porn is often exploitative in paying the pornstars involved. The shift towards amateur porn and OnlyFans (i.e. twitch porn) allows women to do sex work themselves without relying on a middleman. This is a welcome but by no means perfect change

  • Porn cooperatives can be a good idea, where pay is divided in relatively equal shares between the pornstars, camera crew etc

  • Porn has revolutionised internet technology, such as Google reverse image search

  • Despite the "Popular With Women" category, it is still frustrating that the rest is catered to men, and that women are a mere subcategory

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©2020 by Sharon Chau