UGH. First off my apologies for the weird scheduling. I have no idea why it posted itself four days ago.
And I have to start this with a personal porn anecdote. You KNOW you wanna hear it.
Woodard et al. “What kind of erotic film clips should we use in female sex research? An exploratory study.” Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2008.
Growing up as a naive young geeky lady in suburbia, I never saw porn. During my junior year of college, this came to the attention of a few friends of mine, and it turned out that most of us ladies had never really seen porn. Moreover, we didn’t really want to have our very first porn experience with some guy who was gonna be all like “I wanna get you hot, baby…” and then pay attention to nothing but the porn like that one episode of “Sex and the City”. We decided we needed to see porn in a safe environment. One where we could laugh at it and get our nerves out.
And so, we held a party. The WCP party. Wine, Cheese, and Porn. Dress was business formal, attendance by invitation only (both men and women invited), and we served filet mignon, mango spoonbread, and a lovely selection of wines and cheeses. And we watched “Deep Throat”. Being the total geeks we were, we spent a lot of time wondering how the movie really compared to the Nixon administration.
Of course, it was only later that someone told me that apparently “Deep Throat” is some kind of artsy porn, and wasn’t representative of the generality of porn out there. Still, it was a great party. And of course, none of the girls were really turned on at all. I mean, it was all angled, and posed, and the music was terrible, and WHAT THE HELL WAS THE PLOT?! A clitoris in the back of her throat? Please.
It has since occurred to me that, because of this porn issue, there is probably a lot of gender disparity in studies of sexual function between men and women. After all, if you’re showing women porn clips that are known to turn men on, you might be getting a wrong result, and then, *poof*, out comes the paper in Science saying how all women are frigid and porn doesn’t work. So I’m very glad that there are people out there addressing this problem.
But seriously, there are actually many uses for using erotic film clips in research. These are especially important in studies of female sexual dysfunction, and they are also used for basic science studies on sexual orientation in men and women. The problem is that, without knowing what stimulates men and women, and whether they respond differently to different types of clips, the erotic clips used could be skewing the data.
Of course, people have known for a long time that women respond to “traditional” pornography differently than men. It’s not surprising. A lot of pornography produced by men contains degradation and objectification of women, so while women may be turned on physiologically, they can also feel shame, or just disgust. Not only that, there are more societal taboos placed on women viewing pornography than on men, as well as the possible threat to self-image seeing all those silicone breasts floating around…
It turns out that, since about the early 1980’s, there have been some female porn directors (some of whom were former porn stars themselves), making porn for women, by women. Interestingly, what seems to appeal most is that most of these pornographies are made from a woman’s point of view, rather than from a man’s. So of course, it’s easier for women to identify. Subsequent studies have found that women find women-centered erotica more subjectively stimulating (the mental aspect), but they find it to be equally physically stimulating compared to man-centered erotica. Part of this could be due to the fact that the women said they felt more shame and guilt watching male-centered porn, though a level of disgust apparently persisted regardless of viewpoint.
And of course there’s the question of emotion. I’ve always heard that that women require more emotional context to become physiologically aroused, which is of course why they prefer romance novels to porn. It turns out that this is a myth, though the concept was first introduced by Kinsey (they famous Kinsey of the Kinsey Sexual Reports) in the 1950’s. Since then, one study found that women has LESS of a psychosexual response to emotionally based erotic material than men, but no one has been able to replicate it (Jakobovits, 1967). Most studies show no difference, so it doesn’t seem that the erotic clips need to be put into context.
But how do we know which clips to show? For this study, they recruited a whole bunch of women, all of whom had to have seen porn before (57% were single, 76.2% were heterosexual, and 19% were bisexual, 4.8% unknown, 2/3rds were white, and 33% had higher than a master’s degree). They sat them down and showed them 90 different clips of erotic film, picked from the “top rentals” list of an adult video store (I’d love to be a researcher on this study…”Hi, I’d like to see your top rentals? I’m doing…a study…for science…and I need to see your porn…”). At first they had them watch the videos in the privacy of their own homes, but apparently after the first few, they decided on a controlled environment, as otherwise the ladies tended to keep the DVDs too long.🙂 The women were asked to rate the clips with positive values if they found it pleasant/it turned them on, and negative values if it was unpleasant/it turned them off. The authors then analyzed the results, breaking them down into mental vs. physical appeal.
The end results fell into 5 categories (the contents of some clips will overlap):
1) Mentally appealing and physically arousing: clearly the best kind of porn for women, the clips tended to feature vaginal intercourse, the missionary position, male or female, female on male, cunnilingus, and, interestingly, outdoor settings.
2) Mentally unappealing with physical arousal: these clips included fellatio, cunnilingus, rear-entry anal or vaginal intercourse, threesomes, male on male, female on female, and self and partner masturbation.
3) More physically arousing than mentally appealing (they were both, but more physical than mental): all of these had heterosexual behavior, half were male on female, the other half female on male, and vaginal intercourse was in 75%. This seemed to be physically arousing, but perhaps mentally boring kinds of porn, none of them made it to the top tier.
4) Mentally unappealing and physically unarousing: Women apparently don’t really like male on male, fellatio, or anal.
5) More mental than physical: these included the missionary position, male on female, vaginal intercourse, and a small percent included bondage. And that outdoor setting was there again!
So clearly, if you’re going to show porn to women, stick to the #1 category. What I found rather interesting about this study was the male on male bit, and the fact that women (the majority of whom were straight) seemed to find it relatively unappealing. I’d always heard that guys like girl on girl, and girls like boy on boy. And from the large amount of horrible slash-fic (if you don’t know what that is, look it up, and I hold no responsibility for anything you may come across. Stay AWAY from the Harry Potter stuff. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…) that girls write out there, I’d figured it must be true. I’ve apparently been lied to.
The other thing I thought was good about this is that, using the results from this study, I can now write the ULTIMATE romance novel. And so can you! Take the results from the top category, combine them, throw in a few adjectives and something about bodice-ripping, and you’re a best seller. It’s like mad libs. Behold, SCICURIOUS! BEST SELLING ROMANCE NOVELIST!
He was standing too close to her. She looked up, and his eyes seemed to devour her with their hunger. All around her, the world seemed to fall silent, the crashing of the waves on the rocks reduced to the merest rush. The salt spray that touched her bare shoulders tingled against her hot skin.
He bent his head, running his lips along her shoulders, her neck, tasting the salt against the sweetness of her. Against her will, she felt her head fall back, as his lips left hot trails against her flesh. His hands circled her waist possessively as she rested her palms against his bare chest. She could feel him fighting to keep his desires in check, but she cared nothing for propriety, not here, not now. She tilted her lips toward his, and whispered his name, her voice husky with desire.
Her words bore through the walls of his restraint, and he pressed her against him, feeling her soft curves against his hard flesh, the heat of his need for her. His fingers tore impatiently at her bodice, tearing the delicate fabric as he slid her dress down over her hips. The shock of cold air and sea spray made her gasp, and she cried out as first his hands, then his lips found the fullness of her breasts.
blah de blah… I have no idea how they’re going to get naked, it’s late and I’m tired, but THAT WAS SO FUNNY TO WRITE. Anyway, end result is that she ends up on top of him in the sand (or on the rocks, or the driftwood, or something), with waves on them. Because everyone knows outdoor scenes are hot. Ask the porn study.
Terri L. Woodard, Karen Collins, Mindy Perez, Richard Balon, Manuel E. Tancer, Michael Kruger, Scott Moffat, Michael P. Diamond (2007). What Kind of Erotic Film Clips Should We Use in Female Sex Research? An Exploratory Study The Journal of Sexual Medicine DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00641.x
Filed under: Friday Weird Science