Why women prefer erotica over pornography

By Eleanor McKenzie

Published Sep 26, 2020 at 07:00 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

If you’re already a fan of erotica, then you know the reactions that turning a page can have on you. Flushed cheeks, increased heart rate, a little lip-bite… And all of a sudden your imagination is in overdrive. Reading about people getting down and dirty can be an incredible turn on. What’s the secret?

Let’s get all science-y for a moment. A study in the National Library of Medicine found that 90 per cent of women used ‘mental framing’ (also known as scenario conjuring) to get aroused. And a 2009 study on porn and arousal published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that women became aroused by the context of the story rather than the visual offering of porn. That’s a lot of science backing up the fact that women need a little something extra to get what they need. But why? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? We asked a few sexperts in their field.

Erotica is more empowering

A lot of the time in mainstream porn, the man is in charge and the woman is subjecting. The sex is being done to them rather than with them. There’s a lot of control and it’s borderline non-consensual at times. But the thing about erotica is that it puts the power back in the woman’s hands. She is completely consenting to sex and being an active participant; she’s fully in control of her sexuality.

As the editor-in-chief of erotic fiction subscription service LVH, I noticed that porn tends to classify women as ‘good girls’ or ‘sluts’: it doesn’t empower women. Women have had their sexuality repressed for so long, that we’re not sure how to be ourselves when it comes to expressing what gives us pleasure, and that harms our relationships. The Lady Victoria Howard stories give women that all-important context with characters they can emotionally identify with and sexual fantasies that they can engage with using their own imagination to personalise it, and frame the story within what turns them on. When women are able to draw inspiration from a character that we can relate to, it gives us permission to say, yes I’d like to do that too.

Wish fulfilment

Let’s face it. Most porn is made with men in mind. It’s very to the point and visual; there’s no imagination or creativity involved whatsoever. Well, that’s the opinion of M, editor-in-chief of award-winning sex and relationships blog Sex & London City, who says that women are drawn to the escapism and fantasy of erotica: “Erotica goes so much deeper than porn—if you’ll pardon the phrase. It provides a fantasy, and a way to escape everyday life. Rough P in V sex or the ‘moneyshot’ just doesn’t do it for women; they want to be seduced. They want a life that’s glamorous, sexy, and pretty. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about the sex. It’s about having the life of someone who is desired, craved… and having lots and lots of sex because of that. The sex is just a happy consequence.”

The sex itself doesn’t really matter. It’s everything around the sex and the build up. When it’s done right—when there’s a connection—sexual tension can be just as good as an orgasm itself. Yep, I said what I said!

It’s all about you

I’m not saying that women don’t watch porn—of course they do—but it’s the type of porn they watch that gives us clues into what women really want. Did you know that women love lesbian porn? It’s true!

According to Pornhub Insights, lesbian porn is 151 per cent more popular with women than it is with men, and that number isn’t just LGBT women either. Huge numbers of straight women are flocking to girl-on-girl action. Why?

Take a look at any ‘straight’ porn video and you’ll notice that it’s all about the dude. He’s usually got a huge member, sticks it in the girl dry and thrusts until he climaxes. But what about the girl? What about her pleasure? This is the point I’m trying to make.

The majority of porn is built for men. Many women (I’m not saying all) want to see something involving their pleasure, something they can relate to. Which is why girl-on-girl porn, which can involve a lot of cunnilingus, is so appealing. But it’s also why erotica, where the woman is usually front and centre of the story and indeed the sex scenes, is even more appealing.

Megwyn White, certified clinical sexologist and director of education at sexual wellness brand Satisfyer, goes into more detail about what women want: “Women are sensitive creatures, endowed with a multi-sensory pleasure map that includes details of physicality, sensitivities to touch, aroma, lighting, plot line, and more. We remember these details, and use them to connect the dots to our own pleasure maps. Women are attentive to emotional details as well, and crave polarity within a sensual conquest to energize their interest. Edging a woman’s excitement is exactly what erotica is so good at doing. By oftentimes holding back overt sexual contact, and instead stimulating simultaneous sensual cues embedded within authentic sexual tension it allows a woman’s innate ability to map into the layers of details that form her unique sexual template.”

Erotica is more emotional

Leading on from erotica being all about wish fulfillment, is a woman’s desire for emotion and connection. In general, women prefer reading adult romance and erotica, rather than watching porn, because emotional context is far more important for a woman’s sexual arousal than for a man. There are a few women porn directors who have tried to make it more female friendly. As Petra Joy said in an interview with The Guardian, “Women enjoy seeing a curve of arousal and like to understand why these people are having sex and how they got turned on. Women want to see credible female performers, women of all sizes and looks who genuinely enjoy themselves rather than porn clones with fake nails, hairs and boobs faking it for the camera.”

As we know, traditional porn typically has very little depth and is extremely thin on storyline, which doesn’t seem to bother men, but it’s certainly a barrier for women. Often it’s about as arousing as watching paint dry. Having said that, a story involving a hot-looking house painter would interest women, but there has to be a credible story.

You heard me: write us a good story, then add the sex.

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