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Why Are Women Watching More Violent Porn Than Ever?

More and more women are seeking out the more extreme versions of porn, and that porn is blatantly violent towards women. But why?

Do women watch porn? What kind of porn do women watch, if they do?

Studies show that most young people are exposed to porn by age 13,British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY  and according to a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens, 84.4% of 14 to 18-year-old males and 57% of 14 to 18-year-old females have viewed pornography.Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. J.Health Commun., 1-8. doi:10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980COPY 

That means that most young people are getting at least some of their education about sex from porn, whether they mean to or not. In fact, one study shows that approximately 45% of teens who consumed porn did so in part to learn about sex.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY  Similarly, survey results also show one in four 18 to 24-year-olds (24.5%) listed pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7COPY 

So, women are clearly watching porn. But what type?

Related: Does Mainstream Porn Fuel And Normalize Sexual Violence In Teen Relationships?

Store - General

How common is violence in today’s porn?

Today’s popular mainstream porn is not usually kind to the women portrayed on the screens (just read these porn producers’ disturbing quotes). With descriptions like “gangbang,” “painal” (which is “painful anal”), and “rough sex,” it’s easy to gather that the women in these pornographic settings are often enduring abuse, all while being filmed and uploaded to porn sites for the world to watch for free.

According to a 2021 study, 1 out of every 8 porn titles shown to first-time visitors to porn sites described acts of sexual violence.Vera-Gray, F., McGlynn, C., Kureshi, I., & Butterby, K. (2021). Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography. The British Journal of Criminology, doi:10.1093/bjc/azab035COPY  And according to studies analyzing the content of porn videos themselves, it’s estimated that at least 1 in 3 porn videos (35%) and as many as 9 in 10 videos (88.2%) show acts of physical aggression or violence, while 48.7%—about half—contain verbal aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: a content analysis update. Violence against women, 16(10), 1065–1085. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866COPY  These studies also found that despite the levels of violence and aggression, the targets were almost always portrayed as responding with pleasure or neutrality.

Related: How Many Women Watch Porn?

In fact, research confirms that women are the targets of aggression or violence in porn about 97% of the time,Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY  and that only 18.3% of women in popular porn videos (compared to 78% of men) were shown to reach climax.Séguin, L. J., Rodrigue, C., & Lavigne, J. (2018). Consuming Ecstasy: Representations of Male and Female Orgasm in Mainstream Pornography. Journal of sex research, 55(3), 348–356. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1332152COPY 

So, are women watching these violent fantasies? The short answer is yes. The longer answer requires more explanation.

Get The Facts

Women on porn sites

One of the most popular porn sites, Pornhub, usually releases an annual report at the end of every year, showing the type of content that people consumed while on their site and what gender preferred what content based on users’ profiles.

Keep in mind that we can’t cross-check these stats, so we’ll have to take them with a few caveats. Last year, Pornhub reported that 35% of the site’s visitors were women.

And they also reported what kind of content women and men preferred:

Image credit to Pornhub’s 2021 Insights

“Gangbang,” “double penetration,” and “anal” are a few of the more violent categories from this list, but based on the stats about violence above, it’s safe to assume that every category listed here will have aggressive content.

In 2020, Pornhub released stats related to their BDSM content, and reported that compared to men, women were 163% more likely to search for “gay bdsm.”

Image credit to Pornhub’s 2020 BDSM Insights

But why are women searching out more violent porn?

Theories about the appeal of violence

A 2012 study of 355 young women found that, overall, 62% of the women reported having had at least one fantasy about a forced sexual act. The study then went further to investigate why women have rape fantasies at all. Two explanations they evaluated in this investigation were 1. sexual blame avoidance, and 2. a sexual desirability.

Long story short, the women were found to either be sexually repressed, or expressed wanting to feel sexually desired. (As a sidenote, these feelings are, unfortunately, all too familiar to women who experience a lack of desire from their partners who consume porn.)

In other words, for the first explanation, women who generally are unable to feel like they can express themselves sexually have rape fantasies so they feel free from taking responsibility for their own sexual desire. And the second explanation relates back to women who feel sexually unfulfilled and express their fantasy through forced sexual acts, feeling wanted and desired by being controlled.

Related: Is There A Connection Between Porn Culture And Rape Culture?

A different study in 2011 found that women are more likely to watch porn—especially the more hardcore categories—when they have suffered sexual assaults and psychological violence at the hands of their families. Just read this personal account, and this personal account to see personal experiences that demonstrates this.

Clearly, this is a vicious cycle. And while we can’t exactly pinpoint the reasons why extreme porn is becoming more and more appealing to women, we think it has something to do with all the factors we mentioned above, plus the normalization of porn, and the research that shows the escalation of a porn habit.

Also, consider the possibility of more aggressive  porn rising in popularity because women are more increasingly being told that they’re “prudish,” “boring,” or “uptight” if they aren’t into rough sex.

Related: Does The Porn Industry Really Care About Empowering Women?

Just check out this piece from The Telegraph that explains how women who are into “vanilla” sex are likely to be shamed these days for their preferences. From the piece:

“Wanting to be spanked, tied up or verbally degraded is pretty standard fare—but wanting tender, loving vanilla lovemaking? Apparently it’s getting harder and harder to find… Somehow, vanilla sex—the type that would once have been considered ‘normal’—has become a fetish or niche interest within its own right.”

This is an everyone problem.

So, more and more women are seeking out hardcore pornography, and that pornography is blatantly violent toward women. In addition to that, more and more young women are viewing pornography for longer amounts of time, according to the Pornhub data.

What might these depictions be teaching women about their sexuality?

Research shows that porn’s influence can and does find its way into young people’s sexual expectations and behaviors.Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 years of research.53(4-5), 509-531. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441COPY  For example, research consistently demonstrates that porn consumption is a significant predictor of sexual aggression.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 years of research.53(4-5), 509-531. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441COPY Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary Insights from a U.S. Probability Sample on Adolescents' Pornography Exposure, Media Psychology, and Sexual Aggression. Journal of health communication, 1–8. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980COPY Goodson, A., Franklin, C. A., & Bouffard, L. A. (2021). Male peer support and sexual assault: The relation between high-profile, high school sports participation and sexually predatory behaviour. 27(1), 64-80. doi:10.1080/13552600.2020.1733111COPY 

Related: Five Studies That Show How Porn Often Normalizes Sexual Violence Against Women

Studies also suggest that increased pornography consumption is associated with the enjoyment of degrading, uncommon, or aggressive sexual behaviors.Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860COPY  Another study indicated that teens often reported trying to copy porn in their own sexual encounters, and that the pressure to imitate porn was often an aspect of unhealthy relationships.Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). 'Without Porn … I Wouldn't Know Half the Things I Know Now: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of sex research, 52(7), 736–746. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908COPY  And according to a UK survey of over 22,000 adult women, 16% reported having been forced or coerced to perform sex acts the other person had seen in porn.Taylor, J., & Shrive, J. (2021). ‘I thought it was just a part of life’: Understanding the scale of violence committed against women in the UK since birth. VictimFocus. Retrieved from https://irp.cdn-website.com/f9ec73a4/files/uploaded/Key-Facts-Document-VAWG-VictimFocus-2021a.pdfCOPY 

These stats are especially important when we consider the vast number of young men and women watching pornography to learn about sex.

What does hardcore pornography teach young men about how to treat a woman, and, in turn, how does it teach young women how they should be treated? It cannot be denied that, now, the sexual curriculum porn offers includes implying that girls and women need to endure a serious amount of degrading violence to be a satisfying sexual partner. Perhaps this is why they seek it out more.

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