Yes, Women Do Buy Porn
In the last couple of weeks there's been a flurry
of discussion about women and porn, mainly due to the results of
the latest Nielsen Netratings survey. The statistics reveal that
almost one third of porn viewers are women, and in September alone
9.4 million American women accessed porn intentionally.
Interestingly, the sites and journals reporting
that women were looking at porn were mostly religious ones, serving
up the information with a tone of dismay. This is because a survey
by Today's Christian Woman released at the same time as the Nielsen
poll revealed that 34% of those women surveyed had intentionally
sought out porn. That's right folks, even Good Chaste Christian
Women are seeking out a little bit of naughty entertainment on the
After more than three years of marketing to women,
it's good to have some solid statistics to back up my involvement
and belief in this niche. I knew I wasn't the only woman who liked
Nonetheless, cynicism still seems to reign when
it comes to the "for women" niche. One of the main objections
to these latest statistics runs along the lines of: "Oh sure,
women might look at porn, but they don't buy." This broad generalization
is usually followed by the next one: "It's because women aren't
The latter statement is nonsensical in the face
of the Nielsen poll. Clearly women are looking at porn and getting
off on it - even the good churchgoing ones.
The idea that women are misers when it comes to
porn is a little more difficult to disprove, if only because no
proper studies have been done in this area within our industry,
or outside of it. The best I can offer is anecdotal evidence, from
my own experiences and from others.
How many women frequent major mainstream paysites
is at present known only to their proprietors, but I think - given
the sheer numbers quoted in the Nielsen poll - it may be fair to
assume that many do have female members. It also appears that smaller,
well designed specialty sites attract paying women. LoriWorld, a
glamour photography site run by Lori Mann, maintains a customer
base of 75% women. Angel, a spokeswoman for Lori, reveals that the
numbers have been that way since the site opened 3 years ago. Killshot,
owner of fetish/erotica site EroticPBM.com, says 35-40% of his members
are women. And an article in Wired.com from June 2002 reported that
significant percentages of women were members of the sub-culture
porn sites Suicide Girls, Raveporn and Supercult.
All of these sites ostensibly cater to a male
audience by offering photos of naked women. At the same time, they
differ from standard porn sites in that they are quite niche-specific,
and revolve around personalities or a community. Of significance
is the fact that these sites don't make use of the standard language
of porn ("bitch, slut, whore") and they market themselves
as being pro-sex.
In terms of sites created specifically for women,
the evidence is again largely anecdotal. Certainly the market is
easily supporting at least ten "for women" paysites. Speaking
from my own experience, I've been happily making a living from marketing
to women almost since the moment I started in this business.
So I think it's fair to say that women are buying
porn. At present, of course, they're not buying in the numbers that
men are, and the reasons behind this are varied.
Firstly, the vast majority of porn out there is
not marketed to women. Indeed, it's not even created for them. Most
porn is created for the male viewer, and follows conventions that
exist to recreate male fantasy. If women aren't buying, it's because
the industry is not asking them to buy. It's barely even asking
itself what kind of porn a woman would want to buy, let along trying
to offer it. Hence, horny female surfers are turning to sites that
at least offer them an open door, through its language, outlook
Secondly, a lot of the porn labeled as being "for
women" is actually for gays. A continuing misconception within
the industry is that naked men are all women want to see. This is
resulting in women constantly encountering what I call "pretend
4women" sites with gay ads and gay hardcore in their search
for porn. Even some "for women" paysites feature hardcore
gay content. The net result of this confusion is that women are
now dismissing porn as being "all gay" and feeling hesitant
to buy when the real thing is offered to them.
Thirdly, women have to overcome more obstacles
towards accepting the idea of buying porn. Our society has always
expected women to be the upholders of morality, not sexual beings
who enjoy gratifying themselves. Girls don't grow into a culture
of porn in the way that boys do. While teen boys are sniggering
about a Playboy, teen girls are reading Cosmopolitan and wondering
if their butt looks big. So when a woman goes looking for porn,
it seems less "natural" than it does to a guy. This culturally-induced
reticence can result in a greater reluctance to pay for porn. Of
course, today's young women are far more open to exploring their
own sexuality, and surveys have shown that it's the younger chicks
who are seeking porn out. And as porn becomes more mainstream, women
will become more comfortable with their own porn use, but it's an
uphill battle at the moment.
Fourthly, women don't go temporarily insane just
because they're horny. They may be keen to get off, but it doesn't
make them forget that the bills need to be paid. On top of this,
women are used to shopping. They're used to weighing up the pros
and cons of an item when making a decision to purchase - even when
it's an impulse buy. With porn, women are keen to know what they'll
get for their money, and they want to know they won't be ripped
off. If we consider that the standard porn site tour is based on
graphic appeals to the penis (and vague details about anything else),
then it's not surprising that women don't spend as much as men.
In my experience women want as much information as possible and
that means plenty of text. Pre-selling the site, and making reassurances
about security and privacy are vital. Pushing the idea of value
for money is also useful.
To sum up, a lot of women do buy porn, albeit
in a far more careful and nervous fashion. And if some of them aren't
buying, isn't it time we stopped making assumptions about "women"
and started to address the reasons why? Isn't it time we stopped
blaming the customer and started catering to them instead?
At present, our industry is doing very little
to accommodate what has previously been a "hidden" part
of the market. A major shift in attitudes and habits is required
to truly take advantage of women's interest in porn.
Originally published at YNOT News, April