Do Women Really Hate Porn? An Interview with Carlin Ross

How promoting body acceptance and sexual self-awareness could help women be more comfortable with porn.
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Once, when I was growing up, my mom found a porn video hidden in the house. She took the VHS tape out onto the driveway and made us watch while she smashed it to pieces with a hammer.

It’s safe to say that a lot of women hate porn. But why?

For some answers, I turned to my friend and super-smart sex educator, Carlin Ross. Carlin is an attorney and sex educator living in NYC. She is the editor-in-chief of dodsonandross.com and author of the forthcoming book, How to Make a Girl Come.

Carlin, what is the origin of porn?

Porn has always been with us. The earliest nude drawings were discovered in the Chauvet cave complex dating back to the Paleolithic period. They discovered engraved images of female reclining nudes and vulvas created by man in 10,000 B.C.

Video-based porn started in the 1920s, with short films called “smokers” that depicted both heterosexual and homosexual sex acts. Watching images of other people “having sex” is sexually arousing. In other words, porn is here to stay.

What are the main concerns that women have about porn?

Many women feel that porn is degrading. Some feminists would argue that porn is a direct threat to the status of women in the culture. If we want to understand why some women hate porn, we need to understand that the majority of porn depicts the male model of sexual response. Taken as a whole, the sex acts depicted are the sex acts that bring men to orgasm, not women. Only about 20 percent of women achieve orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. The majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.

We buy porn, we watch it, we get turned on, but when we copy what we’re watching, we don’t achieve orgasm. No, we don’t experience the same heights of pleasure as these porn stars, and we internalize this failure. However, we believe that there’s something wrong with us. Then add the body-image issues created by watching idealized images of women with surgically enhanced bodies and genitals, and now we feel even worse. We believe that we’re genitally deformed, we’re broken, and we’ll never have great sex.

Now that porn is online, do you think more women are tuning in?

Yes. Nielsen/Net ratings indicate that about one in three visitors to adult entertainment websites is female, with nearly 13 million American women checking out porn online once a month. In addition, according to a survey conducted by The Sun, over 1,000 men and women were interviewed about “risqué behavior.” The survey found that:

  • 66 percent of women watch porn
  • 57 percent of women watch porn with their partner
  • 87 percent of women who view porn are married or in a relationship
  • 10 percent of women who view porn are single
  • 6 percent of women admitted to watching porn once a day
  • 26 percent of women admitted to watching porn once a month
  • Out of the 57 percent of women who watch porn with a partner, one third regularly use it as part of foreplay

How do you think women could be more comfortable with the idea of porn?

The majority of porn is sex entertainment for men. If we viewed it from this prism — like a Hollywood action movie — then we could embrace porn as something that aids arousal. And if women were taught to accept their bodies and, more specifically, how to achieve orgasm, then porn wouldn’t be seen as a threat at all. I enjoy porn in my personal life and use it to get aroused, but when I have sex I know that I must engage my clitoris, use lubricant, and take my time.

* * * * *

A big thanks to Carlin for her insights. She will be back next month to help me dig deeper into my gay guilt issues.

Originally published in The Huffington Post on Feb 16, 2012

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