And there’s nothing wrong with that! Indeed, while sexual conservatives try to claim otherwise, the reality is that men and women are really very similar in their appetites for sex, porn and all the rest...
It’s February, and the most anticipated cultural event of the month is the much discussed film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. By the time you read this, we will know whether or not the film is the clusterfuck the press around it suggests it is going to be. Reports have told of knock-down drag-out onset fights between the director Sam Taylor-Johnson and writer EL James, and that co-stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson can barely stand one another.
Be that as it may, film adaptations of the sequels have already been confirmed, probably because a
book that sold over 100 million copies is bound (no pun intended) to find a cinema audience — and if that audience buys tickets out of curiosity, to see what all the fuss is about, or even just to hate-watch the film, well, that doesn’t matter as nobody is expecting Fifty Shades to be a subtly drawn exploration of BDSM erotica.
Whether or not the novel is badly written (it is) or features a relationship that is more abusive than kinky (it does), there is no denying that Fifty Shades of Grey was a cultural watershed moment, and one that introduced us to the term “mommy porn”. The fact that the qualifier “mommy” was applied is in itself telling — the typical Fifty Shades reader was believed to be a married woman over the age of 30, and therefore not the usual audience for adult material.
We have a blindspot when it comes to women and porn consumption, believing that curiosity or interest in other people fucking is the preserve of men. The truth is women have always had socially acceptable outlets for their sexual desires, and erotic fiction has long been one of them.
While the mainstream popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey was surprising, the fact that millions of women enjoy erotic fiction wouldn’t be news to anyone in publishing. It’s been an open secret for years. Over a hundred different Mills & Boon novels are released each month under different imprints, such as “Blaze” which features lots of sex; “Desire” which has plenty of sex and some drama; and “Spice” which is home to novels featuring both casual sex and BDSM play. Sure these novels are nominally romances — as is Fifty Shades — but the numerous explicit sex scenes would not be a feature if readers didn’t see them as an integral part of the attraction.
The popularity of erotic fiction for women dovetails with the idea that women are less interested in porn because we are supposedly less visually driven than men. Before online porn, men had spank mags; women had books. But since nobody made porn mags for women — other than soft core and frankly boring Playgirl type stuff — there is no way of knowing if there would have been a market for something more interesting and exciting than naked men coyly hiding their cocks.
If one thing suggests that women’s sexual desires are at least partly visually driven, it’s pop music. From the bobby soxers in the 1940s, Beatlemania in the 1960s, Take That obsessives threatening suicide when the band split in 1996, or today’s Beliebers and Directioners, the music industry has long known that there was plenty of money to be made from teenage girl fans. In her book, Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession, journalist Lisa A. Phillips notes that celebrity crushes give young girls a safe space to explore their sexuality, because however compelling the fantasy there is no pressure involved, nor any obligation to the object of desire. Boyband members are revered because they are sexual fantasy objects as much as singers or musicians, sometimes more so.
As a general rule, our culture believes that women are less interested in sex than men, and are more motivated by romance than physical desire, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The popularity of erotic fiction, boybands, matinée idols and sexy male stars from Rudolph Valentino to Chris Hemsworth makes it obvious that women and their desires have always been a significant driver of popular culture. Because books, films and bands are popular mainstream cultural products they have always been seen as acceptable, even if some of them are regarded as “lowbrow”, in a way that porn has not been. “Good girls” could sigh over James Dean in 1955 more openly than we can over James Dean today.
What percentage of women watch porn? Unfortunately it is impossible to get accurate figures, because even on anonymous surveys people lie about their sexual behaviour and fudge details so that their answers align with perceived masculine or feminine ideals – but all indications are that plenty of women do.
A survey conducted for the RTÉ documentary We Need to Talk about Porn, found that 56 percent of Irish women have watched porn; Ann Summers asked their female customers about their porn viewing habits and found that 57 percent of women aged 18 to 24 reported enjoying porn when alone; and viewer statistics from PornHub found that women users of the site were significantly more likely than men to search for lesbian sex, solo male sex, and threesome or group sex.
However it may also be true that fewer women than men watch porn regularly — or at least are willing to say so. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center into American online habits found that only eight percent of women admit to watching porn, but those figures need to be read with a large dollop of scepticism — the same survey found that only twelve percent of American adults overall, including a quarter of men, watch online porn. Yeah, right! The study, while anonymous, was conducted over the phone and as Pew themselves admit, the low figures “may reflect a reluctance to report the behavior among some adults.”
Whether or not women are less likely to watch porn, or less likely to tell a stranger over the phone that they do, is impossible to say. It is probably a bit of both, since the vast majority of mainstream porn is made by men for male viewers. In the last few years however, “female- friendly” porn has been on the rise, but interestingly enough, those are not necessarily the films that women enjoy.
Of course there are filmmakers who do make interesting and compelling porn for women — Erika Lust comes to mind — but a great deal of “porn for women” reflects what porn makers think women want: soft focus, narrative driven erotica featuring attractive white women getting it on with strapping muscle- bound men in exotic locations. Other supposedly female-friendly titles take their cues from porn made for men, and don’t pay enough attention to female pleasure. The truth is a lot of so-called female-friendly porn is a bit “meh” – so it is unsurprising that many women aren’t that keen on it.
There is a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum here — is there less porn for women because there is less of an audience for it; or is there less of an audience because there are fewer options? I imagine it is the latter. The PornHub figures suggest that women are getting around this lack of good options by seeking out mainstream porn that appeals to them. Lesbian porn, whether made for heterosexual men or gay women, is far more likely to include sex acts women find pleasurable. The PornHub figures show that the top three sex acts female viewers search for are “eating pussy”; “pussy licking”; and “tribbing”.
Why is there a reluctance to admit that women, even married women over the age of thirty, sometimes want to watch people fuck? I suspect that because to do so we would have to give up some of our cherished notions about men, women and sexuality — particularly the idea that men and women are completely different kinds of being and that our sexual drives and motivations are completely different too. Accepting that women like sex, and porn, often in the same ways that men do, means acknowledging that we’re not that different — and few things terrify conservatives of all stripes more than the idea that men and women are basically the same.
Fifty Shades of Grey may not be a feminist fantasy, but the hot, rich, domineering alpha male is obviously a popular female one; and while I may not have enjoyed the book and I doubt I’d enjoy the film, despite the gorgeous Jamie Dornan, I am glad that the film has opened up a space to talk about women’s sexual fantasies and our relationship with porn. It shouldn’t be a dirty secret... unless dirty secrets are what turn you on!
As women age we have many great things to look forward to - stretchy pants, cat collecting, and now, it appears, late on-set lesbianism.Read More
Needless to say there are very divergent views on the effect of the so-called Playboy revolution. But the truth is that, far from being liberated, women's right to express themselves sexually is still oppressed, far and wide, around the world - sometimes brutally. It is our responsibility to change that.Read More
The annual March for Choice took place in Dublin today, and tens of thousands turned out for what will – almost certainly – be the last of these occasions before the referendum to Repeal the 8th. Anne Sexton reports...Read More
It might seem impossibly glamorous to fans, but being a professional rugby player is a tough, demanding and sometimes lonely life. Rob Kearney talks about his attitude to life – and to work.Read More
Okay, that's not entirely true. But when you reach third level, for the majority of people, a whole new world of sexual possibility opens up. If you want to make the most of it without screwing up, just follow our three rule programme...Read More
How often have you strayed from your own close cultural type, in a sexual encounter or in forming a relationship? Or might you be even more turned on by the thought of crossing cultural boundaries in pursuit of the best possible sex? And to what extent are our sexual desires a matter of conditioning that we can – and possibly should – change?Read More
A fascinating new book suggests it’s at least worth questioning standard sexual mores...Read More
Lisa Harding’s new novel, Harvesting, is a powerful tale about the current sex-trafficking crisis in Europe.Read More
No, we are not talking about that moment when you are late for a dinner appointment and your partner is shouting at you to get a move on. Rather, it is that special occasion when the impact of an orgasm kicks in, so that the inevitable must happen – and does. So how do you think you’d look, if there was a close-up on your face, in a porn movie?Read More
RIOT, at Vicar St. is a hugely engaging smorgasbord of artistic delights, with Emmet Kirwan and Panti Bliss to the fore.Read More
40 years ago, like a European Afghanistan, Ireland was hopelessly conservative in relation to sex and sexuality. However, the local equivalent of the Taliban have gradually been ousted – and this country has become a far more open, liberal, inclusive and tolerant place. That there is no room for complacency goes without saying…Read More
It's one of the commonest insults in the English language- and it's usually directed at women. The truth, of course, is that there is nothing wrong with earning money for providing sexual services...Read More
…Or puncture it? They are out there, you know: men and women who are hell bent on hoodwinking others into unprotected sex. Their aims may be different – but it is rape either way…Read More
Or should that be cums? Well, either way, it is a fascinating question – all the more so given that without it, well you, for one, wouldn’t be here. So get ready to take notes, girls and boys…Read More
Ciarán McMenamin’s debut novel Skintown is a hypnotic, alcohol soaked, adrenaline-fuelled rush of a bookRead More
Would you put up with a racist or a xenophobe if he – or she – happened to be good in the sack? And how important is it to love that we share the same ideological inclinations?Read More
For example, there’s a theory that the way to a woman’s heart is through straightforward kissing, cunnilingus and fingering. Well, what do you think, eh?Read More
For a long time, our correspondent has been seeing things when she has an orgasm. When she investigated what was going on, she was in for a surprise…Read More
It may seem perverse, but people often bond over how much they dislike something – or someone. In fact, if you play your cards well enough, hating the same things may be the best way of ending up in bed with someone you fancy.Read More
In a nice way, that is! A UK research project found that both men and women are suspicious of sexually successful (some might say promiscuous) people. So, with it being Valentine’s Day, we have to ask: how come they keep getting laid?Read More
She is a US citizen. But, if Donald Trump has his way, her name will go into a new kind of black book: the so-called Muslim Register. Hend Amry has been commenting on the shift to right-wing populism in the US and elsewhere via Twitter, under the @libyaliberty handle, earning an impressively large following in the process…Read More
A musician by trade, Quentin Sheridan was homeless – and so he put out a call on Facebook. The occupation of Apollo House by Home Sweet Home is the result. But it is only the start of a battle, in which Ireland can provide the leadRead More
The singer has issued an invitation to the Minister for Housing to visit Apollo House, in Dublin, which has been occupied by campaigners who aim to bring an end to homelessness.Read More
With the exception of condoms, the responsibility for avoiding pregnancy has generally fallen on women. But men are entitled to control their own fertility too. The question is: how?Read More
Helena Mulkerns’ new short story collection draws on her extraordinary experiences as an aid worker, which brought her to the heart of conflict zones in Eritrea and Afghanistan.Read More
It might sound complicated – but I was very impressed indeed with Laura when she gave such a wonderfully precise definition of her sexual identity. Which got me thinking: what about all of those other interesting shades of sexual orientation? Well, it turns out that there is a word for most all of them!Read More
Cannabis lube, that is. And, based on our sex columnist's personal experiments, it heightens sexual pleasure only for women. Sadly, you won’t get it over the counter in Ireland – though that might change in the future. We hope…Read More
In terms of our understanding of the human mind, it is important to remember that we are only ever getting there. Not so long ago, after all, a woman who enjoyed sex was likely to be branded as a nymphomaniac.Read More
Irish author Conor O’Callaghan’s debut novel, the gothic mystery story Nothing On Earth, is one of the most gripping books of the year.Read More
Since the introduction of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution in 1983, women in Ireland have had to live with a shockingly restrictive regime on abortion, which has resulted in numerous deaths and untold trauma. Now, the Irish public is saying: no more…Read More
The myth that only men treat the opposite sex as objects, is just that - a myth. The sooner women are more honest about their lustful feelings, and the sooner society stops treating sexually open women as sluts the better it will be for all of us.Read More
Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author returns with a tense psychological thrillerRead More
Journalist Miranda Sawyer’s compelling and humorous new book, Out Of Time, explores the challenges of turning forty and maintaining a rock and roll edge.Read More
Liz Nugent’s Lying in Wait comes with praise from Sebastian Barry and Marian Keyes, among others.Read More
UnderCurrent are a group unlike any other in Ireland. A mix of cabaret, musical theatre, burlesque, physical comedy, banter and dance, they are also the only performance troupe in the country composed entirely of LGBTQ members.Read More
The progenitors of Britpop came to Marlay Park in Dublin yesterday – and the crowd lapped it up. Report: Anne SextonRead More
Anne Sexton gives her take on Conor O'Callaghan's debut novel.Read More
This four-piece cut their teeth busking in Temple Bar, but their journey is just beginning.Read More
With women being given jail sentences for using the abortion pill in Northern Ireland, three activists decided that it was time to act – and made a startling confession to the PSNI.Read More
First Dates offered a glimpse into the way people behave when they are looking for a romantic liaison - and maybe some sex into the bargain. But how different was the TV version from people's pursuit of a good time - and what does the history of dating tell us about how we view this ritual?Read More
Teenager David Beattie has written a powerful and insightful account of growing up trans in Ireland.Read More
The ‘dating’ app makes great claims in relation to the numbers using it. But are people hooking up and having sex successfully through it? Now, that is a very good question…Read More
Make no mistake, casual sex can be brilliant, wonderful, even life-affirming. But in the fuckzone, things are different. Because this is where a woman is just a piece of pussy or a man is no better than a dick or an asshole on legs...Read More
Since the release of his acclaimed first novel, The Spinning Heart, Ryan has established himself as one of Ireland’s most talented writers.Read More
Eighties Ireland: in a country where divorce was impossible, unmarried mothers were treated like pariahs, gay sex was illegal and condoms could only be bought on prescription, finding the joy in sex was not easy. But the excitement of it was no less real.Read More
Glenn Patterson’s latest novel tells the extraordinary story of John DeLorean’s time in Belfast – a saga of federal agents, undercover sting operations and alleged cocaine trafficking.Read More
The introduction of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution in 1983 was one of the most regressive pieces of manipulative political chicanery in the history of the Irish state. Repealing it is essential to establishing a regime in Ireland, which respects the reproductive rights of women. Let’s end the evasiveness by making it an election issue…Read More
It may be highly illegal, but Irish women - including TD Ruth Coppinger - are willing to risk jail by taking the abortion pill all over Ireland. Anne Sexton and Julia Schimkus travelled to Galway with the pro-choice activists...Read More
Life is a drag for Miss Panti - but wonderfully so!Read More
Anne Sexton chats to Hanya Yanagihara, whose second￼ novel A Little Life has been the subject of truly rapturous reviews...Read More
Men have been lectured for a long time about how ladies need a bit of foreplay before getting it on. But that is an axiom that rubs both ways – because men tend to like a long, slow build-up too...Read More
Men have been lectured for a long time about how ladies need a bit of foreplay before getting it on. But that is an axiom that rubs both ways – because men tend to like a long, slow build-up too...Read More
...Or, in a different situation, you might ask, why didn’t he leave her? Abusive relationships are unfortunately common – and both sexes are victims. But perhaps you have to have lived through one to really understand the cruel dynamics at work...Read More
Acclaimed author Glenn Patterson continues his exploration of the Northern Irish psyche in his latest book, which cherry-picks his finest non-fiction pieces from the last decade.Read More
The crass outlook of pick-up artists is insulting and fails to recognise each individual's unique attractivenessRead More
There are no rules as to how much you reveal to prospective sexual partners. But it is probably true that – most of the time anyway – honesty is the best policy...Read More
Before the gay marriage ‘Yes’ vote had people dancing in the streets, before civil partnerships, before gay people could publicly identify as such, Senator David Norris was waging a brave and often thankless fight on behalf of minorities in Ireland. In his first major interview since the referendum he recounts his long struggle with prejudice in Ireland...Read More
With her second novel Tender dealing with homosexuality, emotional abuse and mental illness, Belinda McKeon reflects on the repressive, oppressive culture of mid '90s Ireland and the perverse pleasure she takes in pushing readers' buttons.Read More
It may be the name of a cocktail, but it is also a reasonably popular pastime. So is public sex a good idea? And how are you best to go about it?Read More
Every now and then, they come out of the woodwork: people who believe that thinking, talking and writing about sex in a positive way is a sin and should be punished. It is a bit scary when someone like this tracks down your email address just to tell you...Read More
As the results came in, crowds gathered in Dublin Castle to hear them. It became on of he biggest and best parties Ireland has ever seen...Read More
The novel is about an Irish family and all their problems in life from 1980 on and written in episodic style.Read More
It is vital to gay couples that the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage should be passed. But an even bigger prize is the feeling that we are living in an open, inclusive society that a resounding victory would inspire. So, make sure to get out and vote ‘Yes’...Read More
When it comes to sex, men have it far easier and far better than women. In fact, there are ten good reasons why a sex change might just be the best option...Read More
A lot of concern has been expressed in conventional media about ‘hook-up’ culture. Curiously, however, the impact of social media and online mate-seeking sites seems to be that people are having less sex rather than more. Something will have to be done about it, is all we can say...Read More
It is an invitation that most people would find extremely difficult to turn down. But there are those who prefer giving head one at a time to the classic 69. Which side of the great oral sex debate are you on?Read More
When Hot Press ran a competition for a columnist to write about sex, the competition was pretty hot. In the end, we chose a certain feisty, red-headed female, who wrote with wit, verve and style – and whose name just happened to have the word ‘sex’ in it. Clearly it was a role that she had been destined to, um, perform...Read More
That was the implied message in Teleflora’s 2012 Valentine’s Day ad, which featured the model Adriana Lima. Is that really what romance is all about?Read More
That’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism to you and me. Oh, and there will also be copious face- sitting; lots of gay sex – some of it within marriage hopefully; and vibrators that know what you like. Bring it on!Read More
During the Graham Dwyer murder trial, members of the Irish BDSM scene were sometimes depicted in unflattering terms. So what is BDSM all about?Read More
Cowboy landlords, substandard living conditions and ever increasing costs are just some of the problems facing people in rented accommodation, and many of those in difficulty are afraid to speak up.Read More
But not always in a good way! Because someone out there apparently thinks that sex toys specially designed and packaged for Christmas are, like, a good idea! Starting with the Barack Obama dildo…Read More
It’s a tough one. The man you want just happens to be hooked up — with your best friend. If you really want him, there’s only one way to go about it. But should you dare?...Read More
As Ireland emerges from a period of economic turbulence, there are now a myriad of ways to get a foothold in the jobs market.Read More
That’s a question that more or less everyone has had to ask themselves at some time in their lives. Because, modern mating methods notwithstanding, getting regular sex is still a minefield for a lot of people to negotiate…Read More
It doesn’t make sense to start blaming social media for what is a horrible crime. Because the truth is that women are entitled to go about their lives free of the fear of rape…Read More
It may be a cliché but there is a lot of truth to the notion of “a healthy body, healthy mind.” As Bressie notes in his emotional fitness tips, the food you eat affects your mood, and physical activity promotes the creation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.Read More
Time spent overseas volunteering shouldn’t be treated as a holiday and is only worthwhile if you are prepared to put in some hard graft...Read More
That, as they say, is a bold statement. But new research has indicated that the association that has often been made between casual sex and lower self-esteem is really a product of prevailing religious-based orthodoxies. Having sex will not cure depression. But as an aspect of a holistic approach to our well-being, it can play a vital role…Read More
She has chronicled the seamy side of Dublin in her novels. Now crime writer Tana French turns her attention to the privileged elite of south DublinRead More
Everyone else seems to be! However, the recent celebrity Hackergate scandal throws up a multitude of intriguing questions about the wisdom of recording DIY porn...Read More