What’s wrong with ‘female-friendly’ porn?

You only need to look at the banners on a mainstream website (such as “Hot babes in your area want to suck cock!”) to see that they’re assuming a target audience of men. Not to mention the fact that so much mainstream porn caters to fantasies that are clichéd visions of male fantasies. So how do we distinguish porn that is based on female fantasies? Often this is done by using phrases like ‘female-friendly porn.’ While it’s important to distinguish porn which breaks this mould, some of the ways we do it imply that women need something fundamentally different.

Petra explained why the term ‘female-friendly’ isn’t ideal:

“I hate the term ‘female-friendly’ because it sounds a bit like ‘child-friendly.’ It’s patronising and implies that women need a special, non-adult kind of porn: romance, roses, soft-focus and soft-core. None of the above is true – most women do not need a romantic plot to get turned nor do they enjoy endless soft-focus shots of non-explicit sex.”

The idea that women need porn that is somehow less explicit is a pretty common one. In reality, porn for women (or ‘feminist porn’, ‘female friendly porn’ or however else you refer to it) doesn’t have to be less explicit – the difference lies in the fantasies that are depicted and the way they’re shown; with individuals getting pleasure from what they’re doing, performing enthusiastically in front of the camera, and a director who spends just as much time shooting male bodies as well as female ones, and the kind of sex that many women fantasise about. Petra chooses to interpret classic fantasies such as a threesome from a female perspective, with a focus on the woman receiving pleasure:

“When I shoot a threesome, I show the woman being licked to orgasm by two guys simultaneously, rather than a guy getting a blow job from two women. I also like to show the guys inter-acting with each other which is a huge turn-on for many women but a big No, No in most homophobe mainstream porn. “

How do we describe ‘porn for women’?

One of the challenges for me as a writer is trying to differentiate porn that’s created with a female audience in mind from ‘mainstream’ porn, without falling into the trap of implying that women need something less explicit. As a bit of a nerd, I often spend time looking at Google trends to see what people are searching for – it’s clear that more and more people are searching for ‘feminist porn’, ‘female-friendly porn’ and ‘porn for women’, so in a way adding that label is a quick-win to get alternative porn films out to a wider audience.

But it’s more complicated than that – by labelling something ‘porn for women’ there’s a huge swathe of people: guys, and people who identify as non-binary or genderqueer, who you’re cutting out of the equation.
Is there a better way to talk about alternative porn?

There are other useful terms around which are often attached to alternative porn. ‘Fair-trade porn,’ for instance, refers specifically to porn in which the performers’ rights are put front and centre. There are plenty of responsibilities tied up in this, for instance:

  • Ensuring that everyone is paid fair wages for their work
  • Performers are given creative control and input into the film – never pressured to perform specific sex acts that may not give them pleasure
  • People aren’t dehumanised either on the set or in marketing of the film (think about how many mainstream porn sites refer to performers as ‘sluts’ or ‘BBWs’)

There are many more elements of fair-trade porn, but the key aim is ensuring respect for everyone who works on a film – and Petra’s films are all in this category (as any quality porn should be!). It’s also more than that, though. While a lot of alternative porn is feminist, and a lot of feminist porn is fair-trade, as you’ll see from the other language around this site, Petra prefers to use the term ‘porn from a female perspective.’ This covers a whole lot of extra things that she includes in her films:

  • A focus on female fantasies and pleasure. Scenes are driven not by ‘paint by numbers’ ideas of what men find sexy, but by genuine fantasies expressed by women.
  • Authenticity – genuine pleasure, guided by performer desires. The motto of ‘feeling it, not faking it.’
  • Showing male objects of desire – a female perspective behind the camera means showing more of the men that just their cock at the periphery of a shot, or a cum shot at the end of a scene.
  • Playing with gender roles and stereotypes, and including gender-bending and queer scenes such as the XXXmen scene from The Female Voyeur.
  • High production values, which create a sexy atmosphere, rather than a ‘this will do’ setting with stained carpets, ripped curtains, and no attention to detail.

As you can see, it’s far more complex and varied than an airbrushed, soft-core version of standard porn, which is often the misconception when using phrases like ‘porn for women’.

This is why Petra’s resisted a lot of the pressure to apply this label to her films. Although the term can be useful to help people find erotic films that are different to the standard, it can be a bit of a vicious circle. The more we refer to ‘female-friendly’ porn, the more others will use and search for the term, pushing us closer to a world where porn is split into the competing categories of ‘porn for women’ and… What – ‘normal’ porn? It reinforces the idea that porn which caters to female fantasies is an unusual niche, and that we should expect the majority of porn to cater only to male fantasies.

Most importantly, I think that labelling something ‘for women’ can be incredibly detrimental if you’re looking to get more people engaged with alternative porn. I watched Petra’s film (S)he Comes with my male partner, and he really enjoyed the oral sex section of the Personal Training scene (if you haven’t seen it already you totally should!). He pointed out that in mainstream porn, you rarely see a guy getting really stuck in to giving head to a woman – with his face buried in her crotch and his hands gripping her thighs, making lots of smoking hot eye contact to appreciate just how much she’s enjoying it – the way that enthusiastic guys would do in real life. Labelling something ‘porn for women’ misses out a huge swathe of guys who’d love to watch it too.

So while it’s worth using some of the terms people search for – feminist porn and porn for women – so that they’ll find the films which cater to their tastes, it’s also worth keeping in mind that those phrases can be quite limiting. A film made with a female audience in mind does not have to be all romantic and soft-core, nor does it have to exclude people of other genders: it’s a hot female fantasy, but brought to life by a director and camera-crew who shoot from a female perspective for everyone to enjoy, no matter what their gender.

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