Is the Idea of “Porn for Ladies” Subtly Sexist?  

What Women Really Think
March 14 2012 4:51 PM

Is the Idea of “Porn for Ladies” Subtly Sexist?  

84244103
James Deen.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Back in the fall, I wrote a piece responding to Amanda Hess’s Good Magazine profile of the roguishly handsome porn star James Deen in which I trafficked implicitly in the idea that there may be a certain category of porn that “women like.” Yesterday, Molly Oswaks over at the Atlantic unearthed the post and used it as an opportunity to critique the idea that women may be said to like one type of porn more than any other. And the truth is, I absolutely agree with her.

Oswaks writes that “whether porn producers have women's interests in mind when they shoot a scene is beside the point if we stop pretending that 'women's interests' is a category unto itself.” Quite right, at least in the sense that we should always try to avoid making normative claims about a thing as fickle as an entire gender’s taste for any given thing. But readers of my original post will note that I never said anything about women only liking vanilla sex, as Oswaks suggests. Instead, I used Hess’ original profile to discuss body types that the women she spoke with seemed to enjoy or dislike—her interviewees were aroused by Deen’s boyish looks, but did not care for the aggressive, overwrought physiques of more mainstream porn stars. Oswaks conflates looks with sexual practices; I simply wanted to explore why more men who resemble Deen aren’t in the industry, when there are clearly women (and, ahem, at least one man) who would like to see them there.  

Advertisement

Still, in the end, I’m on Oswak’s side: women can and should “explore and enjoy all types of porn,” and not feel curtailed in their sexual adventures by the snappiness of a headline like “Porn for Ladies.” I’m sure the studios will have no problem taking their money. 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.