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?  

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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.  

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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.