Some Women Want Rom-Com Porn. Others Just Want to See Sex.

What Women Really Think
Jan. 18 2013 12:42 PM

What Is "Porn For Women"?

Jacky St James
Jacky St. James: "Women weren't sexualized by 50 Shades of Grey."

Eddie Powell

This week, CNBC unearthed an exciting “new market” for the porn industry: women. “Because so much porn focuses on extreme fantasies, it has been off-putting to many women,” Chris Morris reports. “Overly buxom sex pots do things many women would never consider.” But today—with a little mainstream encouragement from 50 Shades of Grey, the theory goes—porn companies like New Sensations and Pink Visual are explicitly targeting women with some less-explicit fare. Think rom-com narrative, but with a graphic sexual denouement. “This is more making love than fucking,” New Sensations president Scott Taylor told Morris. “It's a connection between two people."

Amanda Hess Amanda Hess

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. Email her at amanda.hess@slate.com, or follow her on Twitter.

It’s great that companies like New Sensations, and outlets like CNBC, are helping to legitimize women as viewers of pornography. But female interest in the genre is nothing new, and the collective fantasies of half of the human population can't be served by one narrow niche. "Porn for women” is not for all women. And many elements of it appeal to men, too. Nobody knows this better than Jacky St. James, a screenwriter, director, and publicist for New Sensations who's crafted both steamy romantic narratives and explicit all-sex releases. I sat down with her at this week's Adult Entertainment Expo to talk about misconceptions surrounding female porn viewers and creators—and the porn she really likes to watch.

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Slate: Like men, different women like different kinds of porn—not just narrative romances. But New Sensations is still one of the few companies that markets directly to women. How do you do that?

Jacky St. James: I don't like when people say “porn for women,” because as a woman, that’s not the kind of porn I watch. Our stuff is targeted toward couples who want to watch porn together, and women who might be a little intimidated or fearful of porn. When we say “adult films for women,” we’re still targeting men. It’s just that most men are not picking out couples’ movies to masturbate to themselves—they’re finding them to watch with their wives.

We’ve done enough research on that demographic to know that a large percentage of women watching our stuff do not want to see cum shots above the neck. They don’t want to see something that is gonzo or all-sex. They want connected sex and lots of foreplay. We find that older couples enjoy watching this because they’re of the age before the internet, and what we’re offering is something that’s so much more tame and built into the moment instead of just being right there in your face. There are couples that do like harder-core stuff, and we just started a line called the “Swinger Series” and one called the "Erotic Stories Series" that’s a little bit more taboo. There is a burgeoning market of people who want couples' porn. But it doesn’t mean that women are these tame, naïve creatures who can’t masturbate to all-sex porn. That’s absolutely not true.

Slate: What kind of porn do you watch?

St. James: I like harder-core porn, to be honest. I like mind manipulation. I directed an all-sex release called Power and Control that’s all about the mental aspects of one partner having something over the other, whatever the sex is. For me. it’s always a mental mindfuck kind of thing. But I watch all kinds of stuff. Recently, I’ve been really into big boobs and I have no idea why. I think maybe part of me is a man? I’ve also found that since I started working in adult, my tastes have changed. I used to go for Naughty America stuff like "My Sister’s Hot Friend," where there’ a tiny scenario to set it up, and then the sex happens. But since I started working in adult, it’s more, “Big boobs! Big asses!” Stuff like that. I’m not really sure if that’s because I’ve evolved or if it’s from working in adult, but it’s gotten nichier. I would be so fascinated to track an adult industry professional over a decade to see how it might change their sexual desires.

Slate: That's a good idea! What are your fans like?

St. James: I have female and male fans. The male fans react like typical male porn fans, where it’s like, “Do you like anal sex? Do you like circumcised or uncircumcised penises?” My objective is to always normalize sexuality, so I don’t get offended by that. It’s just funny the way men come at me. Women will ask me about my characters, or how I cast things. They might even say, “I like this performer, why don’t you use her more?” The women are looking at the story and the product whereas the men are looking at me more as a figure in porn. Women never ask me that stuff. Women are not like, “Do you like anal?” It’s a guy question.

There’s also this misconception that because I write porn I know everything about sex. People will ask me, “How do I give a good blow job? Do you think I would like a bukkake party?” I’m like, I don’t know why you’re asking me that just because I write porn. I am hardly the expert.

Slate: What’s the biggest misconception about “porn for women”?

St. James: Women weren’t sexualized by 50 Shades of Grey. They’ve been watching porn and reading erotica for centuries. It’s shocking to me that there’s suddenly a consciousness that women are sexual. We’ve always been that way. 50 Shades has allowed us to make it more of a talking point. And that’s the only positive thing I can take away from that fucking book, because I thought it was horrible.