Earlier this week we asked female readers to write in telling us whether and how visual turn-ons (or turn-offs) impact their sex lives. Many responded. We’ll be publishing some of those responses Thursday and Friday.
I've never understood the argument that women are not visual when it comes to sexuality. Stereotypically, women have a very attuned eye for aesthetics—just look at the market for women's clothing, home decor, and other things where we have control.
That said, I don't think society really addresses these desires well. Let's take pornography. I don't know of any women who have ever picked up a copy of Playgirl or bought nude-man playing cards for something other than a gag gift. Why? The aesthetic is all wrong. A half-naked man in a pair of cutoff jean shorts with a bulge just doesn't really do it for us. What in never-nude hell is that look? Whatever it is, it isn't sexy.
A lot of porn is essentially a man flaunting his member. Don't get me wrong—heterosexual women tend to like the male appendage. But the problem is similar to why a man who isn't attuned to a woman's desires is lousy in bed: He makes it all about his penis. Just the way penetration alone doesn't give a woman an orgasm, a naked man alone—however sexy—doesn't really get a lot of the women I know all the way there.
However, I am seeing something very interesting lately. There have been a whole lot of pornography blogs that have popped up on Tumblr in the past year or so. Notably, a lot of these accounts are run by women. The fact alone that women are taking it upon themselves to aggregate porn they like says that there is demand from women to see pornography. It may also be true that the age of the Internet allows for sort of a clandestine enjoyment of these things. I think women are still more reluctant to boast about the porn they watch the way many men do.
A couple things that stand out to me in terms of what gets posted on these Tumblrs:
- The aesthetics of the pictures themselves tend to be better—a lot of black-and-white shots, good lighting.
- It's more about the woman than the man. It's usually a shot of a couple—very rarely just a man. (There are also plenty of solo women shots, as well as lesbian pornography.)
- Drawing off the previous point, you see a lot of cunnilingus. Again, kind of a backlash against the conception that women don't like that (we do), though maybe some people feel ashamed of asking for it.
- The bodies of both the men and women are objectively good. However, far less comical than what's standard for male porn fare. I have yet to see a peroxide blonde with triple-D breast implants.
- It's the nature of Tumblr to have everything in GIFs, but I think this format is pleasing to women. There isn't a setup of a pizza deliveryman or a naughty baby sitter. It's just two people (occasionally one or three, but not often more than that), and the frame focuses on a single moment that is—candidly—visually appealing. Focusing in on a couple of seconds of something that looks sexy can be nice. Women can take that initial image and go anywhere they want with it. Aesthetics are tricky to maintain in film.
Now in my own life, my boyfriend is good-looking. I appreciate his body. I think often we try to play a game of "Do I love him because he is beautiful?" or "Is he beautiful because I love him?" Isn't it a little of both? The common theme I've heard is that women are more able than men to channel their emotional connection with a person to see past the physical imperfections. Maybe that's true. At the same time, I would still love my boyfriend but be objectively less attracted to him if he let himself go.
Previously in this series: