Micki harris started watching gay porn when she was 13 years old. Harris, a junior photography major, said something about the sound of men having sex intrigued her.
“When I am engaging in heterosexual sex, my indication that it is going well—at least on my part is hearing the response of a man—and hearing that in porn is kind of important to me and turns me on more,” Harris said.
Harris now identifies as pansexual and often watches different kinds of porn, including male-on-male, depending on her mood, she said. She is not the only woman who enjoys pornography that does not match her own sexuality or society’s standards.
Women enjoy watching other women have sex, according to data from PornHub, a free porn site. The site’s highest trending search was “Porn for Women,” and “lesbian” was the number one searched term worldwide in 2017. In 2014, BuzzFeed teamed up with PornHub to break the myth that women don’t watch porn and found that women were 132 percent more likely to search for lesbian porn than men. However, the data did not include the specific sexualities of the women searching for lesbian porn.
Melissa Novak, a licensed clinical social worker and certified sex therapist in Chicago, explained that sexual fantasies are not a reflection of sexual preferences, especially with porn. There are straight women who watch lesbian porn, trauma survivors who enjoy aggressive or degrading porn fantasies and an infinite number of variations, Novak said.
“For women, it could also be that they really enjoy oral sex…so it doesn’t mean a woman necessarily wants to go down on another woman, it could just mean that she likes the style of the way it’s shot, [the] scenario and engagement,” Novak said. “But it’s going to be determined by that person, and there’s a lot of reasons why you might like something [in porn] and you may never want to do it in your actual life.”
Novak cited studies showing men typically ejaculate harder when they are watching other men ejaculate, so heterosexual men’s fantasies often include watching “a gang-bang type or multiple-male scenario.”
Pleasure gained from porn often comes from the video or image’s context, especially for women. Mental and physiological arousal are not the same. Cisgender men have a significantly higher concurrence with their arousal pattern, so when they think they’re aroused, their bodies typically mirror that, Novak said. This is not always the case for women.
Confusion may result when porn watchers have identified as a particular sexuality and find satisfaction in something that doesn’t align. Everyone has different reasons for engaging in fantasies. Bree Bracey, a senior theatre major and president of Columbia College Chicago Feminists, also watched male-on-male porn as a teenager.
“Gay male porn feels like it is directly about the carnal desire of sex, and it’s nice if you are very sexual and [want] the sex and not the strings attached,” Bracey said. “Queer women sex feels like it is more about the intimacy and both parties receiving pleasure. There is comfort and stimulation because when you watch straight porn, it is frustrating to see male pleasure getting a lot of attention and the woman just feels like a set piece.”