Men Spend Less on Porn Than Women Do

women's porn use, porn for women, what women wank to, gay male porn, slashfic, romance novels, bodice busters, romance, desire, sexuality

Although the straight female audience is eight times larger, the gay male porn market is enormous in comparison. What porn are women using?

It is impossible to calculate just how many people are enjoying pornography of some variety at any given moment. After all, the device you’re reading this on could almost definitely bring up your preferred sort of smut at a moment’s notice without costing a nickel or leaving a measurable record. As a species, we sure do love us some porn.

But a friend pointed something out to me recently. Going just by the “official” statistics and the “normal” definition of porn, about 33% of porn viewers are women. Furthermore, about 90% of women are heterosexual. About 6% of men are homosexual. (Rough figures here, but this is just a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation.) 6% of 66% is about 4%. 90% of 33% is about 30%. In other words, the market for porn for straight women is around eight times larger than the market for porn for gay men.

However, cultural stereotypes of who enjoys porn are evidently more powerful than the free market, because despite the math, you’ll find a LOT more gay male porn sites out there than sites specifically catering to women. That’s how deep these stereotypes go. They are stronger than math.

It gets weirder.

You see, the primary source of porn for straight women is left entirely out of the official statistics, because we as a society are still maintaining a polite pretense that romance novels aren’t wank fodder, just because they also talk about feelings. In reality, they’re deliberately very explicit, and have a pleasure-and-disposability consumption pattern identical to conventional porn. When we factor romance novels into the math, things get interesting.

There’s a widely-quoted statistic, hard to pin down to a source, that Americans spend about $14 billion on porn annually. Assuming it’s correct, and that the 67-33 male-female proportion holds for those paying for porn, that’s around $9.6 billion spent by men and around $4.4 billion spent by women. Again, back-of-the-envelope math.

More checkably, the Romance Writers of America report that the romance novel industry brings in $10 billion annually, with a 90% female audience. (If that sounds high, consider that 50% of all paperback sales in the country were romance novels before ebooks.) That’s $1 billion spent by men to $9 billion spent by women.

9.6 + 1 = 10.6

4.4 + 9 = 13.4

Again, this is only measuring porn paid for, not pirated or homebrewed or otherwise existing in pornography’s vast and unchartable (though not uncharitable) gift economies. It would be grossly inaccurate to suggest that spending habits represent, or even necessarily mirror, consumption habits when it comes to smut.

But just on the numbers we have available, it seems that American women spend more money on porn than American men do.

Please adjust stereotypes accordingly.

 

Read more on Sex & Relationships.

Image credit:  Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com/Flickr

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure women spend more money than men on nearly every consumable (barring durable goods). Not sure why anyone would be surprised at this revelation.

  2. Women use romantic books as “wank fodder”?
    That seems to be a very far-fetched theory.
    Now undoubtfully some women do just like some men use car magazines for the same purpose but if you make such generalising revolutionally claims you could point out what studies/research support your theory.

    Besides so far all studies/research regarding the subject I know about support the notion that women are generally speaking simply less interested in sex.
    So women using less porn would be logically the expected reality.

  3. So it got caught in moderation.
    One more time…

    Could you post any sources (studies/research) supporting your theory that romance novels are porn for straight women?

    • QuantumInc says:

      I would second that motion.

      Unfortunately I don’t think there have been as much serious research done on romance novels and their content, it seems the few researchers available would rather focus on male-oriented pornography. Still, to my knowledge most “romance” novels do feature explicit sex scenes. Many wrap them up in flowery language, but that seems more an attempt to appeal to a highly feminine mind set than censorship. Admittedly the most popular franchise “Twilight” has almost no sex, but there were fans who wrote their own sex scenes, one of whom went on to pen the also hugely successful “50 Shades of Grey” which is mostly kinky sex.

      “Slash Fiction” is a sub-genre of “fan-fiction” which pairs certain characters from established stories together for sexual relations. For example a fan of Star Trek might write “Spock/Kirk” where their friendship becomes something more. Fans of Harry Potter are even known to turn Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy into from enemies into lovers. Like any piece of fan-fiction it’s usually poorly written. Slash-fiction seems to be limited female nerds. I’ve never heard of gay men reading or writing it. However I’ve met women who’ve written it, including my own sister. Every mention of slash fiction I hear connects it to women lusting after fictional men. The only time I saw girl on girl slash fiction was on the live journal of a bisexual woman, most of her “fan fiction” was about men. Guy on Girl slash fiction is strangely absent.

  4. Webster’s Dictionary definition of pornography:
    Depictions of sexual acts or behavior, as in WRITING , photographs, motion pictures, etc. to stimulate erotic feelings 2) The material containing such descriptions.

  5. Now I can’t remember where the article about this was…Salon maybe…but there was this gay porn website that went into the demographics of who was visiting their site and found it was about 50% men and 50% women…or maybe it was more women than men? Whatever it was, it was damn surprising to them.

    I don’t think romance novels are women’s version of porn. (Yes, obviously women buy a lot of romance novels too). – But I don’t think that romance novels are what’s filling the void of porn made for women…I think porn made for gay men is being consumed by straight (and queer) women just as avidly as by gay & bi men.

    So, assuming at least some of the gay porn websites require a subscription of some sort…I guess straight women are probably paying EVEN MORE for porn. Talk about an untapped market.

  6. Jennifer J. says:

    If romance novels are considered porn, then men’s mags like GQ, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated should be, as well. Is this the case?

    • GQ has erotica/porn? Since when? I haven’t read one cover to cover but I thought it was mostly just about male fashion?

      • QuantumInc says:

        You’ve never heard any of the jokes about women looking at the various pictures of hot well dressed men in GQ? It’s basically the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Ostensibly there’s nothing erotic about it, but it includes a lot of pictures of people with excellent bodies, dressed in particular ways that make them even more attractive. GQ should do a survey, “Okay, how many of you are actual gentlemen, and how many are just horny women looking at the impeccably dressed male models?”

        • I need to go get a copy of the mag to see it, last time i looked I thought it was more just Wear this watch, drive this car, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg:P

    • Yes Jennifer, I think so. Also, lets include video games since a lot of video games show many barely dressed women with hyper-sexualized body parts and reference sex alot in them.

  7. So most romance novel readers are women and most “normally defined porn” consumers are men. I don’t think anybody would need to adjust their stereotype unless you force threm to accept the classification of romance novels as porn, which most won’t.

  8. Women read romance novels for ‘romance fantasies’ not the sex. I guess they might be into the sex parts but it”s based on the emotions aroused by the ‘romance’. Concerning gay porn, it is nasty. Men should not do that with other men.

  9. Straight women like porn too, they just don’t watch straight porn. I think I understand why, straight porn is very limited to men visuals and fantasies.

  10. Random_Stranger says:

    Well…this assumes that men and women pay for porn at equal rates, or for that matter, that anybody actually pays for internet porn at all (who does that?).

  11. Well Noah, I don’t agree with your “data” because It’s fundementally flawed on many levels.

    I really don’t get why there is “porn for men” and “porn for women”. If sex is something men and women do together, if sex is something men and women *WANT* to do together, why is porn not friendly to men and women alike? Why is there special porn that is specific about being “friendly” toward women? Do men not want to be friendly toward women during sex? Is it’s mens fantasies to be cruel to women during sex? maybe cruel isn’t the right word..whatever the opposite of “friendly” though. This seems like a huge disconnect in how we are approaching sexuality as men and women.

    I also believe that men and women’s fantasies have become more important to them then actual sex and companionship. I feel like most of the discussion that are about sex now-a-days, focus largely on porn and fantasy. It doesn’t seem like people are able to have sex any more without porn being part of it. What is happening to us? It’s making me all sad. And I actually don’t think this is something that is only happening to men. I think it’s happening to women too. It’s like people’s fantasies and their desire to see hyper-fake things are more important and fulfilling to them then actual connections, relationships or interactions with imperfect human beings.

    I am not saying fantasies are wrong. However, it appears to me that fantasies are dominating the sexual landscape and I question how healthy that really is. Especially when men and women’s fantasies are being segragated. How do we expect men and women to build closer more intimate interactions if our fantasies aren’t “friendly” toward the person of our desire.

  12. Josephine says:

    Please don’t forget that women are also consumers of gay erotica. Just as many men eroticize woman-on-woman sex, many females also fantasize about two men touching, rubbing and sucking on each other. PLUS, some straight women find females in porn (literary or otherwise) a turn off, so ‘No’ they do not have as much of a market to enjoy. Also, the article’s stats fail to take into account bisexual men and women that access homosexual and/or heterosexual porn.

    While it may be a legit argument to say that romance novels can be, or are, literary erotica, the attempt here to redefine, quantify, and measure porn consumption based on gender and orientation merely expose the ignorance of the author. There’s insufficient data! PEOPLE like porn. Trying to prove that one gender or the other likes it more, or spends more money on it, is a ridiculous waste of a human brain.

  13. Mr Supertypo says:

    That’s doesn’t come as a surprise to me, most women/girls I know (and I know a lot, from exotic dancers to party girls, to business women etc) admit to watch porn. A good portion go to traditional porn sites (mainstream) the rest are divided by lesbian based sex sites, gay and other.
    The first two categories I suspect, they visit the mainstream sites to look at the hot women, and imitate them, maybe even trying to learn few tricks. And the same can be said for the ones who visit les sites. Lot of girls are very well aware that guys go crazy and threat them as superstars when they are intimate with each others (and I suspect that in the next two decades, guys will also follow). The last group look at the hot guys for pure lust (although all categories overlap). Thats what I think.

  14. Sage Autumn says:

    Maybe women are, maybe not. The biggest issue I see with the premise of romance novels = porn is this–it equates an Amish novel or Danielle Steele book as being the same as Fifty Shades. SOME romance novels, yes of course, are explicit. An equal (if not larger)(if not MUCH larger) segment is not graphic at all in the least.

    • Danielle Steele sounds like a gay pornstar name, everytime I hear that name I giggle because it’s meant to be serious romance.

  15. Your stats are exaggerated. All the best studies point to lesbians comprising 1.0-1.1% of the female population while gay men comprise 2.0-2.4% of the male population.

  16. “Romance” is a marketing category for books. Anything written by a woman that features a love story tends to get placed in that category in order to reach the niche audience regardless of content.

    A quick “pleasure-and-disposability consumption pattern” would be true of other genre fiction, say pulp sci fi, or of most television viewing.

  17. I feel that female-friendly….material is going to be more acceptable anyway, because it’s more likely to involve feelings rather than appearances. I can’t help but feel there is some kind of demonisation of male sexuality going on here.

  18. Hi Safor

    My message was also found to offensive to print!
    I ask the same as you.

    Document how romantic novels are porn.

    How is Jane Austin’s novel porn?

  19. What a fascinating read. I work for a “Porn for Women” site, Sssh.com. I’m one of the writers there, so I see the stats everyday and I can tell you that even though we have a ton of both Erotic and Romance books, our member frequent our movie section more often then not. In fact it is the busiest area of the site.

    What’s equally interesting is that we have had a survey running for 15 years, asking women what type of movies they would like to see, and then we shoot them. Their answers are so diverse. Being “female friendly” does not “necessarily” mean “more feelings”. Yes, some women love full story line movies, but an equal number just want to “get down to business”, so to speak. Some want the fantasy, some the reality. It is so individual.

    Erin in your question: I really don’t get why there is “porn for men” and “porn for women”. If sex is something men and women do together, if sex is something men and women *WANT* to do together, why is porn not friendly to men and women alike?

    This is a great question, why do we have labels? Is that not society putting us in a box? “Men like this”, “women like that”, why can’t it just be “porn”. Maybe one day that will happen, when there is just “marriage” or someone is just a “movie director”. I get so annoyed when people refer to me as a “female writer”….really! Now in all fairness, Sssh does state “For women, by women” right on the splash page. I think sometimes, as much as I hate to say it, people need road signs. We are letting people know that our membership base / community is mostly women and that the creative minds behind our site are also women. BUT…we also have couple’s enjoying our movies as well.

    Great article, and comments.

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