I've tried to enjoy porn. I really have.
Once, in my single days, I spent no fewer than three straight hours scouring for titillating female-friendly porn online, until it became something of a noble quest, like journeying through the Arabian Desert in search of the Cave of Wonders. I finally settled on the only video that had something resembling a coherent plotline (about a Miss America contestant disrobing for an interview). To give you a sense of how low my standards were at this point, the porn video was called "Titty Shower."
More recently, my partner and I decided to have a weed and porn night. Again, the online scouring for ostensibly "female-friendly" porn began. Again, the only thing that turned on was my annoyance level. A threesome video involved such ludicrous "acting" and bizarre quick-cuts that I asked to find a new one before there was even a threesome to speak of. Two other videos showed penetration within the first minute -- and I'm here to tell you, close-up penetration shots are not hot with no context. We finally settled on Kim Kardashian's sex tape, which made me feel vaguely creepy, but hey, at least it knew the art of a good tease.
Through no help of the porn, my partner and I finally got intimate, then proceeded to watch the most engaging thing -- by far -- we'd found that evening: Planet Earth.
Needless to say, I was not surprised at all to learn that, according to a study, more women are watching gay and lesbian porn than straight porn dubbed "female-friendly" on Pornhub. Setting aside what this says about gay vs. straight porn (Is gay porn better? Do straight women secretly prefer to watch ladies making out?), this seems to suggest that the porn community does not know what the hell it's doing with this whole "female-friendly" porn thing.
Indeed. It does not.
Yes yes, there are some that are trying to make actually good porn for a female audience. Good Vibes, for one, has a wonderful selection of what it calls "feminist porn." But even these videos tend to be decidedly low-budget and short on a truly compelling plotline.
What I don't understand is why no one is making full-length, big-budget films that show graphic sex. While watching Witness the other night, starring a young Harrison Ford as a cop on the lam who ends up falling in love with an Amish woman, I ended up deeply disappointed that the central romance built up to nothing more than a passionate kiss/hug and one forbidden glance at a naked body.
I mean, come on: jaded male cop, chaste Amish girl? It has "porn" written all over it. But it seems the fact that it also involved intelligent characterization and a compelling narrative precluded it from showing actual sex. In the world of film, sex and even just a whiff of intelligence are mutually exclusive entities.
As women, we've essentially been given two options: plotless porn with women who are hard to relate to and don't get treated very well, or thoughtful, sexy movies devoid of actual sex. Imagine The Notebook with penetration or Titanic with more than a hand smearing a steamed-up carriage window. Just thinking about these scenarios gets me more excited than anything I've found on a soulless XXX site.
I know this argument has been made before. That "there's no good porn for women" is even something of a punchline at this point. But what will it take for someone, somewhere, anywhere, to do something about it? In any other industry, a study like this would be considered a sign that something needs to change -- dramatically and soon. I worry that in this case, things will simply remain the same as always, perhaps based on the inane and enduring presumption that women just can't get off on filmed sex.
In the meantime, I'll continue to toggle between a Kim Kardashian sex tape and a critically acclaimed Harrison Ford film, never feeling fully satisfied with either.