What do you like? women's pornopleasures.

Author:Mars, Michelle
Position:Conference notes

Paper presented at the 1st World Congress for Sexual Health: 18th Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health: Achieving Health, Pleasure and Respect, Sydney (2007 April 15-19).

The title of this article is the title of my current research project. I want to know what kinds of pornography women take pleasure in. Researching women's pornopleasures is an ongoing journey fraught with personal and professional tensions. To begin with pornography connects with my earliest sexual memories, reading porno magazines under my friend's parents' bed, trying out the scenarios with one another when sleeping at each other's houses. This experience for me was wholly positive. Later as I became conscious of feminism and the anti-pornography stance, my reaction was ambivalent. For me pornography meant the guilty orgasmic pleasures of mutually pleasurable teenage girlie sex. What could be wrong with that?

Apparently plenty, pornography, in the era of 'women against the night' and pro-censorship campaigns was off the menu. Later, in the early 1990's coming to a feminist masters class entitled Feminism, Sexuality and Foucault I explored the issue in the context of the so-called 'feminist sex wars'. The feminist sex wars of 1980s pitted anti-censorship sex radicals against those for whom pornography was synonymous with women's oppression. This was a no-win battle. To support women's rights to pornographic pleasure was to support sexploitation and misogyny. To argue against pornography was to support the conservative, sex negative status quo. Feminism whilst arguing that sexual power could provide a source of power for women was complicit with the suppression of sexuality. The debates over sex and pornography often ended with a call to become agents in our own portrayals of pornography, to stop talking and start doing (Assiter & Avedon 1993).

So what kinds of pornography do women find titillating and sexually arousing? Preliminary findings based on thirty in-depth interviews suggest that women have definitive and heterogeneous ideas about what they like. There is no particular pattern evident in the research findings to date. The women who took part in the research stated that they have taken pleasure in watching the following:

... explicit sex scenes on stage, dildo sex, play acting, really leather stuff, hard core and S & M, two women, natural really sweet and honest sex, sex with a big dog, Harvey Keitel touching the hole in Holly Hunter's stocking in...

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