Men Watch Porn, Women Read Romance

porn-for-women[1]Years ago I met a man who intrigued me. He was my first real love. But I didn’t go headlong into a relationship, I wanted to get to know him, understand him.

I became the detective, trying to determine whether he was right for me. Was he devoted, caring? Empathetic? Did he appreciate me? Was he in love with me or was I just a passing fancy?

He thought understanding each other was overrated.

My sleuthing confirmed my initial attraction – that he was deep. Unless the subject was sex and relationship, which he thought were the same thing. Big problem!

I eventually learned that this dynamic – men seeking sex and women seeking answers – is not unusual. It is even reflected in the erotica we seek.

Cognitive neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas says that men search the internet for two-minute clips that are all about skin and explicit sex. Women’s erotica is more like detective novel meets romance, and takes hours to read and digest. (The number of women romance readers and male online porn viewers are about the same. About one in 10 men are into romance while one in 10 women check out porn clips.)

The men’s interest is simple, uncomplicated. But women more likely want character-driven stories that reveal the lover’s nature. Sex is not for its own sake, and not with impersonal strangers.

As Ogas notes, the female cortex is highly developed and skillfully scrutinizes all available evidence – social, emotional and physical, somewhat consciously but largely not. All this leads to a general feeling of favorability or suspicion: Is he committed and kind? Is he a rouge? A player? Only if the detective work leads to a stamp of approval will physical and psychological arousal unite.

Men’s desire has been likened to an on/off switch, while women’s to a complex circuit board.

Why? Who knows? Some will point to evolutionary psychology: To best reproduce themselves women need a man who will stick around and support their children with resources. So women must be careful, picky. But men (having a great deal of sperm) best reproduce themselves by willy-nilly spreading their seed. It’s a popular theory, but I have my doubts since women in some cultures behave a lot like our sexual stereotype of men. American Indians prior to European contact, for instance.

Others say that in a world where women have less power, women’s lives are more affected by men than vice-versa, so they need to be more careful, even if their sleuthing isn’t very conscious. Women are more likely to follow husbands who are transferred in their careers than vice-versa, for instance. Also, men’s social status affects women more than women’s status affects men’s. When a waitress marries a dentist, her social status immediately rises to his. Not so much for the trucker who marries a female business executive.

And since men are typically bigger and stronger, abused women suffer greater injuries and have more difficultly defending themselves.

Women are also more likely to depend on men, financially, because they are more likely to stay home full-time with kids. Is he dependable? Can he keep a job? If men leave, women in our society bear all the responsibility for children (versus Ancient American Indians who parented communally).

Also, women’s sex drive is typically lower in our culture (largely due to repression, which is due to sexism), perhaps leaving women wanting emotionally connected sex more than variety and experimentation.

And of course, women were raised on a diet of Disney princesses living happily ever after with their one and only true love. Could have an effect.

Meanwhile, bombarded by women-as-object images, men come to see women’s bodies as objects that are all about sex, and women’s body parts sex-signals. Hence the simple look-arousal response. (Surprisingly, the breast fetish seems to be learned, not natural.)

When women and men so often have contradictory ways of seeing and being, you have to wonder why (for about 95% of the population) women and men are thrown together in the first place.

Yet, when it comes to relationships — and not mere erotica — there is more coming together. In fact, guys are getting more romantic and seem to be quite relationship-oriented. So maybe in real life it’s more often a match, after all.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Women Want Emotionally Connected Sex. Why?
Women Want Casual Sex? Yes and No
Guys Just Wanna Have Relationships?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 3, 2013, in gender, men, pornography, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Women watch a lot of porn too. The favorite type of porn for “straight” women is girl on girl porn, and the favorite for “lesbian” women is guy on guy porn.

    • Based on internet hits, some women do like porn. But as I said in my post, only 1 in 10 hits come from women, compared to 9 in 10 from men.

      And when women watch porn it most commonly has a story, some sort of romance between a man and a woman.

      But a Spanish female commenter also told me that gay porn is all the rage among hetero women in Spain these days. Interesting.

  2. That Pic is hilarious!!

  3. I can only agree with your writing. That is absolutely a topic for a larger discussion 😉

  4. Another good essay. Sound accurate to me.

  5. Have you read “Delusion of gender”?

  6. What a great post. I’ve always thought men were more ‘visual’ and your comment about them searching the internet for two-minute clips that are all about skin and explicit sex confirms that!

    Good work! 😀

  7. balladofthebee

    Very interesting read.

  8. I have a friend who is Christian. He believes watching porn is a sin. So when he found out his brothers watched porn, he was pretty mad and tried to warn them not to do it again. But the problem is his brothers are not Christian, so they could not understand my friend as well. I am confused about this part too. When everything involved to the religion, it looks so simple and you can just follow their rule. Unfortunately, there are always people outside the religion world.

  9. I like this topic because it is exactly what I look for In A man. It’s true that women look for security in men because the girl is usually the one that stays at home so imagine if a guy you are with doesn’t like to work then you can’t depend on him. So then it is up to you if you want to be with that person but I guess it would also be bad if he was always at work. For example my stepdad is always working and my mom also works and takes care of the kids so she sees them everyday. I also help my mom out so the kids are more attached to me n my mom but when thier dad is home they don’t really care. So that’s why there needs to be a balance of things and you have to look for that in a man. If my mom can work n watch over the kids why can’t he right.

  10. Great post, I love the inclusion of neuroscience. I am curious about how in relationships “there is more coming together.” I only have my personal experience to go by, but I suspect that these same gender differences do not disappear when men and women enter a relationship together.
    I’m also wondering if due to sexual repression, women have to warm up to sex, while men are wham-bam ready. Two minute clips seem awfully quick. It would also be interesting to track what percentage of these internet searches are masturbatory in nature (or is that implied in the designation as erotica?).

    • re: “I am curious about how in relationships “there is more coming together.”

      Men seem to handle relationships differently from porn. See the posts under, “popular posts”:

      Guys are getting more romantic
      Guys Just Wanna Have Relationships?

      I’m not sure whether the reason women need to warm up more is due to repression. I haven’t really heard about that. Seems like a possibility.

      From what I understand most of the two-minute clips are masturbatory nature. I’m guessing that the romance erotica is less so. At the least, it takes a lot longer to get to the erotic parts.

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