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Why Do Some Women Like to Watch Guy-on-Guy Porn?

Nearly 40 percent of women who watch guy-on-guy porn are straight.

Christine Ro

Christine Ro

VeaVea/Stocksy

I’ve only been to strip clubs—male and female—a couple of times, but there were major gendered differences. At the place with male strippers, the—mostly—women in the audience were hooting and laughing. The experience was presented as comical, a way for women to enjoy being together, but not really to get off. The dancers didn’t even get completely naked. At the sex club where women were on stage, in contrast, the nudity was clearly meant to be taken seriously. It was packaged as erotic rather than silly.

It’s clear that women are so often uncomfortable—or made to feel uncomfortable—about the attractiveness of male bodies. There’s that Seinfeld episode, for instance, where Elainefamously says that while a woman’s body is a work of art, a man’s body is like a Jeep―functional, for getting around.

“It’s an ingrained idea that women shouldn’t be into porn and men aren’t that attractive when they’re naked," says Lucy Neville, a criminology lecturer at the University of Leicester in the UK who researches sex, violence, and investigative psychology. Neville has been writing erotica since the age of 9, and vividly remembers being 17 and discovering a slash fiction story that imagined two male characters from The Usual Suspects getting it on.

Like Neville, plenty of other women are comfortable with objectifying male bodies, as shown by the popularity of male-on-male porn among women of all sexualities. Pornhub, the world’s most popular porn website, has reported that 37 percent of users watching gay male porn are women. And of the 500-plus women that Neville interviewed or surveyed for her new book, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, 45 percent identified as straight. So why are all these women, straight as well as queer, drawn to visualizing m/m sex? Here are a few of the reasons.

There's More to Focus On
Let’s start with the obvious. “When we think about the amount of lesbian porn made for straight men to watch, we rarely wonder why there is so much of it,” says Ruth Neustifter, an assistant professor and sex educator at the University of Guelph in Ontario. For women who like seeing men onscreen, m/m doubles the eye candy. “The straight and bisexual women in my pleasure workshops who enjoy gay porn often tell me that just get turned on by male sexuality and bodies," Neustifter says, "so porn with more men is even hotter.”

The Men Are More Attractive
One trope of mainstream hetero porn is to pair a woman who fits an ideal beauty standard with a man who resembles an ogre, or maybe a woodland creature. (Not for nothing was porn legend Ron Jeremy nicknamed “The Hedgehog.”) In m/m porn, there’s more attention paid to the male form, and to more parts of the male form. Compare this to what Neville calls “the disembodied cock," which the camera tends to focus on in a male performer in hetero porn (and which is often part of the problem with conventional dick pics).

“A lot of women did speak about that, about how they really like forearms and butts and the line―the iliac crest that you get above your hipbone," Neustifter says. "Certainly I think m/m porn is much more interested in the camera kind of lingering over the entire body and kind of making love to the male porn star.”

When D.Fantastic, a 27-year-old stand-up comedian in the Bay Area, used to watch m/f porn, she would often find herself disappointed. Or, as she puts it: “I felt my clitoris deflate." It wasn’t until she found kink.com and gay male porn that watching sex onscreen became a turn-on. “Personally, as a straight woman, I can view male porn through the gay male gaze. It just makes sense to me physically.” But it’s not always as straightforward as simply expanding the visuals. A preference for m/m porn can also be related to intersecting beliefs and values.


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It's Easier to Focus on Just the Sex
Women often have complicated feelings about their place within conventional porn. One of the pervasive battle lines in modern feminism is whether porn involving women is inherently exploitative or harmful to women. An individual might be hearing lots of different voices in her head when she watches an f/f or m/f scene: “Am I a bad feminist?” “Should I feel bad that I don’t look like that?” “Are the women being hurt?” When the ladies are removed from the scene altogether, she can sidestep thorny issues like gendered consent, abuse, and body shame, and just focus on the sex.

This is especially true for women and non-binary folks who like watching rough sex, and feel queasy when women are filmed in situations where they’re treated aggressively. “I almost always prefer to watch independent queer porn and mainstream or independent gay male porn," Neustifter says. When I’m watching gay or queer porn, I’m often looking for scenes where both partners are being quite physical, aggressive, and rough with each other. Even if one of the actors is in charge, the power dynamic feels different and I can get into it more.”

Some attendees at Neustifter's sex workshops have expressed similar feelings: “Lesbians in these workshops who tell me about watching gay porn often tell me that they like porn that is grittier and nastier without unrealistic or demeaning depictions of women, or that they just like masculinity in general and there are few masculine women in mainstream porn.”

It Seems More Authentic
Women may know that the depictions of women in conventional porn are unrealistic—sometimes hilariously so, from implausibly long, fake fingernails to banshee-like shrieks.

D.Fantastic is sensitive to noises in porn. When she’s alone with a vibrator, she tells me with a laugh, “You swear there’s an exorcism happening in the room.” Because she knows what she sounds like when she’s genuinely getting off, she finds the sounds made by female porn stars artificial and unsexy. “I really enjoy hearing men’s pleasure,” she says. And because the male performers in straight porn are so often expected to be stoic and silent, gay porn is a better place to find dudes moaning and groaning.

The actors in gay male porn aren’t necessarily enjoying themselves more, but plenty of women believe that to be the case. Neville’s interviewees talked about the men in gay porn expressing more vulnerability and emotion than the men in straight porn, for instance. Some male porn stars are leaning into this audience of women, like the boyish troupe CockyBoys. In general, some gay men are irritated by being fetishized by women in this way, which Neville calls “gaypropriation,” while still others are bemused or indifferent.

Women's Sexuality Is More Multi-Layered
Neville has a complicated relationship with the word “complicated” being used to describe female sexuality, which can spread the idea that women’s sexuality is unfathomable and thus not worth exploring. But she concedes that, for women, “the way we are conditioned to have a less direct relationship between our bodies and our minds when it comes to being turned on can make the process more complicated.”

This complexity also makes it particularly challenging to scientifically study female desire. Early sex research basically applied similar tools and techniques to the study of female arousal that they’d used to investigate male arousal. Vaginal photoplethsymography, for instance, involves inserting tubes into the vagina to measure blood flow and wetness, then comparing the data to penile blood flow. Researchers like Neville have argued that clitoral blood flow is a more reliable indicator of female arousal than vaginal blood flow; for one thing, vaginal lubrication can be an automatic physiological response, even to non-consensual sex, to protect the body. At the same time, Neville says, “you can’t ignore people’s subjective experiences.” So simply asking women what turns them on is one tool in the sex researcher’s arsenal.

Female sexuality is complex, but so is sexuality in general. Neville, for instance, has imagined herself as a man in sexual situations, though she identifies as cis. She was surprised by how commonly the women in her interview sample said similar things; over half, queer and straight alike, had also fantasized about inhabiting male bodies while having sex.

Plenty of other surprises probably lie in what when it comes to men and sex. We just take certain things for granted—that of course straight men are into lesbian porn. But Neville points out there have been very few studies actually seeking to understand what men are thinking and feeling when watching girl-on-girl porn, highlighting the need for concurrent research into why, how, and in what way, men engage with it. The answers just might surprise us.

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