What Women Really Want In Their Porn

Photographed By Lauren Perlstein.
What turns women on? The only clear answer seems to be “it’s complicated.” Growing numbers of women have gravitated toward adult entertainment in recent years, and the question is increasingly important to porn production companies worldwide as they try to tap into the 51% of the population that their industry has perennially ignored. Although companies that specialize in “porn for women” are flourishing, what women want in their adult entertainment is still far from settled — but Angie Rowntree may have some better answers than anyone else.

Rowntree is the founder of Sssh.com, one of the first porn sites directed at women. Since its launch in 1999, the website has asked its members to complete a survey about their erotic preferences and to submit descriptions of their fantasies, which Sssh.com uses to create its porn videos. The result is a treasure trove of information about what 30,000 people to date — 92% of whom identify as women — really want to watch. Over the course of several conversations, I asked Rowntree what her 17 years of experience learning from women and making porn for them has taught her.

A few of the most riveting tidbits? Although some assume that women watch porn primarily to please their partners, a whopping 70% of Sssh.com’s survey respondents watch porn alone, for their own gratification. As for what really gets site members going, they love female-focused foreplay, tenderness, real female orgasms, and, interestingly, penetration. But they almost universally hate spitting and facial cumshots. And the women of Sssh.com are almost evenly divided over anal sex, which Rowntree says is both one of the most requested and detested acts on the site.

Read on for more of Rowntree’s illuminating insights about women and porn.

What inspired you to make porn for women?
"My husband and I [had] started [BDSM site] Wasteland.com [NSFW] in 1994 and I was always amazed at the lack of adult entertainment for women on the web. When I’d talk to my male peers about my idea for starting a porn site for women, they all told me 'Women don’t watch porn' or 'There’s no market for that.' My personal favorite was, 'Women are not visual.'

"I anticipated [that] if I asked women what they wanted to see and created that content, women would prove the skeptics wrong about our supposed total lack of interest in porn... I didn’t want to rely on just my own tastes as a woman, because I knew people’s preferences and fantasies would vary a lot and I needed a way to get a better sense of what my members were looking for. Asking them seemed to be the obvious solution.

"Over 16 years later, I’m happy to report the skeptics were wrong: There definitely is a market, and it’s growing. To be honest, though, I don’t really like the term 'porn for women,' because it still puts women in a box."
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What are some changes you've noticed over the years?
"When we first launched...what seemed important to our visitors and members was quite different than it is now. Back then, we frequently received comments stating, 'Your movies are positive and the design does not make me feel 'dirty' or 'sleazy.'' In fact, the [site's] design was very much a focal point.

"Then [the focus] seemed to shift to the variety of content we had. Women [were] looking for ways to improve their sex lives, whether that [meant] watching the movies or reading stories or our sex ed section. Most women at that time were looking to please their partner. Now I see a lot more comments about them wanting to please themselves. The shift is interesting and something I was very happy to see.

"Around 2011, [the focus] shifted again [to] the movies [themselves]. The site's design did not seem important anymore; instead it was interactivity that people wanted. Members were actually saying they enjoyed the ability to dictate the content."

What are some new trends? What are women into now?
"In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in interest in BDSM, due in part to the popularity of Fifty Shades, but also because I think women are becoming more comfortable in general with exploring porn. After the release of Fifty Shades, the submissions became edgier — more hardcore and more explicit. They were also much more blunt and to the point, whereas submissions used to be pretty general, leaving a lot of the conceptual nitty-gritty up to us as the producers.

"When we first launched, most BDSM requests were primarily spanking. Now it’s the full gamut. But of course, we just got another spanking request in last week."

Have your fans' interests surprised you in any way?
"The biggest surprise [was] the over-50 age group! One member from that group submitted a fantasy requesting a couple in their 60s, who were in shape, cared about their health, and had a very enthusiastic sex life, putting it politely.

"Also, MMF threesomes. [Ed. note: that’s two males and one female.] One submitter stated that she saw an MMF shoot on the tube sites, but found it disrespectful to women. She liked the idea, but wanted it to be more sensual, where the woman was the focus."

So what’s the big answer? What do women really want?
"I feel like I’m copping out a bit, but the truth is there’s no such thing as 'what women want.' Women’s tastes in porn are just as varied as men’s, if not more so, but nobody ever asks, 'What do men want?'

"If I had to generalize, I’d say what women tend to want from porn is more authenticity than they find in most of what is generally available on the internet. The way I put it is, women want to see porn in which the woman is a full and willing participant, experiencing actual mutual pleasure with her partner, rather than being someone to whom sex is happening to, so to speak."
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