Audio Porn Is Made For Women & If You Haven’t Tried It You’re (Seriously) Missing Out

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell.
It’s rare, these days, for silence to seep into any part of our lives. If it’s not the podcast you’re listening to while you’re making breakfast, it’s the 'peaceful piano' Spotify playlist coming through your office speakers or the audiobook you download before bed. Headphones are better quality than they have ever been and speakers are now available in every room, all linked up with Bluetooth technology. We are permanently hooked in. Is there any wonder we’re now turning to audio for our porn, too?
There’s a booming industry of primarily female-led audio startups bringing erotica to our ears. Some are billed as holistic audio experiences to reconnect with our bodies, with interactive elements and positive sexual thinking workshops; others are simply a library of crowdsourced sensual stories.
Advertisement
The market leader, Dipsea features high production values and careful, considered curation. With stories submitted by authors online, voiced by professional actors and featuring realistic background noises, there’s instantly more atmosphere than most mainstream porn films. The stories are categorised but unlike on Pornhub, you won’t find 'anal' or 'creampie', or anything else to make your granny blush. Instead, there’s 'voyeur', 'friends' and 'queer stories'. Rather than getting right down to the act, the stories are just that – stories. It’s like listening to the audiobook of an erotic novel but without the 100 pages of poorly written preamble. I listen to one passionate frisson between a barista and customer in which the build-up to the sex is almost more erotic than the sex itself. This is, in part, down to the intended audience. Most of these audio erotica platforms are pitched at women or, in some cases, couples. Men are often more directly stimulated by visuals, while women need more context in which to feel safe and secure enough to feel turned on. Empathy is fundamental to female arousal.
Another app, Ferly, is a British-based company so you get the rare pleasure (quite literally) of hearing British accents in a sexual setting. The first audio clip I click on is narrated by a very polite English gent who guides the listener through the stages of exploring their body and ultimately pleasuring themselves. By entering preferences relating to your sexual desires and relationship with your body, the app is framed as more of a self-help programme. Emjoy is another Headspace-style erotic app. Its audio clips are labelled with images of buses and beds, indicating which can be listened to in public, and which in private. The only drawback is that the public ones are slightly '90s sex-ed tape in style. I think I’ll be sticking to the saucier ones. 
Advertisement
All these apps are subscription-based, working out at around £3 a month each; significantly more affordable than other feminist porn options. But even if you don’t want to part with the cost of a coffee each month, there’s a wealth of free content available on all platforms. 
It’s unsurprising that in the wake of a podcast boom (six million people tuning into a podcast each week), the erotic industry is vying for a slice of the success. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Audio erotica offers pornographic material for the blind community, and some writers have already caught on. Sex blogger Girl on the Net started recording herself reading her narrative-based blogposts aloud after a visually impaired follower wrote to her saying that screen readers voiced her writing in a dull monotone.
By shifting the focus from the overtly visual medium of mainstream pornography to these new audio formats, we are removing the gaze from the body. So many of the problems porn has created are not to do with the act of sex but rather the body image standards it sets, with the total removal of body hair and overt surgical enhancement. Caroline Spiegel, the founder of Quinn, another audio erotica platform, began her website after struggling with sexual dysfunction due to an eating disorder. It was refreshing for her to have sexual stimulation centred in a non-visual space. What’s more, with the omission of references to physicality, audio erotica allows for a more universal experience. Mainstream porn so often reflects problematic cultural tropes, and audio erotica platforms stories by different voices, separating the eroticism from the specifics of the body.
'Ethical porn' is a strongly debated topic. Can any pornographic material be truly unproblematic? I think audio erotica comes pretty close. Writers and voice actors can gain a platform and a following for their material, make money and help people enjoy themselves, all the while remaining completely anonymous – something that’s just not possible in mainstream porn. For users, the apps provide a safe space to listen. Audio offers privacy. We are able to hear about the sex lives of people from all walks of life, without fetishisation. Think amateur porn crossed with the audiobook of an erotic novel, and you’re coming close to the experience audio erotica offers. 
Advertisement

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series