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Letters and opinions from concerned South African women on current affairs and issues affecting us all

Lesbians Watching Gay Porn?

By Sarah Stefanson

The flat-screen on the bedroom wall shows a man in cut-off jean shorts removing his plaid shirt seductively as he approaches another man whose lack of a shirt reveals cartoon-like washboard abs. With sweat glistening on their tanned skin, the two men lean against the hood of a car in the middle of a desert landscape and start making out. Annette Bening lies propped up in the bed so she can see the onscreen action, while Julianne Moore forms a lump under the bedspread between her legs. The buzz of a vibrator drowns out the movie’s soundtrack.

This scene from the Oscar-nominated film The Kids Are All Right had some wondering why two women would have sex with each other while watching porn featuring only men. Do lesbians often watch gay male porn or was this just a quirk specific to these characters?

As a bisexual woman, my porn options are quite extensive, since any combination of the sexes holds some interest for me. Some of my straight girlfriends and I have admitted to each other that we occasionally watch gay male porn simply because the guys are much better looking than the men in straight porn.

Sexual situations highlighting attractive men turn me on because I also like men. While the audience of The Kids Are All Right soon discover that Moore’s character certainly has some bisexual leanings, Benning’s is portrayed as entirely lesbian, so where does the appeal lie for her and other lesbians in watching two guys get it on?

In a later scene, the women’s teenaged son questions their taste in pornography after he comes across their collection and the moms do their best to explain when put on the spot. Flustered, they manage to come up with the idea that, as women with internalized sexual responses, watching an external response “like with a penis” can be exciting. They also mention that most lesbian porn is inauthentic since it usually stars straight women and porn stars have never been praised for their acting ability.

The gist of the rationalization for their unexpected choice in porn is that human sexuality is complicated and can even be counter-intuitive. As many of us know, just because you primarily have sex with women or identify as a lesbian doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t find men hot, and queer sex between men even hotter. Many of you are familiar with the concept of sexual fluidity, which leads me to wonder just what kind of porn some of the women I know are watching and why.

I started by asking J, a lesbian who lives with her long-time girlfriend, to share her view on the subject. J and her partner rarely watch porn, but when they do, she says it is almost always gay male porn. Despite what she describes as her “in-real-life skeeves about male genitalia,” J and her partner inevitably turn to movies starring men because they find that porn that features women is ultimately unsatisfying to watch. The Kids Are All Right definitely provided us with a giggle as we pictured our still-floating-in-space future kids finding our ancient DVDs of double (or triple) male action,” J shares. In talking with the few women she feels comfortable discussing porn preferences with, J has discovered that many of them have similar leanings toward all-male porn. “I think we were all relieved to realize we weren’t alone,” she says.

She might be comforted by the fact that her predilection isn’t entirely uncommon, but J remains uncertain about the origins of her attraction to guy-on-guy imagery. “Is it a desire to see a carnal visual representation of something I don’t have? Is it that that’s the closest I can get in mainstream porn to something I can sexually identify with?” she questions. J has all but given up on finding female centered porn that turns her on, at least in the mainstream, commercial realm, but states that if such a thing did exist, she would depend less on all-guy movies.

All of the women I interviewed agreed that when it comes to compelling pornography featuring women, the professional porn world is seriously lacking.

The women I talked to expressed that the “lesbian” porn made by the mainstream industry usually shows women performing what straight men expect lesbians to do in bed. Generally it consists of two women taking turns going down on each other for the camera. Their nails are too long and their technique is often, shall we say, lacking. Little to no chemistry or enthusiasm aside, it’s just not believable.

For some women, the fact that there are no females in gay male porn at all is the reason they watch it. Women who may have uneasy feelings, for whatever reason, about watching women in porn can just get off on watching two men (or more) go at it. And, of course, if there are no women in the scene you don’t have to be thrown off by their often forced and awkward performances.

Clearly, the reasons queer women go with their porn of choice are varied and complex. Sometimes porn simply fulfills a need for fantasy or masturbation material, sometimes it accelerates sex drive and sometimes it can be appreciated on an intellectual level. Pinpointing the exact underlying cause behind a particular porn penchant may not be possible, but as long as watching porn, no matter the type, feels good, there’s nothing wrong with exploring what’s out there.

And what are queer women watching? A little bit of everything it seems, though not a whole lot of what the professional porn industry is producing. To find something that satisfies a fluid sexuality, women are seeking out amateur, alternative and, yes, gay male porn. Whatever works.

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