Yes, women watch X-rated movies too

In the 1970’s, pornographic movies were broadcasted without restraint in cinemas; however, with the introduction of the Giscard law in 1975, the general view began to change towards these erotic productions. By 1990, almost all pornographic cinema halls had disappeared, this also being the result of other factors, such as the invention of the VHS cassette tape. Eroticism has thus moved from the public sphere into the private sphere. With the rise of the internet, the pornographic world has seen a rebirth amongst the shelter of households or behind computer screens, in which one can watch whatever they please under an incognito disguise. Do men and women watch the same amount of porn? Do they watch these films for the same reasons? Does the newer generation of women appreciate pornographic films more than their elders? The Womenology marketing lab from the group has led an exclusive survey with 2302 respondents in order to answer these questions. (1)

47% of women surveyed watch porn at least once a month

If 29% of men watch pornographic films at least once a day and 36% at least once a week, the women surveyed commit to porn on more of a monthly basis. 7% of them claim to watch a pornographic film at least once a day, 20% once a week, 20% once a month and 21% only claim to watch it “a few times a year”. Only 15% of women affirm that they have never watched pornographic movies (compared to 5% of men). We note that the new generation of women are more likely than their elders to watch pornographic movies, as 13% of women under 25 say they have never watched porn, whilst 25% of the over 50’s claim to have never watched it. In the last 20 years, women’s opinions have changed towards porn, explains Richard Poulin, Sociology professor at the University of Ottawa. These X-rated trends have crept into popular culture. Used as a tool for feminine emancipation, the view on women’s sexuality has radically changed. “Since the 90’s, we cannot deny the media’s use of recycling pornographic stereotypes in advertising, literature, television, cinema, press and in fashion. If we look at women’s magazines, they imply that in order for women to be comfortable in their own skin, they should adopt new sexual practices and consume sex industry products.” (3)

The new competitor: porn on mobile sites

The internet has without a doubt revolutionized the consummation of porn in the last 20 years. 70% of women in our sample usually watch films via the internet, whereas only 17% usually watch them via TV. 10% of women and 12% of men claim to watch pornographic films on their mobile. The figure is even more striking among the new generation. In fact, 14% of women under 25 prioritize watching pornography on their mobiles and 11% on their tablet (vs 5% and 9% of 35-49’s). This trend is reversed with women who are more than 50 years old with 24% of them remaining faithful to the TV (vs 10% of under 25’s). The generation gap is even greater when concerning the link between the internet and X-rated movies. Only 47% of the over 50’s watch porn on the web, versus 78% of the under 25’s.

Pornography is discovered early by women

The age of sexual consent being fixed since 1945 at 15 (the age at which a minor can carry out a sexual relationship with an adult without the adult being prosecuted for it), means that it is not surprising that the majority of women (62%) between the ages of 15 and 25 watch their first X-rated movie. More specifically, 37% of them have crossed this mark between the ages of 15 and 18. However, this figure decreases with age. Women who are less than 25 are 43% more likely to have watched their first pornography film between the ages of 15 and 18, whereas the over 50’s are a lot more likely to have watched their first porno when they were over 30 (34%).

The second observation is that the new generation is exposed to pornographic images at a very young age. Women under the age of 25 are also more likely to have watched their first porno before the age of 14 (34%), (against 16% of 25-34’s and 6% of 35-49 year olds). These results resemble those of a French survey carried out in 2005 by Michela Marzano and Claude Rozier, who revealed that 58% of boys and 45% of girls had seen their first pornographic image before the age of 13. (2) Furthermore, 86% of the respondents from a survey carried out by the Kinsey Institute in the United States, believe that pornography can educate about sexuality. 68% of the respondents in this survey also said that porn allows for more of an open attitude towards sexuality. (3)

Watching porn: a solitary and intimate practice for young women

83% of men and 69% of women watch porn alone. Nevertheless, a higher number of women than men watch X-rated films as a couple (14% vs 10%). This conjugal practice notably concerns older women. If the women of more than 35 years in our sample claim to watch pornographic films in a couple (34% of over 50’s and 30% of 35-49’s), the younger sample are more solitary in their viewing. Therefore, only 12% of 25-34 year olds and 5% of women under 25 watch adult films with their partner. Alexandra Hubin, sexologist and physiologist, explains: “In certain couples, sexual communication is easy. By building on these scenarios they experience a greater ability to express their own desires”. (6)

Adult films for women: a fantasy more than a projection

On the whole, regardless of their age, women don’t identify with the actresses in X-rated movies. For men, only 57% claim that they do not identify with the actors. This result raises questions about the filmmaking of X-rated movies: is the staging of female pleasure further from reality than male pleasure? According to Alexandra Hubin, “In pornography, women are more interested in the sexual side of things, but from a more realistic angle than men. They want things to be more sensual and realistic, with bodies that are truer to reality. Men are in the pursuit of performance.” (6)

66% of women surveyed like pornographic films

When we asked women why they watched pornographic movies, 78% give precedence to “curiosity”, 66% declare to “like it”, 63% want to “spice up their relationship/sex life” and 36% wish “to please their partner”. A larger amount of younger women signified that they like porn: 70% of which were under 25 and 66% were 25-34 year olds. As a result, we can observe the gap with the previous generation: with 59% of 34-49 year olds and 52% of the over 50’s signifying that they like porn.

The older women within our sample justify their pornographic practice due to the desires of their partner: 49% of the over 50’s and 50% of the 35-49 year olds want to please them. For Judith Plante, author of  “Le public féminin, victime des médias ? Le cas des consommatrices de films pornographique” (2004) (“The female audience, a victim of the media? The case of female consumption of pornographic movies”), watching pornographic films adhere to a liberating role: “It is essentially for the stimulation of pleasure; the explicit images and the physiognomy of the protagonists mostly act as triggers of desires and fantasies. Pornographic movies create a particular atmosphere, (…) conducive to prolonged foreplay.” (4)

Furthermore, 58% of women identify with masturbating whilst they watch X-rated movies. Younger women are more likely to follow this practice, regarding 60% of 25-34 year olds vs. 42% of those over 50 years. François Kraus, the director of studies at Ifop explains that watching porn alone “adheres to a big taboo regarding feminine sexuality: masturbation.” “We find that women are more likely to admit to this type of practice, (however) in the older age categories, it still remains a taboo.” (7) With men, the reasons for watching porn are the same as women but the order is somewhat reversed. 88% of men give precedence to “liking it”, 75% are “curious” and 63% (the same percentage as women) want to “spice up their relationship/sex life”. Although men are more likely to like pornography, we definitely see a convergence of opinions between women and men.

Making love in unusual places: the ultimate female fantasy

When ranking women’s preferred fantasies; “making love in unusual places” wins first place (praised by 28% of women), closely followed by “having sex with multiple people” (25%). In this way, 33% of under 25’s are more likely to choose unusual places as their favourite fantasy (versus 23% of 35-49 year olds), whereas having sex with multiple people (in order to spice up the routine of relationships?) is mostly praised by 25-49 year olds at 29% (versus 20% of under 25’s). If men willingly share the desire to have sex in unusual places, they are conversely a lot more reluctant to having sex with multiple people. Only 12% of men possess this fantasy, which rather goes against conventional wisdom. However, role playing pleases the male majority, with 21% of them designating it as their greatest fantasy.

Is porn becoming less sexist?

If 39% of men and 42% of women claim that watching porn is more of a “male practice”, we notice that with the new generation, this mentality has evolved. In fact, 51% of women over 50 believe that porn is a masculine practice, whilst this is only the case for 40% of under 25 year olds. Moreover, globally, 54% of men and 57% of women believe that pornographic films are destined for the female community as much as the male community. Their opinions also meet in regards to the sexist nature of X-rated movies. 26% of men and 29% of women respectively think that these films are sexist and 58% and 59% believe that “some are and others are not”. 62% of young women (less than 25-34 years) even share this opinion. What remains to be known is if this is due to the evolution of pornographic productions and/or the changing view of others. The interview with Grégory Dorcel, the managing director of the Marc Dorcel group confirms that this willingness to transform pornographic opinions is in line with the expectations of men and women.

While the differences regarding pornographic movies are shrinking between men and women, it seems that the gaps in the practices observed are more according to one’s social class. This is particularly noted by the sociology analysts Nathalie Bajos and Michel Bozon from the results of their CSF (“Background of sexuality in France”) investigation. Pornography is thus substantially less watched by intellectual men than by office workers. For women, one out of three qualified workers claim to watch it, a figure that drops to one in six women when concerning managers and intellectuals.


Source :
(1) Survey carried out as an online questionnaire on the site – 2302 respondents (1404 women, 682 men) – February 2014
(2) M. Marzano and C. Rozier, Alice in porno land. Teens ?: Their new sexual imagination, Ramsey, 2005 (Alice au pays du porno. Ados?: leurs nouveaux imaginaires sexuels)
(5) Nathalie Bajos et Michel Bozon, “Sexuality and social class in adulthood” n° 183, 3rd quarter 2012.  («Sexualité et appartenance sociale à l’âge adulte»)

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