Hello, you beautiful and terrifying porn cobras of the Internet. Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the dating column that takes your love life out of beta and into gold.
This week, we’re digging deep into our hearts and squishy bits to answer the age-old question, “Why do I like things I feel like I shouldn’t like?” Is it a case of our junk thinking for us, or is it more complicated than that?
Let’s do this.
Firstly, I wanted to say that I definitely love your column, keep the good work up!
On another note, I never really thought I’d actually have anything to write to you about, however, I do feel like there is one thing I find a little difficult to wrap my head around.
My issue is that, as a straight woman, I don’t actually enjoy straight porn. When I do watch porn, I prefer the kind with zero men in it. However, I know I’m not attracted to women; aside from having kissed women during the “experimental phase” (at the time, it was definitely because I enjoyed the attention I got from guys through it; used to be a massive attention-seeker at 15 years of age), I just haven’t found any need to ever be with a woman (mentally or sexually.)
Aside from that, no porn can actually get me off better than my SO, as our mental connection and trust is irreplaceable and makes me feel 100% comfortable, whilst watching porn still makes me feel a bit like I’m doing something I shouldn’t be. When it comes to sex, I think I’m quite an open-minded person. I’ll experiment with toys, costumes, fetishes (I’ll try almost anything once, then decide what I feel comfortable with; the one thing I’d never do is involve people outside of the relationship, because sex is a bonding experience and neither do I want to see my SO touch someone else, nor do I want to do anything to/be touched by someone else.)
So my ultimate question: is it normal to be aroused by porn that has women in it as a straight woman? And regardless of whether it is or isn’t, how do I explain this to my SO since he isn’t one to be into girl-on-girl porn (haven’t really discussed watching porn together, in particular aside from the typical girl-on-guy?)
Hope you can enlighten me,
This is one of those answers that’s going to require something of a deep dive (as it were) into porn and female sexuality. But before we get into the whys of it all, let’s get this out of the way: this is perfectly normal. Lots of people — women especially — are into porn that isn’t necessarily “for” them. Yaoi, for example, isn’t made for gay men; it’s created by straight women for straight women.
But when we’re talking about girls on film… well, that’s where things get interesting.
Let’s start off with a bit of biology. Human sexual orientation falls less on a spectrum and more on a multi-axis graph. You’ll have people who’re so straight you can draw lines with them, people who never even think straight, people who are bisexual but heteromantic, people who are straight or gay with one exception that they’ll switch for, asexual, aromantic and every combination in between.
In general however, female sexuality tends to be more responsive than male sexuality. In his book What Do Women Want, Daniel Bergner talks about studies conducted at Queen’s University on male and female arousal patterns. Men and women of various sexual orientations had an instrument applied to measure blood-flow to their genitals and were shown short video clips of sexual activity. Heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, nude men and women walking, dancing, masturbating… even videos of bonobos mating.
One of the interesting discoveries was that while men tended to have arousal patterns that corresponded to the videos that corresponded with their sexual identity, women had arousal responses to all of it. Yes, even the bonobos.
Now this doesn’t mean that all women are inherently pansexual; it just means that contrary to what culture tells us, women have a greater capacity for sexual arousal than men do, even if they’re not necessarily aware of this. So in and of itself, you getting turned on by lesbian porn isn’t that unusual.
But there’s more to it than just pure biology. There’s also the nature of porn itself. Humans are actually hardwired to get aroused watching other people fuck. This is why porn has been with us since humans were able to grasp abstract, symbolic reasoning. Once we understood how to make lines that represented other objects, we started scrawling dicks everywhere.
But most porn is made in such a way as to make the sex far less appealing, ironically enough.
99% of porn is made for straight men. I don’t mean just in the sense of subject matter but in the way porn is filmed. Despite being shot for guys who want to see naked women, most porn focuses on the men in the scene. The shots are lit, blocked, angled and composed to focus not on the sex or the participants but on the penetration. This is why most straight porn is almost entirely penises jackhammering away like a industrial film designed by HR Giger and shot by David Cronenberg. It turns sex into a weird nightmare kabuki performance. The foreplay is minimal to non-existent, everybody’s twisted and turned into spine-spraining and hip-dislocating positions and everything is designed to worship the almighty cum shot.
Most porn sex ain’t fun.
But when you get to gay porn, the rules change. The poses are different, the acts are different, even the camera angles and lighting adapt. And while most lesbian porn is shot by straight men for straight men, it has a different feel than the usual poles-into-holes action that straight porn has. It feels less mechanical or unpleasant and more human.
This is doubly so when you get into amateur porn - by which I mean porn by non-professionals, not standard porn with shittier lighting and make-up. They don’t follow the “rules” of typical porn shoots and so it feels much more genuine. And for someone who’d rather see two people having a good time than a jackhammer wrapped in fur, it can be immensely appealing.
So no, it’s not unusual at all that you like girl-on-girl porn. It has nothing to do with who you’re into but simply how you get aroused. If you’d like to expand your porn repertoire beyond what RedTube has to offer, it might be worth checking out non-standard sites like Beautiful Agony or MakeLoveNotPorn, both of which feature non-professionals having real sex… either with themselves or with their partners, respectively.
But either way, as long as you’re enjoying yourself and your porn isn’t exploiting the actors and crew… have yourself a ball. You don’t need to explain or justify yourself; you like what you like and that’s just fine.
I just started reading your column recently and have really enjoyed the advice you give, so I thought I would write in to get some advice for myself.
A little background: I am a 27 year old gay man who got out of his last and longest relationship (2 years) a little more than a year ago. I am using a dating site that I am very happy with, have gone on several dates and talked to a wide variety of other guys.
Here is my question: I have met several great guys who would likely make fantastic partners all of which I have passed on. In reflection sometimes this is because of larger compatibility issues (sexual compatibility, relationship styles, physical attraction) but other times it’s because I don’t feel a spark, that excitement at seeing someone, the butterflies as you try to figure out if they like you too and the desire to see them as much as you can. That spark is something that I am looking for in a partner. Essentially I want to be into the guy I am with, not just casually enjoy them.
The rub is that the guys I do get excited about and feel that spark for have turned out to be not the best guys. Mostly they are just not into me, or make me work for their attention or (and this one happens a lot) are not comfortable enough with their sexuality to do anything more then go out with me. I think I just look like a safe person for the newly out to go on dates with.
This has happened enough times to make me wonder if my taste in men is skewed from previous relationships where I worked hard to keep my partner or from an upbringing with a non-supportive father. If this is the case what can I do to get my desires more in line with a healthy relationship?
Appreciate the advice,
Looking to Grow
Something I’m always saying is that the problems we have in our dating life are usually reflections of our day-to-day lives. This includes who we do and don’t spark with.
One of the things a lot of people don’t get about chemistry is how much of it is between the ears instead of between the legs. And sometimes it’s about what’s between our ears… and not necessarily in a good way.
As counterintuitive as it may be, sometimes that excitement can actually work against us. One of the common issues I see in people — gay and straight, men and women — is the tendency to fall for people we know aren’t right for us. Our self-limiting beliefs get so deeply ingrained that we’re no longer aware of them, even as they chug along, quietly dictating who we think we’re into.
When you, for example, don’t believe you deserve love or to be loved, then more often than not, you’ll start gravitating towards people you who know at some level are bad matches. They’re “safe” — for suitably self-destructive definitions of “safe” — because you know that it won’t work out and you’ll be back to being single and alone, where you “deserve” to be.
Other times, it becomes a matter of validation — we’re not attracted to these people because of who they are but what they represent.
In your case, LtG, it sounds like you chase after people who aren’t right for you because you want approval; you don’t feel like you’re awesome enough in and of yourself, so you look to external validation. For you, it comes from chasing after people you know are unattainable for one reason or another. This way, if you’re able to win this person over or convince this closeted guy to come fully out, then that’s “proof” that of how good you are. If not, then it’s a reinforcement that you don’t “deserve” them yet. The guys that are into you don’t count because you didn’t have to work for it and so they don’t hit that same level of excitement.
As cheesy as this is going to sound, I think the best thing you can do for your relationship is work on you and learning to find your internal validation. It might help to talk to a counselor, but some of finding that internal validation is to simply be good to yourself.
Do the things that make you feel good about yourself. Dress in ways that you like, that you think make you look your best. Find the things in your life that bring you satisfaction and excitement and make you feel alive. Find your core of awesome and wrap yourself around it, letting it suffuse your entire being until you know that you are awesome and you want somebody who compliments that awesome rather than proving it exists.
I realize that this sound I’m asking you to chant Stuart Smiley’s mantra, but believing than you’re awesome becomes a big part of the self-confidence that people find attractive. Once you don’t need other people to prove to the world that you’re desirable, I think you’ll find that you’ll have that spark with people who are genuinely good for you.
Do you have a weird relationship with porn? Did you work to find your core of awesome? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, and we’ll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write email@example.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.