Porn For Women Channel Dusk TV Coming To The US

dusktv2If you haven’t heard of Dusk TV, it’s a Dutch cable TV channel that offers porn to straight women. It’s been around since 2009 and it’s unique because it’s the only adult channel that specifically caters to women. Dusk uses a self-selected panel of over 2000 women to decide what content is shown; the research they’ve compiled over the past four years is impressive. Co-owner Liesbet Zikkenheimer recently presented some of the statistics at the Feminist Porn Conference in Toronto and I was so happy to finally see some real data on women’s porn preferences. She said they had compiled so much information they were asking for help with sorting through it.

Dusk uses the term “porna” to describe the content they offer. They created this term as an alternative to the phrase “porn for women”; it essentially means the same thing. They settled on that word because in European languages, adding the suffix “-a” to a word makes it feminine. They wanted an alternative to the word “porno” which can be read as masculine due to the “-o” suffix. I thought that was a rather interesting idea.

I have several films screening on Dusk (and my film Connections was voted #1 by the panel at one point) so I’m a fan of theirs. I believe in what they’re doing and I think they’re making a difference to the porn world – creating a distribution outlet for feminist and female-friendly porn producers and proving that yes, women do watch porn and yes, they do pay for it. (And also, yes, people who make female-friendly porn are able to make some cash for it, so we’re not just shouting into the void.)

Yesterday an article by Fast Company Co-exist reported that Dusk TV was planning on launching in the US, possibly in the first quarter of 2014. The site has an interview with founder and co-owner Martijn Broersma and it goes into some detail about what Dusk does, it’s research and it’s content.

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This article has since been quoted in both Nerve, Refinery 29 and the Huffington Post. All three articles take the Fast Company piece at face value and then do a bit of editorializing. They take umbrage at the fact that Dusk is male-run (even though this isn’t the full story). Also, the term “porn for women” is questioned as being too broad and assumptive. Tracy Clark-Flory originally expressed disdain for the channel and the term “porna” on Twitter but I replied to her and did my best to offer an alternative view of what the company is trying to do. It seems that Dusk were not contacted further when these three pieces were written.

So… a couple of comments I want to make. Firstly, I don’t have an issue with the fact that Dusk is partly owned by men. I met Martijn Broersma in Berlin when the idea was new and he was very interested in making sure he got the idea of “porn for women” right. That meant he talked to a lot of women in setting up the company and then of course, they created the Dusk panels to do the real research so they knew they were getting it right. On top of that, of course, there’s co-owner Liesbet and also Marije Jansen who helps with the research. For me, the gender of who owns the company is not as important as their intent and how they go about their work.

Secondly, I think Dusk is very much entitled to use the term “porn for women” because… that’s what they offer. Their target market is straight women, they’ve got straight women to vet the content and their aim is to make those women happy so they pay for the channel.

The content on Dusk is mainly heterosexual and not too rough. This is because that’s what their research says their target audience wants to see. This may be a more narrow offering of content than what is out there and I’m sure there are plenty of women who would prefer something else. But you can’t be all things to all people. This is a commercial enterprise; they’ve identified their main target market and done their best to cater to it. And I think it’s fair to say that a LOT of women do just want to see heterosexual, respectful, relatively sensual content. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Refinery 29 says:

Couldn’t the fact that its panel prefers visually rigorous, female-directed porn with pretty scenery and people who look like they genuinely care for one another indicate that “porn for women” is a genre itself, and that it has its fans just as much as BDSM, gang-bangs, whatever? That is, viewers who seek out “porn for women” constitute a self-selecting audience and might not necessarily represent what all women want.

It’s nice to see an acknowledgement that the term doesn’t have to be about “what all women want” but I don’t think using “porn for women” is the right term for this “genre”. I’ve said it before: I think the term is still useful because of the way adult content is still so overwhelmingly male-oriented; we don’t have a level playing field yet and so the phrase still should have a bit of currency when it comes to trying to identify porn that doesn’t marginalize it’s female viewers in its language or assumed fantasies. It is still very problematic and people are right to question but I hate that it gets written off as being an unnecessary term without any analysis of the context in which it operates and with which female porn users use it.

To whit: lots of people still type “porn for women” into Google every single day. What is it that they want? Why are they using that term when they could just be typing in “Pornhub”? And are their desires irrelevant because they’re using a problematic term for what they’re seeking?

(By the way, Refinery 29 knows where it’s bread’s buttered. It keeps getting top 10 results for the term “porn for women” and I suspect it’s why they keep reporting on it.)

Anyway, I’m happy that Dusk is going to try for the US market. It’s an opportunity to get my films out to a wider audience, those who like TV rather than the net. And there is, of course, the whole “hotel blue movies” option that should be explored because I know the films on Dusk are what we would call “couples-friendly”. Some men like them too.

I think the really interesting question is: will Dusk open their research panels to a non-Dutch audience? What difference will location and culture make to “what women want”? Are US women more interested in kink or rough sex or queer content? I’m keen to find out.

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(Pic is a screenshot of my film The Thought Of Her which is on Dusk. It’s one of the few films on the channel to focus on male masturbation scenes).

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