Massive tube site Pornhub have been getting a bit of publicity lately by posting traffic and search statistics from their site. They’ve now put up some information about what categories their female surfers are looking at and what women are searching for.
Apparently women primarily are visiting the lesbian and gay sections of Pornhub, followed by the “teen” category, with the “for women” category coming fourth.
When reviewing the categories women looked at more than men, the results were “for women”, “lesbian” and”solo male”.
When it comes to searches, women are really interested in cunnilingus on Pornhub, along with acts typically considered to be “lesbian”. And the top name search is Kim Kardashian, which I suspect has more to do with curiosity than a genuine attraction.
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As someone who has been doing her best to cater to female surfers for 14 years, these stats are interesting, especially as they confirm my own experiences and biases in some places. Nonetheless it’s worth asking some questions about this data.
As Zoe Margolis tweeted: “How does Pornhub know what their viewers’ gender is? Massive assumptions being made here, with no transparent data.” The post doesn’t tell us how they assembled these statistics. Were they using Google Analytics? It has a demographics panel that offers info on gender, though that relies on Google’s data scraping techniques. Alternatively, Pornhub may have tallied information about registered, logged-on users. This could result in a small sample as I would suspect that vast number of Pornhub users are anonymous, arriving via search engines, links or embeds so it may not be possible to tell the gender of those surfers. Unfortunately we don’t know how many women were being tracked to create these stats; the sample size could be huge or it could be tiny.
It’s also useful to take into account the fact that Pornhub isn’t exactly a “level playing field” for women. Upon arriving on the site, the surfer is typically confronted with seriously explicit ads, many with the sexist language that can turn women off. On opening the site today I was treated to ads for a site called “18 and Abused” featuring double anal penetration, along with promises of one trick that will make my dick bigger.
And apparently I have a wife that I have to hide my porn habits from but I’m very interested in “Ugly Moms”. Pornhub still works on the assumption that all of its surfers are straight males and the language and advertising reflect that. Note that the post about statistics refers to women as “they”, not “we”.
So perhaps an explanation for the preferred categories could be that same-sex- and “for women”- labelled porn is far less likely to feature sexist, degrading language and ads. I would also suggest that that style of porn is less likely to feature the sexism and general juvenile/circus bullshit that’s common to mainstream straight porn. Just a guess, of course.
Tube sites seem to be how many people experience porn now. They’re a first port of call for many and they encourage the belief that all porn should be free.
I find that they also help to maintain the “mainstream” status quo, one that prioritizes male sexual experiences and reinforces sexist attitudes. When female surfers find Bright Desire, or any of the other feminist porn sites out there, the response is typically “At last!” Which is the exact same thing I heard when I first started making porn for women in 2000. Even in 2014, surfers have trouble finding alternative, non-sexist versions of porn.
What the Pornhub survey doesn’t tell us is how long those female surfers stayed on the site, how many videos they watched or whether they enjoyed what they saw. That, I think, continues to be one of the main questions surrounding women’s experience of porn. The fact that women watch porn is no longer headline material, nor is the fact that they have a variety of preferences or favour certain genres or sex acts. What IS newsworthy is whether women today are accepting of the porn they see on tube sites or if they have issues with it.
For me, the question has always been: what do you want changed? How can porn be better? How can I better cater to you as a female viewer?
The issue of satisfaction is a lot harder to glean from traffic statistics.
Update 25 September. I got this tweet from Pornhub:
@msnaughty we segmented the traffic using demographic data from Google Analytics as you suspected
— Pornhub Katie (@Pornhub) September 24, 2014
As mentioned Google Analytics has a demographics category that splits traffic into male and female. This information is coming from people who are surfing Pornhub while also being logged-on to their Google accounts, which said mega search engine has helpfully foisted on almost everyone. This data relies on self-reporting by account holders.
Update 4th October.
Huffington Post is reporting on the Pornhub statistics. Unfortunately the article includes this statement:
Indeed, “female-friendly” porn, with its attempts to portray an emotional connection and mutual pleasure in order to appeal to women’s desires, has largely failed to seduce their target audience away from mainstream sites.
The author has linked to two articles citing “A Billion Wicked Thoughts” as evidence for the idea that women don’t like female friendly porn. Naturally this pisses me off; that book should not be used as evidence of anything. It’s authors cherry picked the data to suit their pre-conceived ideas about women and they made shit up about ForTheGirls.com to justify it. Read all about it in this post from 2011.
So now I’m seeing a lot of people saying “See! Nobody really likes female friendly porn!” Which isn’t actually what the Pornhub statistics are saying. Still, I guess I’ll just have to shrug and carry on making my very comfortable living from offering this type of porn to women, just like I have for almost 15 years.