The Female Gaze: Why Women Enjoy Gay Male Erotica

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Well before I was watching gay porn myself, I knew that women were watching gay porn. The genesis of that awareness? I’m a child of Sex and the City (and also a child of parents who were blissfully unaware that I had HBO access in my bedroom). In a 2002 episode, the women get together to watch what Charlotte has been led to believe is an indie movie — and, well, depending on who you’re talking to, she wasn’t wrong. The film in question was “Jox and Cocks 4”, and based on their enthusiasm once Carrie pushed play, I just assumed this is what women did.

As with most things I learned when I was in my early teens, I didn’t question it. Britney and Justin were the couple of the decade, puka shell necklaces were a truly essential accessory, and women all over the country were watching gay porn. As it turns out, only the latter part of that sentence holds true almost two decades later.

Britney and Justin were the couple of the decade, puka shell necklaces were a truly essential accessory, and women all over the country were watching gay porn.

Sex and the City has since gone off air, but the phenomenon of women enjoying gay male erotica hasn’t left the public discourse. In the 2010 film “The Kids Are All Right”, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple who watch something their teenage son describes as “gay man-porn” to set the mood. Several queer critics took issue with this plot choice, primarily becuse they thought it reinforced the idea that women “needed a penis” involved in order to feel sexually satisfied.

Women definitely don’t need a phallus in the mix to orgasm. Studies have shown that women who have sex with women are more likely to be sexually satsfied, and have an orgasm, than women who are having sex with men (86% to 65% as of a 2017 Kinsey Institute study). However, it’s also true that women love watching two men with their two respective dicks getting together on screen. In 2015 a major porn streaming website ran some numbers and found that, of their 115 million daily viewers, over a third of the viewers of gay male porn were women.

In 2015 a major porn streaming website ran some numbers and found that, of their 115 million daily viewers, over a third of the viewers of gay male porn were women.

Unlike instant orgasms and no-clean up sex, women enjoying m-m porn isn't a myth that Hollywood created. In fact, gay male porn was the second most-watched category of porn for women, after lesbian porn, according to the site. This statistic accounted for all women visiting the site, not just queer women. These findings raised more than a couple eyebrows.

One such set of eyebrows belonged to Dr. Lucy Neville, a researcher who would go on to publish a book called “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys”. Dr. Neville surveyed 500 women over the course of five years, and took an in depth look at the nature of their desires and their erotic content choices.

Dr. Neville found that one reason women were so interested in gay erotica is because, well, it was just more interesting to them. Speaking to NBC Out in 2018 she said, “[What women like] is versatility, and with heterosexual porn you are going to get penetrated eventually, and that’s dull. A lot of ways it can play out with men is more exciting, more experimentation, more open to negotiation.”

“[What women like] is versatility, and with heterosexual porn you are going to get penetrated eventually, and that’s dull.

Unfortunately, with a lot of heterosexual sex, and especially heterosexual sex in porn, it’s a fast track to penetration and ejaculation. Not necessarily sexy when it’s on repeat. When considering non-hetero sex, there are a lot more avenues by which you can travel along the journey. Sometimes, no penetration is involved at all, and sometimes, foreplay is all of the play — cues hetero porn might benefit from.

Man on man erotica may also speak to so many women because it isn’t created for the gaze of straight men (a curse that even befalls much of the lesbian porn still produced today). When engaging with m-m erotica, women are able to avoid imagery that portrays their bodies as tools for the sexual satisfaction of men. They are also able to appreciate the male form, something that isn’t featured with much frequency in hetero porn.

Man on man erotica may also speak to so many women because it isn’t created for the gaze of straight men.

One of Dr. Neville’s more surprising findings was that over fifty percent of women surveyed said that while consuming gay male erotica they envisoned themselves as one of the men. “They found it quite liberating,” Dr. Neville told NBC Out, “that you could pretend or imagine yourself as a man or someone who is gender-fluid.” Imagination, as we know, is critical to developing a rich erotic life, and good erotica helps build our mental repetoire. We know that gender is just a construct, and it’s amazing that in our imaginations we have the chance to transcend all boundaries.

Inspired, I decided to do an informal poll on Instagram. Why did my female friends watch gay porn? One friend thought it was pretty obvious: because “Listening to men moan is probably the hottest thing on the planet????”. Another said, “I’m like 90% a lesbian, but it’s all that I’m into.” “Maybe because I’m not a gay man it’s just extra spicy for me because I could never be in those situations,” another shared. And, perhaps, that’s the most pertinent thought of all. Erotica allows us to participate in situations we have yet to, or may never, experience. These stories give us the power to be entirely new sexual beings.

Garrett Schlichte is the Operations Manager at Dipsea, and also a freelance writer. Their work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, and other places on the internet and in print. Please send iced coffee.