Love & Sex

8 Important Milestones in “Female-Friendly” Porn

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You know, our arms have always been this long.

Lately, people have been talking about this miraculous new market for porn: women. Did you know sometimes a full 66% of them like porn? These pieces suggest "female-friendly," "trope-defying" porn, which exchanges graphic close-ups for sweeping landscapes and plot lines, is owed credit for the uptick. But women have been watching (or reading) porn for quite some time. Our arms have always been this long. See for yourself.

Early "stag" and "blue" films
As it turns out, the first stag films were probably the most female-friendly the first half of the 20th century would see. In 1915, the first American hardcore pornographic film, A Free Ride, was released. It depicted mutual masturbation, as well as a single female pleasuring herself like she's at a Betty Dodson workshop. Many of these early films included diverse body types, couples of varying age, acts of female pleasure, bisexuality, and sapphic encounters, making them building blocks for lady-porn to come.

 

Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin was one of the first women in the West to publicly write erotica meant for women. Hard up for cash in the 1940s, Nin began to submit pornographic writing to a private collector. Decades later, in the '70s, she decided to publish Delta of Venus and Little Birds, collections of her earlier dirty stories. In the preface to Delta of Venus, Nin wrote, "I had a feeling that Pandora's Box contained the mysteries of woman's sensuality, so different from man's and for which man's language was inadequate… In numerous passages I was intuitively using a woman's language, seeing sexual experience from a woman's point of view. I finally decided to release the erotica for publication because it shows the beginning efforts of a woman in a world that had been the domain of men." Since then, romantic erotica has dominated the female-friendly porn market: while women account for only one out of fifty purchases of online-porn subscriptions, they make 90% of romance novel purchases.

 

Cosmopolitan & Burt Reynolds
The infamous centerfold of Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug that first appeared in a 1972 Cosmopolitan was the first major magazine image of a male nude intended for female consumption. Due to its popularity, Douglas Lambert decided to launch Playgirl in 1973. Of Reynolds' iconic, er… spread, Lambert recalled, "It came to me, that's what women want. If a woman says she wants to see a man's smile, his eyes, I say 'Don't lie to me.'" We can thank the cheeky one-two punch of Helen Gurley Brown and a hirsute Reynolds for mainstreaming the male nude.

 

Playgirl & Friends: Filament, Viva, On Our Backs
Adult women's magazines began to surface in the '70s on the coattails of Playgirl. Viva, Penthouse's companion mag, hit the stands in 1973, replete with full-frontal pictorials of men and erotic fiction. Heavy-hitters like Helmut Newton shot for Viva, and Anna Wintour was the fashion editor — yes, it had a clothes section — at one point. Then, in the haze of the '80s feminist movement, along came On Our Backs, the ultra-political, erotic — and most notably, first — lesbian's magazine. (Its name lampooned the anti-pornography movement to get women "off our backs.") Contemporary magazines like Filament use techniques adapted from female-oriented photography and realistically-handsome men, as opposed to the stereotypically muscular figures that graced the early adult lady-mags.

Annie Sprinkle & Club 90
Annie Sprinkle emerged during the so-called Sex Wars of the 1980s, on the sex-positive side of the battle over the merits of pornography. In 1981, she produced and starred in the film Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle, a landmark film for female-lead porn, hailed as "innovative for its time, as it showed the women as sexual aggressors, [and] focused on the female orgasm…" Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle tackled issues like female ejaculation, female pleasure, and the identity of the female porn star — things unheard of in porn prior to 1981.

Club 90 was formed by Sprinkle, Veronica Vera, Candida Royalle, and Gloria Leonard (to name a few) in 1983. A support-group-turned-performance-troupe, they were the first female porn stars to publicly speak about their experiences in the industry, in a production called "Deep Inside Porn Stars." The group also coined the term "feminist porn" back then, too.

 

Femme Productions
The first female-run, female-oriented adult film production company (with Club 90 member Candida Royalle at the helm), Femme Productions practically invented the porn-for-couples industry in 1984. Never skimping on production costs and avoiding the stereotypical money shots of male-oriented films, Femme Productions delivered less-graphic, highly-stylized films for men and women to share with one another.

 

Puzzy Power
Puzzy Power, founded in 1997 by Lar von Trier's film company Zentropa, was the first mainstream film company to produce hardcore films, to say nothing of films targeted at female consumption and pleasure. The company gathered a group of women, including sexologist Gerd Winther and porn model Christina Lohse, to draft a mission statement about female empowerment and sensuality, later termed the "Puzzy Power Manifesto." The first two films the company made, Constance and Pink Prison, stayed high on international sales lists for years.

 

The internet
The internet has been rife with examples of female-friendly porn for years, long before the term "mommy porn" was coined: HotMoviesForHer.com, PornMoviesForWomen.com, PornHub's Female Friendly section, and Under-Her-Boots.com are but a few (in case you were looking). Sex-positive, social-media-savvy porn stars like Sasha Grey continue to subvert notions of subjugation in the industry and the trope of the dead-eyed female porn star. Women make up over 30% of all internet porn consumers, and I'm guessing that even that statistic is skewed by people failing to self-report. Makelovenotporn.tv, created by Cindy Gallop, is a hub of user-produced videos that other users can view and rate. And there are countless women writing, producing, and starring in porn today. From Erika Lust to Portrait of a Call Girl's Jessie Andrews, there's an ever-expanding field of creative smut enthusiasts who just want to get people — men and women alike — off.