The mad rush to create porn that would interest women predates the runaway success of the Fifty Shades trilogy. Finally, people are realizing that women aren’t less visual than men, less interested in sex, less filled with desire and fantasy. The problem, for many, comes back to a question that’s over a hundred years old: what do women want?
Most major adult studios seem to think that women want rom-com equivalents with a lot of sex thrown in. They’ve tried to cater to the best of their ability, with mixed results. People of every stripe have jumped on the erotica bandwagon, a career detour facilitated by ease of publishing through Amazon and other e-book distributors, also with mixed results. The Playboy channel has been toying with infusing sex into reality television, with great results that aren’t so much thinking about women as they are about keeping up with the times. The best thing we’ve got by far is the site Sssh.com, which offers everything from erotic stories to erotic web-TV soap operas.
The Netherlands think they can do better. They’re bringing us Dusk, a channel that runs adult content geared to women all day and all night. Dusk’s cofounders think porn’s problem is centered on a public relations crisis: in order for women to get down with porn, they need to approach erotic content from a clean slate. To get them to do this, they’ve coined the word “porna” — “to give [porn] a more feminine touch,” says Martijn Broersma, one of the channel’s co-founders.
I know you’re wondering, so I’ll put it out there: yes, both founders are men. But the people deciding on the programming are women — 1,700 of them. Unfortunately, from the look of the coverage Dusk has so far received, this large all-women panel doesn’t seem to reflect the variety of tastes that exist among women. For example, there seems to be a consensus that women don’t like rough or non-vanilla sex,. The thing about approaching the porn problem this way is that it ignores the range of female desire, limiting the flight of fantasy as it casts women into a monolith.
Matthew Zuras at Refinery29 has a more optimistic take:
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.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a channel like Dusk, and it’s a highly encouraging example of alternatives to the male-dominated mainstream pornography industry. The real question is whether a porn channel could do well in the United States in 2014, when Dusk plans to launch as early as the first quarter. Internet porn, easily available and often for free, is clearly the juggernaut standing in its way. While the hotel room pay-per-view porn industry was going strong in 2006, it can’t stay that way. Surely, Dusk will find viewers in America, but it might find more online.
I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Header image by Nicholas Burlett.