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These Are the Five Most Common Types of Porn Watched by Men and Women

These Are the Five Most Common Types of Porn Watched by Men and Women: © Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS

© Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS

Scientists have spent a lot of time studying porn. Among other things, they’ve published research on who’s using it, how often, and what effects it has on viewers. Surprisingly, one thing they haven’t really studied yet is what kind of porn people are watching.

There are plenty of “big data” reports analyzing the most frequently searched terms and most-watched videos on Pornhub and other major adult websites. One of the most famous analyses of this behavior appears in the 2012 book A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

Big data analyses of porn like this are undoubtedly a titillating read, but they have their limitations—one of the most important being that they only look at users of one or a small number of sites. Because those sites select for very specific types of people, the data may lead to mistaken conclusions about which kinds of porn are most popular. Therefore, if we want a broader understanding of what kinds of porn people are interested in, we need research that looks beyond what people are doing on a handful of websites.

A new study published in The Journal of Sex Research helps fill this gap in our porn knowledge by looking at how frequently men and women of diverse sexualities reported watching various types of porn.

In this study, 2,227 men and women completed an online survey about their porn habits. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 40, and most (64 percent) were heterosexual. In addition, all participants were at least semi-regular porn users, having used it several times in the past year.

The survey included a list of 27 specific kinds of porn (e.g., amateur, threesomes, lesbian, masturbation, sadomasochism, etc.). For each porn genre, participants were asked to rate how frequently they use it.

So what types of porn do men and women watch most often?

For heterosexual men, the five most-watched porn genres were: 1. Amateur
2. Oral sex
3. Big breasts
4. Threesomes
5. Anal sex

For heterosexual women, the five most-watched porn genres were: 1. Threesomes
2. Oral sex
3. Softcore (non-explicit sex)
4. Gang bang (one woman and three or more men)
5. Large penises

Clearly, there are a lot of similarities between what straight men and women were watching. Both demonstrated strong interest in pornography featuring themes of oral sex, various forms of group sex, and well-endowed actors of their preferred sex.

Also, most of the themes that appeared in the top five for only one sex (i.e., amateur porn, anal sex, softcore porn) were ranked in the top half of the list for the other sex. Thus, while men’s and women’s ordering of themes certainly differed, there was a lot of similarity in the ones they preferred.

That said, it appeared that men tended to watch most types of porn more frequently than women. In fact, straight men reported watching 17 of the 27 types of porn more often than straight women. Just two out of the 27 porn types—specifically, large penises and bondage/dominance—were watched more often by straight women.

If we turn to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual participants next, we see that among non-heterosexual men, the top 5 types of porn watched were: 1. Anal sex
2. Oral sex
3. Threesomes
4. Amateur
5. Gay

Among non-heterosexual women, the top 5 types of porn watched were: 1. Threesomes
2. Bisexual
3. Oral sex
4. Lesbian
5. Orgy (with at least two persons of each gender)

As you can see, the general porn themes that attracted non-heterosexuals were fairly similar to those that attracted heterosexuals, including oral sex, multi-partner sex, and (at least for men) anal sex.

Researchers found differences in frequency of watching for 12 out of the 27 porn themes based on sexual orientation. Not surprisingly, many of those differences revolved around non-heterosexuals showing a greater interest in male-male and female-female themes.

For instance, while “gay” was ranked fifth for non-heterosexual men, it came in dead last (27th) for straight guys. Likewise, while lesbian was ranked fourth for non-heterosexual women, it came in toward the middle of the list (13th) for straight women. These findings suggest that straight women like lesbian porn more than straight men like gay porn.

Just as there were similarities in the most-watched types of porn across genders and sexualities, there were similarities in the least-watched porn genres as well. Specifically, the following themes ended in the bottom five for all groups: golden showers and enemas, fisting, and fat girls.

Obviously, this research has its limitations. For one thing, all participants were at least moderate porn users to begin with, so the results don’t speak to what infrequent porn users might be watching. For another, I’m sure many of you might argue that listing just 27 different types of porn barely scratches the surface of what’s out there! We might see different results if people were surveyed about a wider range of porn themes.

Although more research is certainly needed, these results suggest an important conclusion: While our gender and sexuality may lead us to search for porn that features actors of a certain sex, we are more similar than we are different when it comes to the specific sexual acts that we do—and do not—want in our porn.


Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.


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