How Many Women Watch Porn?

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More men than women watch porn. That probably doesn't surprise you. But while that's a safe assumption, just how many women watch or browse porn is something of a mystery. "I do ask that question of pretty much every one of my clients," says Elizabeth McGrath, a sex therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. "I think more women watch it than talk about it or admit to it." To try to cut through some of the stigma, we talked to experts and looked through the surveys out there to get a clearer picture. 

Why More Men Watch Porn than Women
Part of the reason fewer women watch porn may be that adult films appeal to men more than women, but McGrath says the gender gap also has to do with the different way we regard sexuality. "[People think] why would a woman in a relationship go and watch porn, when she could be with her boyfriend or partner?," she says.  "Whereas for men, porn acts as a release valve." Women who watch porn are often considered overly sexual or edgy, but the average man is expected to watch it. McGrath says many of the women she works with feel that they need permission or encouragement to experiment with porn. Without that, she finds that few women will try it out on their own.

How Many Women Browse Porn? 20 to 50 Percent
A survey by the Pew Internet Project called 1,336 Internet users over the age of 18 and, among other things, asked them whether they watched adult content online. About 13 to 15 percent of respondents said they had looked at porn online. One-fifth were women. The Pew Research Center is a trusted source for these kinds of surveys, but even they admitted these results were likely unrepresentative of reality. (Turns out people might not like talking to strangers on the phone about their porn habits.) From speaking with her clients and her own research into this question, McGrath estimates that around 40 to 50 percent of women watch porn but that fewer than that will fess up. Looking at the other stats out there, her estimate might be close.

Women From Brazil and the Philippines Are More Likely to Watch Porn
According to data from Pornhub, in collaboration with RedTube and The Daily Beast, 24 percent of Pornhub's worldwide visitors are women. In the United States, the number is 23 percent. The Philippines and Brazil are tied for highest proportion of female Pornhub users, at 35 percent. Breaking things down a little more, a survey by Cosmopolitan found that 3.8 percent of women who watch porn say they use it daily, 25 percent say once every few days, and 71.2 percent say they don't use it that often. These numbers for men came in at 32.5 percent, 56.5 percent, and 11 percent, respectively.

An Expert's Argument for More Women to Watch Porn
Regardless of what the real numbers are for women who watch porn, McGrath says it's not high enough. She sees porn as a great way for women to explore their sexuality. "I've been very happily able to talk to women about: Here are your fantasies, have you ever actually watched porn like that? And if you haven't, why don't you?," she says. Specifically, she encourages women to get into porn on their own. With a partner, there can be pressure to like a certain type of porn or feelings of jealousy if a woman thinks her guy is more turned on by the porn than he is by her.

McGrath also advises women who've decided against porn very quickly to give it some more consideration. "Any kind of imagery has the ability to stimulate, to titillate, to make us repulsed," she say, "but if we don't interact with it and don't see it, there are just so many things we might miss." Some women may never find porn that does it for them. That's okay too, but they'll never know if they don't give it an honest, open-minded try.