A new Gallup poll has found that when it comes to matters of sex, men and women are most divided on something that doesn't necessarily involve each other:
The study investigated the "moral acceptability" of a variety of issues, including several pertaining to sex. Surveying a random sample of 1,024 Americans aged 18 and older, Gallup found that 43% of men thought of porn as morally acceptable, compared to 25% of women, making for an 18-point gender gap.
The genders were less divided when it came to other issues, including the moral acceptability of sex between teens, polygamy, premarital sex and having children out of wedlock.
The drastic difference in how men and women view porn speaks to the complicated role porn has in our sex lives — and the important ways it reflects (and doesn't reflect) real sex.
Who porn's made for and who's making it: These results are hardly surprising, considering that porn is typically thought of as a dude-centric product. As Rashida Jones put it while promoting her documentary Hot Girls Wanted, "It's fulfilling a male fantasy." That's because men are typically the ones behind the camera, directing and financing the videos. Thus, the perspectives on pleasure and attractiveness are male ones.
For that reason, plenty of women are turned off by traditional porn and the objectified, sexualized image of women it showcases.
"I'd always liked porn but I didn't like the way it excluded me as a viewer," feminist porn creator Ms. Naughty previously told Mic. That impulse has led to the small but burgeoning field of feminist porn, created by women with a more nuanced idea of sex, women's pleasure and attractiveness in mind. But many women's impressions of porn — and the impressions of sex that some men then take into the bedroom — remains a negative one.
Uncovering a cultural stigma: Women watch porn too, though, and many couples even report that it can have positive effects on their sex lives. So it seems we can detect the lingering effects of cultural stigma in the Gallup poll: the "slut/stud" dichotomy, in which women are condemned for their sexuality and men are celebrated for theirs.
That double standard of judgment is likely why watching porn is a more accepted topic of discussion (and jokes) for men than for women. It may even be why women's reported porn-viewing numbers (a 2013 Pew poll put it at 8% ) seem so darn low. If gendered stigmas around porn remain, women will be more hesitant to discuss or even admit to their own habits — and perhaps will be more likely to judge them.
Elsewhere in the Gallup survey, men and women saw a bit more eye-to-eye. There was only a 4-point gender gap on views of premarital sex, which suggests that while men and women may disagree on giving their seals of approval to the porn industry, both sexes are at least willing to acknowledge that yes, they are doing it themselves.