A long time ago someone published a book called ‘Porn for Women.’ Don’t get too excited, it isn’t actually porn. It was simply a collection of different images of guys doing the hoovering, washing, and other household tasks. In this ‘porn for women LOL’ hilarious trope, guys are occasionally tantalisingly half-dressed but never doing the kind of thing I’d consider genuinely horny: masturbating on the sofa, or poised halfway to sitting down on a butt plug – that kind of thing. I would be surprised if – barring a few people with very niche fetishes – anyone’s actually ever wanked to it.
I was reminded of it recently when someone (I don’t remember who and I don’t want to drop them in it even if I could) tweeted a list of ‘top female turn-ons’ which looked suspiciously like this book. The list included such gems as ‘listen attentively when she tells you about her day’ and ‘take the garbage out.’ I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to have actual, satisfying sex with my own vacuum cleaner than to orgasm while thinking about a guy begrudgingly hauling bin bags to the front garden.
I do not sit at home frigging myself trembly over the idea of my partner picking up a hoover. I do not get wet just because someone is listening attentively while I speak, unless perhaps that person is Tyrion Lannister and what we’re discussing is just how hard he’d fuck me.
Turn ons for men
I had a quick trawl through some of the top articles that come up on Google when you search for ‘turn ons for women’ and ‘turn ons for men’, to do a bit of compare and contrast, and I found some absolute corkers.
For men, the vast majority of turn-ons fell into two categories: appearance (i.e. the way someone looks, specific body parts, what they wear) and specific sexual behaviour (i.e. touching, massage, dirty talk, sex positions – that kind of thing). In fact, so focused were the tip-givers on specific sexual behaviour, that they ended up confusing ‘turn ons’ for just ‘sex things you can do’, and recommended that the best way to turn someone on is to ‘give him a blow job.’ To be honest, if I’d paid money for that kind of consultancy I’d be feeling a tad ripped off.
“How do I turn someone on?”
“Put your mouth on their genitals and do what feels good to them.”
There were a few tips that fell into a category that I’ve loosely called ‘non-sexual behaviour’. Things like taking part in activities he enjoys, or being ambitious or confident. Thing is, even with these non-sexual behaviours, they were usually sexualised in some way (as any good turn-on should be, by definition). One male turn-on included ‘paying for dinner’ – not because, you know, it’s nice when your date chips in, but because ‘it’s hot to date a powerful woman.’ Let’s leave aside the question of whether smacking down your credit card at the end of a meal counts as ‘powerful’ – I’ve never caused any earthquakes by doing it, and I doubt anyone else feels like they’re wielding the Mighty Hammer of Thor, but still.
The bottom line is, when we encounter male turn ons, barring a few stand-out exceptions, we’re usually talking about something that makes them horny. Not ‘nice’ stuff, or ‘understanding’ stuff: just those pure and simple moments when they see/hear/feel something awesome, and all the blood rushes to their genitals.
Turn ons for women
Please prepare your faces of utter shock, because we ain’t going to see the same thing for women. While most of the turn ons for dudes includes appearance-related or specific sexual behaviours, almost half of the female turn-ons cited were examples of non-sexual behaviour.
- Taking the garbage out. (As mentioned previously, this is really hard to masturbate to)
- Listening without interrupting. (‘Had an amazing wank last night, baby.’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Yeah. I had a fantasy that I managed to finish the end of a sentence witho-‘ ‘Cup of tea?’)
- Bringing her a bar of chocolate. (Does it come with a free dildo? Because that is the only way I’m going to crack one off to this)
- Saying ‘I’m sorry.’ (‘Oh yeah baby, I’m so close to climax, please tell me more about your failures.’)
- Maintaining decent hygiene. (I don’t have any snark to lay on this one but I will say that if I were a guy, over the age of about six, I’d be up in arms about how frequently sexperts think I need to be told to run a flannel over my genitals.)
Here’s the deal: these things can be super-awesome (or they can be basic requirements for an adult human), but if it were genuinely the case that women actively fetishised these things – they they were turn-ons in the literal, heart-pounding, genital-throbbing sense, I’m pretty sure we’d have been told, no? There’d be erotica dedicated to the curve of a guy’s hand as he lovingly caresses a Henry Hoover, or porn films featuring extreme close-ups of his fingers tying the garbage bag shut, with lingering pan-shots as he sultrily drips bin juice through the hallway.
I have no issue whatsoever with encouraging people to do these things – they’re basically nice things to do. Nor do I want to shame you if you’re one of the (I suspect few) people for whom the sight of a guy wielding a duster causes occasional eruptions in your pants. But I get really fucked off with the idea that, while guys have genuine sexual ‘turn ons’ women have a fluffier, softer, equivalent. Male sexuality is about blood and lust and horn and desire, whereas female sexuality is about comfort and protection and care and chipping in with your fucking share of the housework.
It’s bad enough that we live in a world where ‘porn for women’ is considered a distinct category in and of itself, while the ungendered term ‘porn‘ is considered, by default, to be a male-only activity. But this stuff takes it even further, and implies that ‘turn ons’ for women aren’t just different things (nice hands as opposed to nice bums, for instance) but that – when talking about female turn ons – we need to redefine the idea of a turn-on in the first place. Not something that induces lust, but something that induces love: the kind of squishy feelings you might encounter when faced with a kitten, or a candlelit dinner.
And I don’t know about you, but I find those things hard to wank to.
It’s been eight years since the crappy ‘Porn for Women’ book was first published, and yet we’re still reading tips and advice that imply half the human race have a fundamentally different definition of arousal to the other half. It’s unnecessarily gendered, weirdly divisive, utterly unrealistic bullshit. If I want to masturbate I want something that speaks to the lustful things that happen in my head. My actual turn ons aren’t things that make my heart soar, they’re things that make my cunt wet. As the excellent XKCD put it, when the book was first published: in my fantasies, people fuck.