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Redefining porn for the female gaze Add to ...

One stars a couple of winged angels gone wild, another a shirtless dude mowing a lawn. There’s the one about the assertive real estate agent and another promisingly titled Post Apocalyptic Cowgirls. These are the top-rated films on Dusk, a 24-hour Dutch television channel that airs pornography for women, its content fully programmed by a panel of female viewers who rate clips online.

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“We are the first channel in the world that is actually showing erotic content for a female audience,” Dusk co-founder and director Martijn Broersma said in a telephone interview.

After launching in the Netherlands in 2009, the TV channel is now available in Finland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Estonia, with a video on demand option available in Belgium and Hungary. “We expect to be able to launch in the U.S. in 2014,” said Broersma, who also has his sights set on Canada: “I know that you’re more liberal.”

In the vein of offerings such as Cindy Gallop’s MakeLoveNotPorn.tv video-sharing website, which features actual couples having “real-world sex” and the films presented annually at Toronto’s Good for Her Porn Awards, the industry is slowly turning its attention toward the female viewer, the woman who isn’t necessarily thrilled by male-targeted mainstream pornography. The Dusk TV channel features a “Dusk Panel” of 2,000 women who anonymously rate content online, thereby determining what should air and what should be shelved. “They get presented with scenes and they tell us what they like and do not like,” Broersma said.

Who is watching? Broersma says primarily women, but also the occasional guy “intrigued in how the female mind actually works.” (He also says some Dutch sex therapists have assigned it as homework to their couples.) He believes women are willing to pay for pornographic material “as long as it’s good” – meaning curated and of high quality.

So what do women want? Not soft lighting or storylines mouthed by bad actors, Broersma – and legions of female porn directors – have discovered.

“I’m a guy. When I started this I thought it would be soft and romantic,” he said. He was surprised to find that like men, women want sexually explicit scenes. Unlike some men, the women watching Dusk want “normal-looking” but still “attractive” actors who pay close attention to each other and don’t look like they’re enduring a root canal.

“For men it’s more like a snack. Within five minutes, basically it’s done,” says Broersma, who believes women watch for a longer duration. Categories on his porn channel include ones you wouldn’t anticipate on big mainstream porn hub – think “arthouse,” “retro,” “docu,” and “course.” “The viewer needs to be able to relate to what is happening, perhaps see something that could happen in her own life.”

More like dinner?

Staff at Dusk – male and female staff, Broersma will stress repeatedly – even went so far as to coin a new term for female-oriented porn: porna. (It figures into Dusk’s tagline: “You decide what porna is.”) Why bother feminizing the term?

“If you call it porn, then [some women] would say, that’s disgusting, degrading and man-oriented, that’s not something I can relate to. If you should call it ‘erotic’ then the majority would think that’s soft and erotic, which is not the case. There was not the right word for it so we invented the word ‘porna’ to give it a more feminine touch,” the co-founder explained.

Are there women viewers who care not for “porna,” who simply search out what they like among the mainstream offerings available for free online?

“Sure, yeah, of course,” Broersma acknowledged. “It’s very diverse and you can see this in the panel. If you ask 50 for their opinions, you get 50 opinions.”

Follow on Twitter: @ZosiaBielski

 

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