By Tim Fitzsimons

Back in 2015, the wildly popular online pornography site Pornhub — which boasts over 115 million daily views — published a finding that took sexuality researcher Lucy Neville by surprise: Women are responsible for more than a third of the site’s gay male porn views.

The finding planted the seed for what would eventually become a book, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,” which was published earlier this month. In it, Neville, a lecturer at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, investigates what women enjoy about consuming gay male erotica and how it fits in with their perceptions of gender and sexuality.

"They are definitely objectifying women and not treating them like people," Christina said of straight porn. "A lot of the time it seems like the women aren't actually enjoying it."

Neville interviewed and surveyed more than 500 women over five years for the project. Many of the women with whom she spoke said “a lot of the problem they have with heterosexual porn is that they focus on the female body" without paying enough attention to men.

“Gay porn gives an opportunity to look at the male form and male beauty and the male face when orgasming,” Neville said.

“What women liked most about male-male porn is versatility, and with heterosexual porn you are going to get penetrated eventually, and that’s dull,” she added. “A lot of ways it can play out with men is more exciting, more experimentation, more open to negotiation.”

Another key finding over the course of Neville’s research was that 55 percent of the women she interviewed said they had imagined themselves as men while consuming gay male erotica.

“They found it quite liberating, the idea that you could pretend or imagine yourself as a man or someone who is gender-fluid,” Neville explained. “Personally, I’ve always done that, too, but I thought I was a bit of a weirdo. It was interesting to find that half the sample had done that.”

The women surveyed also expressed a “strong desire to consume porn that is ethical in some way,” Neville said, and they found some heterosexual porn “exploitative.” She found there was a general sense among those interviewed that male actors participate in pornography because they enjoy sex, while some interviewees indicated they were worried about women performers and the gender dynamics in heterosexual porn.

Anjelika, 38, who declined to share her last name because she did not want to publicly reveal her porn-viewing habits, is a startup founder in San Francisco who identifies as bisexual. She said she watches gay male porn a few times a month and, echoing Neville’s findings, said she particularly enjoys its unpredictability and versatility.

The subversiveness of watching porn that’s not “for her” is also part of the fun, she said.

“The naughty component is very important, and I find two attractive men having sex to be a very beautiful thing,” she explained.

Anjelika also said some of the videos that pop up in the straight section of porn sites rub her the wrong way.

“Sometimes you see these ‘surprise anal’ videos,” Anjelika said, “and I am like, ‘surprise anal’ is like anal rape, I’m sorry.”

Straight porn videos strike her as “dehumanizing,” she said, adding “most of the time” it doesn’t seem like the women are “having a good time.”

Chris, who also declined to share her last name for the same reason as Anjelika, said she consumes gay male erotica and is turned off by straight porn.

“They are definitely objectifying women and not treating them like people,” she said of porn with both men and women. “A lot of the time it seems like the women aren't actually enjoying it.”

The 30-year-old Los Angeles resident said even in aggressive gay porn “it looks like the pleasure they’re both getting is very, very different than straight aggressive porn.”

While conducting research about female viewers of gay porn, one concern Neville had was whether gay men would be concerned about the fetishization of gay male sex. But after interviewing more than 200 gay men, she reported that most saw no issue with this phenomenon.

“If it’s helping people explore romance and sexuality — and possibly breaking down over-representation of heterosexuality in the media — then it’s probably a good thing,” Neville said one of the respondents told her.

Neville’s book, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,” is now available online.

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