Having lunch many years ago with a female law professor friend whose judgment I revere, I was startled to hear her say that she thought all pornography should be banned (she was an expert on Constitutional Law, which has always had an uneasy position on the relationship between freedom of speech and porn). When I told her that I found pornography valuable, not only as an entertainment but also because studies show that sexual criminals who use pornography commit fewer crimes, we had a discussion that ended up lasting days.
I believe that men and women as groups approach pornography differently because of evolution. As readers of this blog may know, I believe evolution is responsible for much of what we do.
Men are pretty liberal when it comes to sexual encounters because evolution encouraged them to spread their seed widely. Studies show that men think about sex a lot: at least once a day such fantasies appear and in many men more often than that; only one quarter of women report such desires. Men masturbate more often than women do. For most men, if sex is available they'll consider it seriously, even with partners they're not wildly attracted to. With partners who are truly "beautiful" in the eyes of the man, that alone is criterion enough for most men to have at least a casual encounter.
Genetically women are hard-wired to be much more selective when it comes to sexual matters. Women, after all, must worry about pregnancy, and evolution punished promiscuity in women harshly. Since human females can become pregnant at any season of the year, evolution produced women who are cautious about sexual activity, who choose their mates based on a lot more than beauty or mere availability. A woman's sexual partner had better be a steady and responsible type who will be around in nine months and who can provide and care for any family that might be coming. As civilization has developed protections against pregnancy, modern women have become more sexually adventurous, of course, but that doesn't change the hard-wiring, nor the fact that most women want romance to play some part in sexual encounters.
One of the most illuminating letters I've ever seen about this was written by a lesbian to a gay news magazine. She scolded the editors this way: "Let's stop talking about sex in public places as a 'homosexual' problem—it's not. It's a MALE problem. Straight men would have sex in parks if straight women would meet them there." She's absolutely right; and note that no news story has ever complained about lesbians in the bushes.
Tying it all up: when it comes to pornography, men, tending as they do to choose based on the visual, will love it. Women, demanding as they do much more out of sexual encounters, will think of pornography as a poor sexual stimulant, and will likely be contemptuous of men who succumb to its charms so easily.
"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate,” April 29, 2010
“Straight Talk,” May 10, 2010
“Marijuana and Me,” July 11, 2010
“How To Tell if You’re Gay,” August 31, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,” September 3, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" November 8, 2010
"Seducing Straight Men," March 3, 2011
"Good Sex/Bad Sex: Advice on Making Love," November 9, 2011
"Fifty Shades of Grey: Corbin Milk in the BDSM World," December 26, 2012