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Porn for women? Ya betcha! – Part 2


We continue what we started earlier in the week, I was all involved in responding to a young woman’s query about porn for women when I ran out of time. Let’s pick up where we left off in Part 1, shall we?

Last week we considered the proliferation of porn for straight women. This week we take a look at some of the other categories of porn for women. Remember this is by no means an exhaustive list. And just so you know, you can find most all of these titles in Dr Dick How To Video Library. Look for a Video Library tab in the header of DDSA for this great sex resource.

Porn for straight couples.

Comstock Films Matt and Khym
New York-based filmmaker Tony Comstock forged his own path in the adult business, creating films previously unseen in the world of porn. Blending a documentary style with hardcore sex, Comstock created a new genre, “pornumentary” or “docuporn”. His films feature real-life couples talking about their relationship and sex lives before having sex on camera. The result is a fresh and revealing look into the lives of real people, and depicts the kind of sex real people have. This is porn without the fakery and cliché so often seen in mainstream porn. It’s erotica with emotion and context.

Anna Span - Hug a Hoodie_mAnna Span
Anna Span is Britain’s first female porn director and she brings a unique perspective to her hardcore films. Her college dissertation was titled “Towards a New Pornography.” She created her first hardcore adult film in 1997, and worked for adult TV channels in the UK. She is the author of the book Erotic Home Video. Her production company, Easy on the Eye, also releases films by other female directors.

Anna’s films are made for both women and men, but she makes a special effort to include more female perspectives in her films, with a focus on female pleasure. Her movies feature excellent acting and engaging plots. Anna Span created a series called Women Love Porn, which features a selection of newer female directors hand-chosen by Anna.

Tristan Taormino chemistry
Tristan Taormino is an author, editor and filmmaker who made a career out of sex education, particularly in the area of anal sex. We’ve featured lots of stuff my Tristan here on Dr Dick’s Sex Advice. Her column and website Pucker Up deals extensively with anal sex and her book; The Ultimate Guide To Anal Sex For Women won a Firecracker award. It was also made into a film in 1999. In 2006 Tristan created her own production company, Smart Ass Productions, so she could create her own brand of porn films. She was honored at the Inaugural Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto in 2006 and her film, Chemistry, won an AVN award in 2007, the first of several such awards and nominations.

Tristan has her own line of educational films with the porn giant, Vivid, called, VividEd. Again, you can find all these titles in Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

Tristan describes herself as “queer”, saying she dislikes the label “bisexual”. Her films are designed to appeal to women and men of all orientations.

how to fuck in high heelsJoyBear Pictures
Joybear is a another UK-based erotic film company that makes films for both women and men. It was established in 2003 by Justin Ribero des Santos after he won a Playboy filmmaking competition, Joybear creates high-quality, high class explicit films and makes an effort to cater to the real desires of their audience. The company regularly runs surveys and focus groups to determine what it is that people want to see. Which is pretty cool if ya ask me.





Porn Movies For Lesbians And Queer People

While girl-on-girl action has long been a mainstay of the porn market, authentic lesbian erotica is still relatively rare. But nowadays, there are a number of people working to create their own brand of lesbian and queer porn, reflecting their own experiences and tastes.

Maria Beatty and Bleu Productions little hot riding hood
Paris-based filmmaker Maria Beatty is world renowned for her innovative and beautiful lesbian erotic films that focus on BDSM. Having previously worked on documentaries about artists, Maria began to make her own special brand of porn in 1994, producing The Elegant Spanking, which received international acclaim. This film documents the intimate sadomasochistic encounters of Maria and a dominant female partner.

Since then Maria has produced an impressive number of adult movies, all exploring “the playful relationship between pleasure and pain” as she says. Her films have been produced independently in order to keep her vision of erotica unblemished by the demands of studios. She also does all the writing, editing, camerawork and production design herself. Maria recently completed a second feature length film called The Boy in the Bathtub, is currently working on is working on other erotic films.

lesbian threesomeMadison Young
San Francisco-based Madison Young describes herself as a “bondage/ fetish model, adult performer, artist, gallerist, activist, published writer, rope slut, queer and feminist.” She runs a non-profit art gallery called Femina Potens and performs in porn to help fund it. She’s an exhibitionist who enjoys exploring the kinkier side of her sexuality on film. And she has been a guest on my SEX WISDOM show. Use the search function in the header, type in Madison Young and Voilà, the two parts of her podcast will appear.

Madison says, “I wanted to be part of a movement of sex positive feminists taking control of their sexuality on film. Somehow documenting my sexual explorations always gave me some unbenounced permission to explore parts of my sexuality that I didn’t feel comfortable exploring in the bedroom. I love the camera. I always used to beg my partners to tape us having sex even before I got into the industry. I believe that it is educational to document honest sexual exploration and experiences and I try to feed into that and put all of my sexual energy into a scene.”

Aside from performing in numerous mainstream porn films, Madison used to run her own website. Madison Bound, but now it’s closed. Her subject matter encompasses many different tastes but usually includes BDSM and a lot of lesbianism.

S.I.R. Productionsprivate thoughts
S.I.R. stands for Sex, Indulgence and Rock n Roll. This company was one of the pioneers of real lesbian erotica and their titles are considered classics. Their movies are legendary for capturing raw emotion, intense chemistry, real orgasms that convey revolutionary queer desire. No wonder their films have played to sold out audiences to almost every LGBT film fest around the world.





Porn Movies Like Fifty Shades Of Grey

You’ve probably read Fifty Shades of Grey or know someone who has. Right? And let’s say you’re now keen to see a good smut that offers erotic BDSM. Preferably with a female submissive and a hot guy. Well here’s a short list titles to get you started, but don’t forget to look for all the swell instructional videos available at Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

the_submission_of_emma_marx_fThe Submission Of Emma Marx
Here’s the story line: Emma Marx is a beautiful, confident, well-adjusted woman. Unfortunately, when it comes to love and romance, all of her previous relationships have turned out to be a bit routine and mundane. Suddenly, that is all changes with a chance encounter with a handsome and mysterious man. He introduces her to a world she had only dared to fantasize about, a world of erotic sex, role-play and BDSM. She is surprised by how a man can so easily strip away her inhibitions and replace them with lust and desire. How is it that he has such control over her? Why does she like it so much? This is her journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening, but it comes with a price. What happens when the greatest love you’ve ever known forces you to face your greatest obstacle – yourself?


Shades of Kinkshades of kink
Enter the dark territory of unbridled sexual perversion and fantasy in Sweet Sinner’s taboo-smashing feature film, Shades of Kink. Riley is a sweet, innocent and motivated college grad looking for her first job at Norton Ashe’s marketing firm. The mysterious Ashe is looking to help his new recruit open up her imagination and body to new experiences. With intense drama and explosive performances by Maddy O’Reilly, Andy San Dimas, and Lily LaBeau, Shades of Kink guarantees to re-invent erotica.




Fifty Shades Of Dylan RyanFifty Shades Of Dylan Ryan
Back to award Winning Feminist Pornographer, Madison Young, who I mention just moments ago, brings you Fifty Shades Of Dylan Ryan. Wealthy entrepreneur and book publishing mogul, Ms. Grey, has met her match in young college student and curious submissive, Dylan Ryan. After a sexy and defiant Dylan challenges Ms. Grey to a bet, Dylan forgoes her freedom and submerges herself into a life of total submission, testing her boundaries, proving her servitude through sexual gratification, masked orgies, soaked in female ejaculate, vibrated and fucked to orgasmic heights coupled with fellow sexual servants Bianca Stone and Berretta James. Dylan is whipped to climactic moments of pain and pleasure and collared while cradled in an intimate embrace of tenderness after an aggressive and beautiful journey into the depths of her darkest desires. How fun! Sounds like holiday viewing material, huh?

Ok, that’s it for my porn for women presentation. Hope ya liked it.

Porn for women? Ya betcha! – Part 1

Name: Candice
Gender: Female
Age: 22
Location: Cleveland
Is there such a thing as porn for women?

Ya, sure, ya betcha!

There’s never gonna be a simple answer to the question “What turns women on?” anymore than there’s a simple answer to the question “What turns men on?” Women are just as unpredictable in their eroticism as are men. And you can be pretty sure that what turns an individual on will most likely change over time. Let’s face it; for some women, a man wielding a vacuum may be more erotically charged than a dude wielding an erection.

Nowadays, porn comes in all shapes and sizes. And it is designed to titillate a much broader swath of the population then ever before. Before I begin to address all the marvelous porn being produced by women for women, let me mention that loads and loads of women love gay male porn. It stands to reason, right? After all, men are the erotic object for most of these women and gay male porn offers some of the most stunning and tantalizing examples of male flesh around. And there are no women in these movies. There are no women to compare one’s self too. No women are ever degraded or exploited in gay male porn. And lots and lots of women love seeing men on the receiving end of penetrative sex. It’s such a delicious and refreshing change of pace. And if you don’t mind a bit of shameless self-promotion, check out the work I did at Daddy Oohhh! Productions. We did eleven films in our heyday. There are trailers for each and links where you can watch scenes and/or download the whole film HERE!

First, let’s take a look at porn produced for straight women. There used to be very little in this category. Nowadays, there’s been an explosion of such productions and there are a number of production houses cranking it out.

The Main Producers are:

Candida Royalle and Femme Productionsafrodite-420x600
The first person to create porn movies for straight women, Candida Royalle’s Femme series has been selling like hotcakes since 1985 – and she’s still going strong. Candida legitimized the idea of women enjoying porn, and she has been inspiring a new wave of directors and producers that are following in her footsteps. Candida’s movies have internal cumshots, no unseemly facials, romance, plots… and, of course, hardcore sex.

Candida pioneered the idea of creating adult films for straight women and forged a new path in the adult industry, insisting that female viewers of porn should have their own films. She is much revered in feminist porn circles for her work and her films continue to be best sellers.

Lust Films
Spanish feminist director Erika Lust has made waves with her own vision of hot, hardcore women’s porn. Her collection of short films, Five Hot Stories For Her, won Film of the Year at the 2008 Feminist Porn Awards and Life Love Lust won the same award in 2011.

five hot stories

Erika has a degree in Political Science, specializing in Feminism. In 2004 she made an erotic short called The Good Girl, which received much critical acclaim. She went on to found Lust Films, a media company, which aims to create feminist, female-friendly adult films. She’s also an author of note. She’s become one of the better-known female directors of porn for women.

Her Porn
a-taste-of-joy-1147-bUK independent filmmaker Petra Joy has created her own brand of adult film. Her motto is “feeling it, not faking it” and the focus is on sensuality, without sacrificing the heat. Her films feature real-life couples acting out explicit sexual scenarios, and are based on her own fantasies, as well as those of other women.

Her aesthetic is a more sensual one; she is interested in suggestion rather than blatant, gynecological close-ups.

Petra originally worked at a German TV network where she produced short erotic pieces for the series Love and Sins. Her photography has won numerous awards, including a nomination at the British Erotic Awards in 2003.

Petra says, “I want porn that stimulates the mind and feeds the soul. That is educational and inspirational, creative and kinky. And because I can not find it anywhere else; I make my own.”

Sweet Sinner and Hard Candy Films

After a career performing in and making girl-on-girl films (via her Sweetheart Video line) Nica teacher seductionNoelle decided she wanted to create movies depicting heterosexual sex for women and couples.

The big challenge was applying her ideals of intimacy and realism to boy-on-girl scenes. She wanted to make porn that was more emotional and personal with a real emphasis on female pleasure and orgasms. The result was Sweet Sinner, a line of hardcore erotic films that women totally enjoy. Nica says there are no facial cum shots in these films, although there are some external spunk. She herself prefers the guys to come inside and stay connected to their partner before, during and after ejaculation. Her films always ensure the women have an orgasm, even if it’s after the guy. So hurray for that.

Nica also directed some of Sweet Sinema films, which are features inspired by mainstream movies.

Nica left Sweet Sinner (and Mile High Media) and started a new studio she calls Hard Candy Films. It’s a company that makes couples-oriented porn, which is basically the same thing as woman-oriented films. Nica says she likes to create more emotionally nuanced films with her new company and is embracing a greater creative freedom. Her films still offer non-formulaic sex and complicated relationships within the confines of a feature. She writes and directs all of her own films.

Ok, that’s it for today. We’ll pick this topic up again at the end of the week.

Human Rights + Sexual Rights = Sexual Freedom

On this the first annual National Sexual Freedom Day, sponsored by The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, I’d like to propose something quite radical. I suggest that our sexual freedoms, here in the United States, are intricately linked to universal sexual rights. And I contend that the notion of universal sexual rights is at its core a respect for human rights and human dignity.

In a world wracked by poverty, disease and war; where we threaten our very existence with climate altering pollution, nuclear proliferation and extreme population growth; is there room to talk about human rights that include sexual rights and sexual freedom?

I emphatically answer yes! In fact, I assert that sexual inequality and oppression is at the heart of many of the world’s problems. I contend that trying to address human rights without including the essential component of sexual rights and sexual freedom is ultimately doomed to failure.

An absence of sexual rights and sexual freedom leads to domestic and societal violence; human trafficking; suicide; a rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); unplanned pregnancies, abortion, and sexual dysfunction.

You know how we are always being encouraged to Think Globally and Act Locally? Well while we busy ourselves securing and celebrating our sexual rights here in this nation, I think we’d do well to focus some of our attention on how our struggle binds us to the rest of the human community.

I offer three examples of what I’m talking about. I invite you to consider how a myopic sexual rights and sexual freedom agenda, divorced from the overarching issues of human, economic and social rights, can be ineffectual and even counterproductive.


In 2008 the research community was all aflutter about ‘conclusive’ evidence linking HIV transmission and uncircumcised males. While I’m certainly not ready to take this data on face value, let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, that the link is conclusive. A massive campaign of circumcision was proposed as the best means of HIV prevention. The medical community would descend on epicenters of the disease, scalpels in hand; ready to eliminate the offending foreskins from every male in sight, young and old.

But wait, there’s a problem. Most HIV/AIDS epicenters are in underdeveloped countries. In these places, access to enough clean water to drink or attend to even the most basic personal hygiene, like daily cleaning under one’s foreskin, remains an enormous chronic problem. Without first addressing the problem of unfettered access to clean water and adequate sanitation, which according to The United Nations is a basic human right, further disease prevention efforts are doomed.

I mean, what are the chances that surgical intervention would succeed—one that would involve significant and sophisticated aftercare—if there is not even enough clean water for drinking and bathing?

These well-meaning medical personnel suggest imposing a strategy that not only works against nature—our foreskins do have a purpose after all: a healthy prepuce is a natural deterrent to infection. But this intervention would also violate long-held cultural and societal norms—circumcision is abhorrent to many of these same cultures. Wouldn’t this proposed prevention effort to stem the tide actually make matters worse?


Indentured sex work is another indicator of how human rights, sexual rights and sexual freedom are intertwined. Until the economic and educational opportunities for women throughout the world improve—which is a basic human right according to The United Nations—women will remain chattel. Families in economically depressed areas of the world will continue to be pressured to sell their daughters (and sons) simply to subsist.

Closing brothels and stigmatizing prostitutes overlooks the more pressing human rights concerns at play here. Sex is a commodity because there is a voracious market. Men from developed nations descend on the populations of less developed nations to satisfy sexual proclivities with partners they are prohibited from enjoying in their own country. Young women (and boys) in developing countries are viewed as exploitable and disposable, because they don’t have the same civil protections afforded their peers in the developed world. And runaway population growth in countries that deprive their women and girls access to education and contraception inevitably creates a never-ending supply of hapless replacements.

Addressing the endemic gender inequality in many societies is key. Equal access to education and economic resources must come before, or at least hand in hand with any serious sexual liberation effort.


Finally, people in the developed world enjoy a certain level of affluence and economic stability which allows them to indulge in sex recreationally. Thanks to effective birth control methods we can ignore the procreative aspects of sex and replace it with a means of expressing a myriad of other human needs. Not least among these are status, self-esteem and self-expression.

If we’re trying to prove something to ourselves, or others, by the way we conduct our sexual lives, simple prohibitions against certain sex practices won’t work. If I’m convinced that unprotected sex with multiple partners and sharing bodily fluids is edgy, cool fun, without serious consequence, as it’s portrayed in porn; I will be more likely to express myself the same way. This is especially true for young people who are already feeling invincible.

Case in point: there has been a startling uptick in seroconversions among young people, particularly gay men, which indicates that disease prevention efforts, even in the world’s most affluent societies, are simply not up to the task. It’s not that there is a scarcity of resources, quite the contrary. It is more likely that these efforts are not connected to a fundamental understanding of the role sexuality plays in the general population. I believe that sexual expression and sexual pleasure are the overarching issues here. These too are fundamental human rights.

No amount of safer sex proselytizing is going to prevail unless and until we look at why and how we express ourselves sexually. As we unravel this complex jumble of motivations and behaviors, effective prevention strategies will manifest themselves clearly. We must develop a sex-positive message; one that celebrates sexuality, builds self-esteem and counteracts the prevailing media messages of sex with no consequences.


National Sexual Freedom Day brings into focus the micro-strategies needed to combat a macro problem. But it also shows that we cannot work for and celebrate sexual freedom in a vacuum. It’s imperative that we see how global health and wellbeing is completely dependent on basic human rights, including sexual rights that include gender and reproductive rights, the elimination of sexual exploitation and the freedom of sexual expression.

Prescription for a Porn-Positive World

One of the enduring hot-button issues in our culture (and every other culture) is sexually explicit material. Everyone has an opinion on what we, as a society, ought to allow—and what should be prohibited.

Everyone has an opinion, but not all opinions are formed through sound reasoning. More often than not, our opinions are visceral responses to things that frighten us, or that we don’t understand. And if we don’t like it, don’t understand it, or it puts us off, why, that’s reason enough to have it banned!

It’s no surprise that people on both ends of the political spectrum can comfortably join forces in a pogrom against porn. It’s the great boogieman, after all: the corruptor of youth; that which erodes family values and degrades human sexual expression. What’s not to hate about porn?

I suppose if all that were true, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry cranking out everything from soft-core erotica to extreme hardcore. But there is, and it reflects the simple principle of supply and demand. If so many people honestly believe that sexually explicit material is bad for us and our society, why the huge demand?

Case in point—19-year-old Alex from Indianapolis writes:

Hey Dick,
I noticed from your bio that you are a pornographer. How do you justify that? Isn’t pornography basically an insult to human sexuality? How do you square that with being a sex therapist and believing, as you say, that you affirm the fundamental goodness of sexuality in human life, both as a personal need and as an interpersonal bond?”

Wow, Alex! You actually took the time to read my bio? I’m impressed! You bring up a very interesting point, albeit with a bit of a jab. You’re right; I have been a pornographer. If that’s the only word you can come up with to describe what I did at Daddy Oohhh! Productions. I like to think that the adult material I produce is not in conflict with my basic, overall philosophy about human sexuality. (By the way, thank you for quoting it as accurately as you did.)

Admittedly, porn is a thorny issue in our sex-negative culture. Lots of people are hostile to the notion that there could actually be something uplifting and life-affirming about the depiction, in any medium, of sexual behaviors. Lots of people believe that even nudity, let alone full-blown sex, is bad and that it corrupts the consumer, especially if the consumer is a youth. I don’t happen to share that perception. But this is such a touchy subject for most that it’s very difficult to have a civil discourse about the place pornography has in our (or any other) culture. Since we find it so difficult to talk about sexual issues in the public forum, it’s no surprise that pornography—i.e., the public exposure of sexual things—continues to be the big, bad boogieman for even otherwise enlightened people.

I hasten to add that, for the most part, the adult entertainment industry richly deserves the dubious reputation it has. There is an enormous amount of content in the marketplace that degrades, dehumanizes and exploits. And I’m not just talking about the stuff that doesn’t suit my tastes. Because there’s a lot of good stuff out there that doesn’t particularly appeal to me.

Therefore, I caution you in your youthful zeal not to reject everything that depicts sexual behavior as worthless just because a good portion of it is indeed shameful junk. That would be like discarding all religion because a good portion of its practitioners degrade, dehumanize and shame those who don’t share their belief system.

You apparently also think there is an inherent contradiction between being a sex therapist and a pornographer. I don’t agree. For nearly 30 years, I’ve been involved in all sorts of cutting-edge sex education and sexual enrichment projects. So why not attempt to bring a fresh, healthier perspective to adult entertainment? Sounds like the perfect role for a sexologist to me.

Humans have been depicting sexual behavior, in one fashion or another, since we were able to scratch images on the walls of our caves. Some of these depictions are intended to titillate, others to educate, even others to edify, but all are expressions of the passions of the person who scratched, painted, wrote or committed to film (or videotape) the images they did. I think that if you were really interested in getting to know my thoughts about pornography, you’d do well to check out some of my work. And let’s not forget that in more sex-positive societies than our own, sexual practices were and are integral parts of worshiping the deity.

Porn, like most forms of human expression, has both gold and dross. And just maybe, we need the crap in order to appreciate the treasures. Also, today’s porn may be tomorrow’s art. Ask Henry Miller or Anaïs Nin. A lot of stuff that hangs in the Louvre museum today was, upon its creation, considered scandalous and pornographic as well. Happily, we, along with our perceptions, evolve.

The definition of what is ‘pornographic’ changes with the times. Community standards also play a part. A lingerie catalog that showed women in bras and panties might be “pornographic” in one place, but no big deal in another.

I argue that there is a purpose to sexual depictions, pornographic or not. Otherwise, why would these depictions be so pervasive and appear in every culture? And it’s not just because it’s art. Most pornography is decidedly not art. So if it’s not art per se, what is it? Most pornography is simply designed to arouse sexual desire. And that, generally speaking, is a really good thing. It’s precisely this pursuit that probably brought you, young Alex, to me in the first place. Am I correct?

Sexual desire can stimulate an array of thoughts and behaviors from tender, intimate and passionate to raw, fierce and cruel. The mood of the consumer also plays a part. If your libido is raging, you might find a certain depiction stimulating, while the same depiction can cause disgust when your hormones are more in check. Porn tends to imitate what people fantasize about, rather than what actually happens in the lives of most of us. As a result, nearly everything is exaggerated in pornography: body parts, sexual situations, as well as sexual responses. Everything is staged and a lot is faked. Exaggeration is a time-honored way of calling attention to something that is otherwise pretty commonplace…you know, like sex.

In the end, Alex, you will have to decide for yourself what merits pornography might have in our culture. I suggest, however, that you approach porn with a slightly more dispassionate eye than you are currently using. You may find that it has something to teach you about yourself, your culture and the history of humankind.

Good luck!

What Happens To Men Who Stay Abstinent Until Marriage?

by Sarah Diefendorf

Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara arrive at a White House State Dinner in April.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend, the singer Ciara, recently announced plans to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

It was a vow that came as a surprise to many. After all, sexual purity is a commitment that is historically expected of, associated with – even demanded of – women. However, sexual abstinence is not something assumed of men, especially men like Russell Wilson.

Wilson, an accomplished, attractive athlete, embodies contemporary ideals of masculinity, which include style, wealth and, yes, sexual prowess.

So how does a man like Russell Wilson navigate a commitment to abstinence while upholding ideals of masculinity? Wilson’s status as an athlete and heartthrob is likely giving him what sociologist CJ Pascoe calls “jock insurance.” In other words, due to his celebrity status, he can make traditionally nonmasculine choices without having his masculinity questioned.

But what does it mean for a man who isn’t in the limelight, who makes a similar type of commitment to abstinence? And what does it mean for the women they date, and might eventually marry?

I’ve been researching men who pledge sexual abstinence since 2008, work that comes out of a larger scholarly interest in masculinities, religion and sex education.

While men make this commitment with the good intentions for a fulfilling marriage and sex life, my research indicates that the beliefs about sexuality and gender that come hand in hand with these pledges of abstinence do not necessarily make for an easy transition to a married sexual life.

Who’s Pledging “Purity?”

Comedian Joy Behar recently joked that abstinence is what you do after you’ve been married for a long time. Here, Behar makes two assumptions. One is that sexual activity declines both with age and the time spent in a relationship. This is true.

The second is that abstinence is not something you do before marriage. For the most part, this is true as well: by age 21, 85% of men and 81% of women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse.

purity ringIf we compare these numbers to the average age of first marriage in the United States – 27 for women, and 29 for men – we get the picture: most people are having sex before marriage.

Still, some in the United States are making “virginity pledges,” and commit to abstinence until marriage. Most of the data that exist on this practice show that those who make the pledges will do so in high school, often by either signing a pledge card or donning a purity ring.

Research on this population tells us a few things: that those who pledge are more likely to be young women, and that – regardless of gender – an abstinence pledge delays the onset of sexual activity by only 18 months. Furthermore, taking a virginity pledge will often encourage other types of sexual behavior.

Virgins In Guyland

But little is known about men who pledge and navigate this commitment to abstinence.

I was curious about how men maintain pledges in light of these statistics, and also balance them with expectations about masculinity. So in 2008, I began researching a support group of 15 men at an Evangelical church in the Southwest. All members were white, in their early to mid-20’s, single or casually dating – and supporting each other in their decisions to remain abstinent until marriage.

The group, called The River, met once a week, where, sitting on couches, eating pizza or talking about video games, they’d eventually gravitate toward the topic that brought them all together in the first place: sex.

On the surface, it would seem impossible for these men to participate in what sociologist Michael Kimmel calls “Guyland” – a developmental and social stage driven by a “guy code” that demands, among other things, sexual conquest and detached intimacy.

Rather, the men of The River approach sex as something sacred, a gift from God meant to be enjoyed in the confines of the marriage bed. At the same time, these men struggle with what they describe as the “beastly elements” – or temptations – of sexuality. And it is precisely because of these so-called beastly elements that these men find each other in the same space every week.

The men of The River grappled with pornography use, masturbation, lust and same-sex desire, all of which can potentially derail these men from their pledge.

It raises an interesting dilemma: to these men, sex is both sacred and beastly. Yet the way they navigate this seeming contradiction actually allows them to exert their masculinity in line with the demands of Guyland.

Group members had an elaborate network of accountability partners to help them resist temptations. For example, one had an accountability partner who viewed his weekly online browsing history to make sure he wasn’t looking at pornography. Another accountability partner texted him each night to make sure that he and his girlfriend were “behaving.”

While these behaviors may seem unusual, they work in ways that allow men to actually assert their masculinity. Through what sociologist Amy Wilkins calls “collective performances of temptation,” these men are able to discuss just how difficult it is to refrain from the beastly urges; in this way, they reinforce the norm that they are highly sexual men, even in the absence of sexual activity.

The River, as a support group, works largely in the same way. These men are able to confirm their sexual desires in a homosocial space – similar to Kimmel’s research in Guyland – from which Kimmel notes that the “actual experience of sex pales in comparison to the experience of talking about sex.”

A ‘Sacred Gift’ – With Mixed Returns

The men of The River believed that the time and work required to maintain these pledges would pay off in the form of a happy and healthy marriage.

Ciara, in discussing her commitment to abstinence with Russell Wilson, similarly added that she believes such a promise is important for creating a foundation of love and friendship. She stated that, “if we have that [base] that strong, we can conquer anything with our love.”

So what happened once after the men of The River got married? In 2011, I followed up with them.

All but one had gotten married. But while the transition to married life brought promises of enjoying their “sacred gift from God,” this gift was fraught.

Respondents reported that they still struggled with the beastly elements of sexuality. They also had the added concern of extramarital affairs. Furthermore – and perhaps most importantly – men no longer had the support to work through these temptations.

There were two reasons behind this development.

First, respondents had been told, since they were young, that women were nonsexual. At the same time, these men had also been taught that their wives would be available for their pleasure.

It’s a double standard that’s in line with longstanding cultural ideals of the relationship between femininity and purity. But it’s a contradiction that leaves men unwilling to open up to the very women they’re having sex with.

These married men and women were not talking to each other about sex. Rather than freely discussing sex or temptation with their wives (as they had done with their accountability partners), the men simply tried to suppress temptation by imagining the devastation any sexual deviations might cause their wives.

after marriage

After marriage, the men felt left to their own devices.

Second, these men could no longer reach out to their support networks due to their own ideals of masculinity. They had been promised a sacred gift: a sexually active, happy marriage. Yet many weren’t fully satisfied, as evidenced by the continued tension between the sacred and beastly. However, to open up about these continued struggles would be to admit failure as masculine, Christian man.

In the end, the research indicates that a pledge of sexual abstinence works to uphold an ideal of masculinity that disadvantages both men and women.

After 25 years of being told that sex is something dangerous that needs to be controlled, the transition to married (and sexual) life is difficult, at best, while leaving men without the support they need. Women, meanwhile, are often left out of the conversation entirely.

So when we urge abstinence in place of healthy conversations about sex and sexuality, we may be undermining the relationships that are the driving goal of these commitments in the first place.

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