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Measuring the difference between porn and erotica

 two women kissing in rainbow light

Comparing feminist porn like Else Cinema with inclusive erotica like Dispea

By Leo Aquino

My relationship with porn started in my pre-teen years, back when families shared one single computer. 

I had to pray to the goddesses that the dial-up noise wouldn’t wake my parents and sisters through thin walls. I’d flick my bean in front of that trusty computer glow, with one or two of my legs propped up on the desk in our basement office. Our computer’s antivirus programs were sweating around the clock as I kept downloaded videos under a password-protected folder called “sheet music.” 

In a few short years, the world switched to WiFi and young Leo finally got their own room and their own laptop. A true glow-up. Gone were the days of sneaking around. I could watch porn whenever I wanted, just as long as I kept my door locked and my noise down.

When I finally got bored with it (and when I got tired of being paranoid about whether or not my parents could hear me watching porn through our impossibly thin walls), I discovered erotica — essays, poems, and literature about having sex.

An avid reader, I prefer the way that the stories are told from a first-person perspective (the literary equivalent of POV porn). I love being able to read about how all the narrator’s senses are being engaged. 

holding hands in rainbow light

As someone who was assigned female at birth and used to identify as a woman, I found it really refreshing to study pleasure from the point of view of a female narrator (more on womxn-centric porn later). 

To this day, I still love reading erotic stories. Being a part of someone’s fantasy in that way is so much more erotic than watching a bunch of body parts smush together on screen.

Now that I’m older, I realize that the ritual around watching porn — the set-up, the fear of getting caught, the specific search terms, the obsession with certain porn stars — aroused me more than the actual videos.

I question whether or not the sex I watched on screen was even consensual. These days, when I watch mainstream porn, I find myself asking, “Damn, are the actresses okay? Doesn’t that hurt?” My ethics have made it harder to participate in an industry that isn’t very kind to women and femmes.

My body’s response to porn and erotic stories have changed since I was younger. As I learned more about how womxn are treated and how queer people are erased from mainstream porn, it become harder to watch and participate. Luckily a quick Google search for “ethical porn” led me in the right path, and I found sites that shared my ethics.

Using my trusty Lioness Vibrator, I wanted to compare orgasms from watching ethical porn vs. orgasms from reading/listening to erotica. 

Else Cinema - Porn by a Feminist Filmmaker 

Instead of using mainstream porn sites, I purchased a monthly subscription to Else Cinema, an erotic entertainment platform created by feminist adult filmmaker Erika Lust

A quick review of Else Cinema

Erika is changing the porn industry by centering on women’s pleasure, creating space for diverse stories, and paying every person involved in the production fairly. I was excited to see how these values would affect the quality of the videos and how my body would respond.

I watched a queer video called “Love Your Cunt,” which included a narration of many different ways you can show your vagina some love, and honestly, it blew my mind. 

The visuals were stunning. The background music and narration hyped me up emotionally and energetically. Unlike mainstream porn sites, there are no intense close-ups on genitals, which made the whole experience feel empowering rather than objectifying. It made me even more proud to own a vagina.

Masturbating to Else Cinema’s porn

My body responded with two quick orgasms, followed by a really intense 20-second screamer. 

Leo's Else Cinema orgasm

I worried that my roommates thought I was performing some kind of seance in my room, tbh. I continued pulsing and writhing through the video, keeping the vibrator inside me until I tired out. I gave my precious V a little time to rest before masturbating a few more times.

I felt really powerful and energized afterward, like I could take a baseball bat to a fire hydrant like Beyonce in her “Hold Up” music video.

Dipsea - Erotica for Women, Femmes, & Queer Folx

A quick review of Dipsea

When I read erotica, time slips away from me.

Before I know it, I’ve been beating off and gasping at my phone screen for hours, completely ignoring my work tasks. It’s just that good.

In an effort to put some kind of a time limit on this little research project, I opted to listen to my erotic stories through an app called Dipsea. Dipsea makes erotic audio podcasts that center the pleasure of women, femmes, and queer folx.

A great accompaniment to sex toys, candles, and flowers to set the mood, the audio adds an extra edge of eroticism that engages both imagination and senses.

I listened to a few steamy stories — lesbian stories, non-binary stories, threesomes, romantic stories — but my favorite one was from a series curated for each astrological sign.

The story for my sign, Leo, was all about an independent woman whose contractor helps her out around the house, adding a little extra lip service on the side, if you get what I mean.

Even though I don’t identify as a woman anymore, I was turned on by how much control and agency the narrator had and the way that she described every sensation. 

Masturbating to Dipsea’s erotica

While masturbating to erotica, I prefer playing with my clit slowly, then introducing penetration right at the end to help intensify my orgasms. And boy, were they intense.

Leo's Dipsea orgasm

Even though my Lioness only recorded this short session, what you’re seeing in this graph is fifteen seconds to welcome the vibrator into my vagina, followed by a 60-second orgasm that just kept on building. Thank Godesses for online erotica and the feminist upgrade that it got over the years.

Porn versus erotica

Overall, I still enjoyed masturbating to erotic stories over porn. As a writer, there’s just something sensual and steamy about the power of written and spoken word that gets me turned on. 

I love being able to use my imagination to enter a fantasy, rather than being plopped into someone else’s vision. Even though porn is becoming more diverse, too, it’s just hard to imagine myself in videos when the actors are skinnier than me. Not to bash my regular-degular old orgasms — they’re still pretty great — but the pleasure I get from reading erotica is just out of this world.

Lioness graph comparing porn versus erotica

What a time to be alive! I can keep little erotica ebooks on my phone and get turned on at my leisure. Porn that aligns with feminist values is easier to access.

I’m excited to know that women and gender-nonconforming folx don’t have to experience the guilt and shame rollercoaster that came with watching shitty, secretive, chauvinistic porn like I did in my teens.

Watching and listening to porn is so much more enjoyable when you know that everyone who was involved in making it is proud and excited to be there.

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