It's no secret that lesbian porn is a leading form of smut for both men and women. But girl on girl action is especially rousing for male porn-watchers, eager to fulfil their femme fantasies twice over. But why is it that straight men have a thing for watching two women getting wet and sweaty together?
According to Dian Hanson, the "Queen of Porn" (other descriptions include one of the first female pornographers, psycho-sexpert, Slut of the Year and erotic book publisher), straight women have been fucking straight women in front of the camera to turn on straight male viewers for a very long time.
Lesbians for Men, her subversive new sexy photo book offers a truthful look at the faux-lesbian pornography phenomenon and investigates the reasons such photos fuel male fantasy. "When a man sees two women together there’s no jealousy that another man’s getting the woman he can’t," she explains in the book's introduction, "as with heterosexual porn, just the joy of everything he likes times two, and the unshakable fantasy that women that wild would surely invite him to join in."
Celebrating the hundreds of straight women who have helped tame men's lesbian cravings, the compelling coffee table read champions over 300 black & white and colour photos from some of the best erotic photographers there are; Nobuyoshi Araki, Ren Hang, Guido Argentini, Bruno Bisang and Richard Kern are just some of the contemporary photographers featured.
Tracing the genre's origins of such faux-lesbian couplings back over 100 years, the sexual anthropologist discovered that the first piece of lesbian erotica for the male gaze was created during the dawn of photography. Just as photo studios had been popping up all over Paris, in 1889, a French postcard masquerading as an art study was released – it featured two women posing intimately for the male cameraman. Little did the forces know this illicit nude would the very first example of lesbians for men.
Cementing her pornographic career in the 70s, Hanson edited a series of influential fetish mags, such as Juggs, Legshow and Outlaw Biker. After saving each failing magazine from their dwindling destinies, Hanson went on to become a global authority on sex culture and remains the prophet of pornographic discourse today. She's now the Sexy Book Editor (real job title) for German art book house, TASCHEN where she's curated over 60 books including The Big Butt Book.
We caught up with the prolific publisher to talk about faux-lesbianism, porn's place in the internet age and the perceived enigma that is the orgasm.
Konbini: What first sparked the idea to curate Lesbians for Men?
Dian Hanson: I saw several different books of young girls "exploring their curiosity” about other girls, and having worked in sex magazines for 25 years I thought that’s just such bullshit!
I of course know – and everybody who makes this material knows – that this is not young girls exploring their curiosity; this is the long, long existing industry of catering to the gaze of heterosexual men with something they have been fascinated with, seemingly, from the dawn of time – two women together.
So I thought let me make a factual book, let me make a book that actually explores the reality of this, why they’re interested and how it’s been catered to for as long as [there's been] photography.
How much lesbian porn out there is genuine and the performers are actually sexually attracted to women?
Dian Hanson: For the most part these are heterosexual women who are happy to do things with other women because it’s easier than doing something with men. Women for the most part are not disgusted by sex with other women the way men claim to be disgusted by sex with other heterosexual men. And this has been something that’s blurred the lines through the decades, that women have been told by men “Oh you’re all bisexual” because that turns them on, and the women say “Well I’m not disgusted so maybe I am bisexual.”
But they also learn – and a lot of these models in the book are enjoying these experiences because they know how it stimulates men – that two women can get together and put on a show that will just drive men insane and that’s a tremendous power.
Many of the faux-lesbian images in the book are fetishistic and kinky – how common is kink in real-life lesbian relationships?
Well there was a study done about three years ago in New York among LGBT women specifically related to kink in their relationships. They found bisexual women were actually more likely than lesbians to have engaged in any kind of kinky behaviour, particularly in exhibitionism.
And I would say that relates directly to what I’m talking about here [in the book] that women who identify as bisexual are often doing it as a show, to arouse men. And so to me it was completely expected to find that, yeah, bisexual women were more likely to engage in kinky, exhibitionistic behaviour. But they also found that lesbians in general – self-identified lesbians – were less likely to engage in kinky behaviour than men.
"I can kiss this girl – her lips are soft and breasts feel nice and women tend to have bigger, fleshier asses so they’re more fun to grab and spank. Does that make me bisexual? I would say no"
I’m getting a sense that most girls aren’t labelling themselves as totally straight. But how many women are actually bi in comparison with those who say they’re bi do you think?
Bisexuality is like alcoholism, it’s self-determined and self-reported. So it’s hard to know what the truth is about how many are bisexual. If you say you’re bisexual I have to accept you are, but I know from my own behaviour that a lot of times it was just lack of repulsion. Sure I can kiss this girl – her lips are soft and breasts feel nice and it’s fun to spank an ass and women tend to have bigger, fleshier asses so they’re more fun to grab and spank. Does that make me bisexual? I would say no.
When you’re defining yourself as gay or straight, I usually think it goes by who you fall in love with. So a man can perhaps have sex with men and women equally, because he has a lot of testosterone. But who does he fall in love with? If he falls in love with men I’d say he’s probably a homophile.
When you’re bisexual it’s not usually about who you fall in love with, it’s strictly on the sexual spectrum. So I would suspect it’s probably a smallish number. There are very few people who can be equally attracted to both sexes.
In the older pictures, there seems to be a wider range of body types. How has the idea of the “perfect” body impacted the porn industry?
When I got into doing sex magazines in the late 70s, there was a lot of appearance variety because plastic surgery hadn’t become common, people weren’t making a lot of money so it wouldn’t even occur to them. And there was acceptance of all these body styles and people were eager to see them.
Now if you go online – this is one of the great things the internet has done because people don’t need to make as much money on the internet with each thing – we can have tremendous variation of body types and ages.
So we’ve kind of gone back to what you had in the very beginning when they used whoever would show up – if the woman they were able to get was a 200lb amputee then that’s the woman we’ll have and people would still buy it and be stimulated because my God she has her clothes off! Now, fortunately, we’re back to that and the fastest growing area of pornography is older women. And when I say older, I mean women up into their 70s.
There’s still a notion that female sexuality is “less important” than male sexuality. How do you think this influences lesbian porn for men?
Well, among men, female sexuality is terribly, terribly important. If you look at the overwhelming theme of porn, it’s women who are extremely sexually interested, women who are sexually assertive, women who are sexually aggressive. And this is because men desperately wish that women were just like they are sexually, that they wanted it a lot and that they weren’t so discriminating.
But aren’t gay women the group having the 'most orgasms' and the 'best sex'?
Well, if you can’t demand an orgasm of another woman, if you can’t get another woman to understand how to make you come and that you need to come then you’re a pretty sorry lesbian.
"At some point you’ve gotta take hold of that head and just guide it where you want it to go! And then speak up! Find your voice girls!"
And as I say, the book has nothing to do with lesbians but if you want to talk about actual lesbians... I have lesbian friends who fake orgasm! They can’t even tell another female that they don’t know how to come.
Why is that?
What I hear from women all the time is that they don’t want to talk about sex, they don’t want to talk about what they need, they want their partner to intuit what they want and do it. And I hear this from young women who are growing up in a supposedly post-feminist age when they’re supposedly empowered to talk about what they need and ask for what they need and yet there’s still this strong desire to have a powerful, assertive partner who will “take them”, just like in an old-fashioned romance novel.
It's so true though isn’t it, we kind of expect pleasure to come to us, for a man or woman to magically know what we like.
We're kind of spoiled! Of course we all would hope that the person would know but how long are you gonna lie there squirming around trying to get their tongue in the right position? At some point you’ve gotta take hold of that head and just guide it where you want it to go! And then speak up! Find your voice girls!
Is there a male equivalent to lesbian porn for men?
I have female friends who love looking at gay porn. And they’ll tell me its because the men are better looking and that is actually often true.
"Most men would agree that they don’t really want to see real lesbians having sex"
The men in gay porn with large penises tend to be young, in shape, good looking, well groomed and the large penis men in straight porn tend to be middle-aged, pot bellied and unattractive. So, yeah, there is that equivalent but it is a small group of women who are responding to that compared to the overwhelming numbers of men who agree that they love to see two women together.
I guess the constructs of it are different, it's not necessarily seeing your "property" and your "property" having sex together, as it seems in lesbian porn for men.
Most men would agree that they don’t really want to see real lesbians having sex. They don’t want to see an actual lesbian couple; what they want to see is two attractive young straight girls fulfilling that fantasy.
Working in the industry for 40 years, how has your attitude to consuming porn changed? Has it been affected from seeing the inner workings of it?
It's ubiquitous now. Every child by the time they reach puberty has seen porn and that’s a horrifying thought, you know they’ve seen this adult activity. But among primitive humans back in the dawn of humans and in simple societies, children saw actual sexual activity in exactly that same way they’ve seen it because they lived in close contact with adults, they all slept in the same room.
And it would seem that, even though this is something that I don’t advocate – nobody is advocating that children look at porn – it doesn’t seem to have adversely affected society in the ways we thought it might. I don’t see a drop in morality.
What I saw in the 1970s was a lot more casual sexual activity than I see in young people today. I have a group of young interns here and those girls are as sexually conservative as people were in the generation before mine. They don’t want to be sluts, they want to get to know someone before they have sex with them. So yeah it seems that human nature is sturdier than we feared in the face of pornography.
Well that’s good news, there's so much fear-mongering amongst the government and academics that you'd think we were heading for a hell where kids are obsessed with sex.
Oh please! We’ve been heading for hell forever. One of the advantages of getting old is that you have seen enough reports of hell on the way and know that we never quite get there.
You can order Lesbians for Men from TASCHEN now.
Dian Hanson's interview has been condensed and edited for readability.