What Do Women Want To See?

In an interview with Tracy Clark-Flory, former Playgirl editor Jessanne Collins describes where the magazine fell short:

Did you ever witness a Playgirl shoot that you found legitimately sexy?

Honestly, no. I mean, maybe this is another sign that I was very much a fish out of water, but I just did not at all get the aesthetic. I don’t buy the myth that women are “not visual” people whatsoever. I check out dudes. I know we all have specific aesthetic triggers. And yet in all those pages upon pages of photos — none of them did it for me. There was an almost clinical approach to photography — almost as if these bodies were specimens under a microscope, every muscle all waxed and on display — and I think that’s the major thing. It’s this certain type of porn trope that doesn’t translate well for a real female audience.

Which is why the majority of its readership was male, of course:

One can’t help but wonder why it took Playgirl so long to embrace their male demographic, which accounts for 60% of the title’s readership and 65% of online subscribers [in early 2008, shortly before the print magazine’s collapse].

Clark-Flory also asked Collins, “What would it take to publish a successful porn magazine for women?”:

Again, I think it’s very much a myth that women don’t like to look at hot visual content. I think the hard part is that there’s literally no formula for what that is. There’s something about expectedness, in fact, that just kills intrigue immediately. And this is a challenge because porn’s a pretty formulaic thing, most of it, especially what’s produced in a corporate capacity. So a porn magazine for women would have to be out of bounds — it would take a real eye for the particular chemistry that goes into making content that is suggestive and explicit, even, without being cheesy — it takes nuance, subtlety, a kind of storytelling. I think women are visual, but I also think perhaps they’re a different kind of visual than men are, maybe, in that a little can go a long way — there’s something hotter in an insinuation, a possibility, a tease than there is about a straightforward close-up of a giant penis. For many women, anyway. This is why the romance genre is so wildly successful where porn for women, in today’s porn terms, can be a hard sell. Also, smart words! Language can do a lot to turn women on, but it has to be the right language.