One-Sided Orgasms: Pornhub’s Most Popular Videos Don’t Show Mutual Pleasure


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Porn. It seems to be a topic that’s everywhere these days, and not just on your easily accessible free hardcore tube site. Magazines, newspaper articles, TV shows—you name it, porn as an issue has made a guest appearance on it.

But as much as porn seems to be everywhere, it’s also pretty mysterious. What, exactly, happens in your average porn video aside from clearly fake acting and the mechanical and rehearsed act of exaggerated sex? And what do these powerful yet airbrushed images teach consumers who probably started watching explicit content before ever having their own real-life sexual experiences?

Related: Why Pornography Prevents Sexual Satisfaction Instead Of Promoting It

Well, porn shows a lot, but we’ll tell you one thing the most popular videos on the world’s largest porn site don’t show—mutual pleasure.

And if even if you’re not in a relationship that involves sex, or ready for that kind of committed relationship, that is completely okay. This is still important info and relevant for why porn is never the answer for questions about sex or relationships.

Lopsided pleasure dynamics

Recently, some researchers at the University of Quebec in Montreal, led by graduate researcher Léa J. Séguin, investigated how today’s porn could be affecting women’s sexual functioning. But why? In the study’s own words:

“Social representations, which appear in a variety of media, can influence the way sexual experiences are perceived and understood. While pornography is not the only medium in which orgasm is portrayed, it is the most explicit, and it is widespread and easily accessible. As such, pornography is an ideal medium for examining representations of male and female orgasm.”

Related: How The Porn Industry Hijacks Natural Sexual Curiosity And Hooks Teens

Translation: what people see in visual representation (movies, TV, porn etc.) often shapes what they expect in their real-life experiences. So observing how porn portrays pleasure for both men and women, while understanding that many teens watch porn with the intent of learning about sex, can shed light about what people are really expecting to experience in the bedroom.

So, how did they do it?

Researchers viewed and coded the 50 most viewed videos of all time on Pornhub, watching for pleasure-inducing acts and clear indicators of enjoyment from performers. Content analysis was used to code and analyze the data, and results were analyzed in light of sexual script theory and previous orgasm research, according to the study.

Their findings? In these top videos, 78% of men were shown having an orgasm, compared to just 18.3% of women.

What does this mean?

The researcher’s conclusion is that “representations of male and female orgasm in mainstream pornography may serve to perpetuate unrealistic beliefs and expectations in relation to female orgasm and male sexual performance,” and according to Séguin, “that the male orgasm is paramount.”

In other words, porn sells damaging ideas about mutual pleasure not being important, and packages it as a sexual fantasy. Also, porn convinces consumers that it’s normal for women not to enjoy sex and men to always take charge in the bedroom—which are unhealthy ideals, obviously—and consumers are buying it, watching it, and re-watching it.

Related: Why Bad Sex And Low Self-Esteem Result From Watching Porn

Clearly, porn is not a quality tool to learn about mutually satisfying sex, even though 60% of students say they watch it for that exact reason. So if it’s not teaching consumers how to be good, respectful partners who are mutually interested in pleasing the other, what is it really teaching?

Well, there are quite a few research studies about that, too. And, spoiler alert, porn is basically the most toxic teacher around.

Why this matters

One recent study of adolescent porn use concluded that the major messages presented by porn are male domination, hypermasculinity, and making male sexual pleasure the top priority. [1]

What kind of education is that?

“It’s sad,” says Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychology professor who studies the effects of porn. “Boys who are initiated in [to] sex through these images become indoctrinated in a way that can potentially stay with them for the rest of their lives.” [2] Not to mention that they might start to believe that to truly be a “man,” they need to be aggressive and seek domination in bed.

And think about this, too—what messages does this kind of content send to young women and girls? It says that their enjoyment of sex with a committed and consensual partner isn’t important, and that they should accept being controlled and dominated. Not cool.

So what can be learned from these studies? For one, the proven harmful effects of porn also apply to harming relational satisfaction and mutual respect. And just another reason to avoid porn?

Taking sex tips from an industry that profits from fake (or nonexistent) orgasms is like is like getting fitness advice from someone who has never worked out a day in their life. Definitely not recommended.


[1] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half The Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study Of Pornography Use Among A Sample Of Urban, Low-Income, Black And Hispanic Youth. Journal Of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908
[2] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. New York: Henry Hold & Co., 187.

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