Contrasting Romance Novels and Pornography: Male and Female Preferences
I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance novel, not for school, and certainly not for my own enjoyment. Although I’m not much into pornography either, I get much more excited looking at visual images of attractive women than if I were simply reading about them. Growing up, I remember the opposite to be true for my older sister, who often had romance novels lying around in her room. The contrasts between romance novels and pornography underscore how different female and male erotic fantasies are. These differences reflect human evolutionary history and the disparate sexual selection pressures women and men experience.
According to our course handbook and as evidenced throughout history, men have been larger, and thus, the hunters. The role of women has been that of the gatherer, and also the rearing of offspring. To aid men during hunts for food, natural selection has led males to develop enhanced spatial and visual skills, to better coordinate their attacks. Females instead, have developed better verbal and language skills for communication. Since men have adapted to become more responsive to visual stimuli, male sexual fantasies have become dominated by visual imagery, while female sexual fantasies place emphasis on the personal characteristics of the partner and the emotional context of the encounter.
The pornography industry has changed little since Victorian times, it is almost exclusively aimed at males (heterosexual and homosexual); it is overwhelmingly visual; involves many different youthful and attractive partners, and provides instant sexual gratification without the need for emotional commitment. On the other hand, romance novels are aimed directly at women and are fundamentally about mate selection, emotional bonding, and commitment. Romance novels generally do not contain explicit sex scenes. This may also be why women do not purchase female-oriented visual pornography (which tends instead to be bought by gay men) and why men show little interest in romance novels (Symons 1979).
Male viewers of pornography crave variety, and frequently, pornography aimed at men includes multiple women. A...