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Smartphones open up world of sex and porn for women, study finds

CBC with Diana Parry 15 January 2018

One thread on a Canadian online forum made up mostly of women asks for advice on sex toys.

Another user asks others how they maintain their “downstairs” area while another person says they want to learn more about BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission and sadism and masochism).

The questions they’re asking are part of a rising trend where women are embracing technology like their smartphones to learn more about sex and their own sexuality, says University of Waterloo researcher Diana Parry.

Online forums are great, she said, because they are anonymous, affordable and accessible.

“There’s a sense of comfort there. It normalizes women’s sexual desire to connect with others who have the same type of sexual desire,” Parry said.

“That fuels a conversation that women haven’t been able to have before,” she said. “They’re eager to connect with others, share their experiences, learn from other women and bring the information sharing full circle.”

Both friends and internet consulted

Parry worked with PhD student Janet McKeown and Penny Light, a professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., on a larger research project that looks at how digital technology facilitates women’s consumption of explicit online material.

Part of that research produced this study published in the journal Sexuality and Culture titled, My iPhone changed my life: How digital technologies can enable women’s consumption of online sexually explicit materials.

The larger research project involved in depth interviews with 28 women who were recruited at a Toronto store and workshop venue that educates women about sexuality. Of that group, responses from 11 were used in this study.

Parry said while women still get together with their friends to talk about sex, the study confirmed women are now turning more and more to the internet to answer questions, get opinions and satisfy themselves.

Online material ‘inspired’ women

More women are watching porn then ever before and Parry said they learned through their interviews that women aren’t just watching for enjoyment.

“They were looking for material that was a person choice for them, that was sexually arousing for them,” she said.

Women found the material online often inspired them in terms of their sexual practices.– Diana Parry, researcher at the University of Waterloo

“Women found the material online often inspired them in terms of their sexual practices,” she added. “We saw women making comments like, “I learned a new position that I learned online and I took that back and tried it out with my partner.'”

Parry said she found it interesting women moved beyond just gratification to take something away from the pornography they were viewing.

“It was having a personal benefit but then it was also fuelling intimate relationships that the women were involved in, or it was queuing them up to say, ‘In my next sexual relationship or my next intimate relationship I’m going to seek out a partner who’s interested in exploring these types of practises with me,'” she said.

“It was really fascinating to me how women were using it to address their own sexuality and then to really explore sexual practices and taking that back into their intimate relationships in ways that they found really beneficial and they reported that their partner really appreciated as well.”