The first time I watched porn I was fourteen. I remember being squished in with friends, staring at a small laptop and feeling pretty unconvinced by what I saw. It was violent and certainly didn’t look enjoyable for the woman. It wasn’t until I came across Dipsea that I felt I had found erotica that catered to what I wanted. Founded in 2018 by Gina Gutierrez and Faye Keegan, the app is designed by women, for women and offers advice, self-pleasure sessions and audio stories.
The app describes itself as ‘relatable, feminist and celebratory’ and for me, it is an app that finally understands what I want from porn. My friend jokes that it is designed with English Literature students in mind; the writing is respectable, believable and sexy and the actors sound genuine – words I would struggle using to describe mainstream porn. Dipsea offers a type of erotica that I have been missing and judging by the success of the app, it is something that many other women have been missing too.
But why have we been missing out on this for so long? According to Naomi Wolf’s influential Beauty Myth which explores how conventional beauty standards have confined and dictated women’s lives since the 1970s, ‘women are taught how to look sexual not how to feel sexual’. Looking back at my first encounter with mainstream visual porn, I think this idea formed part of my dissatisfaction with it. Mainstream porn plays into the narrative that women are there to look sexual but doesn’t show women experiencing real pleasure. Dipsea radically reimagines this. By taking away the visual element so crucial to mainstream pornography, the app is reconnecting us with our own pleasure. By offering examples of women asking and describing how they would like to be touched, it reframes female sexuality in darkness.
Representing female sexuality without imagery is still relatively new in both mainstream media and pornography. For me, this is part of Dipsea’s appeal and relevance. Laura Mulvey’s powerful essay on Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema explores the sexual objectification of women in the media and coined the term ‘Male gaze’. She argues that women in scenes are ‘the bearer of meaning and not the maker of meaning’; instead of taking control of a scene, women are simply there to be looked at. The theory suggests that women in the media are viewed through the eyes of a heterosexual man and represented as passive objects of male sexual desire. Feminist porn director and creator, Erika Lust, testifies that mainstream porn frequently plays into this narrative: ‘Mainstream porn shows sex as something that men do to women, or what women do for men; this makes it misogynist porn that actually objectifies women and places unrealistic expectations on both sexes.’ If mainstream porn tells us that we are not ‘makers of meaning’ it becomes difficult to direct our own sexual pleasure with a partner.
By removing the visuals, Dipsea is changing the way women are taught to experience our own sexuality. Wolf goes on to argue in the Beauty Myth that ‘Girls learn to watch their sex along with the boys; that takes up the space that should be devoted to finding out about what they are wanting and reading and writing about it, seeking it and getting it’. Dipsea offers women a chance to hear other women being listened to rather than watch other women being seen. This is what makes it so powerful.
According to a 2016 study from the Archives of Sexual Behaviour that looked at over 52,500 adults in the U.S. – including those who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual – 95 percent of heterosexual men reported they usually or always orgasmed during sex, compared to 65 percent of heterosexual women, who were the least likely. Laurie Mintz, author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – And How to Get It, encourages and empowers women to begin focusing on their own pleasure, communicate with a partner how they want to receive pleasure and crucially change their language to be accurate and reflective when communicating what they want. The message is clear – in order to have better sex women need to be more vocal about their sexual pleasure. By writing scripts that include women clearly vocalising what they want, Dipsea offers examples of how to do this.
Dipsea is improving women’s sex lives – the app presents women as the directors of their own pleasure and removes the visuals that frequently objectify women in mainstream porn. Thanks to Dipsea’s reimagining of erotica, I hope that other women might have a more positive and satisfying experience the first time they encounter porn than fourteen-year-old me did. Dipsea is playing its part in closing the pleasure gap once and for all.
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