Guys are popular consumers of erotic materials. We’ve all heard the jokes and seen the subtle nods to it on TV. Unless you aren’t a guy, it might not have occurred to you that someone other than dudes could benefit from pornographic imagery. “That seems ridiculous,” you might think. “Obviously, men aren’t the only ones who look at porn for fun.” True, this seems pretty obvious, but a recent study confirmed this fact. You know, just in case.

History of erotic art

Artists have been drawing up people in compromising positions for thousands of years. The earliest example of pornography can be found in the Xinjiang region of northern China. The Kangjiashimenji petroglyphs are roughly 3,000-year-old carvings in a massive red basalt outcropping. They represent an extensive series of sexual encounters. The current interpretation of the artwork is that it tells a story about a fertility ritual or some other official proceeding. Male, female, and possibly intersexual individuals appear to be engaged in some form of mass-coital event. While one can debate whether the depiction of fertility rituals or symbols counts as “pornography,” the Kangjiashimenji petroglyphs are certainly a starting point.

Fast-forward to the time of the Ancient Greeks, around 500-300 BCE. Their art is among the lewdest in recorded history, with graphic depictions of just about every kind of sex imaginable. Their pornography isn’t an isolated incident, either. They slapped that stuff on every vase, pot, and urn in sight. The Greeks were extremely open about sex and sexuality, and they were not afraid to flaunt it. Even into the middle ages, artists like Hieronymous Bosch were content to create wildly erotic paintings depicting varied intimate acts for everyone to enjoy. If humans have been indulging themselves visually and physically in earthly delights for millennia, what’s the big deal all of a sudden.

A matter of perspective

It should come as no surprise that views on sex, sexuality, and promiscuity vary significantly from one culture to another. Europe is generally viewed as being far more sex-forward than the United States, which is comparatively puritanical. In the end, whether you’re looking at Japan, India, Germany, or the US, most of the differences in sexual acceptance boil down to religion. Countries dominated by conservative beliefs tend to view sexual liberation in a harshly negative light. Similarly, many of those religions also place women as subservient to men. This worldview leaves a loophole for increased sexual freedom for men and condemnation for women.

“Okay, that’s great, but where are you going with this?”

To science!

Pornography has been around as long as humans have been able to draw “three-legged” stick figures, and yet, in 2019, we still have our heads in the sand. A new study has answered the question that we thought no one was asking: Yes, women enjoy sex as much as men. Groundbreaking, I know, but hold onto your bras because it gets better. The study said that even though male users generate roughly 80% of porn site traffic, women show the same neurological responses to erotic imagery as men do. In case you’re wondering why the answer is pretty simple. It all comes down to biology. All animals are biologically programmed to want to reproduce by default. Environmental, psychological, and genetic differences may lead to discrepancies on the individual level, but as a whole, people generally want to get it on. Dogs, cats, elephants, fish, and birds all have the same biological urge to reproduce, and that lays the foundation.

Higher-order primates such as bonobos and humans take things one step further. We’ve figured out that sex feels good. Being the endorphin junkies that we are, humans take that simple fact and turn it into a regular act. We’re stressed? We have sex. We’re happy? We have sex. We’re bored? You guessed it: Sex. Whether you’re male, female, nonbinary, or intersex, your brain generally responds to feel-good endorphins the same way as anyone else. You like it; you want more. It’s a simple case of stimulus and chemical reward — nothing more, nothing less.