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I've also heard, plenty of times, that porn degrades women. That argument always makes me wonder about gay male porn, which lots of women appreciate for all its hunky hotties in flagrante. If heterosexual porn degrades women, does gay porn degrade men? What about porn made by women—is that degrading, too? For me, the real problem with most porn is its hokeyness—the ridiculous costumes, the awful cinematography, the ludicrous story lines, the terrible acting (not to mention how scary the close-ups sometimes look, how fake the boobs are, how some starlets really sound like injured animals...).

And yet in my research and experience, the biggest roadblock for women (and men) to enjoying explicit imagery is the fear that they don't "stack up" to the bodies and abilities of the people onscreen. Erotic models and actresses bring up a whole range of adequacy issues, from breast size to weight, from what you look like "down there" to the adult acne we all periodically fight.

But it's worth remembering that if porn performers looked like you and me, they'd be out of a job. They're abnormally thin, they get cosmetic surgery literally (and sometimes frightfully) from head to toe, they have makeup in places you'd be surprised makeup can be applied, they shave and wax everything imaginable, and they're weirdly flexible. They occupy a tiny end of the gene pool, and that's why they're capable of acting out fantasy sex.

Though I've sometimes felt that my job as a porn reviewer (for websites like FleshBot.com) is akin to being a canary in a bad-taste boys' club mine shaft, I've seen a change in quality in the past few years that I think is a direct reflection of the growing female audience. As more discriminating viewers, we've demanded better porn—and lo, it is being made. Women are changing the market. Director Maria Beatty's gorgeously shot movies (all of which feature strictly lesbian action) look like 1920s noir films with sex, but not explicit sex—just a lot of tease and dreamy outfits and music. And Comstock Films, maker of high-quality, documentary-style, real-couples videos, aggressively markets to women with the simple tagline "Women love real sex."

So just what do we love about it? First, the way it lets us satisfy our very normal, very human sexual curiosity. If you're like me, you're the kind of woman who'll peep at Pam Anderson's new boob job just to see the latest installations. But it's not just what the bodies look like, it's what they look like aroused—and what they can do. Watching people have sex can be fascinating.

Porn is also a fun and versatile toy. Sure, I sometimes feel like I need Google Earth to show me where the good porn is, but once I find it, I can figure out what to do with it faster than you can click Zoom In. Explicit sexual imagery is an aphrodisiac; it sends a direct current buzzing from our brains to our groins. Like a reliable vibrator, it can be a great tool. With porn, women like me get to experiment with making adult choices and trying on new fantasy ideas, just as we might try a different brand of condom for a change. We don't have to think of rationality and animalistic urges as mutually exclusive. If we desire, we can let them play together like tennis doubles. Porn is one more pleasure to add to life's sexual buffet, one that can be enjoyed with a partner or alone. And if Shaving Ryan's Privates winds up giving you more giggles than orgasms, then the only casualty is...Ryan's privates.

Next: Find out what's worth watching

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