Does The Pill Affect Women's Enjoyment of Watching Pornography?

Pill Use and Pornography

Pornography and The Pill. Photo Credit: PeskyMonkey/Getty Images

Statistics tell us that 62% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method. Since 1982, the pill and tubal ligation have been the two most commonly used birth control methods, with four of every five sexually experienced women have used the pill. The pill, as well as other hormonal birth control methods, is considered a highly effective method of contraception and offers many non-contraceptive health benefits as well.

The majority of women who use the pill report satisfaction with this method. Yet, many pill users may not realize that oral contraceptive use may interfere with their enjoyment of watching pornography.

It’s no secret that men and women respond differently to watching pornography; gender can affect what men and women find most attractive in a sexual context, the types of sexual images that they find arousing, and overall sexual motivation levels. What may be more surprising is that there are differences in the enjoyment levels of watching pornography among women based on whether or not they use combination contraceptives. Women who do not use combination pills (or contraceptives like NuvaRing or the Patch) typically experience fluctuations in sexual initiation, masturbation practices and sexual desire over the course of their menstrual cycle. Because women who use the pill do not experience the same amount of monthly hormonal fluctuation, it would seem logical to expect them to have lower and less variable sexual motivation than women who are not using hormonal birth control.

And research confirms this idea that pill users seem to experience different lower levels of enjoyment when watching pornography. When it comes to viewing sexually explicit photos of heterosexual couples engaged in 
oral sex or intercourse, it appears that both men and women are more likely to look at the genitals in the photo, although women who are not using birth control pills "displayed more consistent interest in the genitals than 
did the other groups."

To test this idea that birth control pills may interfere with pleasure when watching pornography, researchers looked at men, women who were not on any hormonal contraception, and women currently using birth control pills. The subjects were from various ethnicities and ranged in age from 23 to 28. The two female groups (those currently on the pill and those who were not) did not differ in their sexual attitudes or experience with erotica/pornography.

The results of this research revealed that gender and contraceptive type influenced where subjects first looked (when presented with sexually explicit images/pornography), the amount of time viewing each area, and the probability of where one would look. To understand how this was evaluated, the researchers used Gaze Tracker software that was able to determine where the participants looked, and how long they were "fixated" at 1 of 7 "zones":

  • Male faces
  • Female faces
  • Genitals (both male and female)
  • The male body (torso, legs, and arms)
  • The female body (torso, breasts, legs, and arms)
  • Clothing (clothing still worn by the people in the image, which also included shoes and jewelry)
  • Background (anything outside of the people in the image)

The result of this study that proved to be most surprising to the researchers was who spent the most time looking where!

In fact, data revealed that, when watching pornography, women on birth control pills were more likely to look at and spent more time viewing clothing, jewelry, and backgrounds. This was completely opposite from those women not using hormonal contraception. These women showed a significant increased tendency to gaze at people’s genitals in the sexually explicit images. And, just to throw one more curve ball, men actually spent more time fixated on the women's faces (trying to gauge the woman's level of sexual excitement - perhaps?).

The study also cites that:

  • Both men and women spend about equal time looking at the female body.
  • All three groups spent less time looking at the male body; though both groups of women looked more at the male body than did men.
  • Because the male body zone did not contain male genitalia, this result may suggest more female interest in looking at male genitalia than the rest of the male body.

The notion that pill use may interfere with watching pornography seemed to confirmed. The researchers concluded that,

"We observed the strongest bias towards looking at the genitals in [natural-cycling women]. We predicted that they would look there more than [women on the pill] based on their likelihood of having higher levels of sexual motivation. But we did not anticipate [non-pill use women] looking more at genitals than did men.”

It appears that hormonal influences do play a role in what a woman pays attention to while watching pornography. So to all you men out there who want your female partners to watch pornography with you, here are two suggestions based on this research:

  1. If your woman is on the pill, find some other fantasy to involve her in -- maybe read some erotica together, engage in some role play, or talk dirty to one another. Simply watching pornography together just may not do "the trick" for her.
  2. BUT - if your gal is not using a hormonal birth control method, introducing pornography may be a fun way to spice up your sex life! She may be resistant at first, but based on this research, her interest (and hopefully desire) may perk up once she starts getting glimpses of some good genital images!


Rupp H, Wallen K. "Sex differences in viewing sexual stimuli: An eye-tracking study in men and women." Hormones and Behavior, 2007; 51:524–533. Accessed 10/24/13.

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