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Sex & Relationships

Why Trans Porn Is Hugely Popular Among Hetero Men

What's often called "Shemale porn " is consistently among most popular categories.

Colin Allerton is a numbers guy. As director of business development of porn retail site adultempire.com, he keeps a close eye on what trends upward and what doesn’t. On his radar is something called T-porn, that is, porn featuring pre-operative transgender women, and its most loyal viewers tend to be heterosexual men.

“Years ago we had trans material only listed on the gay website that we run,” Allerton told us a few months back. After conducting an “experiment” and moving trans content onto the straight site, sales shot up by 50%. More recently, he confirmed, “It’s one of our top 10 most popular categories.”

Porn site Evil Angel starting producing trans content back in 1998. “At the time it was about as fringe as you could get in our business, but boy, did it make money,” says Adam Grayson, the site’s chief financial officer. “Over the past two decades it's become quite normal, but the level of profitability has never changed. These movies are by far the best-selling at Evil Angel, across DVD, web, VOD, television, you name it.”

“An hour of good trans content is like gold in our business, often generating two times the revenue of an hour of more traditional adult fare,” he added.

The folks over at RedTube tell us that searches for trans porn have grown dramatically since 2013, the majority of them conducted by men. According to their statisticians, guys are 455% more likely to search for transgender porn when compared to women. On a state level, they found that Wyoming has the highest proportion of transgender searches.

The United States ranks 12th worldwide for the proportion of trans related searches within each country. The people of Brazil, Italy, Argentina, and Russia appear to be the most likely to watch trans porn.

Over at Pornhub, the “Shemale” category features just under 15,000 videos. That’s more than the For Women, BBW and Bondage categories combined. It also tops other popular genres like rough sex, orgy and webcam.

Of course, hammering out the appeal is a complicated task. “Different people can be doing the same thing for different reasons,” says New York City sex therapist Michael Aaron. One theory revolves around the idea of fetish. “Straight guys fetishize body parts,” Aaron explains. “Even though they are straight in the sense that they only fall in love with women, they only want to have relationships with women, the penis might be arousing to them.” In regards to the lure of the trans performer he says, “Here’s someone who looks like a woman but possesses a body part that turns them on.”

It seems that kind of novelty goes a long way in the porn universe. “The consumer is always looking for that kind of taboo,” says Allterton. “They may watch something that they would never do themselves, but it being taboo makes it more attractive to them, because it's not their everyday, normal life.”

If the numbers tell us anything, it’s that fantasies surrounding trans women are largely entertained through porn consumption. Though there are also those who choose to take things offline and into real life.

Van Barnes, a trans woman, spent three years working as a sex worker in New York City during the ‘90s. She told AlterNet, “Something clicks where these trans-attracted people get off on the naughtiness. Most of their life they were formulated to believe attraction and action with a woman like us was negative and a nonverbalized forbidden… We have been not-talked-about secrets for generations.” She added, “There are gay identified men out there that are attracted to trans women and a few will have relationships, but this is still minimal compared to straight identified men, and few to none gay dudes pay trans women for sex.”

“Most straight identified men begin their attraction with the simple magnetism of the mystery of sex with someone so feminine and has a penis. Physically through the act of oral worship or bottoming for a woman with a penis gives men new body territory and feelings to explore… It’s a multisensory experience,” Barnes said.

And men aren’t the only ones whose fantasies fall out of sync with their sexual orientation. Gay male porn remains hugely popular among heterosexual women. “I think our standard definitions of orientation are a little dated,” says Aaron. “There’s a lot of academic discussion about opening up our understanding of orientation being about much more than gender.”

Aaron introduced us to the concept of “queer heterosexuality,” or more fluid and non-binary expression of heterosexual identity. Some hope opening up the discussion will "begin to give voice and legitimacy to the queerness that exists within the straight male world,” as one study puts it.

Embracing forms of sexual play previous dubbed “queer” is likely to prove an important step in opening up the conversation surrounding gender, identity and attraction.

“Two generations from now… the psychology of this attraction will be different because the societal dynamics are in the process of changing,” says Barnes. 

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture. 

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