Dr. Caroline West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex, sexuality, and the body. Here she writes about the booming popularity of audio erotica, and what it offers to women specifically.

Porn has been criticised for decades for its believed impact on viewers, especially younger viewers. Depending on the kind of porn, it can skew perceptions of sex, intimacy, consent, and violence. It is also often criticised for its graphic nature.

However, it is worth noting that words are often in short supply in much of mainstream pornography. After the initial scenario staging, men say very little, and women are often non-verbal. Everything from condom use to verbal consent communication is seldom portrayed

Instead, as porn scholar Linda Williams points out, "the smooch of a kiss, the smack of a slap" and more explicit sounds become the soundtrack, connecting the viewer to the content through their ears, rather than just their eyes.

The female voice is invisible in much of porn, and the female orgasm is also commonly, if wrongly, framed as largely invisible.

These roles are reversed in audio erotica with the female voice occupying center stage and graphic extravaganzas glaringly absent. Instead, the pleasure is aural, not visual. When the sexual scene is devoid of visibility there is a space for the listener to focus on tone or inflections.

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Listen: Caroline McCall & Eileen Gormley, the two women behind The Pleasures of Winter, on RTÉ Radio 1.

Women, trans, and nonbinary people have been creating feminist, ethical, and queer porn since the 1970s, and it appears to be a section of the porn industry that is growing rapidly in 2022.

Social media sites like Reddit have subreddits for auto erotica that often have over one million subscribers who can request custom content from an adult creator.

The editors of The Feminist Porn Book explain why feminist porn is potentially a more ethical choice, as they focus on more than the content on screen:

"Feminist porn makers emphasise the importance of their labour practices in production and their treatment of performers/sex workers; in contrast to norms in the mainstream sectors of the adult entertainment industry, they strive to create a fair, safe, ethical, consensual work environment and often create imagery through collaboration with their subjects."

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With the rise in female-produced audio porn, it is no surprise to see this ethos reflected there also.

Quinn, an audio erotica app that caters to a female audience, was founded by Stanford student Caroline Spiegel who was inspired by Tumblr and its then-relaxed adult content community (adult content was banned from Tumblr in 2018 after being bought by Verizon. In September 2022 it allowed for nudity on the platform.)

Quinn has since blossomed into a thriving community of its own, with 740,000 user sessions in September alone, as reported by The Cut. The app will likely remain audio-only, which keeps it firmly in the "ethical porn" sphere, as no one is having sex and no one is being paid to perform sex.

Vannpyra Wynters, the owner of online sex emporium Lace and Tassels, believes that this lack of visual content is a benefit to many people.

"There's certainly a multitude of individual reasons why some people prefer audio porn to mainstream visual porn. The lack of visual graphic imagery, such as what we tend to see in mainstream porn, allows us to tune into, and visualise our own sort-of-imaginary dream sex scenarios.

"Pair that with the fact a lot of what we see in mainstream porn isn't usually a realistic representation of real world enjoyable consensual sex, and the fact most porn is filmed to cater to the 'male gaze' rather
than the female one, and it is therefore no surprise that many women and queer people in
particular like audio erotica."

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Listen: Sex Therapist Rachel Cooke talks erotic podcasts with Jennifer Zamparelli.

Aural erotica can be relaxing and a soft way to explore desire and sexuality. Women have long been consumers of written erotica, and it is no surprise that in the modern age they have utilised technology to continue to explore the power of erotic stories.

Autonomous sensory meridian response, also known as ASMR, is a perhaps unexpected source of erotica, but for those who enjoy the tingles they get from listening to whispering and the sounds of objects being touched, it provides a whole new world of sensuality to explore.

Audio erotica allows the listener to fill in the gaps to make the story work for them - they can envision the storyteller on their own terms, just like no two people read the same book in the same way.

Apps such as Dipsea, Ferly, and OhCleo have seen enormous growth over the past few years, especially since the pandemic.

Celine Fierro, the co-founder and CEO of audio erotica app OhCleo suggests that the reason people like apps like this is that it truly connects with people.

"Jay Taylor - one of our creators who is a porn actress - said recently something that stuck with me. When she does visual content, even from her most dedicated fans the compliments are usually very basic and on a surface level. And when she does audio content, she gets long paragraphs on how they never expected it to be like that, they felt it way deeper in their body."

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Audio erotica has the same impact as visual porn, written erotica, or anything that people find arousing - it helps us connect to our desires and makes us feel less lonely.

Celine suggests that the connection with creators of audio erotica is erotica is key for consumers.

"It's about the connection you feel with the person rather than the story, and users are very loyal to the creators they fall in love with. It's like a virtual relationship. We want users to easily explore new voices and creators to be able to monetise on their talent - we all deserve to feel less lonely."

There are so many ways people can connect with their sexuality, and in the digital age there is so much choice of content, pace, tone, and more that there is surely something out there for everyone - and that can never be a bad thing.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views.