Inside The Surprisingly Liberating World Of Reddit Porn

Photos: Courtesy of Reddit user Mrs_Gault.
Every morning, a woman who goes by the name Mrs_Gault on Reddit wakes up in the dark of her Chicago home around 6 a.m. She slips out of bed, careful not to disturb her husband, or wake her children who are sleeping in nearby rooms. She walks quietly to her closet, where she takes off her clothes. Some days, she’ll slide on some lingerie — a lacy black thong, perhaps, or a see-through camisole — and others, she’ll sit on the floor, completely nude. She snaps a few photos with her phone: cupping her bare breasts, sliding off that same lingerie, or inserting colourful toys between her legs. And then? She posts them on the internet.

Once a post goes up, Gault (whose name is a nod to a literary character she won’t reveal) will get her kids ready for school, and then run off to her full time job. By her lunch break, she will have received hundreds of views and more than 100 comments on her photos, which are either taken from the chin down or with her face blacked out. She ignores some, sends flirty smiley faces in response to others; a lucky few launch full-on sext conversations or receive promises for more photos soon.

“I used to be so much more shy, but now that I’ve anonymously opened myself up on the internet, in real life I’m much more in touch with who I am,” she says. “I’m more secure with myself, which means I'm willing to let other people in on who I am, too.”

Gault is a member of the growing NSFW community on Reddit, the news aggregation and message board site founded in 2005. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” has since become known as a black hole of discussion boards, also known as “subreddits,” where users endlessly discuss everything from Donald Trump (on “The_Donald”) to ShowerThoughts.

But of the tens of thousands of active Reddit subs (as of press time, there were more than 45,000), the 57th most popular — with 1,009,487 subscribers and counting — is GoneWild, home to users like Gault who post nude photos, videos, porn GIFs, erotica, and more (all of which are allowed within Reddit’s content policy as long as they include the “NSFW” tag). This small corner of the internet is where people go to anonymously share images and videos of themselves in a variety of sexual situations, then respond and converse with commenters. While it's an equal-opportunity situation, the porn posters are overwhelmingly women.

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Photos: Courtesy of Reddit user Mrs_Gault.
The result is an interactive porn experience where the women are in charge, reminding the world that a porn star doesn’t have to be an exaggerated, overly orgasmic caricature of a sexual being with a Barbie-like figure. They represent myriad body types, races, and sexual identities, and an expression of sexuality that's for their own enjoyment as much as anyone else's. Of course, this isn’t a new concept; popular performers like Stoya and April Flores have already brought this ethos into the mainstream porn industry in recent years, and camgirls (women who upload their own self-taken porn videos) have been at the forefront of self-documented porn by women since 2001.

“Indie porn sites have been challenging the notion of who gets to be in porn for years,” says Lux Alptraum, sex educator and former editor in chief of Fleshbot. “Non-traditional porn performers have existed for a very long time. The only thing that doesn’t change is our belief as a society that women who don’t fall into that old ‘porn-y’ blonde stereotype are somehow novel or different.”

She adds: “Is the mainstream porn industry male led? Yes. But so is the mainstream film industry. It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been women of all gender and sexual identities, shapes, sizes, and races, challenging the norms for a very long time.”

But in addition to running counter to the (false) assumption that all online porn is degrading to women, what makes Reddit’s NSFW community unique versus those longstanding indie sites is that it has transformed a mainstream website intended for people to exchange ideas into a safe, protected platform for women to express their sexuality and fulfil sexual urges while simultaneously exploring and finding confidence in their bodies. Just by posting photos or videos of their naked bodies, the women of GoneWild are both asserting their sexuality and continuing to expand the cultural acceptance and democratisation of porn.

Beyond Reddit, women are the primary authors of erotica blogs like DarkGracie.com and Literotica.com, and many of the 12% of Tumblr blogs that feature NSFW content are curated by women. There’s a growing number of porn stars on Snapchat, where users like OneDaisyMarie and RebelleFleurXX snap sexy stories daily (and are able to easily monetise their content). And then there's MakeLoveNotPorn, a crowd-sourced site that features real people having sex while seeking to shed labels like “amateur” and even "porn," period — since porn implies it's a performance.

But while posters from the above sites can direct message their Snapchat viewers or log on to Twitter to interact with fans, Reddit’s discussion board format lets all that happen centrally and immediately in one place, creating an instant, intimate community. These are women who are filming themselves in their own homes, sometimes with clothing or children’s toys or their own toys in the background; they are quite literally inviting other Reddit users into both their homes and themselves, and allowing them to openly discuss what they see.
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They’re not looking for dolled up, photoshopped porn stars with huge breasts and tiny waists.

Mrs_Gault
It might sound like a breeding ground for trolls and cyberbullies, but of the two dozen GoneWild porn stars who provided feedback for this story (including a law firm call-centre clerk, a recovering drug addict, a few full-time students, and more than a few moms, ranging from ages 22 to 41 and all a variety of races), every single one said that the majority of the comments she receives are positive.

“People who are logging on to Reddit prefer imperfect, amateur porn,” says Gault, who first began posting after a male friend mentioned Reddit’s NSFW threads and she decided she wanted to share the nude photos she’d already been taking for herself. “They’re not looking for dolled up, photoshopped porn stars with huge breasts and tiny waists. There’s something for everyone on Reddit, but a lot of my commenters, male and female, say they appreciate that I have imperfections, or that I poke fun at my small butt.”

So while women across many platforms, from Snapchat to Tumblr, are proving that any woman can be a porn star, the comments from the primarily straight male viewership on GoneWild tell the world that the non-stereotypical porn star is actually becoming a preference, not just some porn anomaly. If a reader were to take a look at a few dozen GoneWild subreddits — from GoneWildColor, which is specifically for women of colour, to GoneWild30Plus, which features women over the age of 30 — they’d see that the majority of the remarks (that were printable for this article; you’ll have to use your imagination for some of the more explicit commentary) are mostly along the lines of “Gorgeous babygirl,” and “you are perfect in every way,” or simply romantic suggestions of imaginary dates or detailed (read: very detailed) fantastical sexploits.

This tendency for male Reddit users to skew toward more realistic women is in line with the mainstream porn industry’s recent lean toward porn featuring non-cookie-cutter women, too: In the last few years, PornHub has reported spikes in search terms like virtual reality, giantess, BBW, big booty Latina, and, simply, lesbian. And the nominees at the AVN Awards (the porn industry’s Oscars) have become increasingly diverse in both body type and race over the years. (That said, it's important to recognise that racism in the world of casting in the mainstream porn industry is still pervasive.)

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Photos: Courtesy of Reddit user Mrs_Gault.
Gault, who typically photographs herself in her closet in a variety of poses (“Cake Day” meant her robin’s egg blue thong was accompanied by breasts covered in vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles), adds that since she joined Reddit, she’s become more confident in and proud of her body. “Any insecurities about my body have disappeared completely. And it’s a really cool thing, because you get to be all these things you aren’t in your real life: photographer, model, and exhibitionist.”

She adds that this power is particularly important in our current political climate.

“Our president might try to institute policies, culture, or even laws that push women back down to being viewed as mere objects without independent thought or visions of their own potential,” she says. “Proudly posting my naked body online because I want to is like giving him — and everyone like him — the middle finger. Culture evolves, regardless of who sits in office.”

Many posters keep their Reddit identity completely anonymous, which often means keeping it a secret from their family, friends, and significant others. (Mrs_Gault opted not to discuss whether or not her husband knows about her Reddit use.) But while posting is an outlet for fulfilment, for some users, like 22-year-old LittleAsianWaifu (“waifu” is otaku slang for “wife"), it’s also a way to spice up their sex life offline.

“My boyfriend is the one who encouraged me to start posting,” says the Florida resident, who also usually posts in the mornings before heading to her retail job, where she checks for comments and feedback during breaks. “Now, we’ll read messages and incorporate them into our sex life; in fact, one of my posts incorporating a belt was taken during one of our real-life encounters — and that idea originally came from a lengthy message I once got from a fan.”

The perks aren’t just physical, though — they’re also mental. “I can’t lie, I also just love the attention,” she says. “Not long after I post, I’ll get, like, 60 comments, sometimes as many as 200 after a few days. I was already a kinky person before, but it's added a new element to how I view and see myself. I’m a sexy woman, and now I feel comfortable owning that.”

While Waifu’s significant other knows about her side hobby, and she says she’s open with her friends about her sexuality, she makes sure to take steps to ensure her anonymity, editing out any identifying tattoos or birthmarks and being careful about what’s pictured in the background — all tips that are suggested on Reddit’s Wiki on how to safely post nude photos.

“There’s always going to be creepy messages,” she says. “But the moderators are pretty good about removing any negative comments, and Reddit makes it really easy to block people — and then you never have to hear from them again.”

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Photos: Courtesy of Reddit user Mrs_Gault.
Currently, GoneWild is Reddit's largest NSFW community, with about 40 million screen views monthly, according to the site’s PR team. That might sound small compared to PornHub’s 64 million views per day, but if GoneWild is the original, parent NSFW sub on Reddit, it’s given birth to a whole tribe of children — or “spinoffs,” if you will: GoneWildCurvy is the second most popular behind GoneWild, just another example of what viewers find sexy versus the public perception of what an idealistic porn star might be. There’s also inclusion for a variety of races and preferences — beyond GoneWildColor, there’s LatinasGW, AsiansGoneWild, BBWGW, and IndiansGoneWild, along with GWCouples, AltGoneWild, LGBTGoneWild, HairyGoneWild, LadyBonersGW, GoneWildPlus, DykesGoneWild, GayBrosGoneWild, GoneWildSmiles, GoneWildAudio, WorkoutGoneWild, MotorcyclesGoneWild…the list goes on.

For the most part, the users we spoke to said they keep their Reddit life just there — on Reddit. But there are subs intended for IRL meetups, like RandomActsofBlowJob, specifically intended for oral sex hookups. And the majority of the GoneWild posters aren’t in it for money, though there are also some who discreetly sell not just acts of sex, but items like underwear (a diversion Orange Is the New Black fans are familiar with). For instance, in addition to sharing photos, user LegendaryLootz sells used panties to some of her nearly 40,000 subscribers.

“From time to time, I do get requests from commenters to sell things or meet up offline,” LittleAsianWaifu says. “But that’s not me. I’m a pretty normal girl. I live my life, I go to work. I’m like anyone else — I just happen to post nudes online every now and again.”
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I’m a pretty normal girl. I live my life, I go to work. I’m like anyone else — I just happen to post nudes online every now and again.

LittleAsianWaifu
While most of these women do keep their interactions digital, over time, Mrs_Gault says, it begins to feel like an actual community — a virtual sisterhood, almost, especially when you volunteer to be a comment moderator for other subreddits, helping to weed out robots or harmful, racist, or negative comments with a handful of other “mods,” as they refer to themselves. Moderators often find themselves drawn to one another, having a lot in common, which is how Gault became online BFFs with MaeByFunkeMarryMe, who happens to be the same age as her and have a similar photo aesthetic. The pair talk daily on the phone or via messenger and collaborate on a weekly invitation-only podcast about sex and relationships. (And both report that, even as moderators responsible for nipping harmful comments in the bud, they don’t see very many hate-filled responses.)

Mae, 37, is “somewhere on the East Coast” and finishing up her PhD in math. Like Gault, she snaps and posts nudes every morning before her partner wakes up: perhaps a GIF of her playing with herself, or a shot of her legs spread beneath the shadows of her bookshelf, or a side view of her in Valentine’s Day lingerie, putting on a bright red lipstick-covered pout. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday, she’ll then head out to teach a class; the rest of the week, she works from home on her dissertation, grants, and research projects. The reward for a few straight hours of hard work? Allowing herself to check her Reddit account.

“At 27, I went through a terrible breakup, and I realised that up until then, I’d had a terrible sex life,” she says. “I’d always secretly been somewhat of an exhibitionist, so that summer I started embracing my sexuality, sleeping with and sexting different partners. I joined Reddit, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I started throwing up a few nude pics here and there anonymously… I never thought it would become a big part of my life, but now, I’m addicted. It’s a huge distraction from my work, but I love it.”

Like LittleAsianWaifu, Mae’s partner knows about her pastime — but in this case, while she does feel that it’s made their bedroom life more experimental, he isn’t as supportive. “It’s very ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” she says. “He sees it as me putting myself on display for other men, but that’s really only maybe 10% of the reason I do it. The real reason I do it is because it reminds me that I’m still a sexual person; it fulfils an urge that has existed within me long before I started posting. But I think it’s hard for some men to see us as sexual beings — they’re willing to sexualise and objectify women, but they forget that we have urges, needs, and fantasies, too.”

Photos: Courtesy of Reddit user Mrs_Gault.
Ah, yes: the Madonna-whore complex, a personal and societal conflict as old as time. Of course, Mae can’t be seen as both an intelligent married woman on her way to a PhD and a woman with desires, right? It’s a misconception Mrs_Gault says she also struggles with, as both a woman taking charge of her sexuality, as well as a wife and mother.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting if we were all more open about our sexuality, whether it was on the internet or with family and friends?” she says. “I think the perception of women would change so much if we could just casually say, ‘Oh, my daughter is a wife, mother, and career woman, and she’s also really sexual!’”

Gault says we have a long way to go before the world becomes this sex positive, but based on her Reddit experience, she believes things are getting better.

“Women are mostly taught to pretend that we're all just good girls who are innocent and non-sexual — and that we just ‘put up with’ sex,” she says. “So when you see an ‘everyday’ woman who talks about her kinks, it feels somewhat deviant. But I think that’s slowly changing. And I think outlets like Reddit and GoneWild can be an agent for that change.”

Here’s hoping that, one day, women won’t have to choose between being sexy and smart or maternal — and that maybe, with the women of Reddit helping to lead the charge, communities like this one will actually be safe for work.

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