Feminist Porn: Celebrating women’s sexuality

Ashley Peel 

I’m not a prude, but I’ve never been into porn. Two things come to mind when I hear the word porn: fake orgasms and Linda Lovelace. Let me elaborate. When it comes to fake orgasms, it refers to the entire package of commercial porn—weak acting, beyond cheesy plots, and bad screen shots. Linda Lovelace, star of the pornographic film, Deepthroat (1972), an icon in the commercial porn industry of its time, is the other thing that comes to mind. In her memoir, Ordeal, Lovelace describes the lifestyle of a captive sex-slave. She accuses her husband, Chuck Traynor, of forcing and keeping her in the industry with years of physical and emotional abuse. Another pop-culture reference that sheds a dreary light on the porn industry is the hit FX series Sons of Anarchy.

The one word that never comes to mind when I think about porn is feminist, but there is a wave of activism and promotion for feminist porn. In fact, there’s an entire virtual feminist porn world that exists beyond our 18 and older fingertips. It starts with sensuality, non-discriminatory attitudes of race, gender, sexual orientation, or body size, consent, and safe-sex practices. Of course, I Googled it.

Wikipedia defines feminist pornography as “a genre of film made by and/or for women.” It’s a byproduct of the third-wave feminist movement, which sought to challenge the second-wave feminist movement that failed to incorporate and emphasize the equalities of women of all races and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Feminist porn challenges the taboo of sexually-free females and encourages and defends females in the sex industry.  KaeLyn, a contributor to the blog feministe asks, “Don’t women, and all people, have the right to control their bodies, access their sexual desires, and to enjoy safe and consensual sexual pleasure?” This is the big question behind feminist porn and its movement—the idea that women can take control and participate in the porn industry without the backlash of sex-work degradation and judgment.

It seems to be a behind-the-scenes debate that involves different interpretations of the word feminist. I think Dylan Ryan says it best in her article, “How I Became a Feminist Porn Star”:

“I think that depends on what your definition of ‘feminist’ is. I think a broad definition for people can be ‘woman focused,’ and is this porn that? For sure. For others though, “feminist” can have an entirely different definition and for some feminists, pornography is exploitative no matter how or for whom it’s made. So it depends.”

The porn she is referring to is, The Crash Pad, the first film she starred in as a twenty-something college grad working in a well known San Francisco sex toy shop called Good Vibrations.

Her article goes into detail about the making of The Crash Pad, which put an emphasis on the actors being comfortable and open with their insecurities and anxieties, as well as being compensated well for the performance, as opposed to the traditional idea of female pornstars getting paid just enough to land the next line of coke without any say as to who and what goes into their bodies. The original film launched a series today called, The Crash Pad Series. The website describes the film/model/director relationship as nontraditional, “While there is sometimes a premise agreed to by the models, sex is never scripted. In fact, the models tell US what they’re going to do. Our mission is to let them express their own sexuality, in all its diverse forms.” As the founder, producer, and director of Pink and White Productions,” Shine Louise Houston says, ““I believe there’s a lot of room and need to create adult content that’s real, that’s respectful and powerful … I think it’s the perfect place to become political. It’s a place where money, sex, media, and ethics converge.”

Throughout the same article, Ryan often mentions the word “authenticity.” This caught my attention because one of the problems I’ve always had taking porn seriously (that is, if I’m not repulsed by the crude hard-core fucking involved in the majority I’ve seen) is the lack of authentic pleasure, sensuality, “love-making,” and climatic moments. It seems one of the most important aspects of feminist porn is the idea of the authentic sexual experience. This involves aspects we’ve already discussed: consent, safety, and the fact that not all sexually active adults are size twos with big boobs and blonde hair. Feminist porn doesn’t discriminate on body type and probably allows the mascara to run a little during the heat of the moment (or the heat of the camera lights shining on their forehead).

I’m still of the camp, however, that would rather have sex then watch sex; I’ve never been keen on having sex while watching sex, but I am for the idea behind the feminist porn movement. Having had friends in the sex industry (from topless bars to full nude cabarets to legal Australian prostitutes), I realize that it’s a lucrative business that doesn’t always involve drugs, rape, and trafficking. I also realize that you can condone one without agreeing with the other, which opens an entirely wider door of debate on decriminalizing and legalization.

But let’s take the small steps toward equality. Let’s challenge ourselves to be a little more open to the possibility that pornography can be feminist and can celebrate women’s sexual desires and prowess. Websites, information, and videos abound in our prudish bubble, if we’re willing to burst out of America’s sexual taboo and look a little farther into the subculture of feminist porn. KaeLyn offers numerous starting points at the end of her post, “Feminist Porn: Sex, Consent, and Getting Off.” Do what I did. Start there and start clicking, even if you feel a little uncomfortable pressing enter, no one is looking over your shoulder and there’s no harm in “research.” 

2 thoughts on “Feminist Porn: Celebrating women’s sexuality

  1. I’m at the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference in Cincinnati, OH, and yesterday, I attended a session with Tristan Taormino, one of the most prominent and prolific directors of feminist porn in Hollywood. According to her, what makes porn feminist is this:
    1) It employs fair and ethical labor practices. This goes beyond ensuring equal pay for equal work among male and female performers and offering not just a living wage, but paying performers a rate that they themselves set. It also means that performers are not ever asked to do something they don’t want to, and that they are encouraged to engage in safer sex practices if that’s what they prefer.
    2) It means purposefully casting performers of color in primary roles, and not just as servants, gym attendants, or bell hops, but as the main protagonists in the film.
    3) Performers have agency and choice–they lead the action, and as such, feminist porn is almost unscripted. It’s the performers deciding what they want to do and who they want to do it with. There is extensive collaboration and cooperation between the director and the performers.
    4) Feminist porn employs performers of all body types and sizes, and challenges the notion that sexy bodies have to be lean, heavy-breasted, muscular, and/or hairless.
    5) Feminist porn also challenges what constitutes sex and what makes sex pleasurable, and seeks to expand that exponentially.
    Check out Tristan Taormino’s website for more about her work: http://tristantaormino.com/.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s