WHAT IS FEMINIST PORN?

The terms “ethical porn” and “feminist porn” are often used today to create a distinction from porn “mainstream” and porn aesthetics as we know them from major tube sites. The term however describes a political idea of what porn can be and is not a new phenomenon, it has existed since at least the 1980s.

Initially, there is the question of what feminist porn is in the first place. While ethical porn primarily describes how a film is produced, feminist porn is about who is involved and what is shown and how. The directors are feminists, the production is mostly independent and more for a niche market. Ethical production conditions and the desire of the performers, regardless of the Male Gaze (porn films made by and for straight cis men), are paramount. Important are consent, safe working conditions and performers who do not only serve a certain ideal of beauty. Often the people behind and/or in front of the camera are queer and it is important that the perspectives of PoC, trans and non-binary people are shown, that there are no racist, fetishizing and ableist categories or content.

The socially prevailing idea that feminist porn is “women’s” porn, rather soft and with more plot than porn “for men” is definitely wrong and has more to do with stereotypes that determine what kind of sex “women” supposedly like. Freely lived sexuality away from heteronormative norms is celebrated in feminist porn. They can be soft, rough or kinky. All genres are represented.

One of the largest (supposedly) free tube sites is Pornhub, with 42 billion visits and 6.83 million video uploads (Pornhub, 2019) per year. In addition, there are countless other tube and fan sites. With the abundance of content, the pressure on producers to be found increases. Small, independent studios produce for a niche market, allowing them to focus on content they are passionate about showing. Aspects that are not shown in many mainstream films can be seen here. For example, conversations about consent and boundaries, asking for breaks, an unerect penis and lots of lube. Feminist porn wants to push boundaries and show pleasure differently and for everyone. At the same time, budgets are smaller here, which can lead to lower fees for performers, for example, than in “mainstream” productions.

Photo from Jiz Lee, CineKink director Lisa Vandever, Tristan Taormino, Candida Royalle, and Nenna Joiner

From left: Jiz Lee, CineKink director Lisa Vandever, Tristan Taormino, Candida Royalle, and Nenna Joiner ©WikiCommons.

Tristan Taormino, a well-known feminist director and co-editor of the Feminist Porn Book, defines feminist porn as “gender equality and social justice. Feminist porn is ethically produced porn, which means that performers are paid a fair wage and they are treated with care and respect; their consent, safety, and well-being are critical, and what they bring to the production is valued. Feminist porn explores ideas about desire, beauty, pleasure, and power through alternative representations, aesthetics, and filmmaking styles. Feminist porn seeks to empower the performers who make it and the people who watch it” (Breslaw, 2013).

Feminist porn subversively challenges prevailing notions of sexuality and offers a perspective that questions traditional power structures and stereotypical gender roles. Gender justice and recognition of sexual diversity, education and empowerment, representation and the reduction of stigma surrounding porn and sex work are concerns of this medium, about which we all can still learn so much.

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