Feminist Porn?

2016-02-26 13.52.24Is all porn inherently sexist?

Must all porn oppress women?

Can porn be freeing and uplifting for women?

What the hell is “feminist porn?”

I have written about feminism and porn before on this blog (see here). So, let’s start with the basis that 1) I do not think all porn is inherently abusive and sexist, and 2) porn can be uplifting to some women. But what does it mean to make “feminist porn?”

This is a discussion taking place around the world and in a number of porn production companies. This week Vice profiled New Level of Pornography and its head Ninja Thyberg this week on its “Creator’s Project” site. The piece was laudatory about Thyberg’s desire and work to create “feminist porn.”

Reading the piece, I agreed with parts of it. Thyberg’s statement that it is hard to create porn without recreating the male gaze and that it is easier to objectify women in porn than it is to objectify men are reasonable statements. I have struggled with that myself when writing and shooting porn.

However, there were several statements in this piece that have been echoed in other writing about feminist porn that I take great exception too. Primarily, I have a problem with defining feminist porn as porn that turns the tables and objectifies men and is porn that focuses heavily on female pleasure.

The Master’s Tools…

Thyberg asserts in the article that her version of feminist porn is feminist in part because it focuses on the woman’s pleasure and telling the story from the female perspective. I can see how, in some instances that, yes, this type of porn could be feminist porn. However, if a woman is telling a story from her perspective but still embracing patriarchal ideas, versions of beauty, and embracing the dominant paradigm, they are just recreating sexism with a woman’s voice.

Let me clarify with an example. In the United States the idea that “the woman’s place is in the kitchen” is deeply rooted in female oppression and limitations in the workplace. Current politics has created shorthand for this oppression by using the statement, “a woman should make me a sandwich.” The idea is that women are unfit for the workplace, do not have leadership qualities, and should be silent and service men.

It would be easy enough for a porn to take place in a kitchen with a woman dressed proactively and making  a sandwich. A man comes in, they have hot sex in the kitchen and she climaxes at least once.

If you are taking the ideas put forth in the article (and Thyberg may be shorted here. A single quote is not enough to understand all the thought behind it) the above porn would be a “feminist porn.” However, the porn above does nothing to challenge the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and should have no power. The mere fact that the woman climaxes should not be seen as necessarily empowering.

Additionally, simply flipping the genders in the same film does nothing to challenge the current power structure. If a man was dressed provocatively and making a sandwich and the couple has sex until the woman comes, there is no challenge to the current paradigm. Some people may see it as “odd” that a man would be dressed in a thong and making a sandwich, but there is nothing so horribly out of place with this as to make any commentary on the current political and social role of women.

Audre Lorde pointed out, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismatle the Master’s House.” We cannot use the same narrative’s and the same exploitation tools used in porn against women on men and expect that we will ever move toward gender equality. Simply making men the focus of over-sexualization, making them weak or powerless, and making a woman’s pleasure the forefront of a porn does nothing to empower women. It simply turns us into an exploitative force like men have been for as long as porn has been around.

To truly challenge inequality and push for women’s rights through porn, we have to create porn that is uniquely feminine, embraces the power of women while supporting men, and looks beyond the current definitions of power.

Pleasure as Power

The other thing pointed out the the Vice article is that the porn was “feminist” because it focused on a woman’s pleasure. However, focusing solely on a woman’s pleasure can be really oppressive to both men and women.

To make a a man or woman focus solely or largely on the pleasure of a woman disempowers the other partners. Sex can be bonding, engaging, and fun without the slavish pursuit of orgasm. Yes, climax is great! But, it is not necessary for good sex. I focus on orgasm as a definition of pleasure because I have yet to see a porn where a women saying “ooooh, that’s nice” is the seen as the climax of the film.

Sometimes a woman won’t be in the right head space or physical space to orgasm. She may be having a great time, but that continual pursuit to make her come becomes daunting and frustrating. Focusing on making her come becomes a brutal, forceful task (mentally, if not also physically). Really good sex should involve pleasure for all parties.

Second, I also know that female pleasure in porn films is occasionally super brutal and degrading. Here, I am thinking of the “forced orgasm” films. Yes, the woman is coming over and over, but if you watch many of these films, you will see the subject go from pleasure, to overstimulated, and into a painful frenzy and a need to stop because although there is an orgasm it is too overwhelming and painful to continue.

If porn producers really wanted a feminist definition of pleasure, some of their films would include things like women bathing, getting a foot massage, and being gently caressed. It would also include things like whipping and water sports because there are those of us out there who find that super pleasurable as well.

So, What Does Feminist Porn Look Like?

The Vice article is correct in their point that there is no standard definition of “feminist porn.” For me, feminism is about overturning the current social structure focused on authoritarian rule, zero-sum game politics and economics, and the need to disempower one group so another can advance. Feminist porn should strive to do the same thing.

This is difficult to do. It means that there needs to me more context to most porn. It means that people have to stop retelling old porn tales in a female voice. It means we have to reconceive gender relations in a way that makes everyone equal. It means we challenge ideas of beauty and sexuality and pleasure. And we need to do that in a way that people get spank bank material they can jerk it to in short clips.

My first porn is on this site (here). I wrote this to be a feminist porn. Yes, there are a lot of the “typical” porn shots. However, the woman’s pleasure is the basis of the film (the FDA Approved dick makes her problems diminish). However, the guy’s pleasure is also important (he is clearly having fun and there is the “money shot” at the end). The couple is interracial, but I flip the script in that the girl is Black and the guy is White. I chose a couple that does not exemplify traditional concepts of beauty but were really sexy together on film. I incorporate a lot of humor into the film because not all sex is “sexy” and “serious.” There was a lot of thought put into producing this 4 minute film. It comes closer to the “feminist” porn I would like to see more of.

We have a long way to go to get a decent amount of good feminist porn. I look forward to watching the films as they develop.

 

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