99 Comments

Open Thread: can there be feminist porn?

The organisers of Canada’s Third Annual Feminist Porn Awards (Toronto, April 4th and 5th 2008) think so.

In 2006 we decided that it’s not enough to criticize adult films for not adequately representing women’s – and in many cases, men’s – sexuality. So we decided to do something about it. As porn star and performance artist Annie Sprinkle famously said, “The answer to bad porn isn’t no porn…it’s to try and make better porn!” Good For Her couldn’t agree more. We believe the world is inundated with cheesy, cliché, degrading, no-budget, patronizing and stupid porn. But we also believe that erotic fantasy is powerful, and that women and marginalized communities deserve to put their dreams and desires on film, too. As feminists and sex-positive people, we want to showcase and honour those who are creating erotic media with a feminist sensibility.

It doesn’t take long for anyone reading about feminism to realise that there’s a lot of disagreement amongst the feminisms regarding porn, porn vs erotica and the larger picture of the sex industries generally. These tend to get summarised as “anti-pornography” and “sex-positive” stances, both of which terms are overly simplistic. “Sex-positive” especially casts opponents as “sex-negative”, when it is more true to say that they are “sex-industry-negative” or even better “sex-exploitation-negative”.

So, when I received this email about the Feminist Porn Awards I thought it was a good kick-off for an open thread on feminism and porn. Have at it. (ducks and runs)

Update: For a good collection of posts from advocates of the anti-prostitution/pornography feminisms, try the Third Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

99 comments on “Open Thread: can there be feminist porn?

  1. I think it’s *possible* to create some kind of pro-feminist porn, but I’ve never seen it, and I have no idea what it would look like. The current state of porn is so distorted that I can’t even imagine this thing.

  2. I think not only is it possible but it’s absolutely necessary. I think feminist porn would look very similar to a feminist, or egalitarian, relationship – both partners would be pleasured and it would be a turn on, and erotic, for everyone involved. To me, what makes porn not feminist freindly is not only the innaccurate portrayal of women in porn but also the unequal pleasure that porn exhibits – for example, heterosexual porn usually only shows the man getting pleasured. Just my $.02 :)

  3. I have made it a personal goal of mine to not only search out feminist porn, but porn that I think is “ethical” – porn that is made by truly consenting (now there’s a debate!) individuals, that doesn’t demean women or men, and that shows the participants having real honest-to-god fun with each other. Does such porn exist? Yes! Where? Here! (Moderator: hyperlink removed – URL kink dot com) (link possibly NSFW)

    Ok, ok. Those of you who followed the link and found a hardcore S&M site probably want me to explain myself. Well, the second thing you should see when you open the page is that one the main links in their menu bar is to a page called ‘Values’. From there, you can find the company’s list of model rights (Moderator: hyperlink removed – URL kink dot com forwardslash modelrights dot php), as well as their list of rules for directors (Moderator: hyperlink removed – URL kink dot com forwardslash shootingrules dot php) (both sites SFW).

    Some excerpts:
    The models must be interviewed after the scene is shot. “The post shoot interview must be at least 2 and half minutes long, and the model(s) must have sufficiently recovered from the shoot to express themselves coherently about their experiences.The model(s) should do most of the talking, and the questions should be open-ended and not suggestive. (I.e. the questions should be of the form “what did you like or dislike about this shoot?” rather than “You liked that, didn’t you?”) The responses to these questions must be coherent and deliberate.”

    Also, there are guidelines for the “teaser” photos that promote a video on the website. “One smiling image must be chosen, no genital nudity. The model must be visibly smiling, this image should be either the first or the last image.”

    And “The words “abduct”, “abduction” and “rape” cannot be used. Additionally, the copy cannot imply actual rape or abduction.”

    So there it is, the one porn site I have found that is full of respect, fun, and lots and lots of BDSM sex. Now if there were only a more vanilla website that adopted the same values!

    Moderator note: This comment almost reads like an advertorial. Criticisms below are valid as to the issue of consent (which to be fair, you raised as a point of debate). Hyperlinks have been stripped to avoid giving the site any linkjuice.

  4. I’ve seen feminist porn, it definitely exists. And is vitally important imo.

  5. I’ve read (and written) erotic fiction which I would categorise as women’s (heterosexual) porn. Whether it’s possible to have photographed or filmed feminist porn, I’m less certain as it depends on who is setting up and controlling the images and ‘storyline’ and to whom they are trying to appeal – because many of the items in the stock film lexicon and in particular the erotic film lexicon are saturated with anti-women bias. One would need to develop a new visual language.

    Personally, I prefer written porn anyway as, a stereotype I know, I find words more of a turn-on than images (beefcake eye-candy partially excepted)

  6. Jix, same. I think theoretically, porn in which both partners’ enjoyment is important, and which does not conform to gender stereotypes, has varieties of people in it, and genuinely has willing participants (because we know the porn industry really isn’t always voluntary) who have the ability to set their limits, would be feminist. Egalitarian, varied, fun, and safe would be really cool.

    My problem with mainstream porn is that if the woman acts like she’s having fun, it’s to boost the ego of the man/men involved, not because she actually is. That’s boosted by, and contributed to by the fact that in society, men often view pelasuring women as a sign of their own performance, something of a status symbol. Not something to do because they appreciate their partner. Not because both parties deserve mind-numbing pleasure during sex.

    Also, we need an end to porn actresses being made to act like they enjoy acts they clearly don’t, which just reinforce the whole ‘the bitch wants it really…she enjoys the pain’ rape culture going on. So many porn films seem to have women practically begging for soemthing that is clearly not enjoyable, as a way to kid men that women actually like this, ergo if your girlfriend won’t do it, she’s frigid.

    That and the really weird body image thing. Feminist porn must have lots of different body types, shapes, ages and combinations. And not forgetting pubic hair… there must be hair. (not in all, but at least in a good amount of it, because I’d guess the majority of women do not wax it all away).

    As it stands, most of porn is far from feminist, and since society is misogynistic, it can be argued that society would still objectify women in feminist porn if it was around. But all the same, the good wholesome messages of feminist porn would hopefully permeate a bit like the bad ones of its predecessor, and affect people in subtle ways.

  7. I have made it a personal goal of mine to not only search out feminist porn, but porn that I think is “ethical” – porn that is made by truly consenting (now there’s a debate!) individuals, that doesn’t demean women or men, and that shows the participants having real honest-to-god fun with each other. Does such porn exist? Yes! Where? Here! (link possibly NSFW [to kink.com])

    You have got to be kidding me. Kink.com can say they’re ethical all they want, but until it’s proven (and, really, until we don’t live in a society where money is coercive and makes “consent” questionable if not absolutely meaningless), I’m not about to say that their porn is good for anyone, let alone anything remotely feminist. How can we tell what a genuine smile of pleasure is when these women are being paid to appear to enjoy what they’re doing? What happens to these women when the cameras are off? What might happen to them if they don’t practice their convincing smiles so that kink.com can keep profiting from these women’s exploitation?

    Okay, they don’t say “rape” or “abduction.” Saying that this constitutes feminist porn is like men expecting a profeminist cookie for not raping the hawt woman at the bar wearing a short skirt. Besides, even open-ended questions — whose answers are being filmed and whose answers may determine whether a performer gets her money or not — can be coercive. We can’t see what’s going on beyond what kink.com allows us to see. And I’m not about to trust the male gaze to tell me what’s “ethical.”

    I’m honestly quite offended that you’d call kink.com of all porn sites “feminist,” Sara. I’m not coming at it from an anti-BDSM stance, either — I don’t care what truly consenting adults do in their own time and I don’t want to judge that. I’m offended because kink.com has a vested interest in maintaining an “ethical” front — this allows them to keep profiting off the exploitation of women’s bodies while gliding under the radar of criticism. They absolutely deserve criticism. All porn deserves criticism, especially from feminists. No porn should get a free pass from a critical lens.

    I’m from the school of thought that says that all sex acts — whether they’re paid for with tangible materials or not — are deeply embedded in patriarchal constructs which limit women’s ability to meaningfully consent. Notice that I am not saying that women are unable to consent. I’m not into infantilizing women — the patriarchy does that for us. I’m saying that the choices that women have in terms of what’s there to consent to are limited by patriarchal forces hellbent on keeping women silent, submissive (in all ways, not just sexually), and powerless. Just because a porn site says that it’s doing all these things to make sure women are respected doesn’t mean it’s somehow risen above these patriarchal constructs and reached a postfeminist utopia. If women aren’t respected and seen as human in the mainstream, how, how, how is it possible that they’re respected as humans in porn (otherwise known as the art of objectifying women)?

  8. I’ve got some problems with directly linking to kink dot com from this site. The hyperlinks have been removed from Sara’s comment.

    Generally, comments that read like advertorials will be looked on with a jaundiced eye.

  9. kink dot com feminist? Srsly? Porn by men for men, lots of slavering over the barely-legal new “model”, all women called “girls”, forced-prostitution fantasies (if that isn’t rape what is?) And a whole bunch of contrived we’re-all-doing-this-for-fun! publicity for the gullible.

    I couldn’t go any further. Felt ill.

  10. Wow. I apologize if my post read like an “advertorial.” I can assure you that in no way am I affiliated with the company, and that I am not even an avid consumer of their product. But, I think they really have some good ideas. I do understand the linkjuice argument, and I thank you for leaving in the text for the link, if not the URL itself, for those interested.

    I agree that patriarchy limits the true ability of women to consent, as does social class, as does race. However, I think that the anti-pornography sentiment in feminism has it roots in morality, even if it has been backed by non-morally-motivated arguments. Women are allowed to sell their bodies for the pleasure of others in certain instances, but whenever it comes to pornography it’s a huge problem. You can hire somebody to do all of the work that a wife would do under patriarchy – clean your house, raise your children, even birth your children – but hiring women to perform the sexual duties of a wife is seen as anti-feminist.

    And it all does come down to choice, but how many women really do “choose” the jobs they perform under patriarchy? Some nannies would say that they “choose” to care for children because they enjoy the work, a surrogate may “choose” to give birth because she receives joy out of helping to start another family. And, yes, women may “choose” to engage in pornography because it gets them off.

    On the flip side, plenty of women nanny because it is the only job they can get, plenty of women surrogate because it pays really well, and plenty of women do porn even though it isn’t what they really want to be doing.

    So are you going to tell the nannies to stop taking care of children? Are you going to tell the housekeepers to stop cleaning houses? Are to you going to make surrogacy illegal?

    Then why is their such a backlash against pornography? Or, if you are going to do all of the above, how do you plan on supporting the countless number of unemployed women?

    All of that having been said, I think there are truly some women who do pornography because they like it. And I think that to tell them, “No, you’re only doing it because of patriarchy,” is rather disrespectful. Call me naive, call me gullible, but some of those women really do have the mindset of “we’re all doing this for fun.”

  11. Interesting. This is my first time to this site, and you just happen to be posting about an event that I will be attending! Well, I’m not going to the awards ceremony, but I will be at the film night. Perhaps I will report back about what made it up on the big screen. :)

    I certainly think that feminist porn is possible. Why wouldn’t it be possible for a film to celebrate sex between consenting partners, to celebrate women getting off in a safe and welcoming environment? Of course, 99% of porn out there doesn’t do this.

    I think the basic attitude needs to be that sex is something we do together. Not these situations where the girl is squealing just because it sells better and the guy is just this weird robot-like creature (not much personality needed for portraying the male gaze, I guess), but where both the guy and girl are clearly giving and getting pleasure. I would like to see more playfulness!

    There was an interesting question at Ask Metafilter requesting suggestions of porn for girls: http://ask.metafilter.com/80937/Porn-for-girls-That-isnt-gross

    One link from there that I liked was to Abby Winters. Their site seems much closer to my ideal.

  12. Women are allowed to sell their bodies for the pleasure of others in certain instances, but whenever it comes to pornography it’s a huge problem.

    Can you offer an example of this that is comparable to porn/prostitution?

    You can hire somebody to do all of the work that a wife would do under patriarchy – clean your house, raise your children, even birth your children – but hiring women to perform the sexual duties of a wife is seen as anti-feminist.

    Housework, childcare, and surrogacy are not the same as porn. They’re just not the same thing. Also, really? Women who are married to men have “sexual duties”? I’ll be goddamned before I see having sex with my partner as a duty, something I have to do or else.

    And it all does come down to choice, but how many women really do “choose” the jobs they perform under patriarchy? Some nannies would say that they “choose” to care for children because they enjoy the work, a surrogate may “choose” to give birth because she receives joy out of helping to start another family. And, yes, women may “choose” to engage in pornography because it gets them off.

    Uh huh. I’m not saying that women’s choices are unlimited outside the sphere of porn/prostitution. Obviously, patriarchally constructed gender roles influence everything we do, including what jobs we pick and what we end up enjoying.

    On the flip side, plenty of women nanny because it is the only job they can get, plenty of women surrogate because it pays really well, and plenty of women do porn even though it isn’t what they really want to be doing. So are you going to tell the nannies to stop taking care of children? Are you going to tell the housekeepers to stop cleaning houses? Are to you going to make surrogacy illegal?

    If you’ll notice, Sara, I didn’t say anything about telling women to stop doing porn or get out of sex work altogether. We weren’t even really talking about the individual performers until your last comment — we were talking about the ethics of porn, specifically kink’s porn and their policies. This thread is about whether porn can be feminist or not. You said kink was feminist and ethical. I said it was not and offered evidence to this end. This thread is not (necessarily or primarily) about how to stop porn, how to get women out of porn, or even the limits women face in their choices in other professions.

    All of that having been said, I think there are truly some women who do pornography because they like it. And I think that to tell them, “No, you’re only doing it because of patriarchy,” is rather disrespectful. Call me naive, call me gullible, but some of those women really do have the mindset of “we’re all doing this for fun.”

    Okay, great. You may be right. However, those (probably very few) performers aren’t the point of this discussion. Just because some women say they have fun doing something doesn’t automatically make it feminist or even right. Just because some women get off on it and have the ability to say so doesn’t mean it’s not exploiting thousands of other women.

  13. I would define myself as sex-positive AND sex-industry negative. I see your point about the term sex-positive seeming to create a false dichotomy though.

    I think there can be feminist porn – particularly if it’s porn made by feminists. ; ) I’d probably define it in a similar way to an earlier commenter: porn that depicts two people giving each other pleasure and respect and shared power. I think I’ve seen porn like this on amateur sites where couples upload their own videos – occasionally, one out of what seems like thousands will be healthy porn.

    I think it’s relevant that those examples aren’t industry produced. Just yesterday I picked up a “raw” catalog from TLA – a company that does very mainstream entertainment things in my city – and felt so sick and sad…. I was expecting erotica, and I found rape and brutality. I mean they used those exact words. I just find it so crushing to see women depicted that way – it makes me feel helpless, like I’m just an sex object who thinks she’s an equal partner, silly thing.

    I’d LOVE to hear back from people who visit this feminist porn event. What did you find? Did it meet your expectations? What would you recommend in particular for women who’d like to see their sexual selves reflected in a positive way?

  14. [description of industry porn] and the guy is just this weird robot-like creature (not much personality needed for portraying the male gaze, I guess)

    Bingo. If the males in industry porn displayed too much personality it would interfere with the fantasy – it would make it more difficult for porn-viewers to imagine themselves in his place.

  15. I don’t think it’s possible to ever create a “feminist porn” that will satisfy all feminists, but I can definitely see room for improvement in the porn industry. For example, they could cast women who actually LOOK like women, as opposed to made-up fake-tanned wear-jewelry-and-high-heels-while-having-sex “women.” They could also nix the degrading behavior often performed in porn – i.e. spanking, semen on a girl’s face, etc. I also agree with feministgal, who commented and said that “feminist porn” should involve both partners receiving equal pleasure, as opposed to most of it going to the man.

    I also think that feminists are more inclined to approve of “home-made” porn videos, because they present real couples, in which both partners are most likely consenting to the actions being performed on them, as opposed to an actress, who may not want to do everything she is told to do on screen.

    Eh, it’s a touchy subject.

  16. Also, really? Women who are married to men have “sexual duties”? I’ll be goddamned before I see having sex with my partner as a duty, something I have to do or else.

    I meant for the “under patriarchy” piece to apply to the sexual duties of marriage as well as the other private-sphere duties. That marital rape has only been recently deemed a crime by the courts is evidence of this.

    Housework, childcare, and surrogacy are not the same as porn.

    I will agree that housework and childcare or not directly comparable with porn, though I do think that there is a link between the two. Surrogacy, on the other hand, is very comparable to porn IMO. I think there are some rather direct comparisons to a woman who is paid for using her uterus for 9 months and a woman who is paid for using her vagina for 9 minutes (or more, or less).

    To bring the discussion back to kink.com, I bring them up because they are one of the few companies that I know that seem to be responding to the feminist critiques of porn by having positive policies. One of the most common critiques of porn I have heard is that men enact the fantasies they read/see in pornography by raping women (I think I am remembering that in a piece by MacKinnon). Given that, I think it is a great step forward that kink has in writing a policy that prohibits the use of the word “rape”, especially in a BDSM context. Also, the stated reason for the smiling images is, “that this can make the difference between a non-BDSM person perceiving our material as consensual rather than non-consensual.” Kink is trying as hard as it can to communicate to its internet audience that these women *are* enjoying themselves, even if part of the scene they are engaging in means they have to pretend otherwise, and that no woman likes, nor deserves, to be raped.

    I find myself having much more to say, but this post is already rather lengthy. I will sum up my final arguments by stating that I don’t think kink has reached some post-feminist utopia, but that they have made statements that empower their workers, which leads to porn where all of the participants are engaging in clean, safe, and fun scenes. There isn’t necessarily a balance of power in these films, but balance of power isn’t something one usually looks for in BDSM films. Kink’s policies (if they are truly enforced) are great for all parties involved, and I wish that more companies would follow in their footsteps.

    Please feel free to contact me directly at sjbassett [no] gmail [spam] com.

  17. [...] too. Lots of feminists are disclosing a bit of porn-viewing (does feminist porn really exist? – Finally Feminism 101), but I’ll come clean and tell you that I’m keen to see the Sex in the City movie. [...]

  18. Well, I’m surprised it’s taken this long, but we just got our first comment containing a stealth link direct to porn video.

    Nice try, but not born yesterday.

  19. @Amy: I don’t think it’s possible to ever create a “feminist porn” that will satisfy all feminists, but I can definitely see room for improvement in the porn industry

    I agree. Part of this has to do with the ways in which male and female sexuality differ. I found myself going in mental circles wondering why I often get disgusted with certain aspects of even non-violent porn, even though I cannot logically conclude that the content is always inherently degrading or harmful.

    Then I realized the problem. The original idea of porn was to cater to a male fantasy of having unattached sex with as many pretty, young women as possible. Of course porn has expanded into many genres, but let’s look at this basic premise.

    Most honest males will admit that the idea of limitless, no strings attached sex with beautiful women is very appealing. Fine. But the kicker is that there is a certain amount of internal resentment harbored among males who feel they have been cheated out of this experience by society, our contemporary age, feminism or some other nebulous factor (almost never having to do with their own shortcomings).

    I believe that porn also caters to this resentment. Enter the facial, the name calling, the gagging.

    Let’s take the facial. See, on it’s own, I could not rationalize why semen on any part of the face in of itself should be degrading (if all parties are enthusiastically consenting, of course). But whenever I see the smiling or wincing faces of young women, often accompanied by insulting descriptive captions, I can’t help but feel like there is “something else” that porn is catering to.

    And I believe that what feminists are responding to is not the sex itself, but the “something else” i.e, the sexual and visual representation of the resentment of an unfulfilled male entitlement.

    I think that it is this resentment that is the principal driver behind much (not all) of the MAINSTREAM commercial porn.

    So can there be feminist porn? Well, in keeping with the premise of porn as fantasy, what’s a feminist’s fantasy? Chew on that for a while…he he.

  20. clarification on facials and consent: I do think that depictions where the women is acting enthusiastically to having a man (or multiple men) ejaculate on her face is probably meant to imply degradation. So I want to make that clear.

  21. Mmmm…maybe a truly ‘feminist’ porn could exist – but only after the demise of patriarchy. But once patriarchy’s gone porn will be redundant anyway so my guess is there won’t ever be ‘feminist’ porn.

    I don’t believe ‘feminist’ porn can ever exist in tandum with patriarchy.

    And, Sara, a visual record of someone ‘smiling’ doesn’t necessarily imply their ‘consent’ for me – just that, if they don’t ‘smile’ they’ll get hurt more. Pornography, after all, tells lies.

  22. Pornography is propaganda against women as kkk literature is to african americans. Plain and simple. Feminist porn is an oxy-moron. i can see the argument for creating erotica that’s feminist, but that’s not what porn is and that’s not what men want to watch. so it doesn’t matter if feminists sit around and watch what is basically graphic depictions of the same love story that women tend to favor in movies, but then it actually doesn’t play out in real life because men are watching the action movie version of porn that treats us like crap. So you’ll still have the same problem, men and women coming to the table with different ideas and expectations. So it doesn’t matter, make your nice woman loving sex on tape, but don’t think that for a second there can be pornography and feminism in the same room. Sorry, but this is what’s keeping patriarchy in it’s place, propaganda against women so we can stay underfoot. It goes all the way down to clothing ads in magazines that look more like a crime scene than a woman feeling good in the clothes. It’s all propaganda to break us down to not be human. It’s what hitler did to the jews, what the confederacy did to the slaves, and then later to the freed blacks that continued to face violent backlash. Rape is to women as lynching is to blacks, and I don’t even want to think about what they did to black women! pornography is institutionalized rape and submission of a group of people. So if you want to fight for feminism, and see us reaching more equality, then don’t support porn in any form, cause as long as it’s around, we won’t be treated as equals.

  23. witchy-woo, how is the demolition of the patriarchy going to render porn redundant?

  24. Oh Witchy-woo, that’s so pessimistic! I’d like to think that there could be feminist porn, or at least pro-woman porn. Men certainly aren’t the only people who enjoy seeing visual representations of sex acts, nor should they be – the largest sex organ is the brain, after all, and it makes sense to me that humans of any gender could enjoy watching or reading erotica that stimulates the imagination (although naturally not all do, and that’s fine). I couldn’t agree more that a great deal of porn is patriarchal power bullshit, which is what I allude to in my earlier comment about how damaged I feel when I’m seeking visual pleasure and encounter horrible woman-subjugating porn instead. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all porn by being porn is patriarchal, or that post-patriarchy wouldn’t need porn. To do so suggests that the desire for visual stimulation is not a viable feminist experience.

  25. I think there are two things to consider in regards to whether porn can be feminist:
    a) whether all performers are treated with respect
    b) who’s visual benefit the porn is created for

    I think there is by now a wealth of material out there that corresponds to a). Where the performers are represented as they are, where the pleasure of all performers is significant, often where the performers are together in real life and they are in control of their home porn business essentially.
    However even with this kind of porn it is generally assumed that the primary consumers are men.

    I think what the next important step is is to create porn specifically for the visual pleasure of women. There is some great lesbian porn produced by and for lesbians out there (one I saw recently was One Night Stand by Emilie Jouvet).
    I think what would be even more radical and subversive would be to create porn with male performers for the visual benefit of women.

    There are acres of erotic imagination not represented. I know that the kind of stuff I would want to see pretty much does not exist out there.

    There is, for example, masses of fan fiction (mostly M/M), and very similar manga & anime made for, and mostly made by, young women.
    I don’t think the reason that kind of erotica exists in those particular mediums is because of a preference for it specifically, but rather a lack of options (I think porn of similar themes would be wildly popular).

    There are so many kinds of people who do not see themselves represented as sexual beings, on their own terms, in porn. There are so many kinds of erotic imagination (especially those of women) that are not represented. I think creating porn like that would be radical, and also feminist.

    Personally though, what I would like to see more of is breaking the boundaries between porn and film and porn and art.
    People represented as sexual beings, but with their sexuality as part of their identity as a whole. Like in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus.

  26. Tanglethis, sexual capitalism has nothing to do with ‘stimulating the imagination’ of the consumer. It is all about selling the same racist and sexist ‘fantasies’ over and over again. It may run the gamut from maid outfits to hardcore porn, but the goal is the same and it has nothing to do with enriching our imaginations and everything to do with profiting from oppression.

  27. Anne X, yes, quite obviously that is currently the case for a great deal of porn that’s out there. I’ve certainly acknowledged that above, twice.

    But I maintain that it is not intrinsically oppressive to fantasize, or to desire visual stimulation. The problem is in the form of the fantasy – the ones that require subjugation and exoticization – not in the fantasization itself. I think it follows that it would not be intrinsically oppressive to view or sell porn that does not exploit racist and sexist fantasies, or lack of consent, or brutality, etc.

    That’s why I’m interested in hearing back from people who see the FPA. This is an organization that seems to be trying to rewrite the notion of porn and fantasy so that it includes healthy, equal pleasure and enjoyment.

  28. Everyone,

    I’m one of the organizers of the Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards, and I’m really happy to see so many responses here. Part of the reason that we do this is to stimulate conversation about the nature of porn, and to promote and celebrate those who we think are doing an awesome job of it.

    I may not have time to respond in the next while to any questions you have, but I do heartily endorse the civilised discussion going on here! And for those who are attending, I hope you have a fabulous time, and see some exciting stuff that inspires you!

  29. spike the cat, on March 22nd, 2008 at 3:28 am Said:

    @Amy: I don’t think it’s possible to ever create a “feminist porn” that will satisfy all feminists, but I can definitely see room for improvement in the porn industry.

    I agree. Part of this has to do with the ways in which male and female sexuality differ.

    I agree. And this is less to do with the actual “can there be feminist porn”, but I always have to be careful about the way I phrase this. When I say how female and male sexuality differ, I always have to clarify that I don’t (and perhaps you do, so I don’t want to put words in your mouth) think this has anything to do with what men and women “naturally” like. As in, porn simply represents male desire and we just need some that represent female desire, as if it didn’t also in part produce said desire. We need feminist porn, and we need it for men and women. That’s why I really hate the terming “porn for women,” as if it were a simple matter of women just liking different porn, rather than that mainstream porn tends to produce sex fantasy that necessarily excludes female desire and reproduces male power and phallocentric desire.

    I think there can at least be more feminist porn. I think there has to be-the industry isn’t going away and it seems like it’s getting worse and worse and very rapidly. (More) feminist porn is a needed element to interrupt patriarchal constructions of sexuality that are so damaging to our actual sexual relationships.

  30. I agree that the term “sex-positive” casts opponents as “sex-negative,” which is why I don’t use the sex-positive label to describe myself. But if we’re talking about the flip-sides of both terms, I’d say that “anti-pornography” could also arguably cast the other side as “pro-pornography.” Personally, I could not be described as anti-pornography, but it would also be incredibly unfair to describe me as “pro-pornography” (and I have seen the anti-porn group use this label towards the opposition). It’s clearly a complex issue to a lot of us from both a political and personal standpoint. I do have to say that it’s refreshing to see a generally respectful conversation here about the issue, as this usually seems impossible.

  31. @Cara…

    Yeah, I agree with you. There is for sure a certain politics to words. Further, there is the assumption that if you are “anti-porn” or “porn-critical” that means you are also “pro-censorship”, which is also often inaccurate. It is also frustrating that if someone is critical of porn, or the assumptions of mainstream porn, or the content of most porn, that it is assumed that you are “against” it per se. It’s really harmful to productive discussion to have such rigid assumptions as “pro” and “anti” for either “side” (which, I think most people actually fall in the middle).

    I like what tanglethis said: “I would define myself as sex-positive AND sex-industry negative.”

    Word.

  32. I’ve added a summary of a few of the points raised here about the implicit assumptions regarding labelling of positions in the Jargon File entry on “sex-pos”.

  33. Michael, on March 23rd, 2008 at 2:42 am Said:

    witchy-woo, how is the demolition of the patriarchy going to render porn redundant?

    I may have Witchy-Woo wrong here Michael, but I’ll have a go at explicating the theoretical stance she appears to be taking.

    When one views pornography as one subset of the range of erotic fantasies, the subset which fetishises gender dominance, then the demolition of patriarchy would do away with gender dominance fetishes, thus “porn” would be redundant while other erotic fantasy representations would still exist.

  34. lindabeth, on March 24th, 2008 at 2:58 pm Said:
    “I agree. And this is less to do with the actual “can there be feminist porn”, but I always have to be careful about the way I phrase this. When I say how female and male sexuality differ, I always have to clarify that I don’t (and perhaps you do, so I don’t want to put words in your mouth) think this has anything to do with what men and women “naturally” like.”

    Lindabeth,

    I don’t know if I’m answering you comment correctly, here.
    The way I understand sexuality is that it has components of both nature and nurture, i.e. biology and society.

    When people are at the mercy of the environment, the sexual aspects attributed to nature are more prevalent; and thus inherent differences in men and women are exaggerated.

    When people control the environment (i.e., the age of agriculture forward) the nurture aspect of sexuality (society, parenting, religion etc) becomes more important: Best case scenario, sexual differences tend to even out e.g. the cultures of Northern Europe.
    Worst case scenario, is unbridled patriarchy along with it’s abuses e.g., forced marriages, sex slavery, genital mutilation, etc.

    So when I critique porn or other patriarchal elements I am doing so in this context.

  35. Hi tigtog,

    This comment attempts to acknowledge witchy-woo’s definition of porn while also, without endorsing the site itself, extracting what I think Sara is saying is important about it.

    I can see that if “pornography” is defined as “the subset of erotic fantasies that fetishizes gender dominance” then yeah, it would be either impossible or next to impossible for there to be such a thing as feminist porn. Similarly I think if that were the definition then any kind of defense of porn at all would be impossible, or nearly impossible.

    One pleasant-to-me outcome of that narrow a definition would be the virtual elimination not only of most cliche industrial visual imagery but also the equally gender-bound tropes of industrial romance texts, plus a heck of a lot of commercial television content, plus a huge amount of print, video, and audio advertising. (And yes while I don’t think it’s possible without giving up too many other civil liberties I really do believe the benefits of somehow pulling it off would be huge.)

    That said, if that’s witchy-woo’s definition of pornography it’s not a widely shared one. And while I think it’s pretty important not to hijack this topic it probably *would* be a good idea somewhere else to clarify what, exactly, we mean. Because without clarification I don’t think it’s possible for, for instance, Witchy-woo and Sara to have a conversation at all.

    Assuming a wider definition of porn than “fetishization of gender dominance” I think the answer would have to related to the possibility of agency in the eye of the beholder. If, as I think is currently true, most pornography is created with an exclusively male audience in mind then any possibility of identification by women might occasionally happen but certainly not on purpose.

    And that’s where Sara’s point comes in. To the extent that the kink dot com site creates an *appearance* of participation for women then there’s at least the *possibility* that some subset of women could imagine making a decision to participate as opposed to simply having the situations imposed on them. Of course you’d still have to reconcile that with the gender-dominance conundrum, and from my outsider’s perspective that seems to be what the site is all about.

    But in terms of this discussion that’s neither here nor there. Even if for them it’s a publicity stunt (which it might be) and even if for them it was an outright intentional scam (though I don’t think it is), I still think it *models* the behavior that a feminist/gender-conscious porn site would follow: active agency for all parties, the possibility of personal identification for all represented roles, and a direct intention to arouse all potential viewers (within the broad categories of orientation and individual proclivities.)

    Another way of putting it would be that *if* there were other, less power-exchange-y sites that implemented the same policies then Sara’s point would seem way less controversial. Speaking for myself anyway, I think I might begin to question the credentials of any site that isn’t willing to use similar, expressed approaches.

    figleaf

  36. But you are acting as if a desire for visual stimulation just drops from the sky and is thus not subject to any kind of critique.

    Sex is a whole lot more than gawking at people, we have other senses and are capable of interacting with fellow humans instead of just watching them from a distance.
    And yet there is an industry based on selling flat and repetitive representations of sex, one that benefits immensely from the idea that one of the most important parts of sex is the visual aspect. Who benefits in separating us from all of all other senses?

    Feminists should be encouraging healthy relationships with our own bodies and finding joy in the smells, textures, tastes, and emotions of ourselves and partners instead of perusing how to profit from commodified and packaged representations of sexuality. Why should we buy into that system when we question everything else?

  37. Anne X,

    Who’s acting as if visual stimulation drops from the sky? There are certainly a variety of viewpoints in this thread, but so far I haven’t really seen anyone approach the issue uncritically.

    I wouldn’t argue with you that sight is an overprivileged sense, particularly where sex is concerned. But the re-valuation of other, more tactile senses doesn’t need to de-value sight. Nor is vision completely debauched by the male gaze and unreclamable. Donna Haraway has a really excellent way of looking at vision in her “Situated Knowledges” – she’s writing about vision in a medical sense, but some of the same things are at stake: uneven power relations, objectification. She deftly lays out those problems with vision, but then acknowledges that vision is a necessary tool (in science; we could argue here that vision is an essential and enjoyable sense for all able-eyed humans). The task is then, she writes, to understand and claim vision differently from the objectifying medical gaze (namely, from a place of subjectivity and relationship rather than one of power).

    Look around. No one here is arguing that visual pleasure is free from complication, or that commodifying bodies is a good idea, or that pre-packaged representations of sexuality are just fine. It just seems worth considering alternative gazes and displays of positive sexuality; it seems to me like a more productive way to replace or combat brutal sex narratives than to claim no gaze and repudiate all visual stimulation.

  38. Thank you for the link to that article!

    I think we are talking past one another with regards to commodification/pre-packaged sexuality.

    The packaging of sexuality, making it something marketable instead of something that is lived, is a problem. So why should we, as feminists, want to buy into that? Why would we want to replicate that and profit from it? Even if it has a feminist label slapped on it, porn still presents sex as a commodity, as something that can be bought, sold, and separated from other parts of life.

  39. Spike-

    I guess I’m of the school of thought that believes there is no nature unmediated by culture (a la Judith Butler). to me, they are inseperable. Evolution, a “natural” process, has cultural factors attached to it. So I’m talking less about any nature/nurture emphasis.

    What I was referring to is the commonly-said idea that porn, as it is now, caters to what men “want” and that women “want” something else…and that this is just a matter of difference in interest. I think that idea is bunk. It also becomes an excuse for objectification and sexism in the male-stream porn industry. And I wasn’t saying that you were saying one way or the other, I was merely putting my own spin on it. What men “want” in porn (or at least what the industry puts out as what men “want”) is a reiteration of sexual ideology that has been organized in a way that assumes the centrality of male desire in the support of sexist patriarchy.

    To say we need feminist porn, then, is not to say we need feminist porn in order to cater to what women “want” to see, but we need it as part of a culture-wide critique of sexist ideologies of sex that are still so prevalent despite our “sexual revolution,” and to critique the idea that what men “want” to see is a reflection of their natural inner desire but is instead deeply and fundamentally shaped by the patriarchy we all grow up in.

  40. The packaging of sexuality, making it something marketable instead of something that is lived, is a problem. So why should we, as feminists, want to buy into that? Why would we want to replicate that and profit from it?

    Feminist porn wouldn’t replicate the problems of the sex industry wholesale – at least it would try not to. That’s the whole point. Reclaiming, rewriting, and revaluing are not the same as buying into. True, such projects often run the risk of reproducing patriarchal norms – it’s hard not to, when antiwoman notions of sexuality are so deeply embedded – but they at least step in the right direction, could create change.

    Personally, I would like to see more alternative narratives of sexuality: I think that if curious young people want to see what sex is like, or if women like myself want to see representations of sex that aren’t horrifying (I’m still not over my encounter with that TLA catalog, mentioned far above), or if men simply want to look because they’ve been trained to look, or if any gendered person want to access porn for any reason, all of them should have access to sexual narratives that do not equate sex with subjugation.
    And, like it or not, access is going to imply marketing and packaging to some degree. You probably won’t catch many feminists shrugging that off as unproblematic – second wave feminism was deeply rooted in marxism, after all – but in the current business model, disseminating narratives in any form (porn; Harlequin romances, for heaven’s sake; “sexy” art films like Henry and June that equate rape with sex) is going to involve buying and selling.
    The alternative is to make feminist narratives of sex invisible by refusing to represent them in film. We already know what that looks like – it sucks. I’m willing to see FPA try something new.

  41. A few days ago, when I read the this thread title — “Can There Be Feminist Porn?” — for the third or fourth time, my brain lol-cats-ized it into “I Can Haz Feminist Porn Nao?” Now every time I click through to the site, it happens again.

    I figure if I can’t make it stop, I can at least inflict it on the rest of you.

  42. [...] if you’re shy, consider weighing in on a topic I’ve been debating elsewhere.  Can there be such a thing as feminist porn?  [...]

  43. [...] Exactly what good does it do to promote kink dot com as a “feminist” porn site? [...]

  44. I’ve spent a lot of time, years on it, worrying about porn. I have seen up close, both in my private life and in my work, the way that porn diminishes people, relationships, families.

    Like everyone I feel compelled to make a disclaimer here – I am quite sensual and have my own predilections. I’m not anti-sex but I believe that sex is one component of a caring relationship and that the act deserves to be treated with some reverence. I believe that we are living in a time where few people value their sexuality.

    While I’m personally, deeply repulsed by porn I am more dismayed at the systemic proliferation of it.

    If we wanted to see porn banned outright; I believe it could be done – technically that is (as much as the industry and porn lovers would have us believe otherwise). Why couldn’t we do that? Do we perceive the juggernaut as so fast and powerful that it can’t be stopped ? Are we intimidated by the demands of men who claim that opposing porn is an attempt to suppress male sexuality ? Do we have a responsibility to try; if only for the next generation ? We might not succeed, but surely some voices of dissent will leave a mark – an alternative discourse for those who seek something of more worth and dignity than gynaecological shots of thrusting genitals.

    We use search engines every day and even those have obscenity filters. All internet content passes through servers and the owners of those can know every piece of information that’s disseminated.
    I don’t doubt that porn peddlars have their own servers but equally; the material needs to be received through the server to which the recipient subscribes.

    The dissemination passes through a number of checkpoints and those are gateways or barriers where information can be halted or redirected; backed by prosecution if necessary. I bet if we started downloading pop music on a scale equivalent to porn downloads, that the necessary technical and legal machinery would swing into action to stop it faster than I could say, “Google”. We’ve seen cases of that already.

    I believe we could make a compelling case for doing that too – think of porn as a sweatshop; trafficking in humans; probably a couple of other human rights trangressions would apply.

    With some effort at further research as well as compiling that which exists; I believe we could prove links between marriage and relationship breakdown; harm to women and men and children and so forth. We could make a qualitative case with discussion about the ritualization of youth into adulthood and all of that. Probably be a few PHDs in it :)

    I most strongly suspect though that porn is less a cause of social ills than a manifestation of those which exist – namely; the power imbalances; the devaluing of women and the apparent pleasure – sexualized pleasure – of hurting women (and others).

    All that said – the tricky bit is the ideology. If we oppose it (and basically I do) then we would be saying to some feminists and women generally who for whatever (and rather stupid reasons as far as I’ve seen) watch porn, that they can’t. That is a fairly parental stance to adopt – it’s a bit worrying when feminism has always been about choice, especially about choice over what we do with our bodies.

    It’s just a great sadness to me that some women need , and some delight (apparently) in participating; while others actally profit as well. Since people were seeking a website there is one where the url starts with candida and the pornographer claims to be a feminist. She does state make some very acceptable statements on her site about the majority of existing porn and how hers differs.

    The few women who glamorize and profit off it; already held up to me in debates with men about porn; help the industry to justify itself. I agree with an earlier poster that women may make all the nice porn they like; but only women will be sitting around watching it, at least until misogyny is hammered down – and I know that’s still a fair way off.

    Now, I have come to a conclusion – a hopeful one I think. I have arrived at it by reflecting on the many good men I know who don’t watch porn or approve of it (for whatever reasons they may have). One is the father of my children; another is my son and a few of his friends – who have heartened me no end in many ways regarding the way they regard and treat women.

    I really think that porn as it now exists, will burn out. People often say, “…but there has always been porn.” Well perhaps there have always been sexually oriented images but I often wonder if cave men whacked off to the stick figures scratched on cave walls. Who knows.

    Porn as we know it now is in a frenzy because of the internet; but it already has a reputation of being boring; trite and unwholesome.

    I suggest we encourage feminist porn (whatever the hell that is) while at the same time opposing mainstream porn. I would like to see absolute opposition, too, to porn involving animals. That is exploitation most horrid.

    Anyway it might excite a few men to do something naughty that riles the feminists – but if my son’s generation can be used as a guide, misogynists are going out of style. A few diehards will cling on. The good thing about them watching porn is that with a bit of luck they’ll be so absorbed in it that they’ll stop reproducing and passing their values onto potential progeny – porn eugenics, if you will.

    So, thoughts on the proposed strategy anyone ?

  45. I, too, have spent a lot of time thinking about this issue– I actually had an article published online in Wo! Magazine a couple of years back (although I’m ashamed to say that I never completed the second half of the article that was due to appear in a subsequent issue). Some of my first forays into feminist forums were also based around this issue– and again, I have to say that I’m ashamed– this time because my initial response was ill-considered concern trolling that completely dismissed radical feminist critiques of pornography.

    Now that I’ve wisened up a bit, my stance is this: I personally believe that, as sexuality is a natural part of human nature, it’s completely healthy for us to seek out texts (pictures, films, stories) that appeal to that side of our nature, BUT, at the same time, we have to acknowledge that patriarchal constructions of sexuality are invariably harmful to women, and VERY difficult to escape. Because of this, we need to approach all texts that could be construed as erotica or pornography with a critical mind.

    I personally think that we can keep trying to find/create erotic texts that are not harmful to women (or anyone else involved), but I respect the views of those who think otherwise due to the way that patriarchal society has moulded our ideas abou sexuality. Ultimately, however, I find that arguing the point is not terribly useful, because I find that, even when I do disagree with other feminists on this point, the points on which we do agree are usually far greater, insofar as, in my experience, most feminists are very well aware that the mainstream pornography industry is incredibly harmful to women on several levels. Most importantly, it is harmful in that there is little we can do to distinguish between women participating in the industry willingly and women who are forced and coerced into it; given that the industry is one that can so easily be used to force and coerce women, this is a MAJOR concern. Ultimately, if there was a choice between (A) no porn, and no women being exploited/coerced/forced and (B) porn, at the expense of some women being exploited/coerced/forced, I’d choose option A every time. Of course, an easy way of getting around this issue is porn/erotica that doesn’t use real people– stories, drawn pictures, etc, but we still have to deal with the second issue, which is the objectification and degredation of women in mainstream (and much non-mainstream) pornography. This issue is FAR trickier, and I really don’t have time to go into it here– and of course, it’s also an issue that extends far beyond pornography too. Ultimately though, I think it relates to issues of power and social assumptions about women and sexualisation, and I do think that most feminists can find a LOT of common ground on this issue, even if we often do disagree about the specifics of what constitutes objectification.

  46. I’m not trying to write an “advertorial” here, but I do want to mention some of the classics of lesbian pornography, such as Sugar High Glitter City or How to F*ck in High Heels. These obviously reproduce certain power imbalances, but at the very least they are aware of the balance of power, which is, I think, the road to feminist porn. After all, if we are to take Foucauldian theory to heart — I’ll allow that very few of you may want to — then we are part of a discursive network that includes privilege and power, and the most important thing is to emphasize agency in all forms of media in order to overcome these discursive connections.

    Non-mainstream lesbian pornography is worth thinking about here — you can look at ads in On Our Backs magazine, although I don’t like that mag in general. There is a lot of pleasure in these films; frequently they show real-life partners having sex on-camera. This is also true of some kink film — although I do have a problem with kink dot com myself, even though I do like “Men in Pain” something fierce — but is a little more problematic, as people have noted. Bend Over Boyfriend and a lot of strap-on porn (sorry, it’s another S.I.R. production film, they’re just a classic of the queer set) involves very explicit discussion of pleasure and consent. Safe sex instructional porn as well is a good place to turn to.

    As a side note, I like that the definition of porn is being expanded. I write what some people term “erotica,” and what I call porn; I write it about all sorts of people, in all sorts of… configurations, and it helps me to think through power, privilege, and pleasure in ways that I think I wouldn’t be able to access without writing and reading porn. Furthermore, I belong to a community of women and gay men who write together, and we bond through this shared experience of written/read pleasure and corporeal connection. I wouldn’t give it up, personally.

    Re: Wfemme: I only shy away from your use of the word “eugenics,” but that may be because I’m a 19th century scholar. :D

    Re: Beppie: Excellent points, in my opinion. I like this nuanced view. I definitely am not a Rocco fan, and when I worked at a video store that rented porn I spent a lot of time thinking about the way that women’s bodies are used in mainstream pornography. Still, there needs to be an avenue for pursuing and experiencing physical and sexual pleasure for women. I don’t like watching porn, but reading porn has made my sex life the radically feminist thing that it is. There has to be room for that, right? I really don’t want to leave vision and pleasure to men.

    (And perhaps there’s room for porn that shows awkwardness, or a woman who says, “hey, not that,” and is listened to.)

  47. A note to the moderator…

    This is a backslash: \

    This is a forward slash, or more usually, a slash: /

    I realise this is slightly petty, but come on, it’s hardly difficult.

    Feel free to delete this comment, hopefully after fixing your earlier edits.

  48. Passing Techie – that was indeed a brainfart! Thanks for the correction, and thanks also for the offer to delete, but I’ll leave the crumb trail intact.

  49. What about films made by reasonable human beings featuring reasonable human beings celebrating sexuality and love between equal partners – could this be considered feminist? Tony Comstock and Shine Louise Houston come to mind.

    I don’t know how much folks who make big sweeping statements about porn – the run of the mill variety, actually know about it and how it’s made – I’m not going to call it an industry for all its expos and award nights it’s not organised along any “industry” lines that I recognise. Sure most of it is crap, shoddily made on shoe string budgets by untalented individuals and promoted with copy written by cretins, but I don’t believe it’s the big bad conspiracy it’s made out to be nor that the majority of women who perform in it are victims or some broader patriarchy.

    Readers of this site might be interested in a paper by Prof Alan McKee on the topic of objectification –

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_4_42/ai_n15929172/pg_1

    “Of the sample’s 16 violent scenes, nine occured in videos marketed to women; four were set in explicit fantasy environments. These points may be related: much popular women’s fiction is set in melodramatic, or explicitly fantastic situations. This may be a gendered address in pornography, where it is material aimed at women that is more likely to include violence. Rocco Siffredi, whose videos are responsible for three of the seven physically violent moments, is the most popular male porn star with female audiences (Albury, 2002b). Only two of the violent acts come from tapes primarily marketed to straight men. This raises interesting questions about the relationship between sex, aggression, and gender in 21st century Western countries.”

  50. Just added an update to the post, to offer a direct link to feminists strongly opposed to pornography (and prostitution):

    Update: For a good collection of posts from advocates of the anti-prostitution/pornography feminisms, try the Third Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution

  51. Hi, thanks for the link to the Carnival!

    My answer to the question is, yes, there can be ‘feminist’ porn, but it is no better than ‘regular’ porn, and will still be used by men to control women.

    I believe that under a patriarchy, as long as any type of porn exists, no matter who makes it or what it is called, it will be used, as porn is currently used, as a tool to stop women getting above ‘their station’, to silence us, and to ensure we can never achieve equality.

    Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of controlling women, which is why after the destruction of patriarchy, the idea of porn will be unthinkable, as it will not be necessary.

  52. [...] This discussion of feminism and porn brings to mind how men could benefit from a change in that particular [...]

  53. Debs – interesting stuff – can you please expand on why is porn necessary?

  54. I’ve already said why porn is necessary to a patriarchy. It controls and silences women. Women under a patriarchy have to be controlled and silenced by that patriarchy, otherwise, if women are allowed to speak and be heard, and to organise and get together, and if they are really successful and unhindered in doing that, it pretty much spells the end of patriarchy.

    To put it in simpler terms, in order to stay on top, men have to keep women down, and porn is a really good way of doing that.

  55. Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of masturbation. Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of commerce. Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of giving the director/producer a nano-second of “fame”.

    To give porn more credit or importance than this in the wider picture is a mistake.

  56. Not a mistake Ell: the truth.

    Of course it is convenient for you to believe it is purely for what you say, that way you can continue to use it without having to think too much about it, or why it really exists.

  57. Yes, yes of course my thought processes are completely impaired – and I also buy exotic rugs and carpets made by the tiny but nimble fingers of slave children…

    I don’t believe I used the word “purely” – I merely para phrased your absolutist language to propose that porn may and does exist for other mundane reasons -the same language that you conveniently use to state your case as if it is the “truth”.

    I don’t need to be an apologist for porn but is it empowering to believe that sexual imagery can silence an entire gender? Do woman who watch films that reflect their own joyful, celebratory experiences of loving sex feel silenced?

  58. Debs, I find it troubling when feminists with a strict anti-pornography stance assume that other feminists who do not share that stance just haven’t thought enough about it.
    I don’t particularly agree with Ell where s/he dismisses the system of control and silence that much pornography participates in. I also don’t agree with you where you suggest that all pornography de facto participates in this patriarchal silencing, and that pornography would disappear if patriarchy disappeared. And I’ve given it a lot of thought.

    I can’t take a completely anti-porn stance because I believe the following (among other things):
    -it is possible to look at real women as women, and fictional women as characters, rather than just looking at them as repositories.
    -it is possible to *enjoy* looking at women and men as humans or rounded characters, without reducing them to objects.
    -it is possible to enjoy being looked at in such a way.
    -women may enjoy looking as much as men; visual pleasure is not a purely male experience.
    -sexuality is experienced through a number of senses, and naturally, the desire for visual pleasure is one. This is not in itself unethical; the dynamic of the look sometimes is.
    -many people learn about sex through porn.

    Now, I grant that the first few sometimes require men and women to un-train themselves from the dynamics of the male gaze. I grant that porn is a TERRIBLE place to learn about sex… unless it’s humane porn. There isn’t much of that, but it does exist.
    I think it would be much more beneficial to teach people a better way to view sex and to replace dehumanizing porn, rather than to ban it or equate porn with patriarchy. They are not equivalent, in my view; a great deal of porn is very much made and used as a patriarchal tool in the way that you describe, but it does not have to be that way.

    We disagree on this. That’s fine. But you could hardly suggest I haven’t thought it through just because I’ve come to a different conclusion than you have.

  59. I see the patriarchy as a tool of porn and not the other way around. Likewise porn is dependent on the patriarchy, not the reverse. When in doubt, always, always, always follow the dollar sign.

    Porn is only as destructive or harmful as the people who demand it.

  60. spike said: I see the patriarchy as a tool of porn and not the other way around.

    Really? Can you explain that a bit more, please?

    Ell said: Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of masturbation. Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of commerce. Pornography is created by a patriarchy specifically for the purpose of giving the director/producer a nano-second of “fame”.

    Whose masturbatory fantasies? Why these masturbatory fantasies? Who benefits from this commerce? Who does this commerce disadvantage or exploit? In what context do these directors earn fame, at whose expense, and to whose benefit? Why is porn a way of becoming famous at all? These aren’t “mundane” or benign or value-neutral issues. These are the crux of the porn argument.

    I don’t need to be an apologist for porn but is it empowering to believe that sexual imagery can silence an entire gender? Do woman who watch films that reflect their own joyful, celebratory experiences of loving sex feel silenced?

    Is it empowering to think that porn (we’re not talking about just “sexual imagery” here) doesn’t do any harm to an entire gender? What porn flicks reflect any woman’s “joyful, celebratory of loving sex”?

    Maybe this is just a definition/terminology problem, but the way I see it, porn is the manifestation of the sexual dominance of men over women that is fetishized by the patriarchy. When a film fetishizes sexual dominance and submission, it is porn. If it’s “joyful” and “celebratory” of sex and shows truly loving, real people, it isn’t porn. It probably deserves criticism as well, but not necessarily because it’s porn. And a closer examination might reveal that even joyful, celebratory sex between committed folks, when recorded for the purpose of getting people off, might be porn too. Because this is a patriarchy, and everything inside of it is infected with it, even recorded joyful, celebratory sex.

    Maybe that’s not an “empowering” perspective to take. But why should discussions of porn be empowering if porn is reinforcing patriarchal constructs?

  61. “If it’s “joyful” and “celebratory” of sex and shows truly loving, real people, it isn’t porn. It probably deserves criticism as well, but not necessarily because it’s porn. And a closer examination might reveal that even joyful, celebratory sex between committed folks, when recorded for the purpose of getting people off, might be porn too.”

    Because arousing an audience can never be considered a legitimate aim for a filmmaker right? It’s okay to scare them, to make them cry, but god forbid you should arouse them!

    http://www.alternet.org/sex/81655/?page=entire

  62. “spike said: I see the patriarchy as a tool of porn and not the other way around.

    L asks: Really? Can you explain that a bit more, please?”

    Forgive the threadjack :)

    My critique of porn is quite practical. Essentially I am in agreement with Ell. Porn is an industry— and like all industries it has a primary objective of making money. Industries usually are not the ones to promote dogma. It’s just not good for business, really.

    An analogy would be like trying to argue that oil companies are the tool of an “anti-environmentalist capitalist agenda”. No. Oil companies are simply in business because they serve a demand. It’s perfectly reasonable to go after oil companies for egregious harms that they do in the process. But it is equally reasonable examine the demand and the system that creates the incentive for them to be greedy and destructive in the first place.

    The porn industry and its products should be examined similarly. Yet I have noticed that on both sides of the argument people are afraid to really ask questions from a demand side aspect. Many people in particular seem to be stuck in a logic pattern that doesn’t allow for room to discuss general differences in male and female sexuality, for fear that these differences will turn into justifications; and although creating such false justifications is common tactic, is it almost always based on a logical fallacy–that is, an error in reasoning. It would be like reasoning that because some humans have the capacity for violence that murder and war are justifiable.

    Porn makers have simply been very efficient at tapping into consumer demand. Consumer demand has been shaped of course in part by our patriarchal society. And that is how porn uses the patriarchy: like any successful business, it exploits peoples’ fears, desires and fantasies (no matter how benign or how sick) for a profit.

    When I think about porn (especially the violent, mean-spirited stuff), I keep in mind that everything presented is something that people are willing to pay for, thousands of times over. And I simply ask myself why.

  63. I guess the reason your statement about patriarchy as a tool of porn confused me is that it implies that if you get rid of porn, you get rid of patriarchy. According to that statement, porn is the umbrella concept that controls patriarchy. I don’t agree with this conceptualization — obviously, if you get rid of porn, you’ve gotten rid of a big arm of patriarchy, but you haven’t gotten rid of patriarchy altogether. I see where you’re coming from in that porn supplies for a demand — but that demand is created by the patriarchy and reinforced in porn, and porn also works to encourage demand by desensitizing users to worse and worse images of degradation, dominance, and non-consensual control. I think making porn out to be a group that only reacts to a demand and does not actively work to keep that demand in place is a shallow examination of the issue.

    • Im not a very um… knowledgable poster… but it seems to me that the statement: “The patrarchy are a tool of porn”

      Really means that men are manipulated by the porn industry, in the same way that they are manipulated by women in general, …well by the same mechanism, for which they have know one to blame but themselves……… and a few million years of evolution maybe. Whoops… lets see how long this post lasts….

  64. I’m a woman who runs several porn sites made for straight women. I consider myself a feminist pornographer. I regularly write about the intersection of feminism and porn in my blog, as well as what I perceive to be the problems with mainstream porn.

    I haven’t read the full thread in detail but I wanted to post a quick comment with my thoughts.

    I don’t believe that creating a visual depiction of sex is automatically anti-feminist. As always, context is the key.

    I don’t believe the old Dworkinist line that sex is automatically anti-feminist because it’s a patriarchal construct. This line of thinking condemns any woman who enjoys heterosexual sex as some kind of traitor to the sisterhood and it’s this attitude that has resulted in millions of young women determinedly saying “I’m not a feminist…”

    I also don’t accept the suggestion that all women who appear in porn (or prostitution for that matter) are victims who have been forced into it. Remember when feminism was about giving women a choice? About making people understand that women have their own thoughts and desires?

    Plenty of women happily choose to appear in porn. And if it’s only for the money, well, that’s their choice. In plenty of cases it’s a bad choice, and certainly there should be an effort to ensure that porn doesn’t present that situation, but you can’t offer up a blanket statement that denies that those women made a conscious decision to be involved in some way.

    I will say that I have serious problems with a lot of the porn that’s currently out there. A lot of it is offensive, misogynist, cruel and hateful and I do worry about the mindset that creates it. But my rejection of SOME porn does not equal a rejection of ALL porn.

    And I truly believe that the only way to solve “the porn problem” is to create sexually explicit material that is feminist.

    I’ll also add that I think gay, dyke and queer porn are important things to consider in any discussion about whether porn can be feminist, because the conversation usually focuses on hetero, male oriented porn. Making broad statements about victimisation or the patriarchy come up short when you’re talking about lesbian-made lesbian porn like, for example, the site Posteriority or The Crash Pad series. Who, exactly, is the victim there?

    OK, enough from me… I’ve gotta go away for a few days so I’ll miss the rest of this thread. Great conversation, anyway.

  65. [...] there be feminist porn?” For a bit of a pro-and-anti on that, check out this thread at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog. For a few radical feminist viewpoints on the “anti” side, check out the Third Carnival [...]

  66. It seems to me that in order to create feminist porn in a visual medium, we’d need to create a feminist visual language. Since our culture’s visual representations of everything, especially women, are presented in a patriarchal framework, porn has the same “general culture” meanings, even when this is unintentional. For example, we have all learned to judge women’s bodies according to certain criteria. So most women, upon seeing a picture that depicts a woman who fits our cultural ideal, will feel crappy about themselves. That’s not a feminist goal. And most people, upon seeing someone who doesn’t fit the cultural ideal, will not be turned on. That’s not the goal of porn!

    Perhaps until we have gained more control over general representations of people (in advertising, etc.), it will be difficult or impossible to make visual feminist porn. But I don’t see any reason we couldn’t write it or make something auditory, and struggle our way through how to make it “feminist” … The only remaining issue then would be how to create a situation where those engaging in sexual acts (of making sexy noises or whatever) were not doing so because of the coercion money brings to the process.

    So, in answer to the original question of whether there can be feminist porn… Yes, but visual mediums are pretty fraught, so I’m not sure that’s possible just yet.

  67. And most people, upon seeing someone who doesn’t fit the cultural ideal, will not be turned on.

    Really?
    I think people deserve a little more credit than that. In real life, men and women are often turned on by other men and women who do not match the cultural ideal. Sometimes their relationship with these bodies are fraught, certainly – beauty standards offer already-abusive partners another wedge for demoralizing their partners – but many other men and women genuinely enjoy bodies of a type that isn’t often depicted onscreen. So why would they not enjoy these bodies in porn?
    Furthermore, the language of film is already a persuasive language. . . lighting, camera focus, and other techniques are always directing the viewer where and how to look. Should an unconventionally attractive woman be cast as desirable in film (as happens, but not often enough), the film itself directs your attention to her and asks you to look at her as beautiful. (i.e. that radiant newcomer in Hairspray.) Feminists have been playing around with a specifically feminist version of this film language (including Laura Mulvey, whose theorization of the male gaze is often cited) for decades; it’s our misfortune that we don’t see this celebrated more often, but it’s out there.

    So I think there are already starting points for what you describe, and there isn’t much benefit in waiting for our other rooms to get cleaned up before straightening this one. But I do like your thinking here, pinpointing some of the specific things that could be improved and suggesting alternatives. It’s important to note that some filmmakers are presently trying to find ways around the fraught-ness, but it’s also important to have criteria by which to measure their success.

  68. tanglethis,

    Maybe you’re right that I am overly pessimistic about people’s ability to work outside of traditional ideas of beauty. Eh-probably I am, actually. Maybe there’s hope on that front. There are multiple issues though, to be worked out by someone much more artistically talented and generally smarter than me, regarding representations of everyone in porn. For example, what does it mean to include people of color, when porn has been one of the single most racist mediums out there, and the meaning inserted by certain viewers (no pun intended) will be inevitably racist? And what does it mean to exclude people of color? It seems like, given our cultural context, unless there is explicitly anti-racist content in porn, it makes a racist statement, whether people of color are included or excluded… doomy doom made an excellent point here:

    “Personally though, what I would like to see more of is breaking the boundaries between porn and film and porn and art. People represented as sexual beings, but with their sexuality as part of their identity as a whole. ”

    Maybe this would be a way to create porn that works against oppression. If the dominant culture has already given people’s bodies oppressive “default” visual meanings, feminist porn would have to include content that challenged these racist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, ableist, etc. cultural meanings.

    Like I said, a challenge for someone much smarter than me.

  69. Well I’m going to have to say that whether or not feminist porn can exist depends entirely on the definition of feminist porn. One of the things that really annoyed me as I read through the comments was what seemed to be the lack of a common language between people especially when it comes to the word porn. So for the rest of what I’m going to say porn will consist of all media whose purpose is primarily to create sexual desire in the a audience (be they a reader, viewer etc).

    In this case I believe that it is possible that it would be possible to create porn that would be non exploitative to the person or persons making it, that would portrait the participants as people, that is not racist, sexist ageist, ableist etc. So assuming this more or less describes the ideals of feminism (I may have left things out I meant to include and my definition of feminism and its goals may not be accurate) then I think feminist porn is a possibility.

    I do not know how popular feminist porn would be with society and the consumers but I think that if feminism manages to have a great affect on society as a whole there should be no reason to say that feminist porn can not in a future time replace most or all of what is currently porn.

    As to how to change the current porn industry towards a more feminist friendly industry I would suggest the following things. The most obvious in my mind is reducing poverty and hunger in the world as much as possible. If there are jobs, food, clean drinking water and education available to more (and hopefully all) of the people in the world this can help to reduce the number of women who are in porn out of desperation. If there is not a huge need to go into porn as a way to provide for a better life for yourself and others then the people who do choose to create porn will be there because its a way they want to do things with their life.

    Also I want to say that I like what that site (what was it kink) did with their policy for how they treat their employees and what should be included with the films to try to crack down on the inclusion of non-consenting women in porn. I do however agree with the criticism of the policy as being potentially just a face saving measure. Thats why I would like to see a banding together of porn artists and studios preferably of their own volition to create a guideline of acceptable behavior things like for films a discussion before and after the filming of the experience. With this it would also be good to see a union for the actors, models, and others to see that their concerns are heard and not just that of the producers. Of course there should also be a system for lodging complaints against people who abuse their employees (in addition to criminal charges were necessary).

    Then I think feminism should continue to try to change opinions, values and ideals in society as a whole. If more and more of the consumers of pornography are exposed to feminism in a positive light and descrimination is reduced on a larger scale then there will be a greater demand for porn that is with a closer standing to feminism.

    Any way that’s my 2cents on the issue I don’t think it will be easy, I don’t know if it will happen in my life time or ever really. However i do believe that it should be possible to create a feminist porn.

    Any way I’d love to hear any criticism or agreement with what I’ve written. In the interest of full disclosure I do view and enjoy pornography including elements of BDSM and of fantasies that may lack the consent of an individual (ie rape fantasies).

  70. I believe that porn, at its core, is deeply distorted. No one could possibly argue with it. Would there be a difference for feminist pornography?

    In all likelihood, yes. And that would probably be the reason for its difficulty in becoming mainstream. The porn industry is incredibly wealthy, and the reason for that is marketing ideas, fantasies, and “standards” of sexual interaction that caters to a majority of people, for the lowest possible expense. When your entry-level contract states you must have a D-cup, perform bisexual acts, anal sex and partake in scenes with multiple partners at the same time, it’s difficult to make it as a feminist porn actress all of a sudfden without, for lack of a better term, prostitute yourself in hopes of attaining that opportunity.

    One has to keep in mind that women can eventually get a lot of power in the porn industry, and some of them transform that influence into a keen business acumen. But taking into account what they have to do to get there, is it worthy of being called a feminist power struggle? I don’t know. I honestly don’t; I’m too uninformed about it.

    Should there truly be feminist porn out there, it’s bound to remain underground, unless we go through a new sexual revolution with feminist values at its core.

  71. [...] Most topics get this way after a while, if you continue reading them. One of them is the topic of feminism. I generally read about it with interest, but like every other topic, it has its share of bores and repetition; generally speaking, I’ll see a mangled version of the famous Cheris Kramerae quote every other week or so, plus there’s the usual, ongoing spats between the sex-poz and radfem camps which oscillate between hostile silence and full-on war, as well as that perennial favourite: is teh pr0n evol? [...]

  72. To the commentor whose comment has failed to appear here (it ends with “…well ok, what do you say tig?” ) you need to read why I decline to publish some comments even though they contain no unacceptable elements of either content or tone. You’ll find the necessary link in the sidebar, and if you wish to discuss this decision you can take it to email.

  73. tigtog:
    Thank you for your comments on my question regarding the definition of pornography, and your direction to this thread.
    I read through all, but I am not sure if there is a working feminisms definition of “pornography” or “feminist pornography” contained therein. I would appreciate it if you could fashion one.
    I like wikipedia’s definition, though I suppose there are more scholarly treatments, and maybe wikipedia is “subject to manipulation by the dominant patriarchal cultural paradigm.” Anyway, It says: “Pornography is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer.” and “the term applies to the depiction of the act” and “In most countries pornography is treated as a separate entity, both culturally and legally, from depictions of naked persons in art or photography. See ‘nudity.’” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography
    So nudes are not pornographic. Who thinks so?
    This is a gender and power neutral definition. We should be able to look at and create depictions of a sex act which sexually excites the viewer. Right?

  74. “So nudes are not pornographic. Who thinks so?”

    No one whacks off in an art gallery or museum. Works of art are usually intended for public display, not private consumption (except for the rich). (Though one might imagine someone whacking off in a private setting to a painting or photograph or reproduction of a piece of art featuring nudity)

    “This is a gender and power neutral definition. We should be able to look at and create depictions of a sex act which sexually excites the viewer. Right?”

    It’s a gender and power neutral definition because the overt mainstream cultural narrative about porn (which wikipedia reflects) is that it’s just sex, it’s between consenting adults, it’s harmless, it’s natural. This definition is what feminist critiques of porn are contesting; bringing to light and questioning the gender and power dynamics in porn.

    Who is the “we”? Who is doing the looking, who is doing the creating? Who is performing for the viewer? Who is profiting? There are multiple human beings and power relationships hidden in that short sentence of yours, which foregrounds only the viewer’s imagination or right to fantasise.

    Why should the viewer/purchaser expect that other human beings should allow their bodies and sexual performances be filmed/photographed so that he or she can buy and view that visual record? Arousal in response to things that a person finds sexuallly exciting is natural and neutral. A multi-billion dollar industry that overwhelmingly is devoted to sexually stimulating straight men by focussing on women’s bodies and women’s sexual performances is not and is riven through with gender and power dynamics.

    Side thought about nudes – much “soft” porn in magazines does not feature a sex act, it simply features a naked woman. Usually a sequence of pictures of the woman stripping off until she is naked, and then posing in various ways that enact willing availability to his gaze and imagination. The depictions of nude women in art undoubtedly arouse many straight male viewers despite the “cultural” setting. It is as if the mere fact that a woman is depicted naked is interpreted as an invitation to use the image of her body to masturbate to. Most porn is about the sexual availability of women, not a gender/power neutral sex act.

  75. The reason people don’t jack it to nudes in art galleries is because art galleries have other people in there, watching. That’s the only reason. You know that teenage boys can and do masturbate to the National Geographic, you think that “The Birth of Venus” is going to be off limits?

    “It is as if the mere fact that a woman is depicted naked is interpreted as an invitation to use the image of her body to masturbate to.” — What does this mean? Do you think this is unnatural, depersonalizing, a coherent or intentional action? I don’t want to start in here and respond to something you didn’t actually say.

  76. True, I’d agree that the artist’s intent does not determine whether an image is pornography, the use to which the viewer puts the image is what makes it pornographic. Hmm, so no depiction of a naked body is “off limits” to being used as an aid to masturbation? I can’t quite articulate why I find that phrasing striking – reading in it an overtone of entitlement and co-option of the image/body of the depicted person perhaps?.

    “Do you think this is unnatural, depersonalizing, a coherent or intentional action?” Yes to the first two descriptors. Because of the gender inequality in our society. Whether it is coherent or intentional is not relevant to the effects of such an attitude. Overwhelmingly, the norm is that bodies that presented as to-be-looked-at sexually – whether because they are nude or wearing clothes that are revealing and which show the shape of the body by fitting it closely – are women’s bodies and not men’s bodies. (I’ve realised recently that conventional masculine clothing is very modest – the body is not revealed or drawn attention to).

    You’re coming back again to your question of whether there can be a gender and power neutral context of using some image that is arousing to masturbate to. As I said above the problem is the existing unequal gender/power dynamics. Feminist critiques of porn deconstruct and challenge those dynamics. For me as a feminist, the end result I seek is precisely for sex and sexuality to be gender and power neutral. We are not there yet, and the gender/power dynamics cannot be wished away.

  77. I meant to post to this thread when it first went up, and never got around to it. I don’t think I’ve yet fully processed my thoughts on the question “can there be feminist porn?”, but here’s a sidethought:

    My pipedream is that somehow for a year it could be arranged so that women are not objectified during that time – only men’s bodies are used to signify sex, are depicted as desirable, are used in sexy ways in advertising, films and so on. For example a camera operator filming the performance of a woman dancer or singer would not pan up and down her body – but would for a male performer . Hell, even six months would do it. We would have to find a whole different visual language to depict and signify male desirability – luckily we could borrow from gay culture :)

    I think that this could not help but mainstream a more equal kind of erotica, plus would have the bonus of helping break down homophobia, since straight men would, in my plan, have no alternative but to get over any feelings of squickiness about fancying men/being fancied by men.

  78. [...] reading on this in a post at Feminism [...]

  79. I said in response to Huitzil “You’re coming back again to your question of whether there can be a gender and power neutral context of using some image that is arousing to masturbate to.”

    Sorry Huitzil – I just realised that was marlo’s question in the comment I originally responded to and not part of your comment.

  80. I think one facet that has not been fully addressed in this discussion on porn is the principle of a viewer and a performer that is created through the mechanism of media. Since this also exists in non porn scenarios, the same issues that apply to any media based mechanism of profit, power etc, will also be relevant to porn, feminist or otherwise. Porn has its own specifics added to the mix. Issues of commercialism, power, exploitation, choice, enjoyment exist in all forms of media, where those who consume the media, and those who perform for consumption are engaged in a complex balancing act of trying to achieve desirable outcomes through others. This is never easy, and are implicit in all social interaction. We should not ignore the specific issues of run-of-the-mill porn that shows stereotypical male/female scenarios of copulation, with predictable outcomes and geared for a mostly male audience. Neither should we reject porn as not being an appropriate vehicle for women, feminist or otherwise, in getting some titillation. We should just not lose sight of the social dynamics that frame most interactions. I consider that TV soap operas are a form of emotional and romantic porn, just as stereotypical as sexual porn. It shows stereotypical scenarios with predictable outcomes, bad acting, low budget, and caters mostly for a female audience. We could posit that the actors themselves are being exploited, not truly enjoying all the falsehood, and that it is demeaning to both the viewer and performer. Yet it gets consumed by a seemingly insatiable audience, just as sexual porn does.
    I have not taken a position for or against porn or feminist porn, just a perspective of the way society frames interaction between groups. If we lose sight of the bigger picture we tend to demonise certain behaviors and sectors of the community, perhaps forgetting or denying that we too are targets of other peoples bigotry with equal justification.

  81. On the rare occasions that I write erotica, it’s focused on the women involved—in a male way. I can’t possibly feel, let alone evoke, a woman’s subjective experience of sex, if such an abstraction can even be pinned down. I do try to avoid female characters whose desire conveniently happens to be mindless nymphomaniacal subservience, because it holds no appeal for me (sorry, TMI).

  82. What I found most ridiculous about a lot these comments is that I am a feminist, a woman and I regularly watch and masturbate to porn that’s allegedly only designed for men.

    Does that make me male? I think not.
    The fact that women can, and DO watch mainstream pornography AND (oh my gods) are actually AROUSED by it says a lot.

    Abby Winters is a great site. So is Kink.com. The only kind of porn that ISN’T great is ACTUAL rape porn (yes, it exists), BESTIALITY, NECROPHILIA and CHILD.

    Pornography is a censorship issue imho rather than a feminist one.

    • I consider porn hate speach (including kink.com and any other mainstream porn). While I think poeple are allowed to be racist and sexist if they want to be – it won’t stop me from pointing out the error of it.
      A lot of porn is racist… and that’s okay with you because you are against censorship? I’m against censorship too but that didn’t stop me from showing up to a KKK rally with some signs combating their racist hate speach.
      Women can feel more powerful than the women being sexually degraded in porn and get off on that – just as men do.
      Pointing out the errors of certain industries is not a form of censorship and I honestly get really tired of people accusing those of us who are against degrading porn of being about censorship. Typically – in feminist communities, we are also against censorship for the real reason that if I try to censor the porn industry – the porn industry will probably try to censor my negative opinions of it.

      “The fact that women can, and DO watch mainstream pornography AND (oh my gods) are actually AROUSED by it says a lot.”
      but it doesn’t make it feminist.

  83. i am not pro-censorship, other than the illegal stuff.
    but i am a male who is disgusted at the messages of (legal) porn,
    ( yes, all while returning for more, back then)
    i have turned to asexuality for solace. it’s still a price to pay,
    but a justifiable one in my opinion, my commitment to my choice
    deepens with the passing years,
    that doesn’t change the fact that socially, as a man, this material
    is penned in my name, it will continue to exist and degrade
    my name, announcing boldly and incessantly that i am scum and filth and have not the slightest potential to be otherwise.

  84. Ugh, this thread was downright painful for me to read, but I’m going to give my opinion because it’s important that some of y’all hear this.

    I get really frustrated at discussions about porn that take place on the internet between people with lots of spare time with which to engage in this sort of banter, extensive vocabularies which evidence extensive schooling, English skills, the ability to casually reference the companies they own, etc. I’m also willing to bet that people of color are vastly under-represented in this conversation, but I hate to assume. :-)

    I mean, you might as well limit the discussion of neoliberalism to CEOs of Fortune 500s. You might as well assess the merits of Coca-Cola as a company by interviewing their American office-workers exclusively.

    As an actual former prostitute whose feelings about what I went through are consistent with those of the majority of former prostitutes in the world, I’d have to say that I AM DEEPLY INSULTED BY THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE PURPORTING TO BE INTERESTED IN MY LIBERATION COULD ACTUALLY HAVE A DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER IT’S OKAY TO MASTURBATE TO OTHER HUMAN BEINGS HAVING SEX FOR MONEY. UNTIL MONEY IS NO LONGER NECESSARY TO LIVE, THE ANSWER IS NO.

    Yes, I know, we all do things for money, and all work is inherently coercive. But being forced to allow somebody to jack off inside you is worse than being forced to sit in front of a computer screen all day.

    It’s quite possible that this isn’t only related to feminism. I think that there are issues of class and race involved as well. Women who make money from porn and have no reason to suspect that they will ever be relegated to the bottom rungs of a vicious sex industry seem more prone to making apologies for the rapes that occur within. They also seem more able to get off to pictures of other people having sex under coerced conditions for which NOBODY CAN NEVER KNOW WHETHER REAL CONSENT EXISTS BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT PRESENT.

    I repeat, you cannot know whether or not a person whose sex life you are only viewing by camera has consented without off-camera coercion. The only way you could know consent is heartfelt is to watch them in person, no money involved. (And I’m not actually against that.)

    I think that this literally a case in which some women have noticed that they are near the top of the status-ladder, even if they aren’t technically all the way up, and have decided to uphold all oppressions, even the ones that hurt them, in place in the hopes of maintaining a hierarchical system that gives them relative privilege. They’re willing to put up with the occasional rape (especially rapes which happen to other people) in order to maintain a social order which means that they will never go hungry.

    • “Women who make money from porn and have no reason to suspect that they will ever be relegated to the bottom rungs of a vicious sex industry seem more prone to making apologies for the rapes that occur within.”
      That is such a very GOOD point.

  85. Feminist porn is entirely possible. Just because the vast majority of porn available currently does not cater to many women, and exploits and demeans female porn actresses (and, by extention, females in general), does not mean that this must necessarily be the case.

    Judging by the amount of positive feedback towards the idea on this thread alone, there appears to be a market for feminist or ‘female-friendly’ porn. Those who are anti the idea are perhaps being put off by the idea of porn as it is, rather than as it could be.

  86. Lots of good stuff here but I have a quibble with a line in the original:

    “Sex-positive” especially casts opponents as “sex-negative”, when it is more true to say that they are “sex-industry-negative” or even better “sex-exploitation-negative”.

    The problem with this statement is that it implies that those of us who are sex-positive are also sex-industry-positive or sex-exploitation-positive. We’re not. Sex-positive means we think sex can and should be pleasurable for all involved–and that’s usually not the case in the sex industry. And even when it is, the dominant and ubiquitous tropes of mainstream porn (and media more generally) make it generally more difficult for women to have sex that is pleasurable for them. I think both the ‘anti-porn’ and the ‘sex-positive’ folks can agree on this last point.

    • Sara, the problem is that the “sex-industry positive” folks have appropriated the term “sex-positive” for themselves so thoroughly that I don’t think it can be disentangled. Your attitude strikes me more as what second-wavers meant, and many feminists still mean, by “sexually liberated”.

  87. As an intellectual I am sympathetic to all sides of the pornography debate.

    From one pro-feminist view, I agree that Porn is often a conduit of oppression against women in the ways that it depicts and uses women, thereby leading often to both psychological abuse and physical violence against women.

    But from a political and legal perspective, I disagree that banning pornography is a viable option. In this respect, I am strong supporter of first amendment rights.

    Moreover, from a pro-sex feminist point of view, I can also appreciate the role of pornography as a positive force in sexual revolution and breaking down barriers.

    Finally, however, I can also appreciate the arguments and concerns of Christian and religious people, e.g. that frequent porn use can lead to healthy addiction that destroys lives. And I take seriously the desire to escape from enslavement to porn. Of course, I also think that the arguments and concerns of the right are often overblown. E.g I am not convinced that pornography use is in itself wrong and sinful for all people across all time, but again, I can at least sympathize.

    Having given some background of my own views on this matter, I am still left with unanswered existential questions.

    How does one know when one’s own pornography use has become addictive or problematic? And how does one go about breaking this addiction? Is it necessary for such a person to give up one porn altogether? Or can one channel and modify their pornography use in healthy ways, e.g. using only porn that meets certain standards, only using porn so often, etc.? And more generally, What kinds of pornographic materials are healthy and which are not? E.g. how can a conscientious internet porn user weed out the good from the bad? What “should” a pro-feminist man look for in porn?

  88. If what I read here is emblematic of feminists and their “allies”, then there will never be “peace” between feminists and the majority of the heterosexual male population.

    I say this because the posters here fail to understand the basic biological fact that males have been programed by millions of years of evolution to desire and lust for the female body visually and physically. Males are always going to desire porn, whether they are the most stringent fundamentalist preachers (think Jimmy Swaggert), or the most ardent feminist ally (think Ted Kennedy).

    No amount of raving and venting will change this fact. Personally I see two solid real world problems here.

    1) The incomplete, psychologically damaged, or socially maladjusted male who forces himself on women and is rude and intimidating, or commits rape.

    2) Feminist who project their own inhibitions universally on all women and won’t permit those who choose to flaunt their bodies the luxury of doing so.

    • the basic biological fact that males have been programed by millions of years of evolution to desire and lust for the female body visually and physically

      You seem to be offering this up as a contrast to women. So are women never desiring or lusting visually or physically?

      Also, LOL at characterising Ted Kennedy as an ardent feminist ally. He has supported *some* profeminist legislation. There are many more pro-feminist positions that he does not support at all. “Inconsistent” and “lukewarm” feminist ally are better descriptors.

      As to your point (2), did you actually read the thread with all the feminists talking about the sort of porn that they DO enjoy? It’s not the nudity of flaunted bodies that feminists object to, it’s the subset of porn that treats women like shit while they happen to be naked. Happy naked people having sex – I don’t think anyone has a problem with that. Except all the men who only create/purchase porn that relies on sadism because apparently watching sex where women are truly enjoying themselves doesn’t turn them on.

      • In my attempt at brevity, I failled to elaborate.

        No I am not contrasting males with females. It’s just obvious to me that too many feminists resent what is in fact normal male sexuality, especially porn which displays the female body very openly and very vividly.

        I will never defend sadism where it is real, but what you see on the web is mostly role playing fantasy, or true flagellation with consent and remuneration. I have no use for these types myself.

        I do however want to point out that the Sadism Porn are equal opportunity, and both males and females are subjected to it. I’ve seen videos with a male tied up and a Mastrex stepping on or kicking his balls.

        I as a guy don’t necessarily agree with or enjoy all the material being put out there. Even tame vids of a guy shooting off into a woman’s face, or into her mouth (yuck) turn me off. Our disagreement is over whether feminists will determine what type of content is deemed permissible or not.

        To make my point, a group of feminists recently protested PETA using nude women to advertise their anti fur message. Such nudity they argued was degrading to women. Go figure.

        http://www.furcommission.com/news/newsF06f.htm

        Makes you think they just want to keep us guys from seeing naked women.

      • You’re not the first to miss the distinction, toonjee, but consider this: feminists do not consider nudity per se degrading, but they do consider nudity used as a tool of objectification degrading. It’s the objectification that is the problem. PETA is a repeat offender in the objectification of women for their own purposes.

        You are also failing to distinguish between safe and sane BDSM porn and repellently sadistic porn with no safety or sanity whatsoever. If you’re not aware of the difference, perhaps you should read a bit more about BDSM.

        As to “whether feminists will determine what type of content is deemed permissible or not” – that’s mischaracterising the discussion. What type of pornographic content is ETHICAL or not is a very different matter from what type of pornographic content is legally permissible. While there is a vocal minority of anti-porn feminists who do want more legal control over porn, most feminists simply want people to discuss unethical porn more openly and consider ensuring that the porn they enjoy truly has been produced ethically. i.e. did the performers genuinely consent and was their safety properly taken care of while the film was produced?

        Most feminists also certainly do want unethical porn producers shut down due to negligence and depraved indifference to the health and safety of their performers. It’s in the interests of the unethical porn industry to mischaracterise such ethical concerns as mere prudery about sex, but it simply isn’t that simple.

  89. Hi tigtog,

    I have an issue with the term objectification, particularly as it relates to sex. Frankly and bluntly we are all sexual objects at some level or other whether we like it or not. Ask yourself how you define objectification and then objectively, explain what is so unnatural about that in the animal kingdom of which we humans are a part.

    Just to let you know, I am fully familiar with BDSM, and to be honest I am far more repulsed by the self injury of hardcore BDSM-ers than the whip and chain spreadeagled f*ck machine sites. Of course I wouldn’t interfere with their self injurious masochism

    Where I think I disagree with you most is that people should be able to debase themselves to whatever level or manner they wish. Feminist groups I’ve seen keep on insisting that PETA forced the nude models to be nude.

    There was no force here. These women agreed to a contract which stipulated that the would become nude as directed by the terms of the contract for an agreed upon remuneration. This is not force. As far as I care/believe women and men should be able to display their bodies as they please within the confines of law. It IS Their Body after all. Isn’t this the same right feminists fought so hard for in the matter of abortion rights? I see no honest difference.

    Finally the distinction between legal and ethical objections is immaterial to my argument, because either way someone is standing there telling you what you should be allowed to do. Feminists are still trying to tell people what they should do, and by their successful protests, they have interfered with the ability for people to do as they wish.

  90. I’m glad you addressed the PETA point, tigtog, but if I may, I’d like to elaborate on what exactly many feminists found so offensive about the PETA campaigns.

    For a start, feminists were not arguing that nudity is degrading, as stated. As tigtog has said, this is a common misconception. What feminists were protesting about was the use of female bodies in a way that objectified them and used them as a means to an end: the end being to promote a (worthy) cause about animal rights. Feminists protested about a campaign which seemed to suggest that in order for women to draw attention to a cause they needed to take their clothes off (rather than simply voice their opinions on the fur industry or the merits of a vegetarian lifestyle). The slap in the face for feminists was the irony of a campaign which sought to uphold animal rights whilst simultaneously demeaning women by portraying them (and their bodies) as expendable tools to be used for advertising.

    It’s no coincidence that all of the women PETA use for their campaigns fit into the narrow mould of what is considered to be conventionally attractive: thin, pretty in a model-type way, and usually white. It’s also no coincidence that PETA doesn’t use men’s bodies in the same way. Thus there can be no argument that PETA uses plain old nudity meerly to gain attention. PETA capitalises on a certain type of nude image – that which portrays women and their bodies as nothing more than tools of sexual gratification.

    However, what many feminists found even more objectionable than this standard, run-of-the-mill objectification of women’s bodies (seriously, if we complained about every instance of this in the media we would never get any sleep) is the sexualisation of violence against women that PETA used in their campaigns: naked women in cages in what can only be described as a ‘presenting’ or ‘doggy style’ positions; naked women wrapped in clear plasic with tortured expressions on their faces.

    These are not ‘nudity is bad’ arguments. To say so is to present a strawfeminist argument, and to fail to consider these issues seriously.

  91. None of this addresses whether or not a form of porn could exist (or maybe does exist) that would not commodify human– expressly female, sexuality. Awarding certain porn films and berating others does nothing; patriarchy will seize on the rewarding of certain pornography as proof that for all their talk, feminist women are still “women who want it”, and the scolding of other porn as hypocrisy. This won’t be the first time they will use the argument of “feminists just want to be on top”.

  92. as a 32 year old happily married female porn fan (that watches porn every day and has over 100 movies) i can say without a doubt, that there IS feminist porn, with most of it being from the 70s and 80s, the golden age of porn. ( my personal favorite era for porn) a few examples would be “behind the green door” and “alice in wonderland”. in both of these films, the woman is a prude at the beginning of the film and is taught the joys of sex and has a “sexual awakening” and it’s all about HER feeling good and what SHE wants. these are just 2 examples of what i would call “feminist porn”. there are a ton of porns that are all about women’s needs, wants and desires but as i said before, most of them are from the 70s and 80s, not today.

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