So, What Is Feminist Porn? Find Out From a Woman Who Makes It.
Excellent interview with Tristan by Anna Breslaw for COSMOPOLITAN. Must admit I was extremely impressed with quality of article and totally surprised that this magazine published it. I guess porn still sells and especially Feminist Porn, what some women might label as an oxymoron. I believe it all depends on your definition of porn.
Excerpts from article:
I know many women who say they’re not into porn, usually citing variations of: “Eh. It’s always just some middle-aged dude slamming a professional porn actress with fake cans.” Yeah, most mainstream pornography is geared towards a (rather unimaginative, if you ask me) male audience. And then there’s what most of us consider the alternative: your stereotypical “porn for women,” featuring cheesy Kenny G-style sax solos and cringe-worthy face-touching. But there’s a middle ground!
Last month was the first annual Feminist Porn Conference, at which educators and purveyors of female-friendly porn gathered to discuss theory and production. But what constitutes feminist porn? Is it still feminist if it “degrades” the female sex partner? What if you consider yourself a feminist, but you’re into that? We asked Tristan Taormino, sex educator, feminist pornographer, co-editor ofThe Feminist Porn Book, these and other pressing questions, plus a handy beginner’s guide to get into feminist porn.
Cosmo: What’s the actual definition of feminist porn? Is the definition reliant on the creators of said porn (e.g. if the creators are feminists) or, rather, the content (e.g. not demoralizing to women)?
Feminist pornographers are committed to gender equality and social justice. Feminist porn is ethically produced porn, which means that performers are paid a fair wage and they are treated with care and respect; their consent, safety, and well-being are critical, and what they bring to the production is valued. Feminist porn explores ideas about desire, beauty, pleasure, and power through alternative representations, aesthetics, and filmmaking styles. Feminist porn seeks to empower the performers who make it and the people who watch it.
Since the Jenna Jameson-style professional porn industry is sort of dying now that there’s free Internet porn, how do “amateur” sites like RedTube or YouPorn fit into this? Do they have their own sets of gendered problems?
What most people don’t realize is that most so-called “free” porn on the internet is not really free, it’s blatant copyright infringement illegally uploaded on tube and bit torrent sites. YouPorn and RedTube are primarily in the business of making pirated content available for sharing. I don’t really consider them amateur sites because most of the content isn’t actually amateur. They are basically destroying the old economic model of the adult industry. That said, what the internet has done is leveled the playing field to some extent and made it possible for people to control the means of porn production, which is a good thing for feminists. There are a lot of small, indie porn sites run by the performers themselves like MeetTheMayhems.com and LiandraDahl.com. MakeLoveNotPorn.tv is an actual amateur filesharing site where the people who make the scenes and films can share profits with the site.
If a woman likes the kind of porn that involves men dominating women, is she being anti-feminist by consuming it?
I have no interest in policing or judging anyone’s desires, fantasies, and porn preferences, and I know that plenty of women have fantasies of dominance and submission. Images of dominance and submission are not anti-feminist in and of themselves, but one of the reasons feminists critique them is because consent is not always explicit and because of the repetition of men dominating women, making it the main type of power exchange we see in a lot of mainstream pornography. I think there is a stereotype that women want kinder, gentler, more romantic porn; some women do, but not all women. Feminist pornographers don’t want to do away with sexual power dynamics; many of us want to explore them in an explicitly consensual and more diverse, nuanced, non-stereotypical way.
What role do you think mainstream porn plays in the sexualization of men?
Pornography is often called out for the sexual objectification of women, but rarely are the same critiques made about the sexual objectification of men. In lots of mainstream porn, men are portrayed as one-dimensional sex robots; they are always dominant, assertive, and rock hard. In a lot of films, we rarely see their faces or the rest of their bodies, they are merely disembodied penises. What I’m trying to achieve in my films is a more diverse array of sexual representations and that includes more diverse images of men’s sexuality. I like to show men asking their partners for directions, men who get off on giving pleasure, submissive men, straight men who get anally penetrated, and men who aren’t afraid to challenge norms about masculinity in other ways.
If I were to watch a feminist porn now, what differences/exceptional things would I notice as opposed to regular porn?
There are no generalizations I can make about all feminist porn, but there are certain elements that many feminist porn films have in common. Feminist porn is sex-positive, depicts sexual consent and agency, and prioritizes female pleasure. So, you’re likely to see real female orgasms. Feminist porn features minorities underrepresented in mainstream porn, so you may see people of different gender identities and expressions, races, body types, or abilities. Those differences will not be fetishized or stereotyped, as some mainstream porn does (with race, for example).
Do you think women in the professional porn industry have agency or are they being exploited?
That’s an extremely broad question that tough to answer briefly; people have written dissertations about this topic. As with any other industry, women have choices, control, and agency in their work, and some have more and others have less, depending on lots of different factors. The notion that all women who work in porn are exploited and degraded is a stereotype, one that is often propagated by people who refuse to listen to sex workers talk about their own experiences and instead make assumptions about them.
Do you consider women like Sasha Grey or Stoya feminist porn actresses?
I don’t feel comfortable speaking for Sasha Grey (who is now retired from performing) or Stoya about their politics or the way they identify. I will say that Sasha and Stoya represent a new generation of female porn performers who are bright, articulate, thoughtful, powerful women who have a lot to say about the work they do; they contradict the stereotype of the dumb, drugged-out young woman who’s clueless and exploited by the industry. There are a growing number of feminist-identified performers in porn, and many of them have pieces in The Feminist Porn Book. Some of the most visible and vocal include Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, April Flores, Lorelei Lee, Sinnamon Love and performer/directors Nina Hartley, Madison Young, Courtney Trouble, and Bobbi Starr.
How can we be responsible porn consumers?
Tristan Taormino’s website: http://puckerup.com