The Feminist Pornographer
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It’s funny because I feel like that bit is what’s so often left out in these sorts of debates about whether pornography can be feminist. We become so focused on the actual content of the film and what is being portrayed on the screen rather than all of that background stuff.
Right, and I’m going to get to the content next, but I agree with you. That’s an issue that you see throughout many of these pieces and it’s why it’s also so important that this book puts into conversation both academics and scholars who study and theorize about porn and porn performers and producers who actually create porn. That was the central goal of the book.
But, certainly, besides the process of making it, feminist porn does have a mission behind it, to really address some of the repetitions, the stereotypes, the tropes of some of mainstream pornography and diversify the representation of desire, pleasure, body, race, class, identity, sexual agency. I mean, we are firing on all cylinders here! We are trying to address a lot of different issues all at once. A common misconception about feminist porn is that we are really concerned about women and women’s representations and women’s pleasure. I like to say that as a feminist pornographer, I priorities female desire, pleasure, orgasm, because all too often they aren’t prioritized in other porn — but I also think that we’ve got to dismantle the images and stereotypes around male sexuality. I think that that’s also the work of feminism, to really expose these gender binaries and these stereotypes. It’s really about trying to challenge the whole system, not just one piece of it.
I’m kind of curious, what do you think of descriptors like “porn for women” or “porn for couples”?
The connection between “porn for women” and “porn for couples” and “feminist porn” is a complicated one, which I think is also revealed in the book, because on the one hand there is the genre called porn for women and it is both a precursor and part of feminist porn. So feminists, obviously, have been making porn since the late ’70s and early ’80s, so this idea of feminist porn isn’t a new one, but it certainly has taken hold in a different way, I think, in the past decade. So on the one hand what “porn for women” as a category did was it acknowledged that women can watch, buy and consume porn, which now people would say to that
“duh,” but back in the time of Candida Royalle, that was a radical notion. People laughed in her face. They were like, “No, no, no, honey, 99.99 percent of viewers are men. You are crazy.” Then, of course, she proved everyone wrong. So, by proving that this category even existed, and that female viewers existed, that’s a crucial piece of how we think about porn today.
On the flip side, there certainly are plenty of women I hear from who say, “I watched this so-called ‘porn for women’ and it doesn’t turn me on, and I can totally get the politics of it, but, man, it doesn’t get me off.” In some case it’s because some people consider porn for women to be a softer, gentler, nicer porn and, of course, we got to interrogate and criticize that notion as well. I mean, I think the trouble with even thinking that there even is porn for women is that it assumes a singular female viewer, which isn’t fair and isn’t true. For some people, romance really provides a context for porn, and it really does help them get off on and connect with porn movies. But for other people, they just want to take their underwear off and they just want to see other people take their underwear off too. They don’t need a big story line or a plot or Hollywood production values to make that happen. So, it’s important that this thing exists called “porn for women,” but I don’t want it to box us in and define this as the only porn women want to watch, or should watch.