Porn to be Wild: Can Feminist Porn be Trashy Too?

Women make up a huge proportion of overall porn watchers, so why is it still almost impossible to find material that isn't bland, problematic or preoccupied with production values? Deviance catches up with SQIFF to dig a little deeper...

Article by Megan Wallace | 07 Sep 2017
  • Feminist Porn

Despite what you might believe – or what society would have you believe – lots of women regularly watch porn. The numbers are uncertain, but it’s been reported that one in three do so on a weekly basis.

Maybe you’re hard pushed to imagine women watching porn because the mainstream stuff isn’t often ‘female-friendly’. The cinematic repertoire of mainstream (i.e. male produced and directed) pornography is calculated so as to appeal to male sexual mechanics. This means that not only does it feel somewhat schematic, but it also often excludes the sexual needs of women and other femmes.

Take for instance the classic cum shot (i.e. a man ejaculating on their sexual partner’s face). Though for some that’s a preference or kink (fair enough), for many others it’s a degrading thing to see – especially as the finale to sexual intercourse. Rather than focussing on female pleasure, such shots often reinforce a dynamic of male ownership and sexual dominance over women. Regardless, they’re still standard fare in modern porn. To me, that’s laughable.

Diversity issues

What’s more, when I (and, I assume many other women) watch porn, I automatically feel inadequate about the ways in which I don’t measure up to the actors, which is far from a sexy feeling. Not everyone who identifies as a woman is skinny, blonde and feminine but the male-dominated realm of porn definitely gives that impression. Such a lack of representation and diversity in porn creates pressure on women to look a certain way, both during sexual exchanges and in other aspects of life. And, TBH, we get enough of that already.

The most concerning facet of porn’s diversity problem is that it tends to feature exclusively white and cis individuals. When it does feature POC or trans people, it often does so in demeaning, fetishistic videos, based on offensive stereotypes rooted in racism and transphobia.

The failure of the 'Female-Friendly' category

The thing is, pornography forms part of a sexual discourse and needs to be regarded as something more than a dirty little secret, shrouded in mystery. It often plays a large role in our sex lives and has a hand in shaping sexual dynamics and determining gender relations. We need to push for a porn which is more representative and made by people who aren’t white, straight and cisgender male.  Even the ‘female-friendly’ offerings of sites like RedTube and PornHub are substandard and banal (if you’re unacquainted, think candles, eye contact and the missionary position).

In response to this problem, a feminist porn industry has blossomed. And, with ethical production values and a focus on diverse representation, as well as a concerted effort to show real orgasms and actual chemistry, it may well be the way forward. Feminist filmmakers like Erika Lust and Tristan Taormino are pushing the envelope by producing body-positive films which put women’s desire first. However, for many feminist directors, the interpretation of ‘feminist porn’ is often one which makes artistry a central concern as opposed to, ahem, functionality. The thing is, while lovely production values and successful arousal in porn aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s also true that women don’t necessarily need their porn to come with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Sometimes they just want a simple, unproblematic wank.

Unconvinced? Well, intriguingly, studies have shown that women are most likely to consume lesbian porn, and at much higher rates than men. That’s surely indicative of women’s hunger for porn created without the male gaze in mind. It’s a shame, then, that even lesbian porn isn’t safe from hypersexualisation, unrealistic narratives and fake orgasms. What’s more, on PornHub women are 113% more likely than men to search ‘hardcore’, a clear sign that they don’t mind a bit of smut even if it’s poorly-directed. Safe to say, many women seem to be finding an outlet for their fantasies in mainstream porn – but could feminist porn provide them with a more satisfying, empowering experience of pleasure?

Queer influences

A large majority of the most boundary-breaking feminist porn comes from a queer perspective. Take, for example, the long-running and acclaimed Crash Pad Series. Luckily for us, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival returns in October with its highly popular Feminist Porn Night, featuring queer vampire erotic movie Enactone by filmmaker, DJ and producer Sky Deep. Who better to chat to about the potential for feminist porn than Sky Deep herself and GSA’s Art Porn Society founder Dylan Meade?

What is feminist porn?

Meade is quick off the mark to define the genre as “Porn produced with, by and for the participants’ own desire, without discrimination or pressures to act or appear a certain way.” But sometimes it’s not so clear-cut, as Deep puts it: “Honestly, I've never thought about it specifically in definition form. I just know that I've always wanted to see naughty things from a perspective that I can relate to, and it used to be very hard to find.  But it's been very exciting that many, including myself, have taken matters into our own hands and created the changes we'd like to see in the world of porn. Our way.”

Talking about the artistry versus functionality problem, Deep is keenly aware of the need to find that sweet spot in between the two, while being respectful of each individual’s personal preference: “I think it depends on the person. I prefer a blend of artistry and pleasure.  Some people prefer the complete opposite.”

Could porn affect societal progress?

Meade elaborates on what he thinks feminist porn should achieve: “I think we're all aware that just saying ‘smash the patriarchy!’ does not in fact, smash the patriarchy. Reform needs to be enacted, and this takes constant work and a lot of time and effort. We're talking about changing societal norms and capitalist values... You can't change the past. You can only do the best you can now.”

However, hefty obstacles prevent feminist porn’s growth as a genre. Deep identifies one of the leading problems as: “Money, money and more money. Men still statistically make more money than women on average, so they also have more recreational abilities depending on their bank book.”

So, are the cum shots, manicured hand jobs and exclusionary castings as deeply affecting as they seem, according to the experts? Deep thinks so, but seems unruffled. “Yes, for sure. But they can't rule your deepest authentic wet dreams. Make it happen."

Sky Deep's Guide to Making Feminist Porn

If you feel empowered to start making your own feminist porn, here’s Deep’s four-point formula to succeeding in the genre:

1. Arrange your own dreams and fantasies in real life first.  
2. Involve your community (consensually, of course!).
3. Film and produce your work well.
4. With the permission of the participants, submit to as many places as possible.

http://theskinny.co.uk/deviance