What The Heck Is Feminist Porn?

In 1975, Susan Brownmiller declared in her bestseller Against Our WillMen, Women and Rape: “There can be no equality in porn, no female equivalent, no turning of the tables in the name of bawdy fun. Pornography, like rape, is a male invention, designed to dehumanize women.”

Indeed, I can imagine it’s hard being a feminist porn fan. The concept of “feminist porn” seems an oxymoron, like “masculine tampons” or “progressive racism.” But that’s because when most of us think of porn, we visualize misogynistic scenes of women catering to men’s sexual pleasure, with sexist-slur-laden titles, an excess of fake female moaning, and a lack of production value and plot. As one site put it: “adult films with a side of degradation.”

Some women, however, weren’t content with this, so they set out to create what is known as “feminist porn.” When I recently stumbled across the term while reading the New York Time’s article, “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn”, I thought what you’re probably thinking: what the heck is that?

“The solution to bad porn isn’t no porn, it’s better porn.” -Annie Sprinkle, Sexual pioneer and artist

Well, turns out feminist porn is a big deal. There’s a whole film festival in Toronto dedicated to feminist pornography with awards such as, “Hottest Kink Film,” “Most Tantalizing Trans Film,” and, my personal favorite: “Best Boygasm.”  There are documentaries like Hot and Bothered (2003) showcasing feminist pornographers. There are porn review sites like Hot Movies for Her and Feminist Porn Reviews which exclusively cover feminist porn.

And there are many high-profile female pornographers who can explain much better than I what feminist porn is. For example, Erica Lust. Originally from Sweden, Lust graduated from the University of Lund where she specialized in Human Rights and Feminism. Her YouTube bio reads: “I am a sex-positive adult filmmaker and my goal is to portray sex the way I see it: beautiful, intelligent, and full of joy.” In addition to producing feminist porn, Lust also runs a site called The Porn Conversation where she offers tips for parents to help their children navigate the underworld of pornography.

In “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn“, Lund makes an argument for what she describes as “healthy porn”: “People have doubts and insecurities about themselves sexually. ‘Is it O.K. that I like that, or this?’ I think porn can be a good thing to have as an outlet. I’m not scared by explicit sex per se. I’m afraid of the bad values.”

Tristan Taormino is another leading feminist pornographer. She runs a production company called Smart Ass Productions. Her films feature things long-forgotten by mainstream porn; things like consent, warm up, and people actually talking to each other (not in derogatory slurs).

The site Everyday Feminism provides five guidelines for feminist porn:

  1. The male and female performers, or their characters, should be treated as equals.
  2. Male-female sex should not be presented as something that penises do to vaginas.
  3. Sex is something that people (usually) do in the context of a larger relationship.
  4. Kissing and touching matter, because that’s what people do when they have sex.
  5. Sex is something a couple does for themselves (not other people).

This is a solid outline, although feminist porn is too diverse to fit any one description. My best attempt at summarizing what feminist porn is would be this: Inclusive. Ethical. Diverse. Sex Positive. Mutually Pleasurable. Consensual.

Feminist porn strives to be inclusive of all sexual orientations and body types by featuring those often excluded from the mainstream- and featuring them as normal people, not a fetish. Feminist porn also treats its participants with respect; many films include interviews with the actors to combat objectification.

Feminist porn is not, however, all candles, roses, and consensual hugging. Yes, there is BDSM, rough sex, group sex, female ejaculation, and fisting. This is no PG-13 Disney sex scene, FYI!

Many feminists argue porn should be eradicated. As it stands, Pornhub has more daily views than Pinterest, Tumblr, or PayPal, and an estimated net worth of 4 billion dollars. That’s just one site. So, good luck eradicating porn.

The reality is many people watch porn, and porn sites are increasingly becoming the generational sex ed. According to a study conducted in 2016 of 72 high schoolers aged 16 and 17, porn was reported to be the teenager’s primary source of information about sex. In another study, where 1,001 British 11 to 16-year-olds were surveyed, over half the boys and 39% of the girls described porn as “realistic.”

The danger in an all of this? As Everyday Feminism put it, “Porn that doesn’t present men and women as equal partners, sexually speaking — that presents sex as something that men do to women and that women do for men — is dangerous. It reflects and thereby reinforces the warped view of sex that underlies rape culture.” Snaps to that.

…many females find the male genitalia ugly or repulsive in appearance… there seems no doubt that these reactions largely depend on the fact that most females are not psychologically stimulated, as males are, by objects which are associated with sex.” -Dr. McKinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953)

That being said, by no means am I advocating one must watch porn to be a feminist. I think you can vehemently oppose porn and be a feminist. I think you can produce the “Best Boygasm” film and be a feminist.

Feminism, like lingerie, is not one size fits all. However, I think there’s something to be said for the women involved in feminist porn for acknowledging that hey, just because you’re a women doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not sex-positive (*cough cough* @Dr.McKinsey). There’s undoubtedly a market for this stuff and kudos to them for making something available that’s not soul-wrenching to watch.

Now, if you want to check out some feminist porn yourself, head to the ‘Netflix of feminist porn,’ Pink Label TV. And if not, at least now you know what the heck feminist porn is.

Tigerlily Cooley

Tigerlily is a writer and musician living in Manhattan. She has released two albums with her all-girl band Bleachbear, is the president of Fordham Undergraduate Women in Business, and studied abroad in Barcelona and London. She loves sharing photos of her travels and food on her Instagram, @tigerlilycooley.

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