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Feminist Porn: A Force for Good?


photo for feminist pornFeminist porn has a split personality.  Or maybe even a multiple personality.   It is a potpourri of causes, similar to the “movement” of the 1960’s which lumped together women’s rights, the anti-war movement, sexual liberation, racial equality, alternative lifestyles and more.

The first annual Feminist Porn Conference was held at the University of Toronto in April of 2013.

The conference included writers, critics and academics of various kinds (film studies, women’s studies, sociology etc.) as well as porn producers, writers, performers, students, sex workers and others.  The list of possible topics for presentations from the call for papers gives a pretty good idea of the many theoretical, artistic and political areas  involved:

  • Historical studies of pornography
  • The anti-porn feminist resurgence
  • Representations of female pleasure and desire
  • Concepts of desire, authenticity, and fantasy
  • LGBT, queer, genderqueer, and transgender pornographies
  • BDSM, fetish, kink, and rough sex on film
  • Porn, sex work, labor rights, and equality
  • HIV/AIDS, STIs, and safer sex
  • The politics of porn
  • DIY pornographies, new technologies, internet economies
  • Watching porn: viewership and fandom
  • Constructions of ability, beauty, desirability, and body size
  • Sex education in porn
  • Feminist porn as genre, industry, or movement
  • Practical, how-to workshops for performers, directors, and producers

The feminist porn movement might better be called guerilla porn, or protest porn or even performance art.  It wants to be a force for change from within by being what they call “sex positive”, embracing any and all forms of sexuality.  They believe in changing what is wrong with porn but not by trying to obliterate it.

Feminist porn activists distinguish themselves from the anti porn feminists who are against porn and whom they see as “sex negative.”  Whereas the feminist porn theorists accept that much of human sexual arousal involves dominance and submission fantasies they see the feminist anti porn movement (as well as the faith based anti porn activists) as being unrealistic at best, and repressive at worst.   The anti porn activists do not, however, think that they are “sex negative”.

Here are some quotes from the women’s enews article which took excerpts from the book The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure by Taormino, Penley, Shimizu and Miller-Young.

“But the problem with anti-pornography’s assumption that sex is inherently oppressive to women–that women are debased when they have sex on camera–ignores and represses the sexuality of women. Hence, for us, sex-positive feminist porn does not mean that sex is always a ribbon-tied box of happiness and joy.

….It creates a space for realizing the contradictory ways in which our fantasies do not always line up with our politics or ideas of who we think we are.”

I believe that some of the issues that feminist porn tackles would be seen as worthy causes by almost anyone.  Among these are:

  • Changing the stereotyped image of the porn star to a more normal-looking woman
  • Empowering the performers in porn and involving them in the film making process
  • Making films that are higher quality vs. cheap and mass produced films
  • Combating racism and black stereotyping in porn films
  • Raising the health standards for porn workers
  • Labor and pay issues for porn workers, and
  • A target audience other than white heterosexual males

Others of their goals are more controversial. Quoting from the above mentioned article:

“Feminist porn explores sexual ideas and acts that may be fraught, confounding and deeply disturbing to some, and liberating and empowering to others. What we see at work here are competing definitions of sexuality that expose the power of sexuality in all of its unruliness…feminist porn does not shy away from the darker shades of women’s fantasies.”

But the “darker shades” of sexual fantasy are precisely what anti-porn people are concerned about.  They see it  as like  “OK girls, you get your own dark fantasies now,” reminiscent of the old Virginia Slims ads that attempted to get more women to smoke cigarettes based on the idea that it was empowering.

And the concern is not only  what porn may be doing to shift our collective cultural arousal template in a darker, more violent and less human direction.   The anti porn theorists also do not believe that embracing (discovering?) the dark,  dominance-submission fantasies that are currently common in most porn and erotica is the way for women to seize equal power.

Ultimately I believe the feminist porn people and the anti porn feminists have a similar purpose in mind: to combat what is unfair and unequal in our society as it is expressed sexually in film and elsewhere.  Both groups want to educate and raise awareness, one through art and experimentation and the other through public information and legislation.

Shifts in the sexual fantasy landscape of our culture will undoubtedly be a long time coming.  Hopefully we can all be on the same team.  Does it really matter who is carrying the ball as long as we are moving it down the field?

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

Feminist Porn: A Force for Good?


Linda Hatch, PhD

Linda Hatch is a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist specializing in the treatment of sex addicts and the partners and families of sex addicts. Linda also blogs on her own website at Sexaddictionscounseling.com


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APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2019). Feminist Porn: A Force for Good?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/10/feminist-porn-what-is-it-for/

 

Last updated: 17 Dec 2019
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