Feminist Porn: An Introduction

Tristan Taormino

Feminist porn is a genre of adult film and a growing movement which traces its roots back to the 1980s and the work of pioneering performers and producers like Annie Sprinkle , Susie Bright, Nan Kinney , Deborah Sundahl, Carol Queen, Candida Royalle, Nina Hartley, On Our Backs, and Fatale Media.

Today, feminist pornographers are organized around creating work that is ethical, diverse, political, and empowering. Feminist porn is ethically-produced, which means the working conditions are safe and performers are paid a fair wage and treated with respect. Feminist porn places emphasis on consent, performer agency, and authentic depictions of desire and sexuality; they often take the lead or collaborate in the creation of their scenes, and everyone is encouraged to experience real pleasure and orgasms. The films of feminist pornographers respond to and challenge stereotypes seen in other kinds of porn, and attempt to move beyond one-dimensional depictions of gender and sexuality. Feminist porn offers alternative representations and aesthetics and often features historically underrepresented or misrepresented people and practices. Feminist porn challenges repetitive, reductive images to create more diverse, complex, and nuanced depictions of sex, lust, fantasy, power, and pleasure.

For all you brainy types, here is an excerpt of the definition of porn from The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure: As both an established and emerging genre of pornography, feminist porn uses sexually explicit imagery to contest and complicate dominant representations of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, body type, and other identity markers. It explores concepts of desire, agency, power, beauty, and pleasure at their most confounding and difficult, including pleasure within and across inequality, in the face of injustice, and against the limits of gender hierarchy and both heteronormativity and homonormativity. It seeks to unsettle conventional definitions of sex, and expand the language of sex as an erotic activity, an expression of identity, a power exchange, a cultural commodity, and even a new politics.

What’s the difference between feminist porn, couples porn, and porn for women?

There is a great deal of overlap between the categories of feminist porn, couples porn, and porn for women. Porn made by and for women grew out of a glaring lack of female directors and producers; as a genre, “porn for women” acknowledges women as creators behind the scenes as well as viewers, consumers, and fans. Couples porn has primarily been used as a marketing tool and most often signifies films with storylines and higher production values. While there is explicit sex in couples porn, many titles with this label don’t depict certain kinds of sex like anal sex, double penetration, gang bangs, BDSM, or rough sex. Feminist porn differs from these two classifications in several important ways. Feminist porn does not assume it knows “what women want” or that there is one kind of person watching it; instead, feminist porn anticipates that there are lots of different kinds of viewers, each with their own tastes, perspectives, and reasons for watching. Feminist porn does not fix a particular style of filmmaking, aesthetic, or narrative as its ideal—it casts a wide net across many different genres, working within and across existing genres and attempting to forge its own new visual languages. Feminist porn doesn’t narrow its focus to specific types of content. Finally, feminist porn is political: feminist pornographers have various agendas, but most want to spark and change public conversations about sex and sexuality.

Is this a fancy name for romance and softer sex?

The idea that feminist porn equates with depictions of certain kinds of sex or certain aesthetic choices simply isn’t true. Is some feminist porn romantic, story-based, and depict sex with “less edge” than some other porn? Absolutely, but that doesn’t describe all feminist porn.

How do I know if the porn I’m watching is feminist?

Become an informed porn consumer and do your research. Look for interviews with directors and performers, mission statements on their websites, and other writing about their production process and labor policies.

I want to watch feminist porn! Where do I begin?

Like pornography itself, feminist porn is not a singular, fixed category that can be neatly described by a few words. Within the genre of feminist porn, there is a great deal of diversity. A good place to start is the feminist porn section of GoodVibrationsVOD.com or my list of some of my favorite films. You’ll see a list of directors and companies that self-identify as feminist, along with a description of their work, in the Feminist Porn Resource Guide on my website. Check out The Good for Her Feminist Porn Awards for an annual list of nominated films. Here are some recommendations:

High production values, strong storylines, and feature-style filmmaking:
Erika Lust, Petra Joy, Jacky St. James, Candida Royalle

Real couples, focus on authentic pleasure, documentary style:
Comstock Films, Bright Desire, Tristan Taormino’s Chemistry

Porn by and for lesbian, dyke, queer, and trans* folks:
Shine Louise Houston, Courtney Trouble, Madison Young

Porn that features trans*, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people:
Shine Louise Houston, Courtney Trouble, T-Wood Pictures, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Billy Castro, Buck Angel

By and for differently-abled people:
want and KRUTCH

Feminists working in mainstream porn:
Joanna Angel, Jacky St. James, Kimberly Kane, Bobbi Starr

BDSM, kinky, and rough sex:
Tristan Taormino, Madison Young, House of Switch, Maria Beatty, Dreams of Spanking

Body diversity:
Courtney Trouble, Carlos Batts & April Flores, Shine Louise Houston

Filmmakers of color:
Shine Louise Houston, Nenna Joiner, Carlos Batts, Venus Hottentot

Sex education:
Tristan Taormino, Carol Queen, Nina Hartley, Jessica Drake, Deborah Sundahl

 

Tristan Taormino is a feminist pornographer, author, and sex educator. She is the director/producer of more than two dozen adult films, including the Expert Guide sex education series, Chemistry, and Rough Sex. She is founder and producer of The Feminist Porn Conference.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Excellent post here, very informative & yes, we definitely need more feminist pornographers out there to redress the balance. I’m off to check out some of your suggested films…I may be a while ;)
    Kitty.