Part I: My very brief guide to feminist porn

Feminist pornography probably doesn’t get brought up in too many casual conversations. But that’s precisely what a conversation led to the other night when my husband met up with an old friend at a concert. As it turns out, this friend and his wife had happened onto my new porn by women blog after following a link from my Facebook page and were curious: Where do you find it? How is it really different? Do you watch it together or alone? When and where?

I can imagine my husband yelling over the loud music! He didn’t exactly have the answers to all the questions and finally encouraged his friend (and wife) to contact me with any porn related questions. Here I’ll address the first two questions:

As to where to find it, knowing who makes feminist or progressive porn is a good place to start. On my new porn by women site, I list a few female filmmakers who make progressive feminist good porn. All sell their films on their own websites or link to retailers. On the Good Vibrations website you can find a category for women directed adult movies, some of which are feminist porn, including:

Some porn claiming to be female-friendly or from a female point of view are not what one could call feminist porn, and some certainly aren’t progressive. The films listed here are different from mainstream porn both in design and content. Let me break down these criteria into more specific sub criteria that works for me:

High cinematic production value:

  • The acting is strong and convincing (as paradoxical as that may sound here).
  • The manuscript builds the sex into a realistic context.
  • The settings and costumes are realistic
  • The musical soundtrack complements and even adds to what is seen;
    the sighing is truthful and balanced as opposed to the exaggerated moaning often heard in mainstream porn.
  • The lighting supplements the atmosphere.
  • The picture quality presents what is seen esthetically.
  • The cinematography and directing is done with an eye for the right shots and frames.
  • The editing is done with an eye for good cuts and transitions, splicing together the right shots for best effect.

Progressive sexual-political commitment:

  • The camera shots, angles, and movements all capture and frame the bodies and their sexual encounters democratically, i.e., presenting a new language for gender democratic heterosexuality.
  • The film presents us with a gender democratic gaze of devoted mutuality as opposed to the objectifying gaze on the woman in mainstream porn.
  • The film legitimizes consensual voyeurism and affirms the satisfaction in being seen, as well as the pleasure in seeing (scopophilia).
  • The film illustrates the use of a subversive role-play, critically appropriating, revising, and playing with erotic fantasies.
  • The film suggests an alternative symbolic to portray sexual agency, desire, and pleasure than the focus on erection and money shot in mainstream porn.
  • The film confronts political censorship and the historical baggage of guilt and shame around sex.
  • In line with social and political trends, the film portrays a society with increased gender equality, including a growing specter of diverse forms of intimacy, where women and men have a larger play-field to practice their sexuality, even as sexual taboos linger and narrow gender categories continue to confine the experience of gender and sexuality for many.

In The Tunnel, the erect penis and money shot as the central symbols for sexual agency and climax have been replaced with an alternative symbolic to portray the woman as the active sexual subject\’across railings, out of a net, through a membrane\’for her desire and pleasure.

Now of course the films don’t address all the criteria here. But these are consistent in an effort to re-vision porn, and broaden our understanding of porn as a possible tool to empower men and women alike in their sexual lives. It’s no wonder feminist porn as a topic today is receiving more attention. It has the possibility of addressing our need for sexual agency in a time when boundaries are being re-explored; it is at the forefront of realigning our society, which has been shaped by unhealthy and unrealistic ideas about our sexuality. This isn’t just a topic for educated or liberal-minded persons who are already aware of the dying symbols on which our world seems to be resting; it actually concerns us all equally. Which perhaps is why when you least expect it, you might find the conversation has led to feminist pornography, and more and more ears are tuning in.

(This post is an excerpt from my book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters, forthcoming fall 2012.)

Quizzical Mama

Quizzical mama, aka Anne G. Sabo, PhD, is a former academic turned public educator, author, speaker, freelance writer, and mama- and sex blogger. Her book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters (Zer0 Books, October 2012) has been called “a goldmine for all sex-positive women and men,” and a “candid, well-informed personal story of how a good girl became involved in porn." She writes mores about progressive porn and sex-positivity in her New porn by women blog and at her resource site Love, Sex, and Family, and she muses about life and parenting in her Quizzical mama blog. She lives in Northfield, Minnesota, a small college town just south of the Twin Cities, with her spouse and their preschooler daughter. You can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @quizzicalmama.

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