The 5 Hallmarks of Feminist Porn

This article (link is NSFW – NOTE WordPress removed this link because it pointed to Edenfantasys.com. I have appealed the removal, but until it is resolved please look for the original article in the Edenfantasys SexIs magazine. Many apologies to author Girly Juice – non-attribution was definitely not my intent!) outlines five “hallmarks of feminist porn.” Since that’s basically what I’m hoping to do in my honours thesis (figure out the hallmarks of feminist porn and whether two of the Feminist Porn Award winners meet them), it’s worth unpacking this list a bit.

The first hallmark of feminist porn: “Real Pleasure, Real Orgasms”

The first porn I ever watched was “Velvet Thrust” and it was a film marketed primarily towards straight women (which is how I identified at the time). The male actors, especially the male lead, were conventionally attractive and were clearly meant to be seen as sexually arousing visual elements (unlike many male performers in porn marketed at straight men – this is a whole other thing to discuss later on). It was pretty decent porn, in terms of representing consent. And although the gender representations were pretty conventional, there was none of the blatantly sexist representations of gender that I’ve seen in other mainstream porn. It was recommended by Violet Blue in her book, “The Smart Girl’s Guide To Porn” (which I read before deciding on which porn to watch for my first time out) and it was alright. It had the desired effect. But there was one scene, which I will never forget, and which makes me giggle to this day, where the female performer was in a ridiculously contorted-for-the-camera position, moaning dramatically, and every time her costar would pull too far back and pop out (which was apparently super easy to do in that position), she sounded completely surprised. “Oooooh, OOoooooh, Oooh, huh? Oooh, ooooooooh Oooh, huh?” It was hilarious. And it made it very clear that the whole scene was pretty fake. There were no “real” orgasms happening for that performer, and the performance was just that – performance.

The article points out that feminist porn has shifted the focus onto “authentic” sexual pleasure. I find the idea of the “real” somewhat problematic. Like Julie Levin Russo, I believe that, “[t]he idea that porn has a special capacity to transparently reflect the real… is necessarily problematic in its erasure of mediation” (Russo, 240).

However, despite my significant side-eye at the idea of “authenticity,” I do think that there’s something here. I think this emphasis on “real” pleasure can be seen cinematically in the use of the camera and the way that some feminist porn gives seemingly equal weight to the pleasure of the performers as it does to the pleasure of the viewer – scenes that are less exposed because less exposure means more pleasure (no contorted-for-the-camera angles that make pleasure virtually impossible) balance the necessarily over-exposed scenes that allow the viewer to see and understand the physical acts being portrayed.

“Real” orgasms are another element, separate (in my opinion) from “real” pleasure. As a person who does not orgasm reliably with a partner and never on my own, I appreciate the few available pornographic representations of sex that do not focus on orgasm. I appreciate porn that represents the range of orgasm styles and allows room for women who have single orgasms, men who have orgasms and continue pleasuring their partners afterwards, etc. Here, rather than “real” orgasms (though I absolutely agree with the author that watching an actual orgasm happen is infinitely more hot than watching clearly faked orgasms), I think what may differentiate feminist porn from mainstream porn is the variety of orgasms represented. Including, but not limited to, the authenticity of the orgasm seen on film.

The second hallmark: Consensual Objectification

This second point blew me away. This is what I was trying to get at in my post about wanting to be wanted – the idea that being objectified, consensually, is legitimately hot and that wanting to be objectified in that way doesn’t mean your feminist card is revoked. I would like to see a further articulation of how a feminist can want to be consensually oppressed and how that can be a feminist act. I struggle with that wording – objectified, yes. Absolutely, I can understand (and relate to!) the desire to be consensually objectified. Dominated, yes. I am a switch, but with very strong subby tendencies and I think that my kink is part of my feminist identity, rather than being in opposition to my feminist identity. But I do not understand, myself, how oppression fits in that same category. This will require further thought.

Where this point really hits the mark, in my opinion, is in the discussion of explicitly representing negotiation and consent within the context of objectifying or kinky porn. Not only does this normalize submissiveness as an act that can be empowered and fully consensual, it also models consent and negotiation for viewers who, without the explicit depiction of the process, would otherwise not have a template for bringing these sex acts into their own lives in a fully consensual way. This is one way that porn can be educational and positive, in my opinion. I want to know that the performer has explicitly stated their desire for this scene before I feel confident in my ability to ethically participate in it (I think that we, as viewers, do participate in the porn).

The third hallmark: Equal-Opportunity Submission

This is related to the first point, and my interpretation of it as having to do with variety. There is nothing un-feminist or anti-feminist about female submission. But there is something fucked up about female submission being represented as the only form of submission, and the only form of kink available to women. This point is critical (but complex). I’ve written before about my own problematic expectation that feminist porn would represent All The Things – queer sex, particularly. So, while “equal-opportunity submission” seems like a very important part of feminist porn as a movement, I think it is problematic to demand that it be represented equally in each production. I also appreciate that this point recognizes not only the fact that multiple genders want to be dominant and submissive, but also that there is a wide range of behaviour within that broad category. It’s not all whips and chains, in either direction. And I think that’s healthy, positive, and again, potentially educational.

The fourth hallmark: Diverse Identities and Bodies

This. So much this.

“Feminist porn doesn’t have to, but often does, include diversely queer elements like genderqueer people, trans* people, butches and femmes, strap-on sex, androgyny, sex toys used interchangeably with body parts, a disregard for traditional gender roles, and a total subversion of those same roles.”

Yes.

I can’t even really add to this, because this is my personal #1 favourite reason for watching feminist porn. Because, I don’t find all the bodies attractive. I have a few specific types, and those types make my heart beat faster (and, you know, less tame reactions happen also). But I don’t want my “types” to dominate the industry. I want to see a variety of bodies and identities. I want to know that if I can watch a gorgeous androgynous genderqueer fuck an adorable femme with a strap-on, someone else can watch what they want – they can watch what they want to be, or what they are. For me, that’s critical. I want all the bodies, not just the “acceptable” ones! And feminist porn tries to provide that. (Fails much of the time, I would say. Especially when it comes to race and ability. But it tries! And it is getting better. The same diversity that we see in gender performance and body size, we will hopefully soon see in other areas.)

The fifth point: Enthusiasm and Fun

Okay. Let’s take a moment to admire the Mayhems, pictured under this point. I’m just going to go to my happy place for a minute and look at that picture of them being adorable. Or maybe I’ll look at other things (link is mostly safe for work – male upper body nudity, but nothing else). Isn’t Ned Mayhem adorable? And smart? And interested in feminist issues like gender diversity? And ADORABLE?!?!?! And he is wearing multiple “Nerds Fuck” stickers. And trust me (or don’t, you can google her yourself!) when I tell you that Maggie Mayhem is just as fantastic. Guys… guys. I need a minute to swoon over here.

Anyway.

This point is directly related to the first point but I think the language is less problematic and more clear. Enthusiasm! And fun! This is often missing from mainstream porn (very clearly so) and it is a hallmark of feminist porn that is near and dear to my heart. Sex, especially if we are sex-positive!, should be fun. It should be awkward and silly and sweaty and sometimes giggly and it should be enthusiastic. Feminist porn, some feminist porn, represents that. And that’s awesome. And it’s something that I find missing from a lot of mainstream discussions of sex, whether it’s in porn or sex ed classes or novels or television – sex is represented as Serious Business. And it is – go get tested, talk about safer sex practices, negotiate your boundaries, discuss consent, practice enthusiastic consent and ask for explicit verbal consent with your partners – but it should also be fun. It can also be fun. And we need to see that somewhere. Feminist porn is one place where that happens (and I think that’s rad).

Okay, I’m way less able to be critical at this point in the blog post than I was at first because… the Mayhems! I heart them.

Works cited:

Juice, Girly. “Five Hallmarks of Feminist Porn.” SexIsSocial. Edensfantasys.com. 2 Aug. 2012.

Russo, Julie Levin. “‘The Real Thing’: Reframing Queer Pornography For Virtual Spaces.” C’Lick Me: A Netporn Studies Reader. Ed. Katrien Jacobs, Marije Janssen and Matteo Pasquinelli. Institute of Network Cultures, 2007. 239-252. PDF. www.networkcultures.org/mediaarchive

5 comments on “The 5 Hallmarks of Feminist Porn

  1. [...] The Five Hallmarks of Feminist Porn, by Queerlygendered. “The article points out that feminist porn has shifted the focus onto “authentic” sexual pleasure. I find the idea of the “real” somewhat problematic. Like Julie Levin Russo, I believe that, “[t]he idea that porn has a special capacity to transparently reflect the real… is necessarily problematic in its erasure of mediation” (Russo, 240). However, despite my significant side-eye at the idea of “authenticity,” I do think that there’s something here.” [...]

  2. [...] in this blog, I talked about The 5 Hallmarks of Feminist Porn, with the first “hallmark” being “Real Pleasure, Real Orgams.” I’m [...]

  3. Nice piece. I was just interviewed about feminist porn last week and I would’ve cited this article if I’d known about it!

  4. [...] Hot ‘n’ Bothered: Feminist Pornography. Here’s a nice piece called “The Five Hallmarks of Feminist Porn.” And for those with an interest in BDSM, I recommend the challenging documentary Graphic [...]

  5. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing
    this article and also the rest of the website is extremely good.

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