Work in Progress Talk

This is the ten minute talk I gave in class today. It was received well, and I got questions about whether I would be incorporating Cathy Acker's work on written pornography (will look into it), whether I would be examining the viewer's role in objectification (yes, but I think objectification is a complex issue), what I mean by aesthetics (I referred to the green light in Fuckstyles as the aesthetic element that got me thinking, but admitted that I haven't done this work yet), and whether I would be examining in any further depth the idea of ethnicity and how/whether that does “recuperate” anything or whether it perpetuates problematic stereotypes (awesome point, will pursue).

Tomorrow is the research symposium and I'll be presenting my poster. Eep! Will report back.

And now, my talk:

My research project, tentatively titled “Contentious Cartography: Defining and Exploring Feminisms in Pornography,” is an examination of the performance of feminism in pornography and an attempt to understand how feminisms are (or aren’t) performed in feminist and mainstream pornography. One challenge is that because there is no single, cohesive definition of feminism, I do not believe there can be a single, cohesive definition of feminist pornography. Where my research project initially proposed an examination of two Feminist Porn Award winners, my recent work has led me to believe that it will be significantly more effective to broaden my scope and compare a variety of feminist porn productions with a matching variety of mainstream porn productions, while maintaining a narrow focus on a few clearly defined tropes.

When I started this project, I positioned myself in opposition to anti-porn feminists. I was, and am, frustrated by sex-negative rhetoric that casts porn performers as victims, porn viewers as dupes, and porn itself as an unmitigated evil. One of my original goals was to find a way to undertake this research without allowing anti-porn arguments to frame the debate. I viewed engagement with anti-porn feminism a necessary evil, a task to be dealt with quickly and dismissively before I could get down to the real work of exploring feminist pornography and feminism in pornography.

However, I have come to recognize that while I still strongly disagree with broad generalizations that attempt to put all pornography under a single umbrella, anti-porn feminists aren’t the only ones doing the broad generalizing. I also realize that the critiques raised by anti-porn feminists, particularly by scholars such as Karen Boyle, do have important insights to offer. Anti-porn feminists condemn porn as reinforcing gendered power relations, setting unrealistic standards of beauty and behaviour, casting women as passive objects whose main purpose is to receive active, aggressive sexual acts from men. This is the theory of pornography that Robin Morgan claims leads to the practice of rape.

And my research has found that pornography can, and does, influence sexual attitudes and behaviour. In “Pornography, Normalization and Empowerment,” Weinberg et al. found a correlation – not a simple or even necessarily predictable correlation, but still a correlation – between porn viewing and shifting sexual behaviours, attitudes, and feelings of empowerment. So there is truth to the idea that pornography presents a theory that results in a practice.

Over the last month, I researched and designed a poster for the Students’ Union Undergraduate Research Symposium. I started with Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous, initially planning to focus on that single film. I quickly ran into a problem: namely, why does this analysis matter? Into what context am I bringing this analysis, and why am I looking at the elements that I’m looking at?

I focused on four tropes: consent and coercion, agency and passivity, diversity and homogeneity, and intimacy and objectification. Although my initial plan was to acknowledge but quickly dismiss in a small text box off to the side, the anti-porn feminist stance, I realized that the critiques brought to the table by anti-porn feminists were exactly the right measures against which I could test the performance of feminisms in pornography. These critiques became the foundation of my analysis, the litmus test for whether feminist pornography, in Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous, actually was presenting a different theory.

I brought a mainstream porn production into my poster analysis, Digital Playground’s unSEXpected, and I watched both films multiple times, tallying up the number of times consent or coercion were shown on screen, how many sex acts occurred and what variation existed, how gender was performed, how the camera angles framed the scenes… I found that there were demonstrable differences between the films.

The first trope I examined was the performance of consent and coercion. One feminist definition of consent is the presence of what Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman call “genuine desire for sexual pleasure and the expression of that desire.” Feminist representations of consent are between partners of equal power, who make the choice freely. Ethically produced porn engages in consensual production practices, but feminist performances in porn need to include visible consent in the finished product. Fuckstyles shows verbal consent twice in most of the eight scenes, and over 18 times in the scene between Maggie and Ned Mayhem. In contrast, unSEXpected features explicit coercion in three of its five scenes, with the misogynist insult “pussy” directed at three different male characters to shame them into initiating sex. Although unSEXpected does feature verbal consent in each scene, the majority of scenes begin with coercion and introduce verbal consent after this, which is an incredibly problematic theory of consent to be presenting.

My second trope was agency and passivity. A feminist theory of sexual agency includes giving informed consent to sexual risks through negotiating safer sex, access to mutual sexual pleasure, and the ability to self-pleasure or to seek out pleasurable activities. Feminist sexual agency is also performed through masturbation, ownership of orgasm through self-pleasuring or negotiating acts leading to orgasm, and direction of the sexual activity by women or marginalized groups, such as trans* individuals or people of colour, all present in Fuckstyles. Fuckstyles shows gloves, condoms and lube in most of its scenes, whereas unSEXpected shows no safer sex tools. Neither film depicts the on-screen negotiation of safer sex practices, and dental dams were also absent from both films. These exclusions are important for understanding how feminisms are, or in these instances aren’t, performed in pornography. I think it is unlikely that a film could perform all possible feminisms, and so determining a scale against which the performance of feminism can be measured may be more useful than articulating a single definition.

The third trope, diversity and homogeneity, was where the different theories of sexuality and gender were most obvious. Jill Dolan notes that “playing with fantasies of sexual and gender roles offers the potential for changing gender-coded structures of power.” Fuckstyles “plays with” a variety of roles, separating both sex acts and gender performance from biological sex. The film includes multiple visibly trans* performers while leaving room for cisgender and heterosexual performances by Maggie and Ned Mayhem. This diversity of gender and sex acts allows for, quoting Dolan, “power, sexuality and desire [to be] recuperated from the strictly male domain.” The inclusion of multiple visible ethnicities and body types also “recuperates” sexuality, desire and power from white Western beauty ideals in Fuckstyles. In contrast, unSEXpected presents a homogenous view of beauty standards, ethnicity, gender and sex roles.

Finally, I looked at the trope of intimacy and objectification. Fuckstyles utilizes aftercare as a primary subversion of objectification. This is seen in extended post-sex intimacy, including cuddling, kissing, and exchanging endearments. Aftercare scenes demonstrate performer value beyond their sexuality. Scenes ending abruptly with ejaculation, as all the scenes in unSEXpected do, present performers with no value beyond sex.

Intimacy works as a subversion of objectification because the discourse of intimacy is strongly embedded in North American culture. This discourse is not the only possible subversion of objectification and in defining a scale of feminist performance in pornography, it is important that other exclusions or subversions of objectification are recognized and legitimized.

Moving forward, I would like to take the tropes that were used for the poster and examine more films for these same areas of performance. I would also like to add an examination of aesthetics and gaze to the analysis. Now that I have a structure for my analysis, and a much stronger grounding in feminist theory on both sides of this debate, I think that broadening my range of films while maintaining the narrow focus on specific tropes will result in a much more convincing argument about what is happening in feminist pornography and how this contrasts and overlaps with mainstream pornography. Although I do not anticipate coming up with a concrete definition of feminist pornography, I do think that this approach will allow me to come up with a scale against which the performance of feminisms in pornography can be measured.

This post is long, but absolutely worth the read. It is a nuanced, convincing piece about how criminalization does not help sex workers, and how the harm caused by criminalization is real and tangible, and putting sex workers at risk.

I couldn’t help thinking about it in terms of Measure B, another legislative measure that is supposedly for the benefit of the people it impacts, but does not take into account their own concerns about how it will increase their risk (link NSFW).

Feminist Ire

“If you drive it underground so no one can find it, it wouldn’t survive.” – Rhoda Grant, 2012

In many ways, Dana fits the profile. She’s a twentysomething woman with a drug addiction. She was abused in childhood and her partner is occasionally violent towards her. They’re in and out of homeless accommodation, and she works on the street to fund both their habits. You could hold her up as an example of someone who does not want to do sex work, and you’d be right. You could score points with her story. You could insinuate that anybody who rejects total eradication of the sex industry simply doesn’t care about her. And that’s pretty much what the campaigners were doing when they lobbied for the criminalisation of her clients.

It’s late 2007, and the Scottish Parliament recently passed the Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act, outlawing kerb-crawling. Dana’s clients are now…

View original post 1,791 more words

Digressions into other academic areas

Forgive the intrusion of my other classes into this blog, but I am stumped. I am crowd-sourcing assistance with my two remaining term papers.

I will attempt to be brief and concise (though I’m sure any readers have gathered that’s not really what I’m good at).

Two classes:

Early Romantic Literature

In this class, the texts I’m working with are Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women and/or Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman and/or Mary, A Fiction. Biggest challenge? I’ve read Vindication, but years ago. I’m only half-way through Maria and I haven’t read more than a chapter of Mary. (Before you judge me too harshly as a lazy student… things have been crazy in my personal life. Crazy to an extent I can’t even begin to describe. There’s a whole other blog about it, but as much as I’m trying to keep it out of this blog, it definitely hasn’t stayed out of my academics.)

I am in love with Susan Gubar’s “Feminist Misogyny: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Paradox of “It Takes One to Know One”.” I appreciate Gubar’s analysis of the “feminist misogyny” she sees in Wollstonecraft’s work and in later liberal feminisms, and I particularly appreciate that she offers a framework for recognizing these problems but still maintaining a feminist label for myself. (This is an issue I am grappling with in all areas of my life, not just academics: how to reconcile the inconsistencies and ambiguities of various feminisms and come up with an ethical feminism for myself.)

There are two directions I’m considering for this paper:

On the one hand, I have this thought, which I can’t support yet but which keeps nagging at me, that the inconsistencies in Mary Wollstonecraft’s writing – how both Mary and Maria have such strong homosocial bonds, how their passion is a positive trait in the novels, but how she denigrates “too close” female friendships in Vindication and is almost misogynist in her representation of feminine traits (that’s Susan Gubar’s language, but it resonates with me) – that these inconsistencies are part of the tension we’ve seen in other early Romantic authors (Blake, Coleridge) between Enlightenment thought and Romantic passion. But because Wollstonecraft stands at the beginning of liberal feminism, and the male authors stand surrounded by a mass of contemporaries and predecessors, Wollstonecraft’s inconsistencies and ambiguities are sharper and less able to be contextualized. I don’t even know if that makes sense… I’m just looking at the body of critical responses to Wollstonecraft, and how people (like Gubar) latch onto her inconsistencies, and it keeps nagging at me. Like something is going on there, and maybe it has to do with the position she holds as essentially the founder of liberal feminism.

I suspect that this topic might lead to a gigantic paper, bringing in too many different works. I’m a little daunted by it. But it’s the topic that keeps pulling me back. So my question is, is that an interesting question? Is it something that could be researched and written in a week (since I also have a second term paper also woefully unstarted)?

On the other hand, I am interested in Mary Wollstonecraft’s relationship with Fanny Blood, and how that friendship is reflected and reflected on in her novels and in Vindication – Susan Gubar (and others, including Virginia Woolf) talk about Wollstonecraft as being deeply passionate and also deeply rational, unable to reconcile the two states, and exploring her romantic friendships and affairs from different angles in her novels and critical writing. It’s kind of the same question as above, but narrower in focus, and not comparing to Blake or Coleridge, and not bringing in much historical positioning (still some, of course, but not as much).

The question there is, since so many other people have asked and answered that question, is it still interesting or relevant? I’m not sure what I have to add to the existing body of work, and I’m worried that this would be just a regurgitation of existing engagement with her work. It’s not exactly novel to look at Wollstonecraft’s representations of friendship in her novels and in Vindication, so is it worth doing? It interests me, but I’m worried that it’s choosing too easy a topic.

So, that’s one class. Onward to…

City of The Mind: Imagining London

Here, my texts are Downriver by Iain Sinclair (which is a fucking miserable slog of a book, and if I’d realized how difficult it would be to read I would never have chosen it when I wrote my research proposal, but I did, and now I’m stuck with it) and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I am thanking everything positive in the world for having added Neverwhere into my research proposal. I’ve read a chapter and a half of Downriver and have read Neverwhere multiple times, years ago.

In my research proposal, I suggested looking at representations of the occult in both books, and examining whether these representations of the occult are gendered, and looking at whether that gendering of the occult (if it happens) relates to a gendering of power in general in the texts. And I also talked about time, and the location of London as having “pockets of old time,” which both Sinclair and Gaiman state in their novels.

Obviously, that’s about five different, pretty much unrelated papers and that’s why I got a terrible grade on that research proposal.

I’ve made approximately no progress on refining my topic, and am still floundering miserably.

Time is the topic that I keep coming back to as perhaps being the most interesting. Maybe time and narrative? How time influences the narrative? Time and invisibility? Time and … gender? That’s a stretch. Also, I can’t find any evidence of female characters in Downriver, though like I said, I’m only a chapter and a bit into it. And the chapter I’ve read is the last one… so…


I’m stuck, and I’m panicking just a tiny (HUGE) amount, and I’ve got less than two weeks to write both of these papers. Oh, and also a 10 minute presentation on my porn analysis (I’m not super worried about that one).

I need to decide on topics, so that I can speed-read and know what to focus on. That’s not how I like to do academic work, but that’s just a fact of this semester.

Tangentially, thinking about academics in general, it really bothers me to end up in this position. I am paying a lot of money for each of these courses, and I only take courses that interest me. I’m not interested in easy As, and I’d much rather tackle a challenging paper that will expand my awareness of issues that are important to me and my activism than write something quick that I will forget in a month. Producing work for the sake of producing work seems like a phenomenal waste of time and effort. I wish that I could just defer these papers for a few weeks, so that I could get things in my personal life sorted enough that I can focus, and then spend some decent time with all of my primary sources and come up with my own ideas about what’s going on and write some good papers that are relevant to my interests. But I don’t think I can do that, I have no idea how to even begin asking and since nobody has actually died I don’t think a deferral request would go through.

Which leaves me here, drowning in secondary sources and without a single good idea of my own to cling to, and two 10-12 page papers looming.


Talking about feminist porn when I might mean ethical porn

The poster’s done, so we can move on.

I have appreciated Furry Girl‘s work for many years. She does amazing sex worker advocacy, and I think she’s brilliant. She’s also an “ex-feminist” and her arguments are among the reasons that I struggle with maintaining a feminist label for myself. (Collapsing much internal debate to a single paragraph: I still identify as a feminist, specifically a sex-positive, queer, intersectional feminist, because I think that systemic gender-based oppression and the devaluing of anything deemed feminine is still a real, significant issue, and calling myself a feminist is one quick, short-hand way of saying “I think that’s fucked up and I will be vocal about my feelings on that topic.” HOWEVER, the argument that feminism means too many conflicting things to be meaningful really resonates with me, and I do really worry that when I say I’m a feminist someone will think that means I agree with Gail Dines. And that makes me sad. And Furry Girl is also a vocal and effective advocate for gender equality and anti-sexism, so a feminist label isn’t actually necessary for the work I want to do.)

Furry Girl wrote a post about “the red herring of feminist porn.” It’s a good post. It raises some relevant points. She says that we should be talking about ethical porn, because talking about feminist porn ignores all the ethical porn being made under anything but a feminist label, and implies that only feminist porn can be ethical porn. I do not believe that porn must be feminist in order to be ethical. I also have some concerns about my own research project because I worry that some porn producers that would not be happy with a feminist label (like Furry Girl herself) are being appropriated under the feminist porn label because my project is feminist porn so the porn I’m looking at must be feminist. I hope that I am not being so arrogant, but I worry that I am.

I also worry about this because Courtney Trouble has gone on the record (I think in Herizons, but I’d have to look it up) as saying that her porn is not feminist porn, it’s queer porn made by a feminist. But she won a Feminist Porn Award for Fuckstyles so I’m writing about her porn in my project on feminist porn. Is that an inappropriate appropriation? Does the fact that she won (and accepted) an FPA mean that I can legitimately write about her porn as feminist?

In my poster, I talk about the fact that my research is not looking at production practices (the treatment of performers that Furry Girl rightly says is critically important). I am limited by what my supervisor has asked me to do in this project, and although I had originally hoped to look at production practices, I can’t. I am doing a film studies-style analysis of what is being performed on screen. Specifically, I’m looking at tropes (things like consent/coercion, agency/passivity, diversity/homogeneity and intimacy/objectification – Furry Girl disagrees that objectification is a thing, and I’m still processing that). I’m looking at how feminist principles are being performed on screen in pornography, both “feminist” pornography and mainstream pornography.

I phrased it as “how feminisms are performed” in my poster because there isn’t a single universal feminism. I was trying to address that issue that Furry Girl brings up so often, about feminism’s fragmentation into too many divergent camps.

I don’t have an answer to this question. I am concerned about generating an ethical research project, which does not just appropriate material under a feminist label because I think that a feminist label is the only way to legitimize it. I would like to find a way to work with my material in a respectful manner, using language that the producer would be comfortable with but still coming up with something coherent.

As is always the case with labeling, whatever I use as a label will, unless I’m very careful and possibly even if I am, end up excluding or devaluing things that are labeled in other ways. I don’t want to pretend (and it would be pretending, because I do not believe it) that feminist porn is the only ethical porn. Just like I don’t believe polyamory is the only ethical non-monogamy.

I appreciate Furry Girl and the discomfort her writing generates for me. I do still use a feminist label, I do still think that my research has value and validity, I do still think that it is reasonable to talk about how porn performs feminisms on screen, but I am aware that there are flaws in my logic and holes in my plan. I think that would be true no matter how I approached it, and I think that’s somewhat inevitable, but I don’t think that absolves me of my responsibility to make sure I face these tough questions rather than avoiding them because they are uncomfortable.

I think feminism is still important.

But I think Furry Girl, and others like her, have some really valid and valuable critiques, and I think that we can’t talk about “feminism” without telling a lie. We are talking about feminisms. Very different, very contradictory feminisms. Some of them are important, I think. Others are incredibly damaging. How do I navigate that? Carefully. And with a lot of transparency about my own positioning, so that there can be no misunderstanding that I am not speaking about feminism in general or feminist porn in general, and so that it is clear that although I’m writing about feminisms in porn, I don’t think that feminist porn is the only ethical porn.

Poster content (third draft, mostly complete)

Last draft before I plug the content into the layout. Eep! I rewatched unSEXpected and realized how off my memory was. Significant changes in the table. I’m also worried about my citations, I feel there are too many “cited in” points but I was not always able to go to the primary text in the amount of time that I had. Anyway! Third draft.

SU Undergraduate Research Symposium Poster Content (Second draft)

Research title:

Turning Up the Heat: A Comparison of Feminist and Mainstream Pornography


If “pornography is the theory” (3), what practices are expected as a result of the consent, intimacy, diversity and autonomy performed in the feminist production Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous? How does this theory and its subsequent practice differ from mainstream production unSEXpected? This research proposes that the ‘theory’ put forth to the viewer of feminist pornography is demonstrably different from the ‘theory’ of mainstream pornography. However, I do not believe that a single universal definition of feminist pornography is possible without privileging some feminisms over others. Alison Butler notes “women produce feminist work in a wide variety of forms and styles” (7), and this applies to feminist pornography as much as it does to feminist film. Angela McRobbie has called for “feminists… to be more present again in current public debate on these topics [of pornography], since a good deal is at stake” (9). This research attempts to turn a feminist lens onto pornography, in an attempt to articulate the differences between feminist and mainstream pornography and understand how feminism is (or isn’t) being performed in these films.


Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous won the 2012 Feminist Porn Award for “Most Deliciously Diverse Cast” (4). Fuckstyles is an example of feminist porn that is inclusive of a wide, though not exhaustive, variety of identities. UnSEXpected is a mainstream porn production that has not won any awards. A behind-the-scenes account by Stoya, a star of unSEXpected, about negotiation on set and consent to all acts filmed (6) makes the films comparable their production and allows the research to focus on performance. This comparison looks particularly at issues of consent, agency, diversity and intimacy as counterpoints to the critiques of coercion, passivity, homogeneity and objectification. By looking specifically at these issues, it is possible to demonstrate the visible performance of feminist principles in Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous and their invisibility in unSEXpected.

Theory and Practice:

Empirical data supporting the positive or negative effects of pornography use is scarce (1, 10), and the existing studies have been problematic and incomplete (10), but there is some evidence that pornography can, and does, normalize sexual behaviour (1, 13a). Anti-porn feminists have argued that pornography normalizes misogynist and violent behaviour, reinforcing gendered power structures and casting women as passive and submissive in binary contrast to men who are aggressive and active (2). Rather than arguing against these critiques, this research examines how, and whether, feminist pornography presents a different ‘theory’ through the subversion or exclusion of these tropes. If it is true that the damage caused by porn is caused in part by these portrayals of coercion, patriarchy, heteronormativity and female passivity, and that the practice of this theory is rape (3), then a different theory may result in a different practice. Pornography can both normalize a variety of sexual behaviours and empower viewers by giving, as Weinberg et al. note “both the interest in, and the confidence to experiement with, sexual behaviours s/he had previously never tried” (1). Therefore the performance of feminism in pornography has the potential to bring feminism into the lives of viewers.

Consent / Coercion

One feminist definition of consent is the presence of “genuine desire for sexual pleasure and the expression of that desire” (11a). Courtney Trouble, director of Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous says “[f]eminism is about equality and it’s also about choice” (8). Feminist representations of consent must, therefore, be between partners who have equal power during the negotiation and they must be able to make the choice freely. Ethically produced porn is porn that engages in consensual production practices, but feminist performances in porn need to include consent in the finished product. Although Fuckstyles does not give the viewer access to the negotiation process between performers, verbal consent is evident in every scene, and coercive behaviour is notably absent.

Agency / Passivity

A feminist theory of sexual agency must include the ability to give informed consent to sexual risks, through negotiations of safer sex practices, access to mutual sexual pleasure between partners, and the ability to self-pleasure or to seek out pleasurable activities (11b). Safer sex is performed through the visible presence of safer sex tools (condoms, lube and gloves all present in Fuckstyles but dental dams absent from both Fuckstyles and unSEXpected) or through negotiation about safer sex practices on screen (absent from both). Feminist sexual agency is also performed through masturbation (16), ownership of orgasm (through self-pleasuring or negotiating acts leading to orgasm), and direction of the sexual activity by women or marginalized groups, such as trans* individuals or people of colour.

Diversity / Homogeneity

Jill Dolan notes that “playing with fantasies of sexual and gender roles offers the potential for changing gender-coded structures of power” (12a). Fuckstyles “plays with” a variety of roles, separating both sex acts and gender performance from biological sex, and including multiple visibly trans* performers (fig. 2). This diversity also leaves room for cisgender and heterosexual performances by Maggie and Ned Mayhem. Diversity of gender and sex acts allows for “power, sexuality and desire [to be] recuperated from the strictly male domain” (12b), and expands accessibility to the fantasy presented. The inclusion of multiple visible ethnicities and body types also “recuperates” sexuality, desire and power from white Western beauty ideals. In contrast, unSEXpected presents a homogenous view of beauty standards, ethnicity, gender and sex roles.

Intimacy / Objectification

There are multiple possible subversions of problematic objectification in pornography. Fuckstyles utilizes aftercare (extended post-sex intimacy, typified by cuddling, kissing, and exchanging endearments) as a primary subversion. Extended, post-sex scenes of intimacy demonstrate performer value beyond their sexuality. Scenes ending with ejaculation, as in unSEXpected, present performers with no value beyond sex – sexual objects. Intimacy works as a subversion of objectification because the discourse of intimacy is strongly embedded in North American culture (15). It is important to recognize that this discourse is not the onlypossible subversion of objectification. Berlant and Warner say “[c]ommunity is imagined through scenes of intimacy” (14). Aftercare intimacy in Fuckstyles allows the performers (and perhaps the viewers) to participate in a community that challenges heteronormative patriarchal ideals.

Picture Captions: (3 or 4)

Fig. 1 – Jiz Lee and Pappi Cox. Photo courtesy of Courtney Trouble and Used with permission.

Fig. 2 – James Darling. Photo courtesy of Courtney Trouble and Used with permission.

Fig. 3 – April Flores. Photo courtesy of Courtney Trouble and Used with permission.

Fig. 4 (Optional) – Wolf Hudson and James Darling. Photo courtesy of Courtney Trouble and Used with permission.


1 – Weinberg, Martin S., Colin J. Williams, Sibyl Kleiner and Yasmiyn Irizarry. “Pornography, Normalization, and Empowerment.” Archives of Sexual Behaviour 39 (2010): 1389-1401.

2 – Andrea Dworkin. Pornography: Men Possessing Women. London: Women’s Press, (1981); Diana E. Russell, “Pornography and Rape: A Causal Model [1988],” in Feminism & Pornography, ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000): 48-93; Katharine A. MacKinnon, “Only Words [1993],” in Feminism & Pornography, ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000): 94-120; Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of The Visible”. Berkeley, Los Angeles & London: University of California Press, Expanded Paperback Edition (1999): 16-23. All cited in Ingrid Ryberg, Imagining Safe Space: The Politics of Queer, Feminist and Lesbian Pornography. Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis (2012): 23. Diss.

3 – Morgan, Robin. “Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape.” In Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography, ed. Laura Lederer. New York: Morrow (1980), cited in Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of The Visible”. Berkeley, Los Angeles & London: University of California Press, Expanded Paperback Edition (1999): 16.

4 – Good For Her. 2012 Feminist Porn Award Winners. N.d.

6 – Stoya. unSEXpected. (DATE)

7 – Butler, Alison. Women’s Cinema: The Contested Screen. London & New York: Wallflower (2002): 19.

8 – Vasquez, Tina. “Ethical Pornography.” Herizons Spring (2012): 32-35.

9 – McRobbie, Angela. “Pornographic Permutations.” The Communication Review 11 (2008): 225–236.

10 – Boyle, Karen. “The Pornography Debates: Beyond Cause and Effects.” Women’s Studies International Forum 23.2 (2000): 187–195.

11 – Friedman, Jaclyn and Jessica Valenti. Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape. Berkeley: Seal Press (2008): a: 310, b: 308.

12 – Dolan, Jill. The Feminist Spectator as Critic. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press (1991): a: 68; b: 81.

13 – Ryberg, Ingrid. Imagining Safe Space: The Politics of Queer, Feminist and Lesbian Pornography. Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis (2012): a: 115. Diss.

14 – Berlant, Lauren and Michael Warner. “Sex in Public.” Critical Inquiry 24.2 (1998):547-566.

15 – Langan, Debra and Deborah Davidson. “Rethinking Intimate Questions: Intimacy as Discourse,” in Canadian Families: Diversity, Conflict and Change. Ed. Nancy Mandell and Ann Duffy. Toronto: Nelson and Thompson (2004): 117-143.

16 – Laqueur, Thomas W. Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation. New York: Zone Books (2003): 400. Cited in Jennifer Beth Simmons, Visions of Feminist (Pom(O)nanism): Masturbing Female Postmodern Subjectivity in American Television and Film. University of Florida (2004). MA Thesis.


Feminist Pornography:

Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous

Mainstream Pornography: unSEXpected
–       Verbal consent evident at least twice per scene, non-verbal consent or negotiation evident in each scene (8/8 scenes)

–       Mayhems outliers with ~20 instances of verbal consent and negotiation (1/8)

–       Coercion evident in 4/5 scenes and directed at 4/7 characters: “pussy” used as an insult directed at a man to instigate sex (3/5 scenes), “are you afraid?” directed at a woman and a man to instigate stripping and sex (1/5).

–       Verbal consent or non-verbal negotiation evident at least once per scene, but often following coercion

Agency: Orgasm and Pleasure
Female ejaculation (1/8 scenes), male ejaculation onto back or breasts (2/8), giggling and laughing during sex and after orgasms, orgasm not always evident in the scene, orgasm not the focus or end of the scene Male orgasm onto face (3/5 scenes), or back (2/5), male ejaculation ends scene (5/5)
Agency: Safer Sex Practices
–       Gloves (3/8 scenes)

–       Lube, visible and applied (3/8)

–       Condoms (8/8, used for penetrative sex with dildos, strap-ons, and bio-penises)

–       No discussion of STI status or risk factors

–       No verbal negotiation of safer sex tools/practices

–       No condoms

–       No gloves

–       No visible lube

–       No discussion of STI status or risk factors

–       No verbal negotiation of safer sex tools/practice

Diversity: Gender & Sex Representation
Wide range from butch (4) to femme (6) to androgynous (5), not tied to biological sex. Visibly trans* (3). Femme cisgender women (4) and butch cisgender men (3).
Diversity: Body Type and Ethnicity
2 black performers, 1 Latina performer, wide range of body diversity (slim to fat), range of pubic and body hair styles for male, female and trans* performers All appear Caucasian, all slim and athletic, all men shaved (3/3), women either trimmed (2/4) or shaved (2/4)
Diversity: Sex Acts
–       Strap-on penetration: male (1), female (1) and trans* (3) recipient

–       Fellatio performed on strap-on or dildo (6)

–       Dildo penetration (3)

–       Fellatio performed on bio-penis (2)

–       Cunnilingus (7)

–       Penis-in-vagina penetration (2)

–       Anal penetration; male (1), female (1) and trans* (1) recipient

–       Manual penetration (8)

–       Masturbation (7)

–       Mutual masturbation (2)

–       Manual stimulation (8/8)

–       Penis-in-vagina penetration (5/5 scenes)

–       Anal penetration: female recipient (1/5)

–       Cunnilingus (5/5)

–       Fellatio (4/5)

–       Manual penetration; vaginal (1/5) and anal (1/5)

–       Manual stimulation (5/5)

–       Kissing before, during and after sex (8/8 scenes)

–       Cuddling and aftercare after sex (8/8)

–       Kissing before (2/5), and during (5/5) sex

–       Scene ends with male ejaculation, no aftercare (5/5)


Poster content (second draft, almost complete)

The second draft of content is done! It’s still missing some citations that I’ll add tomorrow, and the table still needs work, but there’s been substantial change to both the language and the format.

Maybe it doesn’t look so substantial on the outside, but it seemed substantial on the work end! My academic ally and awesome co-conspirator at today’s working date helped me come up with some ideas for using visual design elements in the content boxes that will offer a fourth entry point into the poster. We’re talking about bolding the feminist porn trope (consent, agency, diversity, intimacy) at the top of the content box, and putting a watermarked/faded out background image of the inverse trope (coercion, passivity, homogeneity, objectification). This will, theoretically, allow the viewer to see both sides of the issue, as well as signalling for them which “side” is being highlighted in the feminist pornography.

I also made a significant change by turning “Intro” and “Anti-Porn Feminism” (two boxes of equal size) into “Comparison” and “Theory and Practice” (one smaller, one larger). We’ll see how that looks and if it’s workable, otherwise I’ll have to revise again.

Tomorrow, I should be able to post the actual poster, with all this content put in!

Anyway, after the cut, the second draft!

Continue reading

Poster Content (first draft, incomplete)

I spent most of this afternoon compiling content for the poster. You’d think, given how much time has gone into this project, that putting a few small boxes of text and some citations together would be easy. But, no. This is about six hours of work (with 20 second breaks to look away from the monitor and blink with intention, every 20 minutes – self-care, yo!). It’s nowhere near usable yet, but I’ll be doing this again tomorrow, putting it into the actual poster Tuesday, and submitting it to my supervisor Wednesday morning (or, hopefully, Tuesday evening). Then final polishing on Wednesday and send it to the printer. Eep!

What you’ll see below the cut is each section of the poster, with approximate word counts (which do not match what I’ve written yet). Before I’m done I will hopefully have added more citations, more data from unSEXpected, and content for my four content-boxes. I also need to work on the titles for some of my text boxes. For example, the box currently labeled “Anti-Porn Feminism” doesn’t actually work with that title anymore, since I pulled a lot of that info up into the abstract and the intro. Also, my citations are all wonky – I’m using numbers because it keeps my word count down, but until I get the content pretty solid, the numbers are all out of order. I’ll fix it as one of my final revisions.

The goal of the breakdown I’m providing here, and this approach to the design of the poster, is to provide multiple points of access into the poster. The first is the title, table and pictures – they are the least demanding, most visual points of access (the table obviously needs work and will have to be pared down – I suspect my bullet points will be taken out and some of my categories collapsed together). Then the abtract, which is supposed to (but does not yet, I don’t think) give an overview of the entire project – this is the second-level point of access. Less visual, more academic, but not very demanding in terms of reader attention or time, or depth of information. Then the other text boxes, which are the most demanding and should be the most information-dense, I think. I haven’t written those yet, my brain turned to mush. Ha!

Since the goal of this blog is to make visible the messy and circular (write, rewrite, rewrite, write, rewrite, rewrite) nature of my academic process/progress, I’ll also post the draft I come up with tomorrow, and the final draft on Tuesday. And I left in my (CITE!) directives to myself, since that’s a big part of my writing process.  Continue reading

Poster prep

My application to the SU Undergrad Research Symposium was accepted!

This means that I’ll have a poster in the symposium on November 29. It’s due November 23, and I’m prepping. I’ve never designed a poster for an academic symposium before, and it’s a tiny bit overwhelming. It’s also amazing and fantastic and exciting. This will be my first poster session! The first of many? Hopefully! (Well, I prefer talks and papers to posters, I think. But, still. First of many academic presentations in symposiums and conferences.)

I had a second viewing of Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous with my porn viewing group. That group consistently blows me away with their insightfulness and humour. Before we started the film we had a brainstorming session. I read them my abstract and we talked about potential layouts for the poster. We came up with a set of criteria to watch for in the viewing, talked about how to track them, and came up with some really exciting design ideas.

One thing I really loved was the idea of incorporating holistic/organic design elements, similar to this poster. I pictured a bubble describing the anti-porn feminist stance, and then spinning off from that bubble information about the evolution of the gaze within feminist pornography, aesthetic choices, gender roles, representations of consent, negotiation, safer sex practices and pleasure… Someday I would like to design that poster, but it won’t be this time. Challenging the format of the poster session is not something to do my first time out. Especially not when my content is also challenging. I backed away from the experimental, design-focused idea and came up with something much more restrained (with some help from my design-guru friend).

I sent my supervisor a rough mock-up yesterday. You can see it – Hot and Sweaty v01

It’s very rough. BUT! It got the wheels turning.

Tonight I’ve made a lot of structural changes, and tomorrow I’ll start building content. It looks very different now (but needs content).

I also e-mailed Courtney Trouble (link NSFW) and she emailed back and gave me permission to use any images from the promo site for Fuckstyles. She also said she’d like to see the final project (both the poster and the thesis) and that is very exciting! I have been so impressed with the generosity of the people I’ve reached out to in the feminist porn community. In addition to Courtney Trouble’s generous response, both Ned and Maggie Mayhem tweeted back to me on Sunday! (They were big hits in the viewing group. I love them.)

The biggest change I’m working on is shifting from focusing solely on Fuckstyles to doing a comparison between Fuckstyles (as a representation of feminist pornography) and unSEXpected (as a representation of mainstream pornography). I think I will extend this comparison beyond the poster into my thesis, since Stoya’s account (link NSFW) of behind-the-scenes on unSEXpected indicates that the backend of the production had good consent practices (making it comparable to the consent visible in Fuckstyles) but the frontend, the product seen on screen, is drastically different from Fuckstyles. The fact that Stoya is a feminist herself also makes this a reasonable comparison – I am not comparing an explicitly feminist production with an explicitly UNfeminist production. Rather, it is a comparison between an explicitly feminist production and a mainstream production.

I am concerned about comparing an award-winning feminist pornography film with a mainstream production that has not won any awards. However, I do think that it is a fair comparison because of the background information provided by Stoya. (Also, I own that film already because we watched it in my feminist porn viewing group and I don’t have enough time to order another DVD before the poster is due. Of the mainstream porn that I own, this seems like the most fair and reasonable comparison.)

I will post content as I generate it.

I also got my copy of Porno? Chic! in the mail yesterday. I’m pretty excited to dig into that, and will post responses as I read.