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)


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