Getting back to work

I took the holidays off, but now it’s back to work! And I am excited about the work. I’ve started the research for the term papers that I had to defer last semester, and I’ve cut my course load down for this semester. I’ll be taking three courses – the honours seminar (of course), Theoretical and Cultural Studies: Performance/Performativity, and a directed reading course in feminist film theory (we haven’t nailed down the syllabus yet, but I’ll keep the blog posted). The directed reading should be easier to manage than a third regular class, and it will help with the honours project.

Today I did two exciting academic things.

First, I responded to the comments that we received on the DH 2013 proposal. The comments were, according to my co-author, “excellent.” Our scores ranged from 93% to 53% over four reviewers, which made me queasy with nerves when I first read them, but the comments themselves seemed very reasonable. They asked some clarifying questions and wanted more specifics, which I think (fingers crossed) I was able to provide in the brief 250-word response.

Second, I sent in a proposal to the Feminist Porn Conference. My proposal after the cut later. This is the first proposal I’ve put together entirely on my own (and even this was not entirely on my own, as I had help in editing it). The paper, if it’s accepted, will be a section of my honours thesis. I proposed four films to be compared in this paper, which is hopefully not too much. I don’t know how long conference papers are supposed to be. I had originally planned to submit a proposal that was not related to my honours project, but multiple friends pointed out that by April I will be just coming out of that massive project and probably would do best to keep this proposal realistic, just in case it is accepted.

I also did a third academic thing, which is not exciting. I read another two chapters of Downriver for my London course term paper. This is not at all porn related, but I think it qualifies as a sex text, given that almost all the women Sinclair mentions are prostitutes, and his use of “like a stitched up vulva” to describe a location (this got an immediate WTF?! note next to it). I have many things to say about Downriver, and hopefully they’ll be more articulate than their current state, which is a constant stream of “ARGH! Why is this book so awful?!” I am optimistic that the things I hate about it will make it interesting to write about. The paper is due at the end of January, and I’m hoping to be through the book (in all its pretentious unreadability) by mid-week.

And now, my proposal! 

Title: Feminisms In Bed Together: How Feminist Pornography Responds to Anti-Porn Feminism

Robin Morgan famously stated that “pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice.” I propose that the ‘theory’ of feminist pornography is demonstrably different from the ‘theory’ of mainstream pornography that Morgan so adamantly opposed, and also that mainstream pornography is not as monolithic as this quote suggests. Rather than arguing against anti-porn feminist critiques, my research examines how feminist pornography responds to these critiques, and whether the response is effective. I also examine whether mainstream pornography has shifted in response to these critiques, and if so, how and how far. My preliminary research suggests that while there are substantial differences between mainstream and feminist pornography, there are also areas of overlap. The response to anti-porn feminist critiques echoes throughout much contemporary pornography, both feminist and mainstream.

However, this is not research that offers tidy answers. There is no universal, cohesive definition of feminist pornography, anymore than there is a universal, cohesive definition of feminism, or even anti-porn feminism. Alison Butler asserts “women produce feminist work in a wide variety of forms and styles,” and this applies to feminist pornography as much as to any other feminist cultural practice. My research indicates that the tropes, highlighted by anti-porn feminists, of passivity, coercion, homogeneity and objectification, are not universally present in mainstream pornography or universally subverted in feminist pornography, and that these tropes are subverted and excluded by feminist pornographers in a variety of ways. This suggests that the critiques of anti-porn feminists are being taken up and incorporated into feminist pornography, and that the lines between feminist and mainstream pornography are blurry, with areas of overlap.

This paper will present the results of my comparative analysis of feminist and mainstream pornography. This analysis compares Feminist Porn Award winners Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous (FPA winner 2012, Most Deliciously Diverse Cast) and Cabaret Desire (FPA winner 2012, Movie of the Year) with AVN Award winners Asa Akira is Insatiable 2 (AVN winner 2012, Best Director Non-Feature Film) and Portrait of a Call Girl (AVN winner 2012, Best Feature Film).


Tiffany Sostar is a sex-positive feminist and a bisexual, genderqueer, kinky, polyamorous, porn-loving and porn-studying student at the University of Calgary. She is in her fourth year of a combined degree in English and Women’s Studies. She is also a feminist activist, and is the founder/director of Possibilities Calgary Bisexual + Pansexual Community (, a co-founder of BAT YYC, a queer-friendly, feminist kink group, and runs Feminist Film Studies, a monthly porn viewing and analysis group.

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