Feminist Pornography (and why watching it can be good for your self-esteem)

(This was originally posted on BeauCoo – an awesome trans*-inclusive, body-positive site – on July 30, 2013. I made one correction, updating my original language of “a visible minority” to the more appropriate “racialized” regarding Creative Xicana.)

Ellen Page recently responded to a question from feminist pornographer Courtney Trouble (and sent the internet into a tizzy) by saying that “feminist porn is crucial.”

I think that she’s right.

If we don’t fit the standard beauty ideal (and who among us does?!) then it can be hard to imagine ourselves as confident, attractive, sexual individuals. We don’t get to see ourselves as the romantic lead in the movies and TV shows that we watch. We don’t see ourselves represented in ad campaigns – we don’t even get to sell ourselves the products that companies expect us to buy! Sex sells, and we’re not selling, so how can we be sexy? We’re often the sidekicks, the token addition to the cast, the butt of the joke. Most media presents a fairly narrow slice of body types and gender expressions as being the norm.

Porn, especially feminist porn, is different, and that’s why it’s crucial.

As a genderqueer person, Jiz Lee’s pornography and their blog (NSFW) was revolutionary for me. Before realizing that my gender non-conforming body could be amazingly hot (like Jiz Lee’s!), I struggled to even imagine what kind of sexual possibilities were available for me. Stepping outside of the gender binary, and therefore being outside of the societal norm, I lost my template.

The same is often true for other non-conforming individuals, whether we are fat (Kelly Shibari talks about being a fat Asian porn star, link is mostly SFW), disabled, trans*, racialized (Creative Xicana reviews award-winning porn Hella Brown, NSFW) or some other marker that singles us out from the perceived norm. The beauty of feminist pornography, and other forms of ethical pornography being created by marginalized groups, is that we can see ourselves represented in ways that are respectful and hot.

Defining feminist pornography is challenging. Autostraddle put together an excellent article earlier this year, interviewing multiple queer and feminist pornographers and providing some excellent definitions and resources.

It’s not just self-identified feminists who are making good porn for a wide variety of people (though self-identifying as a feminist is almost always a good sign!). Nica Noelle, who makes trans*, lesbian and straight porn rejects a feminist label (SFW) but makes ethical porn that features hot sex between individuals who might not otherwise get a chance in front of the camera.

“So what do you look for? Where do you go for porn that will represent you in a respectful, ethical, fun and hot way?”

Start with the Feminist Porn Awards (SFW). Other sources for good porn recommendations areMs. Naughty and Violet Blue’s blog Tiny Nibbles (both NSFW).

It’s also a great idea to do some social media research first. Follow pornographers on their blogs, Tumblrs and Twitter feeds. Start with some of the performers and producers like Jiz LeeKelly ShibariCourtney TroubleNica Noelle, Erika Lust, Shine Louise Houston, Sinnamon Love, Ned and Maggie Mayhem (my favourite nerdy porn couple!), or Tony Comstock. Find out what they think about the porn that they’re performing in and producing, and if you agree with their politics then chances are you’ll enjoy their porn. If you’re a bit of an academic, grab a copy of the Feminist Porn Book and read essays by producers, performers and the feminist academics, then look up the porn they’re discussing.

Feminist pornography offers a rare opportunity to see ourselves represented respectfully, consensually and ethically in situations that are smokin’ hot and a real turn-on. We’re sexy. Let’s celebrate it!

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