Wild Life

07.05.14

Defining Feminist Porn: Is That XXX Flick Organic?

Feminist porn is ethically produced and authentic adult entertainment shattering sexual stereotypes. It’s not all about the orgasm—it’s about letting your inner pervert out.

Unlike the fair trade certified coffee beans you buy at Whole Foods—you know, the ones with the sticker on the box that say “FAIR TRADE”—it’s not easy to see what “feminist porn” is. Maybe there should be a gold sticker denoting certifiable feminist porn. But for that to happen, we need to establish clear guidelines.

Feminist pornographers define their craft as “ethically” produced authentic porn that conquers the vast diversities of people and sexuality, while simultaneously challenging stereotypes and identity markers. If that sounds like a lot of jargon, that’s because it is. Basically, people on set aren’t there to fake an orgasm for the sake of a movie; they’re there to let their inner pervert out.

But what does it mean to be ethical? You probably won’t find a series featuring anal prolapse under the feminist porn umbrella. This is about non-sexist representation, shattering mainstream stereotypes, catering to a myriad of sexual appetites, and celebrating race, a plethora of body types, and gender diversity. It’s not the vanilla fair you might expect when you hear a term like “feminist.”

What some see as degrading, others see as liberating.

Feminist porn isn’t exactly new. It’s been around since the 1980s, since the days of Candida Royalle, one of the pioneers of female-centric XXX films. Yet it’s only recently picked up some mainstream momentum. Why now?

For one, the boys club of adult film is slowly disbanding, and more women are watching, creating and, (more importantly) discussing porn. And just last year, The Feminist Porn Book was published. It was an eye opening collaboration between academia and adult industry insiders that generated mainstream buzz for feminist pornographers.

A movement was (re)born.

On the forefront of this movement is six time Feminist Porn Award winner Madison Young, director of 41 feature films. “My greatest responsibility lies in listening to my performers and facilitating the most ideal experience for them to explore and experience authentic sexual pleasure and connection,” Young says. While the commercial porn we are all familiar with plays into stereotypes and a set notion of beauty, feminist porn casts a wider array of performers unseen in the mainstream. It’s a potpourri of sexuality.

“Sex is an animal thing—raw and gross and often very specific.”

Aiming to destigmatize the conversation about sex, both as an activist and a filmmaker, Young says women and trans communities—essential to the feminist porn movement—must fight for visibility and equality. “It is radically exciting for me to see more trans-women and trans-men picking up the camera and documenting their sexual truths,” she says. “Feminist porn also includes the authentic expression of sexuality from straight cis-men, bisexual men, queer men, asexual men, queer and straight women, all persons of any gender identity. Feminist Porn is dismantling societal shame of sexual expression and celebrating individuality.”

Trans performer Chelsea Poe, who specializes in queer porn, finds that feminist porn affords her the opportunity to express her sexuality in a way that mainstream trans porn does not.  “You can be more true to yourself in feminist porn,” she says.

Working to make porn more inclusive for trans women, Poe says “consenting performers should be allowed to shoot with trans-women. I feel like these hypotheticals that trans women can’t make money in porn are stupid bigotry. All the same actions are going on even if you do have a penis. It’s still the same lesbian sex.”

Really, when you stop to think about everything feminist porn stands for, it can be mind boggling. It disrupts conventions to explore individual ideals of what it means to be sexy. That isn’t to say it’s inherently good, nor its mainstream counterpart inherently bad. Sometimes feminist pornographers even align with mainstream adult filmmakers.

Lesbian pornographer and Feminist Porn Award recipient Lily Cade wants to simultaneously cater to her fanbase while creating what appeals to her. “Sexuality is personal,” she says. “Is it influenced by society? Sure, everything is, but it’s still personal. Much of what the gay rights movement fought for was tolerance for everybody’s sexuality. Being gay doesn’t mean liking everyone who ‘identifies’ as a woman. Nor does being straight. Sex is an animal thing—raw and gross and often very specific.”

She’s right. Sexual arousal doesn’t always adhere to political agenda.

When it comes to capitalism, though, the feminist porn movement gets a bit sticky. While there are many sex positive feminist entrepreneurs, a certain tension still exists when it comes to discussing capital gains and ideology. As UNLV Women’s Studies Professor Dr. Lynn Comella says, “[As a feminist pornographer] you want to do something that is politically inspired that produces social change. You aren’t supposed to be concerned with making money, you’re just supposed to do it for the sheer good feeling of knowing that you are making a difference. But that’s a limited perspective. It’s a struggle.”

Unlike porn made specifically for women, feminist porn does not try to assume what its viewers want to see. Instead, it appeals to a broader market and embraces its differences. “I feel like there is an overly simplistic idea of peoples relationships to porn,” says Tristan Taormino, sex educator, pornographer, and The Feminist Porn Book collaborator. “How they use it, why they use it, and what their feelings about it are. There’s a prevailing notion that its 90 percent men and they use it to jerk off.”

Feminist pornographers strive to prioritize authentic pleasure while abiding by fair labor practices in an ethically charged environment. On a mainstream porn set you might hear a director shout out, “Count to five and then orgasm!”

That’s happened to me before. It’s a live performance and it’s the actor’s job to deliver. That’s not to say that all mainstream orgasms are fake, but you won’t hear a countdown on a feminist set.

Feminist porn strives for an organic experience, while creating the best possible working environment. It almost sounds too good to be true, like a mainstream porn performers dream job. As Madison Young advises, "Ask your performers who, where, and how they would like to have sex. Facilitate that experience and document the experience like a wild life photographer."