The problem with mainstream porn: unrealistic sex has given it a bad name

"Mainstream porn lacks creativity and a narrative. They only care about sets of genitals banging together until they get their money shot - with no thought to the woman's pleasure at all"

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Feminism and porn: two irreconcilable concepts? Too much porn is a litany of men using women as objects, receptacles for their pleasure. It is no wonder that the majority of porn audiences are male.

More and more women are talking openly about the fact that they watch porn and there are those, men and women alike, who want something more than what is out there; something which does not subjugate as harshly as mainstream, hardcore pornography.

The crossover between feminist (both male and female) and porn consumer is becoming more apparent and, as we discuss our dissatisfaction with the status quo, an emerging genre within pornography is gaining strength.

It may surprise to know that there is an event dedicated to celebrating feminist pornography. The Feminist Porn Awards hosted their tenth annual award ceremony in Toronto last week. Produced by Good For Her, a retailer of sex toys and pornography with women in mind, the awards have been celebrating feminist erotica for a decade.

“To us, feminism is beyond gender,” says Carlyle Jansen, organiser of the awards and owner of Good For Her. “It is about recognising the multi-facetedness of every individual and the complex struggles that they may face. As feminists we strive for and believe in equal access to opportunities, representation and resources.”

Feminist porn doesn't mean female-only. The awards ceremony seeks to include female audiences, who may have been alienated by mainstream portrayals of women, but not to exclude the established male porn audience.

“Our feminism is not anti-male. We value freedom for everyone and believe that men also have a valuable contribution and part to play in being allies to the feminist movement. As feminism has evolved, so too have our practices and beliefs, always striving for diversity, equity and to listen to all voices.”

The nominee list includes prominent feminist directors, performers and producers from the feminist porn genre around the world.

Courtney Trouble is a director and performer with companies such as Queer Porn TV and Trouble Films. Three of her films were nominated for awards this year.

"I very specifically make porn that speaks to me as an artist, and I am happy to have any person of any gender be a fan or customer,” she explains.

The differences between Trouble’s work and that of her peers in the mainstream porn industry - the sort of films we associate with the term ‘pornography’ - are largely ethical, but Trouble also pays attention to the artistic content. She considers herself an artist who works in the pornography medium.

"I'm not so sure your average porn maker cares if the audience feels sentimental about a certain place or the music or a particular kiss or touch the way I am,” she adds.

 

 

 

While a recognised figure within queer and feminist pornography, Trouble feels resistance when trying to establish her work within mainstream circles.

“I think my work verges on mainstream on occasion, though my tendency to cast women of colour, plus-size performers, and trans folks often "ruins my chances" of getting the kind of attention that similar movies, with identical or worse production value, entertain.”

According to Trouble, there is a wealth of erotic media out there to enjoy, but women aren’t accessing it as much as men.

"It's more important that we work on ways to make all porn available to female audiences. Access, not type of content, is the priority. Women like all kinds of porn content and there's a lot already out there that speaks to our individual sexual interests.”

The Feminist Porn Awards helps to promote these films and stake a place in the porn consumer’s consciousness. How we access and consume porn is dominated by a specific genre of the entire medium. The Feminist Porn Awards is evidence of other styles of erotica, which are largely undiscovered.

Film-maker and previous award-winner Erika Lust hosted a talk and Q&A event at the awards, as she also had several films nominated this year.

Lust sees her work in opposition to that of the mainstream, and wants to offer other ways of filming sex. Too often the films offer a weak setting and storyline before focussing on the sex, and one kind of sex at that.

“Mainstream porn lacks creativity and a narrative. They only care about sets of genitals banging together as the woman enjoys fake pleasure until they get their money shot. The man enjoying his orgasm with no thought to the woman's pleasure at all. The performers are cloned stereotypes, everybody abiding to the same standards. Body hair is seen as something undesirable, or God forbid if you're not thin or muscular like an Action Man. There are no interesting stories, relatable character or good sex. It's bad sex that's given porn a bad name.”

Lust playfully stated in her TEDx Talk in Vienna that “I’m not trying to get women out of porn, I’m trying to get women into porn!” As a director herself, Lust wants more women in control of production, more female directors and writers in porn can help redress the sexual balance in the industry. Lust leads by example:

“I want others to continue to be inspired by the work I do, I want to encourage other women to get into leading roles within the adult film industry, as directors, producers and scriptwriter. That way we can get more of the porn we want out there and express our perspective, our desires and our pleasure.”

The argument is that with more women in porn, porn becomes more equal, and more feminist naturally. By engaging women in the porn film industry, a female audience is more likely to follow.

“I love working with (almost) all female team and having a real customised aspect to my filmmaking.  It is key in allowing me to make exactly what I want and experiment with different themes, techniques and contexts.”

Female pleasure is rarely explored within mainstream pornography, rather the women are there to be objectified or to service their male co-stars. Lust’s work portrays both male and female pleasure.

“I create an environment which satisfies the viewer with realistic interpretations of real fantasies. The performers look like and play characters that are like the guy or girl on the street, they are natural, individual and attractive in their own unique way. The sex is real, you can see the pleasure, the sweat, the touching and hear the sounds. The performers caress, enjoy and pleasure one another.”

As for the audience, Lust does not discriminate. Her films do not specifically target a female audience, but anyone who wants to watch them.

“I make my films with a feminist mind, and that means equality to all sexes,” Lust explains. “My films portray men and women as equals with consideration to everyone's pleasure, fantasies and desires.”

A more realistic portrayal of sex engages an audience in a more profound and enjoyable way. The Feminist Porn Awards celebrates those taking steps to create erotica which mirrors the sex we like to have - that which acknowledges mutual pleasure.

“Viewers can see themselves in my films. They feel like they could live out that scenario. That's what makes it more satisfying, erotic and fun!”

@writtenbyjenny

writtenbyjenny.wordpress.com

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