FEMINIST PORN: REVOLUTION (QUEER STYLE) NOW!

AN OPINION BY ALESSANDRA MONDIN

Feminist porn is expanding the representation of pleasure while creating possibilities in the folding and unfolding of desires. Especially from the early 2000s the productions of feminist porn have been more and more diverse, shaping the field through the challenge of “dominant representations of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, body type, and other identity markers” (Taormino 2013, p. 9). In particular, queer feminist porn aims to trouble, question, and complicate the hegemonic (hetero- and homo-) normative representations of identities, pleasures, fantasies, and desires present in Western society and mainstream pornography.

Feminist porn is a form of sex-positive/pleasure-positive activism that gauges into the fertile lineage of feminist film, performance, and body art spanning from the 1960s onwards, which constitute both a political antecedent and a visual genealogy interlinked with a carnal aesthetics. One of the most recent example could be the experimental DIY short film Dear Jiz by Ms. Naughty/Louise Lush (2013), which seems to play with Valie Export’s performances of the nine-minute short film Mann & Frau & Animal (1970-73), a three-part allegory of gender where she masturbates in the bathtub. Dear Jizfeatures the genderqueer performer Jiz Lee masturbating in a bathtub as well, while incorporating a voiceover that narrates excerpts of the letters received from fans describing how inspiring and helpful it was to see Jiz’s embodiment and exploration of gender, sexuality, and identity for their personal explorations and acceptance of themselves. In both works, pleasure and the investigation around identity and subjectivity are entwined in the black and white of the film.

What feminist porn takes into its own hands is also the responsibility of redressing the misrepresentations of racialized bodies and non-normative embodiments ̶ for instance in terms of gender expression, sexuality, ability, age, body type ̶ that have been circulating in mainstream corporate porn, where stereotypes are ubiquitous and processes of fetishisation, whitewashing and enfreakment are used as marketing strategies. Queer feminist porn performers like, just to name a few, April Flores, Loree Erickson, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Billy Castro, Mia Gimp, Arabelle Raphael, or Papi Coxxx are able to ʽbe themselvesʼ and be portrayed through empowering, fresh, and respectful depictions of their own bodies, sexualities, and identities. Queer feminist porn aims at engaging with a feminist ethics regarding porn and representation, appealing to authenticity and inclusivity while expanding the boundaries of representations of lived experiences. Bodies are shaped through what and how they desire and queer feminist porn with its politics, ethics and aesthetics dislocate and relocate lived experiences, showing how its politics of dis/orientation can put pleasure and desire within reach.

Queering sexual representations also means queering heterosexual representations. Turning upside down the reality of ʽgay for payʼ of the corporate industry, some feminist porn releases also showcase real pleasuresby troubling and enriching the heterosexual porn script. I am referring for example to the edu-porn/couple porn The Expert Guide to Female Orgasms (2010) by the feminist porn trailblazer Tristan Taormino, produced by the major mainstream company Vivid, which shows a series of diverse hardcore and softcore scenes and a racially diverse cast; the hardcore short Bed Party(2014), produced by the feminist, queer, fair-trade company Pink & White and directed by another important name for queer feminist porn, Shine Louise Houston; or Skin by Elin Magnusson, the first of the short films of the Swedish feminist porn collection Dirty Diaries produced by Mia Engberg in 2009. Despite bearing significant differences ̶ for instance in terms of aims, production, market, or aesthetics ̶ they cast queer/pansexual/heterosexual performers, portray heterosexual sex through non-normative sex acts, and they do so by introducing particular strategies that are not present in mainstream straight porn and that challenge how porn ʽshould look like,ʼ whilst at the same time not conforming to the usual couple porn or porn for women.

Not only is feminist porn making an intervention in the realm of sexually explicit representations of desires, but it is addressing issues at the level of production. Thus, it seems to function as a counter-discourse in relation to corporate porn on many different levels. While striving to change the game in opposition to it by playing with porn tropes, genres, and stereotypes (e.g. Erika Lust’s indie debut The Good Girl in 2005 features the narrative trope of the pizza delivery guy), it also aims to transform mainstream porn from the inside, by opening up a dialogue. This goes on both behind the camerathrough, for instance, Tristan Taormino’s long-time collaboration with Vivid and her creation of the company’s sex education line called Vivid-Ed; but also in front of the camera, like in the case of Jiz Lee in Girl/Boy by Diana Vespoli (Evil Angel, 2013), where Jiz Lee stars with a heterosexual male and works with condoms in a heterosexual encounter. Furthermore, the accent is also put on the ethics regarding the treatment of the performers before, during, and after the production process through, for instance, the creation of a comfortable set, fair pay, good work conditions, and by stressing their well-being and individual agency, respect of their chosen pronouns, and practices of aftercare and self-care. Feminist porn also operates in the market with fair-trade modes of production and distribution that stem from DIY ethics, grassroots movements, punk subcultures, and sustainability models.

In particular, queer feminist porn seems to employ strategies of doing and undoing: it queers the production, distribution, and reception of porn. It troubles the boundaries between identity categories; art, erotica and porn; amateur, pro-am and professional realms; indie/alt and mainstream; the public and the private territories of new pornographic homemade digital productions and the aesthetic boundaries of art house productions; art and activism; national and transnational. It strives to depict women, queer, trans individuals who desire and what they desire. A desiring woman or non-normate’s body has always been considered problematic, abject, and highly charged in many negative ways in Western cultures and societies. I have only touched upon some of the aspects of feminist porn and there are many to be investigated in a deeper way and others yet to be explored. In conclusion, feminist porn is all but an oxymoron and it is broadening and intensifying representational vocabularies of sexual desires without leaving pleasure, politics and ethics behind.

 

Reference

Taormino, Tristan, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young. “Introduction: The Politics of Producing Pleasure.” The Feminist Porn Book. The Politics of Producing Pleasure. Eds. Tristan Taormino, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young. New York City: The Feminist Press, 2013. 9-20.

 

Artwork © GEORGIE RICHES

 

Malise RosbechComment