6 Empowering Things Feminist Pornographers Can Teach Us About Sex
Why don't women watch more porn?
The numbers are unsurprisingly hard to pin down, but a 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that just 8% of female online video viewers watch adult content. According to PornHub's 2014 Year in Review report, just 23% of its porn viewers worldwide were women.
There's one clear reason why: Until recently, mainstream porn has been dismissive of women's bodies and desires. As Rashida Jones put it so perfectly, porn has the tendency to sexualize women by objectifying them rather than embrace their sexuality.
Feminist porn hopes to change all that. It's no longer a niche movement: Feminist porn has its own category at the XBiz awards. It has spawned its own porn conference and, this April, celebrated its pioneers at the 10th annual Feminist Porn Awards.
Sp Mic spoke to Lust Films director Erika Lust, porn creator Ms. Naughty and MakeLoveNotPorn.tv content curator Sarah Beall about what it's like to create porn that reflects what sex is really all about.
1. "Real world sex doesn't start the second you're kissing or end the second someone has come."
Women and men can respond to visual sexual cues differently, research has shown. One of those differences, as the recent popularity of erotic literature shows, is that women are turned on by sex in the context of "real" lives.
"The context matters," says Beall, whose site hosts real-world sex submissions, told Mic. That means porn that reflects what we actually do in our beds. "Real-world sex doesn't start in a vacuum. It doesn't start the second you're kissing or end the second someone — the man — has come. It's really important to contextualize that, and it's a very feminist qualification," she added.
"We create porn with a narrative," Lust said of her company. "We give context to the characters, locales, story and above all, the sex." After all, hot sex can spring up mid-IKEA table assembling or on a backpacking trip in Spain. According to Lust, a big part of the success is ensuring "performers look like and play characters that are natural, individual and attractive in their own unique way. The settings are places you've been to or could go."
2. "Women enjoy sex as much as men."
Statistics show only 25% of women consistently orgasm from penetrative sex — something you wouldn't guess based on all of the moaning, whimpering and squirting in mainstream porn. Instead, feminist porn showcases acts focused on female pleasure, between all individuals.
What does that look like? "My first feature, The Fantasy Project ... is all about exploring female fantasies," Ms. Naughty told Mic. "Every scene features women getting off in various ways, and there's a big focus on cunnilingus ... I actually cut the male orgasms out of some scenes. I just wanted to say 'fuck you, women come first' with that film."
After all, Lust said, ""Women enjoy sex as much as men and like to be stimulated."
3. "Women [can] get excited by a more realistic kind of guy."
"MakeLoveNotPorn is wholly a feminist proposition, but we believe feminism is for everybody. We know people who are feminist of all different genders," Beall said.
The benefit to casting performers of all body types, genders, races and orientations? "Viewers can see themselves in my films, but with that little edge and creativity that makes it arousing and adventurous," Lust said. She runs an interactive series called XConfessions, where viewers submit their fantasies to be acted out in a Lust production.
"In mainstream porn, male performers are not casted to please women either: They are super-muscled super-sweaty power drills," she added. "One thing I've learned from [my work], is that women get excited by other kinds of performers, a more realistic kind of guy."
4. "When [people] are happy and comfortable, they have good sex."
Another huge priority of feminist porn? Making it ethically. "It starts on set," Beall said. "For example, Sophie Delancey, who is the producer of Art of Blowjob, talks about paying your performers properly. Then other things, like having safer sex supplies on set in case people want to use them."
"I don't work with anyone that expresses hesitation about the work or worries about the consequences," Ms. Naughty said. "I try to work with real-life couples or at least match performers who already know each other ... I always talk beforehand about what's going to happen, what their preferences are."
"My approach to production is important in ensuring that performers feel empowered on set," she added. "And it just makes for better porn. When the performers are happy and comfortable, they have good sex."
5. "What we really want to do is celebrate real-world sex in all of its messy, awesome awkwardness."
While anti-porn feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Gail Dines believe that porn undermines equality, feminist pornographers see feminist porn as an opportunity.
"I think it's outdated to think that sex isn't liberating for women," Lust said. It just matters who's in the driver's seat and what they're showcasing.
"What we really want to do is celebrate real-world sex in all of its messy, awesome awkwardness," Beall said. "We like celebrating what women's bodies look like when they're not airbrushed or totally manipulated with all different kinds of surgical enhancements. I think it's incredibly empowering to see people who look like you have satisfying, consensual, fun real-world sex. We tell people that you are OK and you are sexy."
6. "I thought, 'Why don't I make the kind of porn movie I want to watch?'"
For Lust, Beall and Ms. Naughty, feminist porn wasn't a business venture so much as it was about creating a social change and providing material women might actually find sexy.
"I'd always liked porn but I didn't like the way it excluded me as a viewer," Ms. Naughty said. "My own response to that has been to make my own content, to offer an alternative."
As Lust explained, "I read Linda Williams' book Hard Core and learned that porn is a discourse about our sexuality and is a way for us to be liberated and inspired. That's when I thought, 'Why don't I make the kind of porn movie I want to watch?'"