What is feminist porn?

Despite being a feminist, I have no idea how to define feminist porn.

Is it romance-novel sex? Is it women in leather with strap-ons? Can porn even be feminist? Porn is filmed for men, right?

Wrong. Sort of.

Many women watch porn, but a brief scan of Pornhub’s “popular with women” section shows why people believe that pornography is purely for men (searching “feminist porn” yields even more concerning results), and why some would be concerned that much of the content designed for male enjoyment ranges from degrading to utterly misogynistic.

In most traditional porn, sex is done to women, not with women, the male gaze being more important than any realistic representation of female pleasure. Never is this more obvious than in a portrayal of cunnilingus where “the guy is usually so busy not blocking the woman’s genitals that he can barely make contact with her clitoris,” writes Russell O’Connor, on everydayfeminism.com.

This portrayal of women as being made available for use by men, with no agency or desires of their own, is particularly worrisome since porn sites are increasingly becoming a source of sexual education for teenage boys.

So what, then, is feminist porn, and how does it bridge the obvious gender divide in pornography?

To find out, I asked UVic anthropology student Hallie Bryant, local business owner and bartender Troy Serson, and practicing witch and owner of an online vintage clothing store Merryn Ross.

 

How would you define feminist porn?

Bryant: For porn to be feminist, it has to empower all of the performers and be filmed in an ethical and consensual manner. Typically feminist porn pays more attention to women receiving pleasure … but feminist porn also tends to be a lot more intersectional and show a wider variety of bodies and sexualities.

Serson: My reflex by the title is always to think of female-focused porn, but really it’s about porn that treats everyone involved equally. Which … sadly isn’t always the case [in traditional porn].

Ross: Feminist porn … centres [on] female pleasure. It is porn that is not influenced by the male gaze, created by folks that identify as women. It breaks down stigma and shame around female sexuality and desire.

 

What kind of impact could feminism have on the porn industry?

Bryant: I would love to see feminist porn disrupt the industry! … But I think Tumblr was actually a huge site for feminist porn and Tumblr recently blocked porn from their site … so for feminist porn to make ripples in the industry it will have to gain popularity.

Serson: I think it could impact recruiting. What I’ve noticed about feminist porn brands is they tend to appeal to people who have thought about [doing porn], but wouldn’t go for working with typical porn companies. Long term, if it becomes the popular choice, it would cause non-feminist porn companies to adjust their practices. Though I think we’re a ways off from any changes of that nature.

Ross: I think it will elevate the industry, and make it less seedy. I have found feminist porn to be aesthetically pleasing, artful, and very creative. I have seen a lot more diversity in body type, as well as diversity in expressions of gender and queerness in feminist porn. I very strongly believe that porn created by women makes the industry safer for other women. A man, who can never understand the struggles of women, could never fully grasp what it means for a woman to be naked and sexual in front of a camera. Another woman could understand, and could accommodate the actor or model accordingly. Women typically have a better understanding of consent, which would also make it a safer space [for actors or models].

 

Is feminist porn for everyone, or just for women?

Bryant: Feminist porn is definitely for everyone! Traditional porn is typically very dramatic, performative, and male-centric … [which] can lead folks to believe that … is what sex should look like. For example, the view that sex is over when the man orgasms. So feminist porn is beneficial for everyone because it challenges that sexual script and shows a wider range of bodies and sexualities…I think heterosexual men especially could benefit from feminist porn because it might teach them something new!

Serson: Feminist porn is definitely for everyone. What’s hotter than knowing the person you’re watching ‘get off’ and ‘have a good time’ is actually getting off and having a good time for real?

Ross: Feminist porn is for everyone! I think it is very important that everyone enjoys feminist porn. Whether we like it or not, pornography is how many people, especially younger generations, become educated about sex. Female pleasure and female perspective on sex is a very important part of that education.

 

I still can’t give an exact, concise definition for feminist porn. It’s too diverse for that.

Feminist porn is all-encompassing. It can be romantic, it can be rough, it can involve BDSM. It can be beautiful, it can have, or not have, a plot. There is no limit to the content, so long as everyone involved is treated as an equal collaborator in the activity, both on and off-camera.

Feminist porn portrays sex not as something done to women and for men, but as something that people do together. It portrays all genders giving and receiving pleasure in ways that are actually pleasurable. As a feminist, I can agree with Serson — what’s hotter than that?

If you’re interested in checking out some examples of feminist porn, try erikalust.com, as recommended by one interviewee.

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