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Feminist Porn and the Glory of Ethical Sexual Representation

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Aug 1, 2019

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Image Credit: Moviemaker

Cum facials, rough penis-in-vagina sex, women being coerced into performing sexual favors — these are some of the popular themes of mainstream porn videos. Porn has been criticized for being solely for men and their fantasies; it’s often made only from the perspective of, and to satisfy, the male gaze. Porn has left erotica seekers bereft of sexual content that satisfies their nuanced desires and expectations of ethical media.

Enter feminist porn — an industry largely dominated by feminists, queer and otherwise, who create porn that is diverse, ethical, and representative of various points of view. And while some critics think porn is an inherently anti-feminist concept, feminist porn has made a niche for itself as the more responsible and real version of the cultural mainstay that is porn.

What is feminist porn?

Feminist porn is erotica in in which the actors, filmmakers and other crew are “treated with respect, paid fairly, given choice and ethical working conditions,” and feel “empowered in their work,” according to The Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards, an organization devoted to celebrating diversity and inclusion in the porn industry since 2006. In feminist porn, filmmakers employ actors of diverse ethnicities, who also have different sexual orientations, which expands boundaries of gender and race in sexual depictions. Queer people, for example, don’t exist in fetishized margins in feminist porn, in contrast to mainstream porn’s treatment of lesbian videos. Feminist porn also factors in actors’ sexual desires, which lends authenticity to sexual portrayals, according to the organization.


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The porn can be “edgy or soft, high production or low, storyline or none, straight, queer, cis, trans, bi or a combination thereof, and made by, for and includes people of any gender/ sex, size, age, race and ethnicity, ability, orientation, and desires (including men),” according to Feminist Porn Awards.

“Feminist porn explores ideas about desire, beauty, pleasure, and power through alternative representations, aesthetics, and filmmaking styles. Feminist porn seeks to empower the performers who make it and the people who watch it,” feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino told Cosmopolitan.

What are the stereotypes about feminist porn?

The negative connotations that have surrounded feminism in recent years have also colored the perception of feminist porn. It is often believed to be man-hating, but in reality supports and encourages the sexuality and representation of all — even cis/het men. “In lots of mainstream porn, men are portrayed as one-dimensional sex robots; they are always dominant, assertive, and rock hard. In a lot of films, we rarely see their faces or the rest of their bodies, they are merely disembodied penises,” Taormino told Cosmopolitan. “I like to show men asking their partners for directions, men who get off on giving pleasure, submissive men, straight men who get anally penetrated, and men who aren’t afraid to challenge norms about masculinity in other ways.”

There is also a perception that feminist porn only shows soft, sensual sex replete with kissing and hugging — again, false. It values consent, and fair and equal portrayals of the porn actors involved, and gives them freedom to engage in sexual activities of their choice. But this could range from soft, vanilla sex, to hardcore BDSM, depending on sexual preferences.

Feminist porn is also perceived to appeal only to women, which ties into its stereotype of softness and its connection to femininity. Sexual preferences are not gendered, and feminist porn’s diverse portrayals of all kinds of sex lends itself to the desires of all genders.

Does feminist porn cost money?

Yes. Feminist porn is ethically created entertainment, which pays its actors fair wages. Feminist porn websites have monthly and yearly subscription plans for audiences wanting to access their content. ‘Free’ high-quality porn, while easy to access, is often pirated and put up on sites like RedTube or YouPorn, and perpetuates stereotypical notions of sex. Feminist porn, on the other hand, is “organic, free-trade porn,” Torminao says. “People are also willing to put their money where their politics are to support local, artisanal, and independent small businesses. If they care where their coffee came from, how it was made, and how it got to the marketplace, they buy local, organic, and fair trade. Well, the same thing needs to happen for porn buyers.”

How to access feminist porn?

Tarminao has ample recommendations for those thinking of exploring the world of feminist porn: Movie directors Erika Lust, Petra Joy, Anna Span, and Candida Royalle are known for high quality scripted features; filmmakers Shine Louise Houston, Courtney Trouble, and Madison Young make queer porn; Tarminao’s “Rough Sex” series and films by Maria Beatty will satisfy those looking for ethical representations of kink. For “indie, arthouse porn,” Tarminao recommends Carlos Batts and April Flores. Some popular performers who have been vocal about their careers as feminist porn stars are Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, April Flores, Lorelei Lee, Sinnamon Love and performer/director Nina Hartley.

Some popular feminist porn websites — albeit membership-based — include Queer Porn, CrashPad Series, Lust Cinema, Bright Desire, and Indie Porn Revolution.

Some non-membership-based sites are Lady Cheeky, Pink Label, Feminist Porn Reviews and XConfessions.

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Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news in New York City. Back in the homeland, she spends her free time trying to dismantle societal beauty standards, laughing uproariously at comedy shows, and fervently following her football team, Arsenal.

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