Feminist Porn: Everything You Need To Know & Why It's Better For You

Shreemi Verma , 02 Jul 2017
April Flores, Carter Cruise, Madison Young
April Flores, Carter Cruise, Madison Young

Unusual Bedmates

‘Feminism’ and ‘porn’ aren’t words often used together. The word ‘porn’ doesn’t exactly ring of the fight for gender equality. In mainstream pornography, the focus is most often on the man’s pleasure, as viewership is predominantly male. The attention given to female pleasure barely last a few minutes, before the woman gets back to satisfying her man. I’m citing examples of most porn flicks, of course – #NotAllPornIsSexist. But the average is pretty clear.

Women consume pornography in significant numbers. As per adult site Pornhub’s 2015 report, women constituted a quarter of the site’s 156 million monthly visitors. The same report showed that India ranks third worldwide in porn consumption, trailing only the US and UK. Indian women are among the highest consumers of pornography globally (with an average age of 31). And yet, very little is known about feminist porn in India. It’s time for that to change.

A New Perspective on Pleasure

What is feminist porn then? As the name suggests, feminist porn focuses on the woman, and its popularity is at an all-time high. The blockbuster success of even mediocre works like Fifty Shades Of Grey is evidence of how big the potential market is for content focused on the female perspective.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Madison Young, a popular porn star and an integral part of the sex-positive movement, described feminist porn in extremely simple terms:

Once a director instructed me to wait five minutes and then fake an orgasm. I said, ‘give me an additional five minutes and I’ll have a real orgasm’. To me, that’s feminist porn in a nutshell.

The Problem With Mainstream Porn

In most mainstream porn, women are treated like sex objects without feelings or desires of their own. Most films cater to male fantasies, and what men find erotic. The situation is much worse in hardcore genres, as producers cater to all kinds of extreme kinks, often leaving the women abused, humiliated and insulted.

In some of the more abhorrent films, it’s made to look as if the girl is getting raped. The suggestion is made that the victim is not-so-secretly enjoying the abuse. The importance of consent is lost to impressionable minds, with seemingly intelligent men choosing to believe that if a woman refuses sex, then she’s ‘just playing hard to get’ or she actually ‘likes it’ rough.

Some women may enjoy rough sex, but this doesn’t change the absolute requirement for consent. The underlying threat of assault is very real in our daily lives and positive social conditioning is urgently needed in a society that is heavily skewed towards the male gender.

A 2016 article on HuffPost titled Pornography: The Missing Piece In The Movement Against Sexual Violence discusses how “pornography makes women ‘rape-ready’ in the mind of its users by portraying the conquering and using of female bodies as the ideal display of masculinity.” The discussion on how porn promotes ‘rape culture’ is a hotly debated topic, but there’s no doubt that the world is ready for a different approach to adult entertainment.

How Can Porn Be “Feminist”?

Female empowerment is an important focus of feminist pornography. There’s an emphasis on the woman’s pleasure. There’s obvious consent, and all types of bodies are represented on-screen. BDSM-centric films, especially, highlight the sexual agency of the women involved and the films generally  include dialogue, backstory, and better production values. One of the primary objectives of feminist porn is to present sex as something positive, healthy and most importantly, an act that is performed between equals. A woman should not feel guilty, ashamed or intimidated into enjoying something so natural.

According to a piece in Everyday Feminism, these are the 5 characteristics a film must exhibit to qualify as ‘feminist porn’:

1. The male and female performers, or their characters, should be treated as equals.
2. Male-female sex should not be presented as something that penises do to vaginas.
3. Sex is something that people (usually) do in the context of a larger relationship.
4. Kissing and touching matter, because that’s what people do when they have sex.
5. Sex is something a couple does for themselves (not other people).

The Stars of Feminist Porn

As reported by Jezebel.com, last year, a large number of feminist porn stars were nominated for the ‘Oscars of the porn film industry‘, the AVN Awards. Apart from the AVN Awards, the contemporary feminist porn association gained popularity in the 2000s’ because of the Feminist Porn Awards. The FPAs have been ongoing for more than a decade with the goal of creating awareness for a broader audience and to help in uniting a community of filmmakers, performers, and fans.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest stars who have been instrumental in drawing attention to feminist porn:

1) Carter Cruise

The 24 year old porn star and musician Carter Cruise has credited her father for raising her with feminist values. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, she revealed that she took her feminist values into the adult film industry, including being called a ‘pubic hair trendsetter’. Carter is known in the industry as one of the girls who doesn’t wax all her pubic hair off.

My dad’s the biggest feminist and he raised me to know that you don’t need a man. Since I was little, he’d have me meeting with women CEOs or writers or architects or entrepreneurs.

2) Tristan Taormino

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Sex education rockstar #tristantaormino

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An eminent feminist pornographer, author and sex educator, Tristan Taormino is one of the best known names in the industry. In an interview to Cosmopolitan, she elaborated on the goals of feminist pornography:

Feminist pornographers don’t want to do away with sexual power dynamics; many of us want to explore them in an explicitly consensual and more diverse, nuanced, non-stereotypical way. I call feminist porn “organic, fair trade porn” and liken it to the organic and fair trade movement in the United States.

3) Madison Young

As mentioned earlier, Madison Young has become a big name in the feminist porn industry. In an interview with The Telegraph, she explained that performing was a way to bring her feminist ethos into erotic film.

Feminist porn takes a cultural form that has historically been seen as the purview of men. It reworks sexual images and conventions in an effort to explore new and more diverse kinds of desires.

4) Stoya

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#stoya #girl #sexy

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Stoya is currently one of the most popular American porn stars who co-owns the pornographic website TRENCHCOATx. She has also contributed to various websites as a writer including Esquire, The New York Times and Vice. In 2010, she was in a high-profile relationship with pornographic actor James Deen but it ended in 2015 when she revealed he raped her. After Stoya’s revelation, other female porn stars spoke publicly about James sexually assaulting them which lead to him being dropped by his label.

In an essay she authored for Vice titled Stoya: Feminism and Me, she wrote at length about feminism and porn –

Feminism, like everything in the world except for maybe the fact that water is good for people to drink, is a complex and nuanced thing. I love many parts of feminism and am grateful for many people who are or were feminists. I have the right to vote because of feminism. I feel entitled to walk home alone at night without being molested (whether I actually get to walk home without being catcalled or grabbed or not) because of feminism. My ability to choose to work in the on-camera side of the sex industry instead of other possible careers is mostly because of feminism, too.

5) Nina Hartley

Nina Hartley began her adult film career in 1982 and is still known as one of the most prominent faces in the industry. She considers herself a liberal and a sex-positive feminist. Here’s what she said on her website:

Sex isn’t something men do to you. It isn’t something men get out of you. Sex is something you dive into with gusto and like it every bit as much as he does.

6) April Flores

The current queen of body-positive porn, April Flores is one of the most frequently nominated actors for BBW Performer of the Year. In a personal essay for The Feminist Porn Book, she wrote at length about her sex-positivity, her healthy attitude towards her body, and her sexual desires:

I am a fat woman in control of her sexuality… To me, there are few more genuine or powerful forms of self-expression than a woman performing sex for others to watch. It is the ultimate statement of empowerment.

7) Annie Sprinkle

Annie Sprinkle is considered a pioneer in the rise of feminist porn and has been involved in creating films, performances and publications that are openly feminist. Her works have been primarily about women’s, queer, and transgender sexuality since the ’90’s. Much of her activist and sex education work reflects this philosophy.

In 2009, Annie appeared in the French documentary film Mutantes: Punk, Porn, Feminism, speaking about the beginnings of the movement and her own contributions.

Where To Watch Feminist Porn

Feminist porn is still a niche market and more often than not, you have to pay to access the content. It is a business after all. Here are some sites that provide these services:

Lust Cinema

Lust Cinema is a subscription based service that provides an alternative to mainstream porn. Their collection has everything, from vintage and modern feminist porn, to tutorials on sex and kinks. The site consists of works by more than 50 directors whose common goal is to create films with a fresh perspective on adult entertainment. You can stream or download their work here after becoming a member.

Pink Lady TV

Pink Lady TV is like accessing Netflix but for porn. You can create a free account, browse through the various options and rent what you want to watch. They place special emphasis on hiring diverse female talent and their films are extremely feminist and LGBTQ friendly. The rentals help in funding the studio and their movies.

Ruby’s Diary

Ruby’s Diary is like an online diary of erotic fantasies. Ruby Day is the owner of the website and here’s her description of what this website offers –

Everything on this site is independent from the industry, homemade, and has been for 10 years. You’ll find others who share your interests from lesbian, bisexual, masturbation, erotica, sensuality, fetish, threesomes, role-play, blow jobs, outdoor content and much more.

I write journals letting you guys know what I’m up to. I live everyday like it’s an adventure because life’s too short not to face my fears. I do vlogging, artistic photos & videos, and have passion for everything you see here.

Puckerup.com

One of the best known names in the industry, Tristan Taormino’s website Puckerup.com is in her own words a “sex-positive salon”. Her production house Smart Ass Productions strives to make movies that are different. No outrageous stunts. No degradation. No boring porno formulas.

Each of their films have the following elements:
1) Fresh, unique, articulate, and accessible performers who love their jobs
2) Consent, respect, performer agency, sex-positive values, ethical working conditions
3) In-depth, revealing interviews with performers
4) Performer-driven, unscripted, hot, organic sex
5) A variety of sexual activities: hand jobs, sex toys, oral sex, anal pleasure, prostate stimulation, strap-ons, masturbation, roleplay, pegging, orgies, BDSM, and rough sex
6) Depictions that arouse and educate: couples communicating, using lube, working up to penetration, etc.
7) Focus on female desires, fantasies, pleasure, and orgasms
8) Authentic chemistry and orgasms for everyone

As per Everydayfeminism.com, Tristan Taormino’s Rough Sex series of videos proves that it is possible to present rough sex in a way that is not degrading.

Lady Cheeky

Essentially a Tumblr style blog for porn gifs, Lady Cheeky is a website started by Elle Chase who is a popular educator on sex, sexuality and body positivity. It’s often cited as the number one porn website for women. Their primary function is to bring curated sensual images and gifs that depict palpable desire, unbridled passion and body positive eroticism on a daily basis. Their sister sites are Smut for Smarties and Big Beautiful Sex.

Crash Pad Series

The winner of the Best Website at the Feminist Porn Awards in 2011 and the Specialty Site of the Year at the XBIZ Awards in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the Crash Pad Series is based on the 2005 feminist porn award-winning ‘best dyke sex film’. It’s about a clandestine San Francisco apartment where people who identify as queers share a key to meet for wild sex.

Here they cast real-life couples who are dykes and lesbians, femme, masculine of center (boi, stud, tomboy, AG, and butch), trans women, trans men, people of color, people of different sizes, older queers and people with disabilities. The partners choose to perform what they want on-screen and viewers get to experience authentic sex.

Reddit.com/r/chickflixxx

This sub-reddit is a place for pro-porn women to share links to sexual content and discuss porn. This is a sub-reddit created by women, for the purpose of providing a safe place to discover, share, question and understand porn. It’s open to every gender & gender identity. Anyone can post videos here but only women and genderqueer people are allowed to comment or vote. To preserve the female friendly nature of this community, men are refrained from commenting or upvoting.

A More Wholesome Porn Diet

A 2015 Marie Curie study revealed that around 56% of women surveyed were conflicted about watching porn because of the way the adult entertainment industry treats women.

This can change if porn is made with more sensitivity and if sex shown in a positive light. Like cinema, television and web-shows, porn needs to evolve. It needs to have a story, a personal connect, consent and obvious pleasure.

Esteemed feminist porn director Erika Lust believes that feminist porn needs to go mainstream and that can happen only if it reaches a wide audience. In an interview with Vice.com, she elaborates on how the status quo needs to change:

Porn is always the same. Men are the main characters, and women are the fuck bunnies. Horny housewives, secretaries… There are so many stereotypes, and it’s never really about our experience. I want to get inside people’s sexual minds. Mainstream porn is run by middle-aged men. Their vision has very little to do with my vision or my friends’ visions.

In another interview to hercampus.com, Erika gave a simplified definition of the benefits of feminist porn, especially to young, college going girls who often discover sex, kinks and their preferences through pornography. In her words:

Feminist porn is a sexually explicit film made by people who have a problem with the power imbalance in the mainstream industry. It has nothing to do with what acts are shown, it’s how you film it and present it.

More women and men should watch feminist porn so that their knowledge about sex and adult entertainment is widened. Simply put, if we have so many options when it comes to the food we eat, the TV shows we watch, or the clothes we wear, why should our porn consumption be limited to Naughty America?

Do you have any thoughts to share or suggestions to give on this topic? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments below! 

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