Feminist Pornography: Returning humanity to an inhumane industry
Independent female directors are making pornographic films or adult erotica to alleviate degrading and exploitative images linked to an increase in child pornography and sexual violence. Feminist pornography is a genre of film developed to encourage women and their self-beliefs of freedom through sexuality, equality and pleasure. The overall aim of feminist porn is to empower the performers who produce it and the people who view it.
Feminist pornography refers to a genre of film developed by and/or for those dedicated to gender equality. It was created for the purposes of encouraging women and their self-beliefs of freedom through sexuality, equality and pleasure.
Feminist pornography is porn that is generated in a fair manner, signifying that performers are paid a reasonable salary and most importantly treated with care and esteem; their approval, security, and well-being are vital, and what they bring to the production is appreciated. This type of porn searches to expand the ideas about desire, beauty, gratification, and power through unconventional representations, aesthetics, and film making styles. The overall aim of feminist porn is to empower the performers who produce it and the people who view it.
Why is it necessary?
The consumption of pornography is at an all time high due to technological shifts that have made it accessible on mobile phones, videogames and laptops. This prevalence of porn means that the audience is becoming desensitized to it, and are therefore seeking out ever harsher, more violent and degrading images.
Some quick stats:
- There are over 420 million pages of pornographic material online worldwide.
- 72 million searches for porn are logged monthly.
- 25% of all daily search engine requests are for pornography (68 million searches daily)
- 42.7% of internet users view porn.
- 100,000-plus websites are devoted to child pornography. There are over 116,000 daily requests for this material.
- 20% of men admit to accessing pornography at work
- 35% of those purchasing online porn make $75,000-plus annually.
- The United States is the top producer of pornographic web pages with 244,661,900, or 89 percent
- Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria have topped lists of countries that search for gay porn.
- “teen” is the most commonly searched porn term.
- child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses online and the fastest growing demand in commercial websites for child abuse is for images depicting the worst type of abuse, including penetrative sexual activity involving children and adults and sadism or penetration by an animal. 58% of child sexual abuse images depict this level of abuse. (IWF, 2008).
- 69% of all victims in child abuse images are between the ages of 0 and 10 years old. (IWF, 2008)
A 2010 study on popular porn films showed:
- 88% of scenes contained physical aggression, including spanking, gagging, and slapping.
- Women were overwhelmingly the targets of aggressive acts, and men the perpetrators.
- Following instances of aggression towards women, in 95% of cases the women expressed pleasure or neutrality.
Cases of porn have actually led to children committing sexual assault. The study has been mainly in European countries and shows:
- February 2014: A 13-year-old boy told a UK court that he raped his 8-year-old sister after viewing pornography at his friend’s house. The teenager told police he “decided to try it out” on his sister because she was small and “couldn’t remember stuff,” reported the Lancashire Telegraph.
- November 2013: A different 13-year old UK boy pleaded guilty to raping an eight-year old girl when he was 10. A pornography addiction since age 9 was said to have played a significant role in his crimes.
- March 2013: Two boys aged 14 and 15 admitted to a British court that they were re-enacting scenes witnessed in violent online pornography when they beat, brutalized, then raped a 14-year-old girl they had tied to a chair.
- March 2013: A UK report found that thousands of British children had committed sexual offenses. In all, 4,562 minors – some as young as five – committed 5,028 sexual offenses over a three year period from 2009-2012. Experts blamed “easy access to sexual material.”
- January 2012: Children’s aid and sex abuse organizations in Australia largely blamed 414 cases of children sexually abusing other children on the explosion of pornography made accessible to children.
- August 2012: A 13-year-old Canadian boy pleaded guilty to repeatedly raping a 4-year-old boy who lived in his foster home. The boy said the idea came from watching “porn” on his foster parents’ home computer.
- April 2012: A child therapist reported a case of a 13-year-old boy who raped his 5-year-old sister after developing a “complex fantasy world” warped by “two years of constant porn use.”
How does Feminist pornography tackle the ills of the industry?
Women, tired of mainstream porn ills and exhausted of criticizing it without offering an alternative, are making the porn films they want to watch. These films don’t include the characters/personas that are currently fuelling the violence and degradation of mainstream pornography. Because these women, as filmmakers and consumers, place themselves far away from mainstream porn.
These directors make sure they only work with people who want to perform in erotic films, and that what you see is real pleasure. Erika Lust a feminist director said to the Guardian: “I want people with an open sexuality who want to work here. I don’t want anybody doing this because they don’t have another choice. During the shooting I want them to have good sex and it’s my job to find the images. For me it is a tense moment, because things happen only once and it’s a moment of hard work. Is not a party behind the camera.”
She added that: “Pornographers are usually middle-aged straight guys, with a similar cultural background. They don’t like it when I say that I make porn for women. They say their porn is for everybody and I am the ‘tight’ one. But I just can’t have an intellectual discussion with them, because they don’t measure up. What I’m doing is criticizing the kind of porn they have been making for years and offering an alternative.”
Sexual assault centres in US colleges have said that more women are reporting anal rape, which research attributes directly to the normalization of certain practices in pornography. “The more porn sexualizes violence against women, the more it normalizes and legitimizes sexually abusive behavior. Men learn about sex from porn, and in porn nothing is too painful or degrading for women,” says Gail Dines author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.
In Dines’s view, the best way to address the rise of internet pornography is to raise public awareness about its actual content, and name it as a public health issue by bringing together educators, health professionals, community activists, parents and anti-violence experts to create materials that educate the public. “Just as we had anti-smoking campaigns, we need an anti-porn campaign that alerts people to the individual and cultural harms it creates.”
Is there a market?
The ideal answer is that yes there is market for more humane pornography that does not exploit actors or include children under duress. The ideal answer is the audience that consumes pornography has been looking for an alternative that has does not sensationalize disturbing story lines and ‘taboo’ subject matter.
But although Feminists have disputed pornography ever since the Women’s Movement commenced in the 1980s the genre is still unknown in the mass market. Arguably because it has less shock value or because anything associated with the feminist movement is automatically labelled “militant’ or ‘man-hating’, Directors such as Erica Lust who have enjoyed some amount of success are still trying to break through because ironically even pornography seems to have limits.
The website explains that Erica burst into the adult industry in 2004, with the indie short film The Good Girl – a humorous statement of principles. The immediate success of this first attempt encouraged her to pursue a film career and she has since then directed three multi-awarded erotic films: Five Hot Stories for Her, Life Love Lust and Cabaret Desire. She also directed the experimental documentary Barcelona Sex Project.
“We produce adult movies. We publish erotic books and magazines. Our works speak about sex, lust and passion. We enjoy exciting you and exciting your mind. We make love, not porn. And we do all this with a feminine, aesthetic and innovative approach,” she explains on the site.
Other directors in the genre include: Courtney Trouble, Candida Royalle, Tristan Taormino, Madison Young, Shine Louise Houston, Jincey Lumpkin, Petra Joy and Anna Arrowsmith. Their films have different styles: Lust’s are urban and modern, Petra Joy’s are visual and sensory and Anna Arrowsmith’s are a bit more hardcore. But there are similarities that are characteristic of this new wave of erotica such as attention to aesthetics, music, locations, actors and stories. They are all independent producers and distribute their films mostly over the internet.
“… there’s been progress and that we can shift the way that people think about porn — the way that people make it, the way that people consume it, and the way that people relate to it,” says director Tristan Taormino on the Feminist Pornography Wikipedia page.
This was first published on This Is Africa.