Arise, Fem­i­nist Porn!

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - GET INTO IT -

Isaw my first porn flick when I was 23, while in bed with a boy I liked. At first, I was ex­cited. It felt naughty and easy. But just 50 sec­onds af­ter he hit ‘play’, I felt the com­plete op­po­site. In it, two young ‘var­sity’ girls – with boobs so big I in­stantly felt in­ad­e­quate with my mod­est C-cups – were hav­ing sex with up to 16 ag­gres­sive ‘jock guys’. In­stead of feel­ing turned on, I felt nauseous. ‘ These girls aren’t en­joy­ing them­selves, right?’ I thought. A few more at­tempts over the years didn’t prove much bet­ter. In fact, I felt more ex­cited by a screen­ing of Fifty Shades

Of Grey than any­thing rec­om­mended on RedTube, so I’ll ad­mit I was just a lit­tle du­bi­ous when I heard about ‘fem­i­nist porn’.

Put sim­ply, the genre fo­cuses on fe­male plea­sure and cel­e­brates dif­fer­ent body types – ev­ery­thing main­stream porn does not. Not heard of it? Get ready to: many women in porn are sick of be­ing seen as play­things, and are grab­bing the in­dus­try by the balls. Par­don the pun.

Lead­ing the way is Swedish porn di­rec­tor Erika Lust, who made her first short film, The Good Girl, in 2004 while study­ing po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, fem­i­nism and gen­der stud­ies. The flick, told from a fe­male per­spec­tive, sig­ni­fied a change in the way porn could be made. She’s made more than 100 films since (think ac­tual story lines, soft light­ing and no de­grad­ing lan­guage) and scooped sev­eral ac­co­lades at the Fem­i­nist Porn Awards in Toronto. She’s the Steven Spiel­berg of in­die erot­ica.

‘When you look at porn’s his­tory, it was born as the lib­er­a­tion of sex­u­al­ity,’ says Lust when she calls me from her Barcelona stu­dio. ‘ The peo­ple mak­ing it were vi­sion­ar­ies. Then, with the rise of tech­nol­ogy, it turned into a busi­ness driven by peo­ple who weren’t in­ter­ested in sex­u­al­ity or cin­ema, but in quick money.

Soon, any pimp or strip-club owner with a video recorder was mak­ing porn, and it got more and more ex­treme – women with big­ger tits, pun­ish­ment f*cking, racism.’

Mod­ern needs

Thank­fully, times are a-chang­ing. It’s about time, be­cause guess what: ladies watch porn, too – a lot. In Porn­hub’s 2017 Year in Re­view, ‘porn for women’ was the top trending search, up more than 1 400% com­pared to the year be­fore*. In South Africa, 32% of the site’s vis­i­tors were women (up 33% from the year be­fore), and our pre­ferred porn star was Kim Kar­dashian West. The fact that Kim K’s ‘movie’ is of the home-made va­ri­ety says a lot about what we’re look­ing for in porn.

‘Women are real­is­ing the porn they’re watch­ing isn’t even close to real,’ says Lust. ‘We know very few of us or­gasm just from pen­e­tra­tion. Al­most ev­ery woman I know needs to touch her­self to make it hap­pen – so I’m not afraid to show it.’

Pro­gres­sive porn

In 2013, Lust started XCon­fes­sions, a sub­scrip­tion web­site that crowd­sources ideas from view­ers who anony­mously sub­mit their own fan­tasies. Lust then picks her faves and turns them into short films: girl-on-top, sleep­ing with your boss/neigh­bour – even pe­riod sex.

‘Fem­i­nist porn is about cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive and re­al­is­tic view of what sex­ual ac­tiv­ity should be like,’ says sex­ol­o­gist Isiah McKim­mie. ‘It’s help­ing women be­come more con­fi­dent in and out of the bed­room, and em­brace their body in­stead of feel­ing self-con­scious about it. Main­stream porn has been in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing a very nar­row view of what women’s gen­i­tals “should” look like, lead­ing to an in­crease in gen­i­tal cos­metic surgery. Fem­i­nist porn can shift that.’

And it’s not just film that’s get­ting a makeover: print me­dia is tak­ing se­ri­ous strides in a fe­male-pos­i­tive di­rec­tion, too. For­get sala­cious mag­a­zine-cover pho­tos of women with tiny waists, wa­ter­mel­on­sized breasts and bleached but­t­holes: en­ter Math Mag­a­zine, with its unas­sum­ing red cover. The pro­gres­sive porn mag was founded by Amer­i­can MacKen­zie Peck, who was fed up with the un­re­al­is­tic sce­nar­ios and bod­ies she was see­ing in main­stream porn.

‘Some­times I’d find my­self in ar­eas of the In­ter­net where I didn’t feel great about what I was see­ing,’ Peck says. ‘I wasn’t sure whether I could be a fem­i­nist and also be okay with watch­ing women in these in­tense sce­nar­ios. Turns out I could – by open­ing up the con­ver­sa­tion about how our porn is made and who is mak­ing it.’

The new nor­mal

What sets Math apart from the porn your brother hides un­der his bed is the fem­i­nist view­point that runs through ev­ery is­sue – ev­ery shape, size and race is cel­e­brated.

‘Rep­re­sen­ta­tion mat­ters,’ says Peck. ‘When folks don’t see peo­ple who look like them in ide­alised sex­ual sce­nar­ios, they start to in­ter­nalise the idea that they aren’t wor­thy of af­fec­tion. If women only see fe­male per­form­ers in vi­o­lent scenes, they start to think it’s nor­mal. I hope the ideas we pro­mote be­come the new norm, and that peo­ple recog­nise there’s no shame in look­ing at porn – or in mak­ing it.’

To do that, we need more women in pow­er­ful po­si­tions. It’s an idea not lost on Lust. ‘The porn in­dus­try is man­aged by men, so it’s only their vi­sion com­ing through,’ she says. In an ef­fort to bridge the gap, Lust put out an open call on her web­site, ask­ing fe­male porn di­rec­tors to sub­mit ideas and pledg­ing to fund 10 films. She re­ceived ap­pli­ca­tions from all over, prov­ing women world­wide like porn – and have a lot to say about it.

While the fem­i­nist move­ment is see­ing a shift to­wards more eth­i­cal porn, Lust says it shouldn’t just rest on fe­male film­mak­ers’ shoul­ders, and that we should all be more re­spon­si­ble when it comes to porn con­sump­tion. And for any­one say­ing you can’t be a fem­i­nist and make/ like/watch porn, women such as Lust, Peck and their fans are proof you can be.

‘Fem­i­nism and en­trepreneur­ship are a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion,’ says Peck. ‘ To be a strong, smart woman who is con­fi­dent and com­fort­able with her sex­u­al­ity is some­thing to be honed and hon­oured.’ Ain’t that the truth!

‘I hope peo­ple recog­nise there’s no shame in look­ing at porn – or in mak­ing it’

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