Can porn be feminist?

Since this is my first official post, I figured I may as well start off with an issue that people hold very strong opinions on: PORNOGRAPHY!

As a feminist, I find the current state of mainstream (and most non-mainstream) pornography to be abhorrent. Most feminists would agree on the same “problems”: women are objectified and often degraded, sex is not portrayed in a way that is conducive to women’s enjoyment, all scenes and actions are clearly designed for the benefit of straight men, these scenes/actions teach men how to be selfish- sometimes cruel- partners, porn perpetuates negative beauty/body standards, it is heteronormative and dismissive of all sorts of varieties/tastes/preferences in an individual’s sexuality, it is too fake. The list goes on and on and on.

OK, so porn, as we know it, right this minute, is pretty bad.

Here’s where I diverge from many other feminists: I don’t think it has to be bad.

I don’t think that pornography is inherently bad for women, or for anyone. Sure, it totally sucks now- but the same things can pretty much be said for all forms of media that involve visual representation of sex acts in particular or gender in general. Now, that’s no excuse to tolerate it, it’s just puts porn on the list of things that could use some revolutionizing, in my opinion. And, I would argue, that creating a space for “feminist” porn could even have a bigger value than say, feminist TV or mainstream movies.

And now, you radfem readers are probably pulling your hair out screaming “WHAAA???”

Give me a second, I’ll explain:

Why the importance? Sex is very intrinsic to nearly EVERYONE’S EVERYDAY LIVES. Yeah, you won’t die from lack of sex, certainly not lack of porn, sex is up there in the priorities like food and friends and housing for most people. And here’s the thing- people of all genders are empowered by having a healthy understanding of their sexuality(ies). This is something that I should hope, all feminists can agree on. So porn, as a concept, could be considered a tool that would help everyone learn how to embrace and enjoy sex.

What if porn attempted to teach us some different lessons?  Instead of learning that we should have breast implants and need to fake orgasms, we were actually learning the kind of awesome stuff “Our Bodies Ourselves” was putting out there…just in video form?

It stands to reason, that if pornographic material somehow magically became totally egalitarian/inclusive and started showing us real people having really good sex that they were actually enjoying themselves that then….wait for it…people would learn to be better, more honest lovers of others and themselves. And imagine what could happen if suddenly it presented diverse bodies, ethnicities, and ages WITHOUT the insulting characterizations we currently get (see: granny/fatty films)? Maybe, just maybe, we could shift societal beauty standards and help people of all shapes/types believe that they deserve to have sexual fulfillment as well! I know, call me crazy…

So, I guess I’m just asking a lot of dangerous questions here, but I’d love to hear some constructive suggestions and answers- and please- without any hate or judgment, K?

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Feminism, Sex Industry, Sexuality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Can porn be feminist?

  1. Clarence says:

    Is this thread only open to radical feminists?

    I’ve met a few radical fems in the threads here, but I’ve never seen a self-proclaimed rad fem start one.

    Needless to say I’m not a radical feminist, I disagree that it’s even possible to have sexuality without some objectification (not only is it inevitable but objectification is not always harmful), and I think you totally ignore that the vast majority of porn consumers are straight het men, and ya know what..we have our preferences, whether you like them or not – and as the majority of the market we will be listened to and catered to in one way or another.

    If you don’t want me to participate, I won’t, but I’m putting that out there.

    • April says:

      Anyone can participate in the comments (although, thanks for asking). Also, check out Kissie’s “about” page. While she’s been influenced by radical feminism, she identifies as a third-waver.

  2. Tim says:

    I do think that porn could serve as an educational tool. However, I see the problem in how to make that happen. As Clarence already said, porn is handcrafted for the majority of consumers, cis het white men.

    I don’t think you will be able to persuade porn producers to ‘de-optimize’ their product, because that would cause them monetary loss.

    And what else could you do ? Sure, you could try to influence the target audience into prefering fem porn, but that somewhat beat the purpose of it, I mean creating a tool of education that can only be created by educating the people that are supposed to be educated by the very same tool (What?).

    Or you could try and find a few enthusiastic feminist who would be willing to start their own production.

  3. desipis says:

    I tend to dislike mainstream porn for the same reasons as listed in the second paragraph of the post. Although I’d add a few points:

    a) men are also objectified;
    b) I don’t see mainstream porn as focusing on male pleasure, although it is certainly very robotic in nature;
    c) for the most part I’ve found the porn industry does cater to much broad diversity of tastes, although “mainstream” porn is certainly homogeneous.

    That said, mainstream porn still does it’s job of stimulating the brain with sexual imagery. For that reason I’m unconvinced it’s optimised for male pleasure. Rather it’s more like fast food; it’s crap optimised for low cost, focusing on short term desires and pushed to the masses through savvy marketing. A porn producer who goes the extra mile to produce ‘better’ porn isn’t going to last long when pitted against a sea of cut-price competitors. Transforming the porn industry is going to be as hard a battle as transforming the fast food industry to sell healthy food. A battle worth fighting though.

    As much as I’d like to see mainstream porn provide a more positive and human portrayal of sex, I think it’s a stretch to think all superficiality could be removed. After all, it’s about meeting the visual desires of the viewer and viewers are going to have their own individual (and potentially superficial) preferences that would need to be met.

    • April says:

      b) I don’t see mainstream porn as focusing on male pleasure, although it is certainly very robotic in nature;

      How is this true? If you’re talking about orgasms, men’s are the only ones that we know for sure happened. And more often than not, we see the evidence of his orgasm in just about every porn, and his orgasm is usually the cue that sex is over.

    • Danny says:

      No we see that those men ejaculated. Ejaculation doesn’t always equal orgasm and vice versa. In fact that ties into what someone said above about it being robotic. Shove Tab A into Slot B, repeat til cum.

      And if you think that translates into being representative of how men overall like sex you are mistaken.

      And I really like the reference between porn and fast food.

    • desipis says:

      If you’re talking about orgasms…

      I’m not sure you can justify focusing on orgasms when talking about the gender balance of the broader concept of sexual pleasure. There’s frequently manual and oral stimulation of female genitals in mainstream porn, so I don’t think you can claim that it focuses on male pleasure.

      Continuing on from Danny’s comment, I’d add that often the male will only ejaculate after self stimulation (presumably to get the right ‘shot’) indicating that whatever interaction there was with the female wasn’t all that stimulating. Also while there may not be definitive signs of female orgasm, there are visual cues to female arousal.

      … his orgasm is usually the cue that sex is over.

      That’s an interesting point, and is probably an aspect driven by the formulaic production methods.

  4. andie says:

    I want to come back to this after I’ve mulled on it a bit. For now I’ll leave it at

    A) Current porn=bad for women and men. Basically it seems to reduce women to a number of holes, and men to their penis.

    B) It could be improved. Moreso, I think it could be improved and still marketable to the masses… but it’s going to take a bit of a paradigm shift. I doubt most viewers of porn go into it going “You know what would be awesome? Watching women be degraded and objectified on film.” No, it’s more like, “You know what’s hot? See people have sex.. on film.” Just like people going into a fast food place are saying “You know what’d be great? a hamburger.” not “You know what’d be great? A giant coronary episode.”

    The consumers are going to take what they’re being fed, because that’s what’s available. But in turning both porn and fast food ‘healthy’, if you gradually change the ingredients, one day consumers are going to turn around and go “Hang on a minute.. something’s different. I like it!”

  5. If women would buy more porn then porn itself would change.
    Until they do, men will get porn suited for most of them. And most men like porn this way or they wouldn´t watch it.
    Porn is not for becoming a better lover but for jacking off to a fantasy.
    it is like romance novels for women. If there wouldn´t be a prince/doctor/knight but a blue collar repairman with not so much hair they would not sell, even so women could learn to be more realistic in their expectations.
    The categories are there to help navigate, they are useful.

  6. Melissa says:

    Actually, apparently there is feminist porn out there. I don’t know much about it, but evidently there’s porn that deliberately labels itself “feminist,” usually featuring “natural” women (so to speak), genuine female pleasure, and lesbian sex of the non “girl-on-girl is so HAWT!” variety. So yeah. It’s out there.

  7. Tom Head says:

    I worry that consuming porn teaches people to fantasize in ways that emphasize their pleasure as spectator rather than the mutual pleasure of fleshy interaction, so I’ve been careful to avoid it. I wish I could say I’ve avoided porn because I’m a good feminist, but it’d be closer to the truth to say I’ve avoided it because I don’t want to be a bad lover.

    • imnotme says:

      “I worry that consuming porn teaches people to fantasize in ways that emphasize their pleasure as spectator rather than the mutual pleasure of fleshy interaction”

      Fucking BINGO.

  8. April says:

    I have the same basic feelings about porn as you do. Now = bad, but it has potential.

    A couple of people in the comments say something about heterosexual men being the primary consumers of porn. What is it about cis, het men being the primary consumers of porn that is a problem in trying to change what porn is? We’ve established (and no one seems to disagree yet) that mainstream porn is harmful to women (and others have mentioned that it is harmful to men, as well), so in saying that you’ll never get cis, het men to change their “preferences,” you’re essentially saying that mainstream het, cis men prefer to harm women.

    We’ve got to find a better way to frame that argument if we’re going to keep going with it.

    Back to the post: porn as an educational tool would be great, and plenty useful, but I think porn for enjoyment is also just fine. But cannot redeem porn if we keep acting as though people should have a right to be able to find violent sexual imagery to jerk off to that contributes to the subjugation of women, and other harmful stereotypes and assumptions people already make. I mean, great, it’s your prerogative to be attracted to what you’re attracted to, but how can anyone argue in favor of letting the most vile shit become mainstream to the point of young men getting the majority of their sex education from it? How many men wanted to come all over their partner’s face before “facials” became so trendy?

    I don’t mind a variety of things, but we need a variety, and we need to eliminate the acceptance of mainstream porn turning women into holes for guys to fuck. The redemption of porn won’t happen without that, imo.

    • Danny says:

      I think one problem in play (one that a lot of people simply don’t want to talk about) is that cis het men are being socialized into thinking that porn is the representation of cis het male desire. Oh sure people love scoring easy points demonizing those men but then no one really wants to address it (probably for fear of not having those easy points to score if it were solved).

      This belief that men are controlled by their lust needs to be eliminated as well.

    • imnotme says:

      Indeed.

  9. Kissie Catastrophe says:

    So many great comments here- I want to reply to everything! But, that sounds exhausting so I’ll just follow up on a few points.

    As April pointed out, I don’t consider myself to be a radfem, but I definitely think they have some great points.

    Comparing porn to fast food = very good analogy, in my mind.

    Moving away from mainstream porn as it is, to me, is very much a demand issue and I think demand is changing. The more I talk about this with people, the more I find poeple- of ALL genders- who want to see genuine enjoyment, mutual satisfaction, less “acting”, etc. Which speaks a bit to Danny’s point on the end here. There is definitely a problem with equating what exists in mainstream porn as “what men want”. I know plenty of cis/het men who have no interest in it. I know plenty of straight men who can’t stomach mainstream porn and will only watch amateur couples porn and things of that nature since the likelihood of respectful interactions and real female orgasms occurring are exponentially increased in these types of videos.

    My personal contention is that if there was more of a push for porn involving real, loving couples and/or actors who are legitimately interested in positive portrayals of good sex, that we would start seeing a shift. Even if it’s just a more accessible sub-genre of pornography, it would be an improvement. Arguably, feminist porn does exist (there are awards for it, apparently) but you can’t find this stuff easily, not like the degrading awful shit that you find, you know, EVERYWHERE.

    These are precisely the conversations we need to have to move away from the negative ideas so many of us hold about sex and porn and start moving towards a healthy acceptance of our personal sexualities and how to improve one of the many areas the patriarchy totally messes up all of our lives, regardless of gender.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m a guy. I’ve found some feminists are pretty repressive about this. The ones who want to ban porn (Perhaps not realizing that men’s unsatisfied sexuality has triggered all sorts of wars, rapes, and similar problems. Porn seems like a pretty minor problem for women, if that, since some women like it, plus it also make men happier — the utilitarian case seems pretty straightforward).

    As a consumer of porn I definitely like lesbians and MFF threesomes, and everything straight guys tend to like. Maybe to a feminist this is “patriarchical” haha, to me it is just the way I am hardwired. (This is tangential, but I would actually prefer to be a girl, and a lesbian, mostly for lifestyle reasons like wearing pretty clothes, being pretty, getting to spend more time taking care of kids, less need to work, ease of hooking up haha — I’m not trying to offend you feminists, but realistically these are mainstream options for gals, not so much for guys :-).

    I like good porn, usually amateur (as another commentator mentioned), especially where the girls are normal, everyone is enjoying themselves, no one is degraded, and it’s passionate, not fake. One of the sexiest videos I’ve seen is one that I shared with an ex, all the comments were like “Wow, that is really passionate, he is actually making love to her, he satisfies her, she satisfies him, this is porn for women.” (Well, like I always try to do when making love. This is basically normal, healthy sex).

    The meaningless fucks you can just see no one is really into it, so it’s not as gratifying. Or they have the attitude of some douche minority, where only the man needs to find it enjoyable. Yeah except if you’re a decent human being, it’s not really enjoyable for a man to look at the woman he’s making love to, and realize she wants to text her friends on the cell phone because she’s bored! And all the giant boobs, fake faces, and tons of makeup, it is not really appealing at all. I guess because girls faces and emotions are attractive to me, as are normal girls, on the prettier side sure, but no one really wants that fake giant porn woman.

    And really most guys who watch porn who aren’t completely pathetic would prefer to have a relationship. So for me I’m hoping to get some warmth flowing back through the channel, even though it’s an illusion, the mind still wants to say “hey there’s an actual real woman who actually likes me,” not “there’s some crazy fake bimbo in some very bizarre position doing whacked out things, man, her neck must hurt.” Haha.

    But maybe the majority of guys buying porn are the hopeless douche cases. Who knows. I can’t imagine that’s the ordinary guy though.

    • Kristi says:

      You hit the nail on the head, in my personal opinion, when you said,

      “there’s some crazy fake bimbo in some very bizarre position doing whacked out things, man, her neck must hurt.” Haha.

      This is where mainstream porn goes wrong when young men try to recreate it in real life. Damn near every time I’ve seen mainstream porn, my most intense reaction ends up not being stimulation, but the thought, “THAT would fucking hurt!” Followed by other thoughts that include, “that’s not sexy,” or “she can’t possibly be turned on enough yet to have sex,” or “having your cervix beat all to hell is not pleasurable,” and all kinds of practical shit like that. I’m perfectly capable of fantasy, but, really lousy and painful sex isn’t a fantasy I have.

      Young men do watch mainstream porn, and they do use it to create an ideal, or wish list, or “user’s guide” so-to-speak, and that’s just not helpful to them or their unfortunate partner. If they watched porn that was geared more towards women, they would be better off from the “user’s guide” standpoint. If they are trying to use porn to turn on their girlfriend, mainstream porn would likely be least effective. Problem is, they don’t even know this, because to them, it’s fantastic. In the end, they may not even realize that the porn they like is, at the very least, inconsiderate to women, and possibly down-right offensive.

      There is a pretty decent amount of female driven porn out there, but as Kissie said, it can be harder to find. Every year it does make gains in distribution, but, it’s unlikely that “realistic, respectful porn” will ever be as popular as “your fuck fantasy porn,” which appeals more to the majority of het men.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually it’s interesting. At first I was skeptical of your view that porn normalizes how people do it. But then I realized really basic things I think are normalized by porn.

      For example, in porn you often see people having intercourse totally the wrong way. Basically penis entirely out to 3/4 in, quickly. Provides a lot of stimulation to the guy. A normal guy will get off in 2 minutes that way, and a girl, never. It took me a while to figure out how to do intercourse the right way, now it lasts more like 30 minutes and my last partner got off like 4 times during that time.

      Of course it varies by partner’s preferences, but generally *a* right way is providing more simulation to the woman and less to the man (so he lasts longer). One right way might be penis entirely in, grinding the pelvic bone against the clit. Or penis 9/10 in, to entirely in, fucking the clit rapidly (simulating a vibrator). Or intercourse with a vibrator also. Or other variations, but always doing what a woman enjoys since it is easy for a man to have pleasure. Or if a man has to come, pull out and stop stimulation, causing only partial ejaculation, so he can then put on another condom and keep going. I don’t think I’ve seen any of these in pornos.

      I don’t know how many times I’ve read “many women can’t get off through intercourse alone” and “guys orgasm quickly.” Maybe they are doing it totally wrong because people are taught wrong? And those are incorrect statements I think — women in my experience often have more satisfying orgasms through intercourse than with clit alone, and men are I think in many cases happier doing it with less stimulation for a longer time, making their partner happy.

      Of course it’s more than just genital mechanics for a girl, too. Again porn teaches the wrong thing about her being happy, communication, mood, foreplay, starting off slow, scented candles, seduction, teasing, touching many areas of the body, mad passionate kissing, kissing all areas of her body, touch, the man being well-groomed, etc. Even oral they usually do wrong (in my view a good way to do oral is with G spot stimulation, and to get a girl off the first time, making sure she is somewhat satisfied and open to subsequent orgasms. In porn often it is just random licking of the vagina before sex). Even when they do it right, they could often do much better…

      I just remember my last 3 lovers. One said her ex didn’t satisfy her and liked to pull out and come all over her boobs. Taught by porn. Satisfying to her? I doubt it. The next said she had relationships for 6 years and was totally unsatisfied and then started sleeping around until she found much better lovers, and now really enjoyed sex. The most recent girl said she had never had an orgasm from oral. It’s just messed up.

  11. Jim says:

    “it is heteronormative and dismissive of all sorts of varieties/tastes/preferences in an individual’s sexuality, it is too fake. ”

    Couple of things:
    It is really hard sometimes to say what is or is not heteronormative. Supposedly there is a huge market for written gay (male) porn among straight women. It’s gay porn, but women are reading it because of their interest in male sex – pretty hetero to my mind. the same goes for the lesbian porn that straight men enjoy so much – very prevalent.

    And BTW there is a lot in straight porn for a gay guy to enjoy, although on small problem is that as much as the women are objectified, and they generally are, the men, the “woodsmen” are even more dehumanized and their faces are very rarely shown at all. Big miss.

    So again – heteronormative?

    Question about the objectification – I really take issue with the insistence that all sex has to be this deep soul-vampirizing exchange of more than is offered. It’s an intrusion. My feelings, my life, are a lot more private than bodily nudity and some rolling around – not the other way around for me. If you personally don’t go that way, then fine. But why presume to set standards for the rest of us? (Not you personally)

    Second thing: If the only porn you are watching/studying is “dismissive of all sorts of varieties/tastes/preferences” then you might want to widen your sample. There are all sorts of sub-genres – really fat women, dominant women (not BDSM), group sex in various combinations, huge jerk-off scenes – it goes on and on and on.

    • April says:

      It is really hard sometimes to say what is or is not heteronormative. Supposedly there is a huge market for written gay (male) porn among straight women. It’s gay porn, but women are reading it because of their interest in male sex – pretty hetero to my mind. the same goes for the lesbian porn that straight men enjoy so much – very prevalent.

      I think that’s an interesting point about straight women and gay (male) porn. Personally, *if* I look for porn for any other reason than to laugh at it or criticize it, it’s usually gay or lesbian porn, because I have such little faith in hetero porn, because of what I’m used to “hetero porn” meaning. And that’s all based on a mainstream understanding of porn, as I’m not a porn enthusiast and have never really been interested enough in it to look further than what’s readily (and freely) available.

      But, from what I’ve noticed (and we’ve already established my short attention span for searching for porn), gay male porn is essentially the same as mainstream hetero porn, in that one person plays a masculine or dominant role, and the other plays a submissive, or feminine role. And that in itself turns me off completely.

      (mainstream) Lesbian porn, on the other hand, I haven’t found to be too into playing traditional masculine/feminine roles as a mainstay, but most are very obviously geared toward a hetero male audience in the way that the women appear to be performing more than they are interested in either of their sexual gratification. But, I’ve also seen more lesbian porn that is clearly focused on creating an authentic erotic experience where you at least can reasonably believe that the performers are enjoying themselves than I have hetero or gay male porn that accomplishes the same thing.

      And BTW there is a lot in straight porn for a gay guy to enjoy, although on small problem is that as much as the women are objectified, and they generally are, the men, the “woodsmen” are even more dehumanized and their faces are very rarely shown at all. Big miss.

      I find it easy to accept that there is a lot in hetero porn for a gay person to enjoy, because as a het woman, I enjoy gay porn more than straight porn, and it’s not necessarily about the actors and their genitals, but more about the mood, theme, the way the actors interact with one another, etc. I think for a lot of people, images of intimate, sexual activity are enough, and it isn’t required that the video be in any way related to the viewer’s own desires or actual life.

      It seems that, at the root of it, the main complaint here is the lack of realism in mainstream porn. When mainstream porn is presented as a “norm,” it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and that’s at least partially because of the lack of believability in a woman naturally enjoying herself while being completely humiliated or disrespected in ways that are so common of mainstream pornography. And obviously there are similar counterparts in the roles that men in these films play that contribute to this feeling. But it seems that the main desire that most people have when seeking out pornography is that they want the actor(s) to be believably enjoying themselves.

  12. Danny says:

    Kristi:
    Problem is, they don’t even know this, because to them, it’s fantastic. In the end, they may not even realize that the porn they like is, at the very least, inconsiderate to women, and possibly down-right offensive.
    On the money.

    For a long time I’ve had my doubts about how people go on and on about how porn is marketed to men but I wonder if its not a matter of men embracing this porn but of us having it pushed on us (people seem to have no problem thinking of this when it comes to women…odd).

    • andie says:

      And that in itself is a problem. Consider this. For years and years, sex is considered this private, taboo matter. We get the pornographic subculture that is creating a manufactured view of sex for people, who have likely never witnessed anyone other than themselves having sex, to view. The teenager who has never made love may, well before zir first relationship, view this mainstreamed, heteronormative, vaguely/blantantly degrading to women depiction of a sexual experience and believe that this is how sex works in real life. Chances are any porn ze’s stumbled across may be the only examples outside of zir own burgeoning sexuality that they have been exposed to (especially if you consider areas that are highly repressed and discourage parents from talking about their OWN sexual experiences with their children)

      Because porn has, over the years, become so ingrained in the mentality of the general public (and in post-feminist years, among not just men but women as well) that even in so called ‘amateur’ porn, the participants are still fucking like professional porn stars because exposure to porn has taught people that this is what a typical sexual experience is suppose to look/sound like.

    • desipis says:

      I have to wonder if that given the pervasive nature of pornography, as well as other media being saturated with sexual imagery, if sexual education classes should cover not just the problems of sex (pregnancy, STDs, consent issues), but also provide a broad understanding of sexual pleasure. Of course the cultural taboos around sex would make that challenging to implement.

    • Tamen says:

      I don’t just wonder about this, I think it’s a travesty that sexual education only concerns itself with negative or problematic issues.

  13. desipis says:

    …women are objectified and often degraded…

    I can understand the claim of objectification, however I’m curious as to what about mainstream porn people consider is degrading for women. What is it (acts/positions/words/etc) about mainstream porn that is considered to be degrading for women, and why?

    • Tim says:

      Well you could argue that women in regular mainstream porn are more like supporting actors than equal partners. Porn usually starts with a hard-on and ends with ejaculation and in the between we see women that are more or less just pleasure devices than interacting partners. Sexual interactions are often singlesided, meaning that he (and by he I mainly mean his penis, cause most of the time you don’t see him at all) has the spotlight, he gets to say what kind of sex/positions should be practiced and, of course, everything done is done for his pleasure alone.

      So i’d say the degrating part is being some kind of second class participant, at the very least. Depending on what you watch there may be acts or positions that are further degrading.

    • “is being some kind of second class participant, at the very least”

      You could argue, that the male actors are much more irrelevant. The women sells the tapes, she is the one it is watched for. Her reactions are way more important. You will see the face of the female and her reactions.
      There is a lot of emphasis on female enjoyment in Porn, even though it may be from unrealistic situations. They are loud, they grunt, they show, that they like it (even when it may be mixed with pain because he is so big etc). They male can be kind of stoic.

      Missionary position, slow not so deep trusts, with a lot of kissing,under a blanket is just not visual enough.
      Taking her doggy style with big trusts, one leg one the ground the other on the table, her face turned to the camera, is much more visual.

    • andie says:

      I’d be willing to argue that porn might be more appealing if there was a greater emphasis on eroticism than straight-up thrusting. It’s definitely part of why I prefer written erotica to to visual porn – it tends to offer more eroticism, more descriptions of the action, feelings, sensations. Visual porn seems to forget that men and women have more erogenous zones than just the requisite boobs/vag/penis/bum.

      Not to say that written erotica can’t be just as problematic and mysogynist. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started reading a story and someone refers to one of the women as a slut or something and I just end up going ‘Ugh.. well, next story then’.

    • “It’s definitely part of why I prefer written erotica to to visual porn”

      You and a lot of women.

      Maybe men and women are just different. A lot of studies show that the average men is more aroused by visual images than the average women.

  14. Katy Ashley says:

    So as someone who has worked in marketing and is an ABA therapist, I find it funny that people keep saying ” that is just what het males are into” The porn industry spends a lot of time and energy and money marketing these things as “what you are into.” As a adolescent they show you less hardcore versions and than they bombard you with images into you adulthood images and words designed to not only sell you a product and get you addicted also to slowly desensitize you.

    They have the perfect product for it, it has it’s own built in reinforcement system. They are quit aware of this conditioned behavior response. Sorry guys you are just easier susceptible to it because of your easier orgasm.

    I agree with Kissie I think that porn should be rethought. For humans with senses and caring attitudes. Something that shows a dude how to seduce a chick with out a quick gesture towards her “hot zones” would be awesome.

    Alright I am done now. As you were…

    • Clarence says:

      Yes, Katy:
      And next you’ll be telling us that if it wasn’t for this conditioning process men would be into 50 year old women with double chins and hairy lips.

      Sorry, I’m a male. I’ve seen tons more “normative” porn than you could believe. And I don’t like most of it. Seems like the conditioning process has failed then or is only partially successful. But heaven forbid we think there might be some things about porn that will never change as long as het males are the main consumers..

    • April says:

      Clarence, are you saying that you believe that there’s little or no chance that porn can, and does, desensitize and condition men in a significant way? I don’t have data, but I’m likely to believe that it does. Look at what average television watching with commercials does to condition people. I wouldn’t doubt that porn would have the same effect on men, whom we’re all in agreement are the primary and most frequent consumers of porn.

    • Clarence says:

      April:

      I am *hopefully* in the final stages of recovering from a mild case of flu -the symptoms have all been there, but at different times probably because I medicated early and often – so I haven’t commented much the last 3 days.

      But I’ll take a stab at answering your question:

      No, I don’t believe that for the most part porn “conditions” men. After all, that would imply that one could, say, condition men into liking anything, which I think is ridiculous. If the current porn didn’t meet needs and( to at least some extent) desires it wouldn’t sell.

      That being said, while I don’t think porn can really “condition” men, I do think it can spread erroneous information about what male and female sexuality is and should be like in the real world.

      There have been many useful critiques of mainstream porn in this thread for instance. Had I not been so “out of it” esp yesterday I might have brought up some of the same stuff myself. Now , I don’t agree that it is necessarily “degrading” to a woman (let alone ALL women) that there exists “bukakke” porn, or MILF porn or whatever. Long as its consenting adults and no permanent damage is done, I’m fine with just about anything even if it’s a “your kink is not my kink” type of situation. But the industry as currently constituted does indeed have some problematic memes and practices, and it has rightly earned some criticism. I think this is partly financial – there’s so much porn out there that you usually make more money selling by volume than by quality. The total profits from 4 “good enough” 2- minute -sex act- lets -keep it- strictly P-I-V-and-none-of-that-icky-oral-pleasuring-of-the-female films might easily exceed that of one really good or great film that shows gentle lovemaking and real cooperation between partners.

      Perhaps a sex workers union might be a good thing? Because I’m not sure how much this can or will change until the workers themselves, both male and female demand it. I think porn consumers have limited sway in part because many of them would be too ashamed of watching the porn to complain about it, and as for the occasional disgruntled fan the high volumes mitigate the affect of the loss of their business.

    • desipis says:

      After all, that would imply that one could, say, condition men into liking anything, which I think is ridiculous.

      I don’t think it’s as absolute as that. It’s more about taking something men are innately attracted to and creating an artificial subconscious association between it and something they aren’t innately attracted to. For example linking the naked female form with a woman calling herself a slut or a whore, or linking sexual intimacy with violent thrusting. In a sense it would train the brain to expect certain input or events and could create psychological barriers for other forms of sex. This would be in addition to the conscious factors of actively trying to replicate porn.

  15. Katy Ashley says:

    Really I think in a lot of titles and descriptions you can see the degradation it is pretty spelled out!

  16. Katy Ashley says:

    G spot porn for all! lol

  17. David K says:

    *reading*
    …..
    …..anyone feel like looking at some porn now?
    http://www.tinynibbles.com/ Interesting and NSFW feminist sex/porn blog (< pls delete if unwelcome)

    My starting point on pornography / prostitution would be that sex workers are entitled to the same consideration as other workers – a healthy and safe working environment, a living wage, and especially not to be enslaved or indentured by their boss – the same considerations you'd give to any other product or service. I wouldn't have many other general objections, other judgements would be ones of personal taste.

    Can porn be feminist? Well, what most people most of the time mean when they say "porn" – the "mainstream" stuff- certainly isn't, not only is it often misogynist, some of it just tips over into all out misanthropy and is horrible and (I find) very UN-sexy.
    I don't see why you can't make any kind of media product "feminist" but the real debate would have to be around drawing up some kind of "feminist porn" definition or guidelines, such as:

    *the sex workers involved have made a free choice to do the work
    *the work involved is safe, healthy and sane
    *the framing of the product doesn't involve degrading the people in it "slut" "slag" ect.

    and so on….

  18. A.Y. Siu says:

    I think it’s only logical that porn has the potential to be feminist, since the feminist critiques of porn tend to critique the content and style, as opposed to the concept.

    In other words, I rarely if ever see a feminist say “The very fact that an explicit sexual act or physical intimacy between two or more individuals is filmed and then made available to others is antifeminist or degrading to women.”

    If one can point out specific details and approaches that make porn antifeminist now (focused on male orgasm and pleasure, using impossible positions, including insults and apparent non-consensual sex, etc.), it logically follows that feminist porn would not include those things. It would seem a much easier approach for feminists to lead by example producing egalitarian and non-degrading porn that is a turn-on to het men than to beg the mainstream porn industry to change its ways… or to create so-called feminist porn that is designed to turn on women.

    • imnotme says:

      “I think it’s only logical that porn has the potential to be feminist, since the feminist critiques of porn tend to critique the content and style, as opposed to the concept.”

      Definitely! That is some serious and direly needed “modus ponens” on the whole opening question. Thank you.

    • Grant says:

      It’s helpful to give context to a statement you’re trying to parse. Like, when someone asks, “Can porn be feminist?” they might be raising the issue of whether a culture of porn can exist that isn’t degrading to women and if so, what can we do to bring it about, not “Is it possible that a thing can exist with the simultaneous attributes ‘porn’ and ‘feminist’?”. Maybe you’re right and this post is about logical possibility. Or maybe you’re willfully misreading it based on the title and not engaging substantively with the argument.

  19. Grant says:

    I don’t think the question is whether or not we can create a feminist potential can be created in porn, but whether the existing feminist potentials can be emphasized at the expense of the exploiting and particularly the violent aspects. Porn has gone a long way toward disrupting heterosexuality, for instance, with its acceptance and even emphasis on plural sexualities. Gay theaters were safe(r) places for an older generation of gay men to exist, meet and eventually thrive. More radically, it opens a possibility for a new type of sexuality. A lot of the above comments have focused on whether porn distorts natural and normal sexuality or is the natural normal outcome for men’s natural and normal desires. The latter point is silly self-justification for behaviors and practices that aren’t more than fifty years old, but the former misses something as well; the interaction with pornography, as it is practiced today, is both sexual and different from all preceding sexualities. If it is a distortion, it’s also an opening to ways of being sexual that aren’t (so closely) bound to genitals and gender identification. The small examples are already here, those who identify as straight and practice nominally straight sex but have a far more complex porn sexuality (think straight men watching Buck Angel videos), or the boy who posts his pictures on a message board for an assumed consumption by straight girls and finds affirmation from genders he wasn’t imagining when he took the picture. In both of these (relatively common) cases, we see that whatever thing remains to be called straight, porn has helped make that name a misnomer.

    The other important difference is the removal of bodies. When someone complains that we’re losing our pure organic sexuality to fantasy images, I guess I don’t understand. All our sexualities involve images and fantasy to some degree. The body is, or has been, what allows us to produce those images and act upon them, but porn can put something else in place of the mere bodies. This isn’t to suggest a post-physical sexuality is attractive or even particularly possible but there are serious problems in our conception of gender and sexuality that are tied to our misunderstanding of “what a body can do”. Genitals tend to reconfirm binary genders, penetration still conjures control and ownership, fluids haven’t escaped their role as “filth”.

    Porn obviously exploits all of these, to some degree or another but a revolution of gender roles isn’t an ideology that can be insisted upon or theorized into existence. It requires the ways of things to exhaust themselves, the “normal, natural” sexualities to seek out experiments that fail and become destructive (in the productive, positive sense). Far more pressing than the reception of pornography, rooted as it is in desire and impossible to dictate because of it, is the practice of those who are “captured” in a literal sense by the pictures and the gaze. The capitalist exploitation of workers has nothing on the mindfuckery of a professional who lives under a lens, abstracting from yourself into an object of an imagined eye. Porn, if we’re talking about the billion dollar industry, only works if it infects and pervades the “actor”, until the role metastasizes. The point is that we can’t alter this situation if we identify this exploitation with porn. When someone suggests that male heterosexual desire for porn makes it somehow unalterable, they’re wrong, but they’re pointing to the inertia of our collective sexuality; it is very very hard to change porn and impossible (for the time being) to get rid of it. The boy I mentioned above can be an alternative mode. It can be self-produced, exploited possibly by a cultural sexuality but liberated from many of the most dangerous currents of professional porn production. In our contemporary comment culture, the plurality of spectators frustrates our self-destructive attempt to define the receiver of the images and fashion ourselves into a stable object of their desire. More importantly, we can see a further revolution of the disruption allowed by public acknowledgement of homosexuality in the identification of ones gender with ones desires. There is a rapidly growing awareness in our culture that defining “gay” by anything other than gender similarity between sex partners (i.e. that anal play between a man and a woman might indicate homosexuality is ridiculous today, compared to ten or fifteen years ago). With our boy on the message board, even this notion can be overturned, as he enters into thousands of sexual encounters, in a way, with other sexualities.

    The point, I think, is that the pornographic practice and the gaze of the camera are terribly invasive, but while they reinforce degradation in some areas, they are also capable of targeting the gender and sexuality norms that underpin that degradation. It doesn’t seem possible, at this point, to separate the two strains, but the disruptive potential is something to celebrate.

    • Kissie Catastrophe says:

      I need more time and sleep to give this a proper response. So for now, I’ll say this: Awesome. Yes.

      So what next?

  20. DK says:

    I’m always a little sceptical about the whole idea of porn being used as sex education, rather than it being kept purely as sexual fantasy, clearly designated as for entertainment only. To me it seems a bit like trying to make action movie car chases better at teaching driver safety.

    Of course people do mix up fantasy with reality, some people are stuck with porn as their only sex ed, and it’s easy to see how problematic it can be when porn’s worst habits influence sexual behaviour. I’d question whether more feminist and educational pornography would appeal to that heterosexual male market though. After all, non-mainstream porn that’s better at depicting mutual pleasure already exists, it just doesn’t seem to sell like the “fast food” porn churned out by the industry. I think it’s fair to say that most people look for porn that turns them on, not for something that’ll educate them. To me sex education outside of porn, but covering the topic of pornography and dispelling some of its myths (for example: makelovenotporn.com), seems more likely to improve things.

    Personally I don’t think that watching porn — even mainstream porn with all its problematic elements — necessarily turns someone into a misogynist or damages their ability to have a successful relationship. Sexual fantasies don’t always make sense, or match up with your personal world view, or determine your treatment of other people. I think it’s possible to have an anti-sexist view, but still have sexual fantasies which don’t meet that standard.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot that’s clearly sexist and troubling in porn, things that should be questioned and challenged. A bit of a trivial example really, but I find it telling that porn featuring a dominant woman is clearly marked as a niche fetish product, while porn with aggressively dominant male behaviour doesn’t need any special label: it’s treated as entirely mainstream and normal.

  21. Kissie Catastrophe says:

    I would just like to point out that I’m happy to see some website suggestions in this comments section that indicate some hope for porn and feminism coexisting peacefully and will be looking into them as soon as time allows.

    In the meantime, I’d like to ask: are any of you familiar with Tristan Taormino? A glowing review from feministing.com is a good indicator for me: http://feministing.com/2011/01/05/review-tristan-taorminos-expert-guide-to-female-orgasms/

    Just throwing it out there.

  22. April says:

    Here’s an article about internet porn people might be interested in: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/hard-core/8327/

  23. Troll King says:

    Wow, so feminist centric porn = good and hetero male centric porn = bad. Don’t even have to read between the lines to see how much male sexuality is demonized and feard by women. Maybe porn wouldnt be as extreme if women weren’t demonizing men so much. The villification of male sexuality has a long and dark history in the west, it’s related to everything from eugenics movements to circumcision being introduced in America(to control mens masturbating habit) to the rape hysteria and pedohysteria promulgated by feminist lobbies.

    So here are some questions from a male rights perspective. How do female rape fantasies play into the ‘misogyny’ found in erotica and porn? What about how female actors make double or more money than male actors? And really how are some of the sex acts, like facials, hateful towards women? Some women like it. And to the posters talking about conditioning men you need to do some research. The kama sutra has been around long before ‘mainstream porn’-which doesn’t make sense anyways because almost all porn sites break it down by category, and even more you all admit to not even watching it- while photography and silent films represented the big break in porn. Yep, facial pics even existed during the civil war. Porn, if you have ever studied anthropology you would know, goes back thousands of years and there isn’t a single position today in porn that can’t be found in historical artworks, like bath houses in ancient Rome….

    Maybe you just are doing it wrong? Really though, who the hell are you feminists to decide what is or isn’t acceptable sex between other people in their own homes? You feminists really sound too much like the conservative rightwingers who want to legislate what can and can’t be done in others bedrooms. In fact in the 80s you feminists were in cahoots with conservatives, this is how dworkin got some anti porn laws passed and when she wasn’t at the center of the censorship power box she got her own books banned under laws she helped to create…lulz.

    What happens when I point out women that enjoy being degraded? There are several porn stars that star in the more extreme stuff that are the ones requesting it, sasha grey is one. I dont for one moment think porn has any real effect on men, atleast not on their sexuality. If anything it may help men take women off the pedestal and view them as human instead of potential playboy playmates that are all airbrushed and posed to create the idea of women and their bodies as being elevated above men, pure, special etc. which I think is a good thing. The truth is it happens either through porn or through going through a dozen relationships with women or both. The only problem is that it lowers a womans sexual control over men. I sure as hell won’t put up with half the shit I did in HS from girls because I now know that they aren’t special lil snowflakes. Maybe it’s from porn or maybe it’s from dating 8 girls in a row who all confessed(and a few wanted to act out) about having rape fantasies. That’s messed up and has done more to lower women in my eyes than two girls one cup ever did(srsly, google it lulz). I think this is most womens real problem with porn, it reduces their sexual control over the men in their lives. whether it’s women on oprah being all OMGawds my husband cheated on me with a digital image and his hand or shaming men and calling them porn addicts. Why do all the effort of trying to even have sex with your gf when porn is so much easier?

    • Jim says:

      “What happens when I point out women that enjoy being degraded?”

      TK, a whole conversation on this basic issue is developing aropund BDSM. One blogger to follow on this is Clarisse Thorn. She is not subtle about slamming people who presume to decide what consenting adults should and should not do. It all comes down to consent, and she has no tolerance for sophists who decide in a vacuum that this or that person cannot give consent due to this ior that sophist rationalization.

    • April says:

      You seem to be operating under the assumption that male sexuality = violence, abuse, degradation, etc. Here, we try not to insult men as much as you just have.

      Read the ongoing discussion before you comment with snarky, critical remarks. All of your tired arguments are either entirely unrelated to this post and the discussion in the comments, or they have already been addressed in ways that are nothing like what your comment leads me to believe you assume they are.

      As far as deciding what other people do in their bedrooms, would you please point out a place in the post, or in the comments here, where someone has said that they want consenting adults to stop doing anything with each other? Because I don’t have any desire to tell people what to do in their bedrooms, and I’m fairly certain that the author of this post doesn’t, either. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the vast majority of people who comment here (in good faith, that is, so not including you) don’t give a shit what anyone else does in their bedrooms, either.

      This discussion is about mainstream porn, not about your beef with feminism since its inception.

  24. Snowflakes? Seriously? U said snowflakes? says:

    We aren’t asking for anything to be taken away we are discussing having a market that is marketed towards women, since it is unavailable. If you don’t want to be nice to your girlfriends that is your choice. No one here really cares! I wasn’t stating that since the inception of pornography, nor porn by itself, is conditioning responses. The Japanese also painted amazing portraits of the prostitutes. I am talking about the market money makers out there right now producing low quality unthoughtful adult films. I am sorry you are so angry that by us saying we would like to see something different out there you take such offense. That to me seems a more conservative view or one sided view.

    to me personally sex is a wonderful experience whether it be between me and five people or just one. My beef isn’t about being cummed on in the face really. I just need to be respected. I don’t really care if someone cums on someones face or has anal sex, ect.

    its all taboo which i guess is why people keep bringing it all up. taboo is good. i just want to see something else, without all the silly fake directors cuts jizz fest gender role nonsense that is all. if you don’t mind how it is now, well good for you! Go google “donkey punch gang bang garage whore fuck!” The market is open!

    Also I have watched a lot of porn. Funny enough a lot with the author of this blog. we also watched a lot with other people both male and female and had open non judgmental discussions.

    Secondly I can’t stand Oprah. If i ever do feel like spending my days with a bottle of Prozac and a can of mountain dew in each hand saying “you go girl” I won’t really consider myself a feminist or much of anything but a cog in the wheel of mass marketing.

  25. Snowflakes? Seriously? U said snowflakes? says:

    Wait? Did you just say you watch porn to control your partner? based off your assumption that women’s only power over a man is sex.

    From my understanding of the way relationships work women and men using sex as power in a relationship equate’s sexual abuse? doesn’t it? I guess if that is the type of intimacy you are willing to accept than you shouldn’t assume other’s do. I am really sorry if that is your experience with women.

    I am also frustrated with people equating lack of degradation feminist porn to ” missionary style kissing under a blanket” to me that sounds way more like Amish porn. hey is there Amish porn? ( someone should link that because this conversation is getting that nonconstructive!) I only speak for myself here but I really don’t think feminist are all a bunch of prudes. Sure there are conservative feminists and also more open minded ones such as the author of this blog.

  26. KSE says:

    Man, this, just this.

    it’s related to everything from eugenics movements to circumcision being introduced in America(to control mens masturbating habit) to the rape hysteria and pedohysteria promulgated by feminist lobbies.

    You will notice that I have done you all the favor of bolding the especially stupid and/or insane parts of that sentence.

    Anyway back on topic – I would say there’s a sizable amount of exactly the sort of porn you describe out there. Not necessarily explicitly “feminist” but sex-positive, diverse, and pro-female. The name Annie Sprinkle leaps to mind, Taste of Latex was about 50% female writers, nerve.com… The question of why that stuff doesn’t succeed the way Girls Gone Wild does is a whole other thing though.

  27. Snowflakes? Seriously? U said snowflakes? says:

    Read about all of BF Skinners studies and learn more about conditioning. The dog study is quit interesting, if anything.

  28. April says:

    I found another article about this very topic on Feministe. I haven’t read it all yet, because my reading queue looks like this (see the tabs above the URL bar): Photobucket

    But it looks promising.

    • Danny says:

      Dang. And I thought my reading queue was bad. Well it actually is I have that many tabs plus an email full of links to articles that I find throughout the day but can’t take the time to read.

    • April says:

      Read further down, and there is a list of a bunch of feminist porn sites.

Comments are closed.