The case for all porn to be feminist porn


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BY: BROOKLYN PINHEIRO

If you’re a woman who’s ever had sex with a man and it ended when he came, without any further effort towards your orgasm, you have experienced sex in the same way as every women I’ve ever known. It shouldn’t come as a shock considering the largest, and often first, education about sex is through mainstream porn, which often centres around male pleasure, and sex as something done to women instead of with them. Feminist porn aims to change that.

The very idea that the term feminist porn could be viewed as an oxymoron speaks volumes to the necessity of it. It is only seen as contradictory due to the fact that mainstream porn is portrayed through a male gaze for a male audience. Women and minority groups are seen as pleasure points to be used and fetishized instead of represented through their own agency. 

 Importance is placed on respect and fair working conditions for the actors. Feminist porn embraces all sorts of sexual preferences and can range from mild to edgy. It is intended to appeal to any audience, including straight cis males. Creating feminist porn aims to broaden what’s available in the industry by showing all kinds of sex.

While all of this sounds great, Carlyle Jansen, founder of Good For Her sex store in Toronto, has found that labeling porn as feminist is actually hindering to its inclusiveness. Jansen is also the founder of Toronto International Porn Festival, previously named Feminist Porn Awards (FPA). The FPAs had their last year in 2015 when they were highly criticized for not being as inclusive as feminists would expect it to be. In response to the nominations that year, feminist writer Kitty Stryker wrote in a blog post that “we can and should do better, both for the sake of intersectional feminism, and for the sake of the development and blossoming of ethical pornography.”

The organization took a year off to re-evaluate and decided that it would be beneficial to re-brand themselves by removing the word feminist in hopes of reaching a wider audience, as well as receiving more submissions.  “The word feminist is very loaded and we were finding a lot of people didn’t feel like they could submit to the awards because they weren’t a certain kind of person,” said Jansen. “People didn’t come because they didn’t feel like it was a festival that would appeal to them. Especially if they had had negative experiences with the word feminist.”

The values and criteria for the films being screened are the same, they still must be diverse and be made with ethical practices. By re-branding, the Toronto International Porn Festival is hoping to reach an audience that may have only been subject to mainstream porn. Removing the word feminist gets rid of the idea that feminist porn is a separate community, therefore normalizing the standards which they uphold across the industry.

Throughout different factions of feminism, opinions on porn have varied. Anti-porn feminists want it banned because they view it as normalizing violence against women due to the fact that 90 per cent of top-watched porn scenes depict verbal or physical aggression towards women. They are not incorrect in finding this objection, but banning porn isn’t the answer – changing porn is. Feminists who aim to create porn that accurately and respectfully showcases sex that is diverse are harnessing an important educational tool by doing so. 

“It’s not that the sex acts in mainstream porn don’t happen, but they’re not the only acts that happen,” said Caitlin Roberts, founder of  Spit, an alternative porn collaborative. And acts of particularly rough sex, which are common in mainstream porn, don’t happen without conversation. In order to show legitimate desires of dominant and submissive sex without reinforcing stereotypes, feminist porn often includes the negotiation that would happen in real life relationships, partly in order to educate what sexual relationships can look like. If that scene isn’t present in the film, you can often find the enthusiastic consent of the actors as part of the company’s mandate. 

At Spit, what makes their porn feminist is that the power is with the actors – they get to decide what they are comfortable doing and with whom. Malcolm Lovejoy sat across from a woman he just met at Green Beanery chatting about life over a couple of coffees. Spit did a good job matching the pair together and because they genuinely liked each other they agreed to do a shoot together. They set a date and showed up to the studio where the discussion began on what they would like to do on film. She’s comfortable with spanking but doesn’t want her neck grabbed, and Lovejoy enthusiastically agrees. “In porn it’s all about communication,” said Lovejoy, “I don’t just show up on set and do whatever I wan’t to women.”

Lovejoy had a 20 year music career in Toronto before branching off into porn. He found that the culture surrounding rap music wasn’t suited to best share the messages about sex that he wanted to share, and knew that the porn industry would give him that opportunity. “I got into porn to evolve sexuality,” said Lovejoy. “The whole conversation around sex is distorted and dysfunctional because no one wants to ask and no one wants to tell, but then everyone’s having sex or wanting to have sex.”

The feminist porn industry gives Lovejoy the ability to educate and subvert stereotypes often found in mainstream porn through the type of sex he chooses to showcase. His porn centres around equality between the actors and places a lot of importance on female pleasure, which is so often overlooked in mainstream porn. Through showing that sex can still be hot when women have agency and are respected, Lovejoy hopes that he can change ideas of sex that focuses on male pleasure first. “Men can watch my porn and get turned on by it and it not reinforce a bunch of terrible stereotypes.”

Being perceived as a black man while being a feminist porn actor requires the dismantling of even more stereotypes than he realized. He describes himself as a unicorn because of the lack of feminist black actors in the industry, and through his work he counters the unfortunate assumptions that would be made about him. “Certain people don’t call me because I’m a black guy and certain people do call me because I’m a black guy. And then other people call me because I’m Malcolm Lovejoy and they just need a guy. Those are the people who I like best in porn.”

Through his mandate to only produce ethical porn, Lovejoy has had to turn away work from companies whose ethics don’t align with his own. Respect for the people involved, whether that means the language being used or how the sex acts taking place are decided upon, has to be of importance to the company he’s working for. “It can be a wild medium but it has to be genuine to people who want to do it.”

Porn is a form of media and like any form of media it seeps into everyday life. The same way models affect perceptions of what is beautiful, porn affects ideas of what is sex. If this media perpetuates ideas of male dominance and ignores the real desires of the vast diversity of people then it can have repercussions in sexual relationships. Porn that upholds feminist values, even if it’s not labelled as such, is needed to allow people to explore and embrace their sexuality through realistic depictions of the wide spectrum of what sex is.

“The biggest question I get [asked] at the store is ‘am I normal?’” said Jansen. “Feminist porn helps people to feel validated.