The rise of feminist pornography

Take a look at the ladies revitalising the porn industry to make it more inclusive and empowering for women

Can porn ever be considered feminist?

Some feminists believe that porn is degrading to women for a multitude of reasons. This is often because they view pornography as being primarily created for the male gaze with little thought for the pleasure of women. For example, the clitoris does not always factor as being particularly important in mainstream pornography. Moreover, some anti porn activists argue that The nature of pornography as a multi million dollar industry also makes some people uncomfortable as they may believe that this automatically commodifies sex and the female body.

The image of the bleach blonde Pornstar with beachball breasts is still what comes to mind for many people when they imagine what a pornstar actress looks like. This is an automatically jarring image for many women, who may believe that pornography undermines natural body standards and portrays unrealistic sexual intercourse. Feminist Journalist Caitlin Moran humorously lamented in her memoir How to be a Woman the lack of pornography that depicted emotion or genuine lust. This sense of falseness appears to be an issue for many women. According to a study conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine, 4 out of 5 women believe that female porn stars fake their orgasms. It is therefore no wonder that many women feel somewhat separated from porn, and believe that its is something that isn’t for them.

Moreover, many Feminists argue that pornography has wide spreading consequences for maintaining a misogynist and unequal society. Prominent anti pornography Campaigner Gail Dines argue that pornography is negatively shaping the sexualities of young boys and men. Dines argues that young men are becoming desensitised to sexual content due to the prevalent nature of modern pornography in the digital age. She argues that this is leading them to seek out more extreme content to satisfy their desires. Dines believes that this can lead to them ultimately carrying out acts of violence against women.

I must say that I do not completely agree with these arguments. Pornography is increasingly being made with the female gaze in mind, with more women than ever before viewing pornography on a regular basis. 55% of British women watch porn at least once a week. Award winning female porn Directors such as Erika Lust are helping to shape a new landscape of pornography that more accurately reflects female desires and fantasies. Moreover, increasingly both male and female pornographers are creating films that pay close attention to the clitoral orgasm. As for the supposed submissiveness of female sexuality. Well, anyone who wants to argue this point should look at the large number of men searching for dominatrixes and pegging videos. It is clear that there are many men out there who enjoy the thought of women playing an active and assertive role within the bedroom.

Pornography is indeed big business for some larger companies, but this does not necessarily take away from the creativity and talent of those in the porn industry. As Brooke Kinsella argues in her book The Sex Myth, the food industry is also big business but this does not take away from our pure enjoyment of a good meal. Moreover, the argument for pornography as a big, unethical business is fairly flawed. Most of the major internet porn sites enforce extremely rigid ethical working standards, employing rigorous health and safety measures. It is also one of the very few industries where female employees get paid more than their male colleagues. The big industry argument also ignores the growing prevalence and popularity of amateur porn websites, which star actors who appear to be creating their films for the pure love of it.

The pornstar bimbo image is fairly outdated. Feminists who rely on these stereotypes need to log on and do some research (they might just like it). There are many intelligent women with various body shapes and individual styles working within the porn industry. Unlike the fashion industry, pornography is remarkably inclusive of diverse women. There is a niche for plus sized girls, hairier girls and tattooed girls, just to name a few. It is cheering that men aren’t just interested in super toned 21 year old girls. There appears to be a huge appetite out there for older women, the most notorious of which is Nina Hartley, who appears to grow in popularity as she matures. Therefore it could be argued that pornography is the perfect environment for young men to learn about the diversity of female beauty. After all, would we really want teenage boys to see lingerie adverts as the basis of what a woman’s body looks like? Many women make the active decision to pursue a career in pornography which they view to be an enjoyable profession. Many porn films begin or end with a discussion or interview with the starring actress, which automatically humanises her. I’ve yet to see a hollywood blockbuster which begins with the leading actress discussing her opinions on the filming process.

The unrealistic nature of some pornography is not automatically testament to its degrading of female sexuality. It is at the end of the day, like many other mediums, a form of entertainment. The problem is that because it is a medium that deals with the most intimate part of our lives, people often hold it to higher standards of questioning. I have watched The Only Way is Essex multiple times. I must say that is the most unrealistic reality TV Show that I have ever seen and it is bizarrely and tediously scripted in a way that is only vaguely reminiscent of the interactions between friends. However, I don’t lie awake worrying that by watching The Only Way is Essex, people will begin to talk to each other in wooden stilted tones. Furthermore, the unrealistic argument also misses the point that pornography is often pure fantasy and escapism and therefore does not seek to represent realistic sex any more than The Lord of the Rings seeks to represent a realistic cross country walking trip. Just about every scenario, fantasy and situation perceivable out there which is fairly cheering. Clearly the human sexual imagination is incredibly creative and versatile, which should be celebrated. In a marvelous 2013 debate against Germaine Greer, British female porn Director Anna Arrowsmith compared the complaint that porn is unrealistic to complaining that comedy films give an unrealistic portrayal of the world by showing it to be far funnier than it actually is.

The argument that watching pornography can make a man violent is frankly as unconvincing to me as the argument that listening to Marilyn Manson can lead to a teenager shooting their classmates. This is a fairly lazy argument, backed up by very little evidence, which ignores a multitude of psychological and sociological factors that contribute towards violence. The assumption that pornography makes men violent is at best misguided and at worst highly offensive. It is incredibly offensive towards ordinary, respectful men, who also happen to like watching a bit of blue, who are basically being told that they are not in control of their own decisions or emotions which are instead at the command of the porn industry. The pornography industry as violent misogyny machine argument also assumes that most pornography is of a violent, aggressive nature, which is simply not the case. This type of moral panic is as old as time and should be taken with a large pinch of salt. In the 1980s, Mary Whitehouse fussed and fretted about the social impact of sex scenes and swear words on the telly but the world has yet to implode under a tidal wave of knickers and cock gags.

It is important to support ethical porn companies that promote the best interests of both men and women. According to Fair Trade Feminist Pornography Director Pandora Blake, you should treat how you consume your pornography much the way you consume your food and buy your clothing. For example, it is very important to buy free range eggs and to wear clothing that hasn’t been sewn in a sweatshop. Of course there will be porn companies out there that exploit women, just as there will be porn companies out there that depict violent or unethical content. However, this is not representative of the industry as a whole and the best thing we can do is to educate ourselves on issues within the industry and open up healthy, constructive discussion. I personally would argue that pornography is an excellent way for a woman to explore her sexuality and find out what it is that she likes. To have knowledge and understanding of her sexuality is incredibly empowering for a woman and can lead to a healthy and balanced relationship with her partner. Therefore, I would conclude that to watch pornography is indeed a feminist act.     


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