At first, the concept of feminist pornography may seem contradictory. The image most people have of porn consists of sketchy film sets where naïve women with surgically enhanced bodies are degraded, exploited, and coerced into performing sexual acts on camera by greedy men. It seems to counteract feminism’s core values of equality and empowerment for oppressed groups. Sex educator and feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino would beg to disagree with that sentiment.

Tristan Taormino is considered a pioneer in the feminist pornography movement. She is currently an exclusive director for the adult entertainment powerhouse (and male dominated) company Vivid Entertainment and a coveted role for anyone in pornography. “Feminist pornographers are committed to gender equality and social justice,” she explains in a recent online interview with Cosmopolitan. “Feminist porn is ethically produced porn…..Feminist porn explores ideas about desire, beauty, pleasure, and power through alternative representations, aesthetics, and filmmaking styles. Feminist porn seeks to empower the performers who make it and the people who watch it.”  According to Taormino, it is about reclaiming an industry that perpetuates the beliefs that individuals should only look, behave, or be treated one way in sexual encounters. 

It starts with the performers themselves. When most people think of women in porn the image of a skinny, blonde, white, heterosexual woman with implants comes to mind. While women who fit that physical description do perform in feminist porn, performers are of diverse ethnic backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, genders, and body types. The aim is to portray a variety of people enjoying themselves sexually in a manner that is not degrading or stereotypical.  Black women aren’t referred to as “ebony asses,” and Latinas aren’t stereotypically cast as maids. Trans individuals aren’t labeled with offensive slurs. Feminist porn is visually appealing without being intellectually offensive. 

Not only do these films portray a larger range of identities, but the directors also prioritize treating their performers with respect. “performers are paid a fair wage,” Taormino explains, “and they are treated with care and respect; their consent, safety, and well-being are critical, and what they bring to the production is valued.” Scenes are negotiated in detail and receive explicit consent from all parties before they are shot. Safe words, which allow the performer to stop and take a break if they feel uncomfortable, are established and respected. The performers dictate what they want to wear and with whom they will shoot. Safer sex barriers are negotiated and erotically incorporated into scenes, if the performer chooses to do so. When the performers are happier, some believe the quality of the work is better. Viewers are watching people truly enjoy themselves and that is what, some may argue, makes feminist porn a high caliber art form.

Does all this sound way too good to be true? It’s not, but quality work does come at a monetary cost. With all the free porn on the internet why should you shell out money for feminist titles? Videos and images on “free” porn sites are often uploaded without the consent of the producers. Some photographs and videos are even shot and/or uploaded without the consent of the subjects involved (which, in the case of revenge porn, is legal in 48 states). “What most people don’t realize is that most so-called ‘free’ porn on the internet is not really free,” Taormino agrees, “it’s blatant copyright infringement illegally uploaded on tube and bit torrent sites.” Ethically made porn that represents a multitude of identities can only stick around if people financially support it.

So, are you curious to see feminist pornography in action? Tristan Taormino’s official website offers all of her feminist porn films and also features links to purchase her erotica and guidebooks.

Photo via Gawker

Tagged in: vivid entertainment, tristan taormino, sex positive, pornography, feminist pornography, cosmopolitan   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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