po32jev5gc1dgIn my last post I looked at the ways in which pornography has the potential to negatively impact people on both a societal and sexual level. How it can influence our perception of sex, work to encourage sexual deviance and misogynistic attitudes, and how it is seen by some as having the capacity to enforce the idea of women as objects, adding to insecurities and expectations of female bodies and shaping what we consider ‘normal’ sexual encounters. The downsides may initially seem endless and even begs the question of whether there is anything remotely positive to be said about pornography. It is a question worth asking however, and if we look at the rising numbers of female produced and directed porn we must consider that there has to be something that could commend it to us. I now want to consider the other side of pornography–how it could be utilised as a tool for female empowerment and sexual liberation–and to briefly explore the women who are helping make this possible.

For starters, enjoying pornography and holding feminist values need not be mutually exclusive. Indeed, the pornography boom of the late 1960s/early 1970s saw a lot of positive reception from women who said it inspired their partners to try new things and help them achieve orgasm–something which in itself had been relatively unexplored until the 1950s. Freudian and scientific studies had always maintained that penetrative sex was the only means of achieving a female orgasm, before later feminist writers such as Simone de Beauvoir and Ane Koedt’s The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm opened up the discussion around female pleasure. Pornography was seen by some as the next step in demonstrating how female climax could be achieved and thus was, in a manner, in the service of women. However, the problem that still exists is, of course, the predominance of porn that is not female-friendly, and the apparent tension between perhaps wanting to explore porn but feeling excluded from or opposed to its mainstream examples.

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. Photo: Venturelli/2016 Venturelli

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. Photo:
Venturelli/2016 Venturelli

When we think of pornography the image that tends to spring to mind is one of a grainy, poorly-angled and somewhat exaggerated or awkward sexual encounter–and usually one that lays emphasis on the male rather than female gaze. This is, however, a very generalising view of porn and it is interesting how many female-friendly sites and videos can be found once you begin to dig below the mainstream. I hadn’t even heard of female-friendly porn until a couple of years ago, before that I had never really considered how much women had been fighting to reshape the pornography industry to include the female perspective. Even Susan Sarandon has expressed an interest in producing female-friendly porn once she’s thrown in the towel with acting, though she’s said she hasn’t actually watched enough to know what the real issues are.

So how exactly is female-friendly porn different? There isn’t really a singular example of the form it takes, as of course female desire and sexuality couldn’t be made to fit into a singular category. Much female-produced porn lays its emphasis on the emotional side of sex–allowing a relationship and narrative to develop alongside the physical act itself. This is generally termed ‘erotica’ and a good example would be Bree Mills with her all-female company, Girlsway. Mills tries to use only real lesbian and bisexual girls in order to give a more truthful portrayal of a lesbian relationship. Though the main viewers of pornography are of course predominantly men, Mills centres her works on the psychological side of sex as she says that’s what is important for a lot of women–and is something that isn’t generally explored in the mainstream of porn. On the other end of the spectrum is someone like Joanna Angel with a more hardcore fetishistic site Burning Angel. There’s a host of other examples who fill in the space between these two examples–and when you start to realise how many categories and subcategories there are you also begin to see that there are no real rules on what porn has to do.

The important thing is the aim of these directors to transform the female figure from object to agent. Through this they are assisting women to explore their sexuality and define it for themselves, giving them an alternative to the standard, male-oriented options. Generally these films aim to offer viewers more than the stereotypical, one-dimensional figures of mainstream porn and thus attempting to present more realistic depictions of sex. A good example is Puzzy Power, a Danish film company established in 1997 which was the first and only mainstream company to produce hardcore pornographic films. It became renowned for showing women’s sexual subjectivity while also illustrating their struggles, confronting culturally imposed sanctions that regulate women’s sexual behavior and tackling the taboo of female desire.

It is strange yet undeniable however, that women are continually seen as the victim when it comes to porn–the ones who lose out–when the reality is that women are making huge inroads in the industry, opening it out as a site dedicated as much to female as to male pleasure. The point of this isn’t to give readers a list of porn sites but simply to show that the industry is wider than one may originally think–there are still plenty of girls who feel they cannot explore this side of the internet because we’re told it’s not really what girls do. It’s important to know that there are people who want to create things for the benefit and pleasure of girls and that one’s sexuality should and can be explored–if only you knew where to look.

-Scarlett Evans
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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