Wednesday, March 30, 2011

art or porn?

Dr. Charlie Glickman, adult sex educator and editor of Good Vibrations Magazine, posed the question this week whether or not black and white makes a sexual image more artistic whereas color makes it porn.

Rhiannon commented to Charlie's post that, in her opinion, "in a black and white photo, the absence of light makes the images–whether it's a basket of fruit or a half naked woman–look a lot more intimate, as though it’s a moment stolen from a pair of lovers rather than a woman standing in front of a possibly horny, sex crazed film crew." I agree with her that black and white pictures tend to have a more intimate feel. But as I commented in my response to Charlie's post, I further think that black and white pictures have a softer, more sensuous quality. When compared to pictures we often see in mainstream porn, which are often shot in harsh or unprofessional lighting—and with digital cameras, which I feel produces an image with a more rigid appearance—black and white pictures tend to have a more subdued quality. Which might give these the intimate, sensuous look that we tend to associate with black and white. And also that artsy look, satisfying our desire for an elevated experience that oscillates between the physical and the intellectual. However, professional lighting in either case will elevate the production value and blur that line.

What stands out to me in the "good" new porn by women that I’m interested in, is not just its progressive content, but the quality of the image, which is of high artistic value even when shot with digital in color. In mass-produced mainstream porn, on the other hand, the picture often becomes sterile.

Friday, March 25, 2011

vulvae galore

Since posting about a sculpture exhibit celebrating the varieties of vulvae which is meant to empower every woman to embrace her vulva as it is, pre- and postpartum (see more on the artist's page here), my reader list has been inundated by other posts with news about vulva celebrations. March is Vulval Health Awareness Month after all. First came a post from the ever so prolific sex blogger Violet Blue reporting that women in Denmark right now are lining up to have pictures taken of their vulvae to capture the diversity (click on link at end of post to see gallery). Writes Blue: "Kvinfo has set up a so-called ‘kussomat’ (Eng: pussy-o-mat) in Copenhagen – and I think that is one well-lit chair." (KVINFO is the Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Ethnicity, with their feature here: En Kusso-hvaffor-noget?).

Then feminist porn maker Erika Lust posted about I'll show you mine, a photo study of women's genitalia accompanied by the women's stories. I'll Show You Mine is published by the Canadian publisher Show Off Books and became available for purchase this month on their site: “The photos in the book demonstrate and celebrate the wonderful diversity of the vulva; the stories illuminate the range of experiences that women have relating to the genitals in a world where mass media and pornography increasingly set the standards for sexuality and the look of all body parts, even our genitals.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CineKink Film Festival to go on tour now

(CineKink) recently featured an interview with CineKink Film Festival founder Lisa Vandever on sex in cinema. CineKink NYC has become a reputable film festival, showcasing sex positive films and videos that celebrate and explore the wide diversity of sexuality. Entries come from a range of filmmakers, from both Hollywood producers to little indie companies. Featured have been among other the sex-positive feminist porn films that I talk about in my new porn book, by for instance Erika Lust, Jennifer Lyon Bell, Eva Midgley, and most recently Louise Lush (aka Ms. Naughty) earlier this month at the 8th annual festival.

CineKink will now go on tour across the United States throughout the rest of the year, making at least five stops. Last year the tour stopped in Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Portland, and Las Vegas.

Visit CineKink for information on how to get the festival to a theater near you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

testing mpaa's arbitrary rating standards

"- as more and more of our lives are conducted in corporate spaces, understanding who’s permitted to speak (or show movies, or conduct business) and who is silenced is an issue of growing importance." (Comstock)

Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl (Real People, Real Life, Real Sex series)Tony Comstock of Comstock Films whose "Real People, Real Life, Real Sex" series is a combination of documentary and hardcore where real couples are invited to be interviewed about their relationship and feelings for each other and their sexual life, and to have sex for the camera, has launched a campaign to test the MPAA's rating standards with the series' seventh installment, Brett and Melanie: Boi meets girl, which just came out on DVD.

Explains Comstock on the campaign's Kickstarter page: "We're undertaking this project because kerfuffles over ratings generate a lot of anger and publicity, but they don't seem to leave anyone any better informed about the rating process, and we'd like to change that. By taking Brett and Melanie through the MPAA process, we'll be able show just what sort of alterations were required to achieve various ratings."

It seems a worthy campaign. To find out more about it, see Comstock's blog post here and here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"rock the red pump" with safe sex porn

The Red Pump ProjectYou may have noticed my "Rock the Red Pump" badge in the header of this site for a while now, leading up to today's National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). NWGHAAD is a nationwide initiative to raise awareness about the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls, encouraging ladies to take action. Leading up to NWGHAAD, bloggers were encouraged to participate in the annual "Rock the Red Pump" campaign by adding a badge to their sites to help build awareness.

New porn makers are committed to safer sax and STD & HIV/AIDS testing in the industry, promoting the use of condom. Many feature it in their porn films as well, in a way that makes using condoms look sexy. Check out Matinee (2009) for instance, by Jennifer Lyon Bell's Blue Artichoke Films (for more, see my LOVE, SEX, AND FAMILY Amazon Shop under "European Adult Sex Films").

Condom use and mandated testing are important initiatives by new porn makers in protecting the health of women and men. The mainstream industry was unregulated until the late 1990s when a string of actresses contracted HIV and filed lawsuits against production companies. As a result, the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) was founded. Since 1998, the nonprofit clinic, supported by the industry, has offered health tests to actors, and producers agreed not to hire those who had not been tested in the last 30 days. When infections were detected, the clinic would investigate their sources and coordinate halts in filming, tracking down actors who had been exposed to get tested.

However, last December the AIM clinic closed after clashing with county health officials (see New York Times article about this closing here). AIM reopened in February under a new name and as a profit-making clinic, now under the oversight of the California Medical Association. STDs, however, remain rampant in the industry. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, it is diagnosed in a quarter of all performers each year and rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea infection are seven times higher than those in the general population.

Los Angeles city lawmakers have voted unanimously to draft an ordinance that would require condoms to be used on the set of every pornographic movie made here, but mainstream porn producers oppose this, arguing that sales would drop and that regulations are difficult to enforce. New porn makers like Jennifer Lyon Bell can show the industry the way on how to ensure safe sex on the set, sexily modeling the use of condoms.

Monday, March 7, 2011

porn I don't like

When I was researching porn for my new porn by women book while on sabbatical in Oslo, Norway, a journalist that interviewed me about my work described the kind of porn I write about as "gourmet." In another newspaper, it was defined as "humanistic." These labels are somewhat fitting, because I don't like trashy fast food porn or discriminating and violent porn. I like porn that stands out for its high cinematic quality and for its progressive content, portraying women and men respectfully and on equal terms.

However, at an event where I presented porn clips at a theater in downtown Oslo in order to initiate discussion about how we qualify good porn as opposed to bad porn, a woman came up to me after the discussion, pointing out how soft the porn I like is compared to the one she gets turned on by; porn where red monsters bite into women. During the discussion, the therapeutic potential of fetishistic and extreme porn had been brought up as well; how some extreme porn can provide release for the user’s individual tensions based on psychological histories and cultural taboos, and thus function as a regulated space within which to explore and process these instead of turning to actual physical violence. 

In the case of the porn featuring red monsters biting into women, it was animated, so the issue of real people being physically violated is avoided. But still; it's not showing consensual sex. Sure, it can provide an outlet, but as Ms. Naughty (feminist sex blogger and producer of sex positive porn aimed at women) writes in her recent post, "Let's Talk About Extreme Porn," while one can "acknowledge that negativity may just be someone’s fantasy ... surely we should be able to ask: what the hell is going on if you need hatred to get off?" Ms. Naughty asserts that she is not opposed to BDSM, rough sex, power play, and other kink acted out consensually, which I second, but that the problem is when the context is missing, presenting you with the extreme sex acts without making it clear that the performers are willing participants.

Ms. Naughty maintains that she does not think being sex positive and tolerant should mean that she blithely accepts that all porn is fine. I agree. I also don't accept the porn she refers to in her post. As she writes, "it seems reasonable to be asking questions about bad porn and extreme porn. We should be talking about what it means and how it effects us." 

Like Ms. Naughty, I don't think censorship is the solution. On the contrary, I think the kind of new porn by women that I write about in my book has the potential to counterbalance bad and extreme porn, and therefore I promote it.

But also like Ms. Naughty, I think comprehensive education about the topic is needed to equip people and youth in particular with the analytical tools to read porn. In my research, I've developed criteria that can be used to judge quality in porn, which I present in my book. Yet obviously something more is needed. We need to talk about it publicly and privately, and we need to include teenagers in the discussion.
Update: For a preview of personally developed criteria for how to evaluate quality in porn, check out these links for criteria to define quality in terms of content and style, included in the first part of "my very brief guide to feminist porn," originally published at Good Vibrations Magazine. 

Also, I write more about porn I do like and porn I don't like in my post about Smut City.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

contribute to research on women and porn

As a follow-up to Lady Porn Day, a week-long project encouraging women to talk about porn and masturbation to fight lingering taboos and celebrate our sexualities, I encourage you to contribute to a couple scholarly research projects on the uses of porn.
Firstly, there's a major international research project conducted by three British scholars who are well-established in this field. Their project is "concerned with the everyday uses of pornography, and how the people who use it feel it fits into their lives. Pornography is of course a highly topical issue, subject to many opposing views and ‘strong opinions’. And we are not saying that there are no moral or political issues.  But we are saying that the voices of users and enjoyers have been swamped.  In fact, there is very little research that engages with the users of pornography, asking how, when and why they turn to it." To complete their questionnaire, click here.
A graduate student in psychology at the University of Oregon is focusing specifically on women's experiences with sexually explicit material in her research. To qualify for participation, you must be a woman, at least 18, and live in the United States. To take her online survey, please click here

Both surveys are anonymous, though you have the option of leaving your e-mail for follow-up questions.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...