Wednesday, June 13, 2012

is queer more feminist?

Erotic filmmaker Louise Lush aka Ms. Naughty, a former librarian turned webmistress behind the largest domain network of porn aimed at straight women, has published a comprehensive article on feminist porn. The article covers the history and ethics of feminist porn and its various definitions and facets in terms of content and style. The article concludes with some thoughts on the future of feminist porn, including its financial challenges and whether it will continue to be known as "feminist porn:"
What happens next with feminist porn is anyone's guess. It's growing in popularity and influence, with more major porn studios beginning to take notice of the trend, but porn is at something of a crossroads at present, with declining revenues thanks to piracy and flailing world economies. Most feminist porn productions are independent, created on shoestring budgets and without major distribution outlets. Clearly, profit margins are a factor in the continuing growth of this kind of porn.

Whether it continues to be known as "feminist porn" is another question. The moniker is useful but it excludes other alternative porn filmmakers who are following similar paths yet do not identify as feminist.

It may also seem to exclude male viewers, even though this is not actually the case. No doubt there are plenty of male porn viewers who are also seeking more positive and inclusive representations of sex, yet the movement's inherent female-oriented focus could be seen as a barrier. Similarly, "feminist porn" is increasingly equated with queer porn, as many queer companies and producers proudly use the phrase. In the same way that the words "porn for women" came to be associated with flowers and softcore sex, "feminist porn" could become closely tied to queer content and perhaps lose its inclusiveness.

Of course, labels don't necessarily matter in the larger scheme of things. What is more important is a desire for change. In the last ten years, pornography has become ubiquitous and the associated moral panics that accompany it are becoming larger. In a political landscape which still seeks to censor speech, representations of sex that are positive, inclusive and respectful are increasingly important. Feminist porn and the ethical and political vision behind it show that depictions of explicit sex are not inherently evil or morally corrupting. Indeed, it reveals just how important visual and written representations of sex can be to culture and to society.

Ultimately, feminist porn is a flagship for the future of pornography.

Louise's point about feminist porn being equated with queer porn stood out to me as something I have pondered quite a bit myself. The two of us exchanged a few thoughts about this on Twitter:

The shift here from my "hetero" to her "straight" is interesting. For the rhetorical purpose, it makes good sense. Whereas "hetero" connotes something combining form and containing difference, "straight" has the connotation of rigidity; having no waves or bends. Clearly "straight" doesn't sound progressive. One might also suggest that "queer," as in unconventional and departing from the norm, sounds that much more progressive than "homo," as in being of the same and like.

Referring to "hetero" as "straight" suggests we can't bend out of the way sex has been conceived. Obviously I believe that we can.

Erotica — be it queer, homo, straight, or hetero — is forced to carry the historical weight of traditional patriarchal erotica but with queers per definition already queering the sexual discourse, heteros are bound to feel the burden even more. Yet that doesn't mean that heteros can't free themselves from the old ways of conceiving sex too; it's just that it's going to take quite a bit of unbending from the old shacks to articulate it.

My thinking is that when we lack the words to say something radically new, perhaps conceiving it visually first can be one productive way of beginning to express things. This is how I view the progressive films I write about in my After Pornified book where I in turn am taking the next step by trying to in fact verbalize this new fundamentally progressive filmic discourse for heterosexuality; a language with which to approach sex that doesn't merely revise the old erotic discourse but radically re-visions it. A new language, in fact not found elsewhere, to talk about sex. Presenting us with intriguing openings of more room for women, as well as men, to explore and expand our sexual play-field.

In fact, re-visioned porn by women shines the light on how we can all break free from confining gender roles and erotic conventions, attaining fluidity, democracy, and abundant space and possibilities in the ways we encounter our sexual partners.

Re-visioned progressive porn offers a vehicle for women to explore and define sexuality on their terms where they before were excluded to speak. And it provides the language with which to speak up as progressive hetero activist performers. 

(For more about my use of re-vision as opposed to revision check out for instance this post or my "very brief guide to feminist porn," both featuring excerpts from my book.)

Louise Lush's Fabulous Feminist Porn article originally appeared in the German film magazine Schnitt in October 2011, to co-incide with the Berlin Porn Film Festival. Louise has published it on her new Feminist Porn Guide site, which also includes lists of feminist porn directors, feminist porn films, and feminist porn sites. I encourage you to check it out!
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