Porn For Everyone!

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We began the evening with a little info on the legal definitions of pornography as well as looking at who makes and distributes porn and who buys/watches it – attributing the ‘fast and cheap’ output of current mainstream pornography to the lowering of content and budget on the content produced. Pornography was traditionally mostly produced by larger scale corporations but that is changing quickly also. It’s hard to make money producing porn these days because nobody pays for porn anymore. “Out of the tens of millions of people who watch porn online, only 3% visited a pay site last year.” (Hot Girls Wanted.) The author Kat Banyard’s book Pimp State: Sex, Money and the future of Equality argues that pornography is in fact filmed prostitution and is subsequently a form of abuse – just as prostitution, to her pretty argument, is abuse or more precisely a lack of choice or choices.

I introduce the documentary Hot Girls Wanted and it’s follow up series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On which further explores the avenues the original documentary traverses, It’s well worth watching and is available on Netflix. These very interesting documentaries are great because they really allow the truth of the situation to speak for itself – good or bad. Highlighting the culture of dating apps and the effect it is having on attitudes towards sexual encounters and general interactions between the users. The docs also delve deeper into the world of cam-girls and the consequences of long-term sexual “relationships’ online. As well as the rise in a steady stream of young naive girls and young women travelling to L.A. to ‘star’ in low budget fast ammeter pornography. These girls are, well frankly, exploited and thrown away, but it’s interesting to see their willingness to do so and  to question what is going on that has led them to this path in the first place. The series also looks at the contrast of the lives of male performers and Feminist porn producers trying to change the demand for damaging and negative porn in a small activist centred corner of the internet.

With this we went on to talk more about feminist porn and ethical porn starting with the very question : Can pornography empower women? Can it be Feminist? Ethical porn or Feminist porn isn’t just about making sure that you are creating depictions of women in empowered situations or roles but also about how you treat all the people involved on set and within you business and its outreach. We agreed that pornography can empower women, but ‘does it empower women?’ may be a different question.

Women’s Hour had a great panel debate about this very question at the Women of the World festival a couple of years ago and you can listen to it here.

It was in fact Jenni Murray who first mentioned the name Erika Lust to us but the Swedish Feminist Porn Filmmaker is also featured in the first episode of Hot Girls Wanted : Turned On. Working in Barcelona Lust makes what she describes as “Porn without acting, real sex, real intimacy, real connection.”  Often filming real couples Erika Lust’s productions promote consensual, emotional sex of all kinds of delectations as she crowdsources the ideas and stories of her work from the anonymous public. Her site xconfessions takes the secret fantasies submitted and turns them into reality with beautiful art direction and ‘real people’. Lust talks passionately (see her TED talk)  about wanting to use her  point of view as a filmmaker to tell a different story of a sexual encounter and it’s interesting to consider this in opposition to Kat Banyard’s argument that all pornography is filmed prostitution.

We were surprised to learn that often more women behind the camera in mainstream porn doesn’t always equal a more Feminist lens with porn directed by men and women surveyed they showed “an equal average number of aggressive acts in over 3/4 of the scenes — including choking, slapping and gagging.”  This only backs up what you can imagine about the bottom line in supply and demand for mainstream punish-fucking low-rent quickly shot content.

“1 in 3 young women who watch porn say they have a hard time finding content they like.” (Hot Girls Wanted) This statistic led us to discuss the male gaze and the lack of depictions of sex that pay any consideration to female desire let alone concepts of mutuality and respect. Pondering for a while the rise of women on the internet accessing male gay porn instead. Lucy Neville has written a really interesting thesis called Male Gays For The Female Gaze all about this growing phenom, especially when you consider how much lesbian or faux lesbian porn is produced under the male gaze without anyone batting an eye. Generally it seemed agreed that the production value was better, the men were hotter,  there were no women to have to compare yourself with and crucially, it was less aggressive.

What the focus on a lack of realistic and desirable “pornography for women” really shows us is that our desire isn’t important. The look of pain or discomfort on our faces is what sex is supposed to look like, we don’t mind sexual aggression, our needs are not considered and our job is to pleasure someone else. What we cannot escape in any conversation about pornography is the fact that we live in a world now where pornography is sex education. Erika Lust equates this to learning about drugs from drug dealers, citing why it’s vital that ethical porn succeeds.  “About 40% of sexually active girls 14-18 say they learned more about sex from porn than from school.” (Hot Girls Wanted)

There was an interesting debate about the importance of teaching girls to masturbate and (at an earlier level about the bodies and their vulvas). To understand that their own desire counts and is an important part of how they experience good sex. This would help them be empowered to speak out about their own boundaries as well as help reduce sexual risk taking decisions. Pimp State rightly warns “because porn teaches, like any media it conveys values, knowledge, beliefs and ideology. The basic offering from this teacher is that women can engage in unwanted sex, sex for money, and have sex on demand or perform sex acts on the basis of external instruction and not internal desire. She reacts only in ways that please the director/viewer rather than communicate how she really feels — and that is OK.”

Whether you agree with Banyard’s words or not what has to be considered is the trickle down effect of this aggression and mysogyny into everyday attitudes and view points. When a message is presented within a sexual context the message is positively reinforced by arousal in the viewer. It’s easily addictive and the drive for more only fuels a lucrative and legally underpinned international trade. Profit drives porn ever more onto our screens and up against the boundaries of “the everyday normal”. This brought us back to some previous Meet-Up discussions about a Woman’s Hour piece on people watching porn in public spaces and the much discussed breast-feeding vs. boobs as sex objects.

Pimp State continues to debate whether the existence of Feminist porn or “porn for women,” it being a small subheading on PornHub’s menu, is just a way to placate us into thinking that this is our little plate of sexual tidbits and we should be happy with that. We are catered to in some small way and therefore should just ignore the rest of the internet.The author argues that until pornography addresses its fundamental role in prostitution it will never truly be feminist.

We had a great evening and discussed so much. Questions were asked about the power of Erotic Capital and using your body to give agency to your power. What about the contradictions between using your feminine wiles whilst trying to feel secure that your worth doesn’t solely lie in your body and appearance? We reminisced about the 90’s and picked apart “Ladette” and Raunch Culture a little which I think might be a popular topic to revisit (along with something about domestic gender roles!). Ariel Levy’s book Female Chauvinist Pigs is a great investigation in to the Girls Gone Wild era of 90”s commercial Feminism (and can lead you down a whole college Sorority organisations rabbit-hole believe me…..wait is it me or did that sound a bit dirty?)

Ok time to stop writing about porn!

Here’s some good reads….

Female Chauvinist Pigs – Ariel Levy

Girls and Sex – Peggy Orenstein

Honey Money – The Power of Erotic Capital – Catherine Hakim

How To Talk To Your Child About Pornography – Educate Empower Kids

Pimp State: Sex, Money and the future of Equality – Kat Lanyard

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism – Natasha Walter


Hot Girls Wanted (Netflix)

Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On (Netflix)

After Porn ends 1 & 2 (Netflix)

5 TED talks on Sex you must watch

Hilarious comedy podcast :

The Guilty Feminist Podcast – episode 4 : Porn

The really great Educate Empower Kids who make the books about talking to your kids about sex or pornography.

The Meet-Ups are on a summer hiatus but we’ll be back in the autumn.



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