What Does a Feminist Porn Set Look Like?

BW-2014.5.1_BTS_SF_Lesbians_photos-32BW-2014.5.1_BTS_SF_Lesbians_photos-32BW-2014.5.1_BTS_SF_Lesbians_photos-32BW-2014.5.1_BTS_SF_Lesbians_photos-32When speaking about “feminist porn” in particular, it’s clear that it all doesn’t look the same way or illicit the same reactions. Some feminist pornographers make luscious, cinematic short films with great lighting and meaningful or emotionally-driven content. Other feminist pornographers point their handycam at two people having sex and put it up unedited on the internet for money.  The second half doesn’t sound much different than porn that’s not feminist-identified. So what’s the difference? What really sets feminist porn directors apart from mainstream porn companies?

First of all, most of us are working independently – either by lack of opportunity to work for a large porn company, or lack of desire. We have smaller audiences, smaller budgets, lesser known performers, and smaller paychecks. And in general, much bigger ideas.

I’ve been blessed to watch my own company double in one year and steadily reach towards numbers more widely associated with non-feminist-identified small porn businesses, and I’ve also had the pleasure to direct for non-feminist-identified larger companies recently, and am learning how to apply feminism to a larger porn operation.

The short answer is, it’s not about catering. It’s about avoiding sexism on set, and challenging oppressive behavior that’s inherent to our Puritanical society’s ideas of what sex and porn and adult entertainment should be, and who should have access to it.

I think the way feminist porn is made, or should be made, is that no matter what you’re shooting, who you are shooting it for, where it’s going, what kind of money you’ll make off of it –  a feminist porn set is a porn set that’s aware of sexism and intersectional oppression, how it affects sex work, porn, modeling, marketing, everything – and as a group, that set challenges itself to work against or free from that sexism and oppression.

Without writing a whole book, I can think of two elements of a feminist porn set that are worth focusing on, two things I would say to be foundation work for any feminist porn start-ups or existing companies looking to create more feminist sensitivity in the work place.

A feminist porn set generally allows for performer and crew agency and consent – ideally, nobody would get asked to do something they weren’t comfortable with, and feel like they left set and had a good day at work/good day working on their art or hobby and that they were compensated at a level that fits the work they did/how long they did it. This is what people talk about when they speak of the ethical porn movement, and i think it overlaps with feminist porn because providing a consent-focused workplace for porn makers is part of being ethical, not just being feminist. A large portion of the adult industry already operates in this way, not just us politically correct ethical porn scenesters. You could make your porn even more feminist-focused by actively challenging rape culture through your set dynamics, scripting, or performance.

A feminist porn set would or should make their work accessible for a potentially diverse audience and their interests by above all, rejecting the notion that their paying customers are only straight cis males with narrow desires, and making work that transcends those parameters – for instance, in a traditional straight boy/girl scene, a feminist porn set would make sure to get wide shots, and close and medium shots of the man – keeping in mind that some one might be watching the video and want to see all of him, and not just a dick coming into the screen from stage left. They may also make room after the male orgasm for more female pleasure, which is something I do in my own work often, to gently remind people that sex isn’t over by default after a penis erupts.

For a queer porn scene, a feminist porn set would pay close attention to people’s gender identities, sexual orientations, pronouns, and interests, and also attempt to carry the performer’s owned identities throughout the showing, marketing, and selling of the finished work. For an example, we can look at Jiz Lee’s career – many companies that Jiz has worked for have not carried their gender identity or pronoun preference through to the final product – you still see Jiz getting called a woman and a lesbian in many, many mainstream works. A decidedly feminist porn set, however, would or should create information for their customers to let them know that Jiz is genderqueer, and use the pronoun they in their marketing – OR – they would give Jiz the agency to make a decision about how they would prefer to be identified, as “playing a lesbian” may be a perfectly acceptable job for a genderqueer porn performer, given the right project and compensation. But even then, a feminist set would still respect Jiz’s pronouns and gender identity on set, even if they were playing a female role for that day’s work.

I have only really written on theory here, not the actual technical details. There is clearly much, much more to running a feminist porn set. Feminism and porn are so incredibly diverse, each set will have different needs beyond simply avoiding sexist behavior on set and respecting people’s identities. Not all feminists think alike, not all pornographers make the same stuff – but one thing we can all agree on is that a feminist porn set is no place for sexist behavior or ideas that perpetuate gender-based inequalities.

However we say it, however we show it, it’s growing. Feminist-born companies are getting bigger, and big companies are getting more feminist. There will always be sexism in porn, because there will always be sexism in life. There will always be sexist people making sexist porn and not giving a damn what I do or say. We are not going to flip the entire industry on it’s head. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to try. 🙂

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