Out of the Feminist Porn Movement, and Into the Queer Porn Movement

This week, VICE Magazine has posted a really cool video documenting a Canadian journalist’s first visit to the Feminist Porn Awards. It does a great job at describing the on-set ethics, inclusive casting processes, and political messages involved in what we have been calling feminist porn, and though the host’s personal intentions or interests aren’t cited, it feels like an insider job instead of a sensationalistic outsider’s look at our world.

They show a cute clip of me bragging about winning Best Dyke Film two years in a row, and then immediately complain about the lack of opportunities for a queer plus size performer in porn, which is of course, something I do often. I go on to explain how running and performing for my own company has given me privilege, and endless opportunities to create work for myself. “I’m on the movie box cover, because I made the box. I don’t know how much more feminist that can get!” I also maybe, flirt with the host. Not gonna lie. She had a perfect smile.

Tristan Taormino, who directs porn for mainstream companies Vivid an Adam & Eve and co-founded the Feminist Porn Conference, mentions ethical working environments and consent between performers as a mainstay of feminist porn. She also says we are trying to challenge one-dimensional representations of who we are sexually.  She says while each feminist has their own mission, most of us often want to represent the historically unrepresented or misrepresented.

Tobi Hill-Meyer, who just launched her brand new porn site DoingItOnline.Com, speaks directly to the differences between mainstream and feminist trans porn, citing the basic hardships that many non-porn star trans women would have if they tried to either do porn, or mimic the fantastical ideas that porn represents them as. VICE show clips from her Feminist Porn Award winning film Money Shot Blues & How To Fake an Ejaculation, and listen as she explains how she wants to creat porn that’s sexy and feels real to her and her audience.

After the amazing opening dialogue for my film Girl Pile (“enough with the cheesy porno talk” they say) it cuts to Arabelle Raphael and Tina Horn, two women I have had the pleasure of directing, performing, and producing a ton of queer/feminist porn with, and they discuss feminist porn from the point of view of the people who do the work.

What do performers want from feminist porn? Simply put, for you to “Shut the fuck up and listen!” Listening to sex workers means you’re acting as an ally to sex workers in all of their forms. Treat the work that they do as legitimate work, even if it’s not porn-related. They, like I, don’t see an end to the need for feminist interventions in sex work and porn. “There’s a lot to do,” says my old friend and QueerPorn.TV co-creator Tina Horn. “We always need more perspectives, because there’s a tendency to treat one person’s experience as everyone’s experience.”  They have a critique for the feminist porn movement that I strongly support: Make sure that everyone gets a voice.

It’s hard to wrap the whole movement up into 5 minutes, and our tendency is to look upward and forward, put a bow on it and call it a job well done. VICE manages to pull new questions out as a conclusion – Can porn be political? Empowering? Fun? Educational?  Of course, all porn can embody as many of these traits as the makers put into it. But we all know there’s still work to be done, even amongst feminist porno makers themselves, to make sure that we are putting our porn where our politics are.

My take away from all of this is that it’s dangerous to make blanket statements. We aren’t always doing perfect jobs keeping our sets safe, consensual, accessible, political, fairly compensated, fully representative, and progressive. That’s a lot to tackle, all at the same time, and those goals are bound to get complicated on mainstream sets with contracted crew, or indie low-budget sets with insufficient crews.

By saying “all feminist porn does this,” we are limiting who can actually make porn either for art or profit and call it “feminist.” And why even call it feminist? Doesn’t calling one product feminist over another insult those feminist sex workers who get hired for porn projects  that may not be deemed “ethical” by our standards, like clearly-feminist Arabelle or Tristan’s more mainstream efforts? And doesn’t it totally discredit those who work from project to project and don’t make enough money from their projects to pay “industry rates” or cater their sets in the way that a well-funded feminist pornographer could?

Tobi and I, being self-funded sole proprietors, can’t provide a mainstream porn level talent fee or provide craft services, but I would dare to say that Tobi’s porn, and probably my own, has a far more important message than those that can reach those on-set ethical standards that someone like Tristan, a queer feminist herself, can reach when funded by a larger company.

And what’s the price of getting funded to make feminist porn? Vivid may be thrilled to offer frank and female-marketed sex education, but they’re not gonna be supportive of Tristan casting a trans woman in a normal female sex role, or incorporating plus size women into her films often.

Any feminist pornographer who gets funding, as i have learned from my own work as a hired director, has to then make a series of choices – who do I leave out? Who gets to represent these politics in the mainstream adult media? Time and time again, it’s not Tobi or I, or trans people or fat people. (Or fisting.) We are left out of the mainstream, hetero-normative conversations about feminist porn. We get yelled at more often on the internet for being too sensitive when we enter the industry at large to network or incite change. Look at how the internet responded to trans lesbian performer Chelsea Poe when she tweeted to a lesbian porn company about getting a role. This is what queer porn folks deal with every time we approach the battle fields.

Nobody ever calls the straight feminist pornographers too sensitive. It’s always the queers. We are the ones who care wether or a not a trans woman gets to work for a lesbian porn company. We are the ones who care that fat sex workers get respectful gigs. We are the ones who care that people of color get screen time, that performers with disabilities get screen time, that everyone gets a chance to represent their sexuality – because sexuality is an extremely valuable currency in this society. It’s wealth, it’s happiness, it’s power, it’s money, it’s health, it’s respect, it’s safety. Rich, powerful men loose it all to sex. It can be used as an equalizer, not only a weapon.

Queer porn has been largely excluded from the concepts of mainstream representation of feminist porn, because it just doesn’t reach far enough of make enough money or feel attainable.  Straight porn reaches more people.

I find myself drifting away from the usual feminist porn conversations. I may easily be the most loud-mouthed killjoy of the bunch, and I myself now do not see myself standing alongside the rest of the international crew of mostly white, cis, straight-ish women who make “classy” (sic) sex-positive porn.

Four of of the five interviewed people in this VICE video come from and largely represent the Queer Porn scene, which is where I see radical politics truly being used in pornography. Those who dominate the straight feminist porn market focus on the things that money can buy, like a great paycheck and cinematic film-making features. Those in the scene who make queer porn don’t even talk about money when they’re asked what’s important about feminist porn. We talk about representation, about getting our voices heard, about making space for people to hold their own feelings about porn and sex work and gender and sexuality. We are doing the work. We need to start recognizing this movement, what WE do, as the Queer Porn Movement.

We want represenation in the mainstream world. We want our bodies and faces and desires to be seen and understood by the masses. We want to be seen as sexy in a universe that places so much power, acceptance, privileged, and basic human rights on how sexy we are. Sexy means we are worth something to the world. We are using sex to achieve power as minorities. This struggle represents the entire of feminist thought – that all genders are equal. that all women have worth equal to men regardless of how “fuckable” society tells them they are.

You don’t get that at all an awards show. You don’t get that all with a paycheck. You get that with heart. You get that by fighting to be seen. You get that by persisting to bring your perspective to the surface and making sure it sticks. And while awards shows and paycheck will help you get seen, you have to remember what you’ve always wanted to say – so when the time is right, you can say it.

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