Feminism and porn, what’s missing from the debate?

Journalist Tanya Gold addressed the thorny issue of porn and feminism in Stylist magazine last month, observing that “consensual sex, consensually on camera, for the pleasure of consensual viewers, should be in the same box as all other consensual sex acts”.

In mainstream porn, however, Gold ventures “violent misogyny is everywhere”. Her answer? Feminist porn.

I’ll get back to feminist porn later because what interested me most was not what she wrote as much as the readers’ comments.

Far from the troll-style hate comments you’d expect following an article by a woman (a feminist at that), her respondents identified some of the grey areas in porn that feminist debate may have overlooked.

Take amateur porn, for instance. Damien asked: “Are you completely over-looking that the most popular and fastest-growing style of porn is homemade? It’s two people expressing their own sexual desire however they see fit.”

Damien’s point is a good one – amateur porn is largely absent from discussions about porn and feminism. This homemade genre appears to offer what mainstream porn lacks: diversity, affection, respect and the odd female orgasm.

Real couples enjoying themselves is a rare thing in mainstream porn but amateur is choc full of it. Equally, though, many of these novice “productions” are inspired by Hollywood and are predominantly from the male point of view.

Whilst female climaxes are more common in amateur footage (and more likely to be real?) there is still an excessive interest in spooge and its place on women’s faces. Nevertheless, amateur porn deserves recognition in feminist debates.

Then there’s sado-masochism. Respondent ‘Lauren’ was concerned that Gold is suggesting, “women can’t be turned on by sado-masochism” and this seems “pretty anti-feminist, insisting all women want affectionate porn and sex”.

Even if Hollywood style porn is mostly male sexual domination over women, there are plenty of women who find this sexually exciting. Sex allows us to explore power dynamics that we don’t necessarily want to play out in the rest of our lives. Some men want to be dominated and so do some women, even feminist women. We can’t ignore the fact that what some of us might find ‘degrading’ is a legitimate sexual niche for others.

To tell women they shouldn’t find sexual pleasure in something is pretty anti-feminist. And yet this subject is rarely dealt with by anti-pornography movements. My own experience and perhaps the experience of other young feminists is eloquently summed up by one respondent who posted:

“Until recently I had read more feminist critiques of porn than I had actually seen porn films. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised given that feminism had told me all mainstream porn was violent and disgusting.”

Feminist debate about porn is clearly invaluable and there is no doubt that it is changing our society. Does this mean it should be challenged? Yes and this is what feminist porn seeks to do.

One thought on “Feminism and porn, what’s missing from the debate?

  • April 21, 2012 at 11:47
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    now that the ubber conservative lhtaocic church is now losing its grip more and more with each passing generation, weve finally been making progress in breaking sexual taboos. Each generation becomes more and more liberal. but the news is reactionary to culture and in this case, the talking heads are more or less over 35 and like to fuel outrage about things like sexting and completely forget that they were once teenagers and young adults with raging hormones were just more open about it

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