Can you be a feminist and enjoy porn?

There's an empowering world of sexual content made for women, by women if you want to find it

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I’ve relished watching on-screen shags ever since I had a sexual awakening during a cinema visit to see Titanic when I was 10. But I have always been convinced that watching porn would make me a dreadful feminist. Because porn has a horrible reputation; porn is synonymous with nasty sex. I’m aware the internet is superbly stocked with footage of sex acts, but they’re mostly ones that perpetuate a narrow sexual ideal featuring plucked, bleached women having things done to them that look painful (making noises that sound a lot like ‘ow’) while acting all appreciative.

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Predictably, tentatively browsing the web for ‘dicks’ and ‘sex’ doesn’t explode my impression that pornography can be toxic. In fact, it makes me more certain watching mainstream porn is about the most detrimental sex and relationship education a person can have. So much of it normalises verbal and physical aggression, muddies the issue of consent and casts women as passive objects. It creates warped expectations of real-life sexual encounters (which can’t offer unending novelty at a click, and are actually full of smells, emotions, hair, fluids and other people with complicated desires). Basically, mainstream porn is the ultimate sausage-factory industry, one worth nearly £70 billion globally – one I refuse to endorse.

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However, a new wave of porn made by women (and the occasional feminist man) for women promises smart, personality-driven content that empowers females and promotes role equality. Silencing women’s sexuality or demanding we subscribe to a testosterone-fuelled male model of sexual liberation (one that devalues commitment and the female orgasm) no longer flies. We’re finally shouting about gender gaps in every sphere – sexual fulfilment included. Gradually, room is being made for porn that’s both stylish and smutty, obscene and intelligent, romantic without being conventional: porn I can get off on without qualms. So I’ve scoured the web for it so you don’t have to…

Xconfessions.com

The promise: Sexual confessions submitted anonymously and transformed into stylish short films.

The reality: Myriad fantasies are realised with style and sensitivity in the safe hands of Erika Lust, a 38-year-old Swedish feminist porn director. Lust Productions pulls in over £600,000 a month in subscriptions and 85% of its staff are women, helping it capture its unique female perspective. The cast is sexuality, gender, race and body-type inclusive and the arthouse credentials are as seductive as the teasing shots of flushed bodies writhing, wrestling and humping. This is bite-size erotic cinema that puts emphasis on female pleasure, placing the female orgasm front and centre. Lingering shots of the male form (as well as the female) serve to highlight how balance-skewing the filter of the male gaze really is – equality of screen time immediately shifts the narrative, for the better. The sheer inventiveness of the films (based on real people’s fantasies: watery mermaid porn; post-apocalyptic, desperate outdoor shagging) pay tribute to the particularities and complexities of human sexuality, the vastness of our inner lives: they’re intelligent, innovative and thrilling, and all executed with awareness. Sexual positivity on screen stripped bare of the genre’s more depressing connotations.

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The verdict: 5/5

Joyful porn. Full disclosure: I’m currently living at my parents’ house and my dad (rather quaintly) has an adult content block activated on the internet service between the hours of 05.30 and 21.00. To wit, I can’t watch porn in bed on a Wednesday morning, even if I want to. These short films, though, are worth waiting a few hours for. By 2050, futurologists predict that human on robot sex will be more common than human-on-human sex (excuse me while I scream into a pillow). Lust’s films feel like an antidote to that depressing forecast. They’re raw and candid, starring fleshy bodies with fleshed-out sexual fantasies. They made me do the good kind of screaming into a pillow.

Hystericalliterature.com

The promise: Video portraits of women reading aloud while orgasming.

The reality: There’s a reason this project, by Brooklyn-based, award-winning multidisciplinary artist Clayton Cubitt, has been viewed over 45 million times in 200 countries. It’s a kind of kinky librarian fantasy that explores the interactions and contrasts between intellect and sensuality. Clothed women (of various ages and ethnicities) sit at a desk reading out loud from a novel of their choosing while someone brings them to orgasm under the table. Gradually, what’s going on off-camera becomes apparent as their breathlessness, facial contortions and gasps betray their bliss. The project recalls the 1964 film Blow Job by the master of suggestion, Andy Warhol: a one-shot close-crop of a man’s face, who (we are led to assume by the film’s title) is receiving fellatio. Similarly, Beautiful Agony is another ever-expanding series of webcam videos dedicated to the idea that sexiness is all in the face. Sometimes the least explicit things are the most erotic.

The verdict: 3/5

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Excellent, it’s just a shame there are only 11 videos. I watched most of them at work. (NB: They are not suitable for work, but my internet access there is unencumbered.) I felt flushed and faint because simultaneously stimulating and stifling arousal is taxing. The facial-furrowing and licking, biting, O-shaping activity of the women’s lips as they shudder to orgasm is unequivocally hot. If you’re into teasing and withholding, watch these – and not in private.

Lushstories.com

The promise: An online database packed with erotic short stories.

The reality: For context, reading Forever by Judy Blume blew my pre-teen mind.
I realised coming had a definition that is entirely separate from arriving at a geographical destination, and resolved to be accepting if a lover spoke to their genitals like an independent, sentient being.
Traditionally, erotic literature is a medium of porn favoured by women and I dig it hard, but I find this online offering disappointing. There are female-penned highs to be had but, spoiler alert: you have to sift through a lot of enormous logs, throbbing snakes and dripping desire (let’s just call a dick a dick, eh?).

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The verdict: 1/5

It’s a fast-food equivalent of erotic fiction: a little bit addictive but ultimately unsatisfying. I will probably never return to this site (unless I want to find examples of how not to use the English language) because the interface is ugly. Also, I kept stumbling on sex stories featuring elves, and an author called Rumple Foreskin, which sapped all horny feelings from me. I’d rather go to bed with any of these books – The Sexual Life Of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet, Henry And June by Anaïs Nin, or Fear Of Flying by Erica Jong – or just to bed alone and untouched, my sexy thoughts uninterrupted by navel-high mythical creatures.

Soundsofpleasure.tumblr

The promise: A sexy soundtrack.

The reality: A hot audio feast – homemade recordings of moaning, panting, sucking, licking, slapping, ragged breathing and dirty talk. Bonus: if you struggle to string a lusty sentence together in the bedroom, this will school you. The tracks mostly strike a gentle tone, featuring people pleasuring themselves solo or enjoying a partner. If you want to marry this with visual stimulation, dicksforgirls.tumblr can provide: its landing page is an artful collage of penises interspersed with gifs of men masturbating and softer pin-up-style shots. If you want to filter out the adorable shots of men with cats (and Harrison Ford in the kitchen), fully clothed, browse the ‘just dicks’ tab. Porn4ladies.tumblr includes sexy inspiration shots of women, too.

The verdict: 4/5

Simple and seductive. And you can listen anywhere. It’s like overhearing people going at it through the bedroom wall, which can be disturbing if you know the practitioners, and really arousing if you don’t. Plus, if you just close your eyes and relax, you won’t get a neck-strain-induced headache from craning awkwardly to see a screen while you get yourself off. The struggle is real.

Makelovenotporn.tv

The promise: Real couples submit erotic home videos for online rental.

The reality: This puts total control in the hands of the video’s stars: there’s no potentially exploitative contract negotiation or misleading editor’s cut. Plus, the fact that there’s no one at all behind the camera adds intimacy: there’s something levelling about the lo-fi approach (crumpled sheets, clumsy camera angles) as you’re invited into a couple’s private space to watch them make love. The site is curated by Sarah Beall, a former scriptwriter in the adult film industry who champions non-performative porn. I adore Colin and Gray, a couple who make creative, playful, videos and have a sex life I can and want to identify with. As a pre-teen I peeped (a lot) at my parents’ copy of the ground-breaking 1970s work of instructive erotica: The Joy Of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking. The illustrations of a big-bearded man between the legs of a big-bushed woman are etched on my memory. That same honest, hungry unselfconscious enjoyment is what I like about Colin and Gray’s videos – they’re a delightful how-to guide. Writing about makelovenotporn.tv on her blog, Gray says: ‘It is a place where two non-porny, androgynous, scrawny, pale, short-haired brunettes can be sexy and promote sexual and emotional health and creativity.’

The verdict: 5/5

#ColinandGrayforever #relationshipgoals. There’s romance, closeness, trust, lust, weirdness, wetness, tenderness, vulnerability and respect – it’s innovative and inspirational. The best bit is it mostly makes me want to take my hand out of my pants and have sex with another real-life person, or people, immediately (awesome as it is to watch). A threesome with Colin and Gray would be ideal.

And finally… Yes, the relationship between feminism and pornography is rightly fraught. There’s a horrid history of female degradation and exploitation to contend with, and a few empowering examples of female-positive eroticism won’t heal that. But porn is a consumer-driven industry: we can slowly but surely push the one-fits-all, Action Man vs Sex Doll porn to the margins and reshape the landscape by shouting our preferences without shame. I want to see responsibly sourced, artisan shags: traditional, organic, ethical, honest and lovingly made. The kind of female-generated porn made by Erika Lust and the uplifting, life affirming kind available at makelovenotporn.tv. Indulging sex fantasies should serve to make the reality better. Porn should heighten your real-world experience by making you more
confident and lusty for other meaty, pulsing humans, or we’ll all soon be shagging robots – and that’s too bleak for words. ●

 

Words: Georgia Simmonds

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