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Feminist porn is for everyone

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Illustration by Aly High

Tired of all the faked orgasms, bleached buttholes and forced blow jobs of mainstream porn? Maybe you can’t get enough, but feel guilty supporting creators with dubious ethics. Are you female, male or nonbinary? Then feminist pornography is for you!

Our reasons for searching out porn are varied: We might watch it to get off, build our skills, get in the mood, relax or explore our fantasies and desires. While the most active consumers of mainstream porn are men — Pornhub reported that 75 percent of their viewers in 2016 were male — women are certainly getting in on the action. Marie Claire released a survey of over 3,000 readers in 2015 exploring women and porn. Nearly a third of women surveyed reported watching porn weekly. “Porn for women” was Pornhub’s top trending search term last year.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of porn caters to the fantasies of a minority of society — straight men. In the Marie Claire poll, 56 percent of women who said they were conflicted about watching porn reported they were concerned about contributing to an industry that treats women poorly and perpetuates negative gender and racial stereotypes. Feminist porn may be a cruelty-free alternative.

For a film or website to be considered “feminist,” according to Good for Her — the Toronto-based sex shop where people of all genders, sexes, orientations and desires can find sex toys, books, DVDs, workshops and more, which organizes the Feminist Porn Awards — at least one of the following criteria needs to be met:

  • A woman must have been involved in the production, writing or direction of the work.
  • The work must convey genuine female pleasure.
  • The piece must expand the boundaries of sexual representation and challenge mainstream porn stereotypes.

“A lot of people don’t understand they have a choice when it comes to porn,” said Alison Lee, a Good for Her manager and event organizer for the Feminist Porn Awards, in an interview with the Good Men Project. “They think that the mainstream, big-porn machine is all that exists, and there was nobody in the mainstream porn industry who was recognizing that not all porn was the same. Showing the world that there’s a lot of different porn out there that can actually be really interesting and empowering is an important goal of the awards.”

There’s a lot of folks who think feminist porn is the softer, more emotional option — and if that’s what you’re into, you’ll most definitely find it. But you’ll also find a lot of other options that include bondage and kink, queer, fantasy and trans porn. You’ll find diverse bodies, diverse genders and a range of sexual acts. You will find women with and without body hair, stars with and without breast implants and threesomes of all varieties.

“Watching [porn] can increase confidence in the bedroom for men and women, as well as electrify the atmosphere and introduce ideas for different role-plays or sexual practices,” feminist porn filmmaker Erika Lust, who is featured in the Netflix series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, recently told ol’ Gwennie Paltrow’s Goop Magazine for the publication’s book The Sex Issue, released May 1. “The possibilities are endless.”

Lust has taken her audience’s fantasies even further with her erotica series XConfessions, started in 2013. She asks folks to submit their sexual fantasies anonymously on the web and then makes them into films. Lust told Mashable in March that after reading the letters, she noticed many people felt different or ashamed for their “perversions.”

I’ve seen plenty of clients in my therapy practice express shame for what they were secretly looking at while masturbating, and terrified to share it with their partners for fear of seeming weird or deviant. By being willing to be vulnerable with your partner and sharing what you think might be different or “perverted,” you might find they feel the same way about some of their turn-ons. And if they don’t share the same interests, an open conversation with a partner who is willing to listen without judgment has the possibility to transform shame.

Lust explained to Mashable that she wants to provide an opportunity for folks to not only explore but understand their so-called perversions. With an understanding of our sexual desires and interests, we can move closer to acceptance and exploration of our sexuality.

Illustration by Aly High

Pay for porn (yeah, really)

It may seem frivolous to spend money on porn in this day and age, but as one Glamour article puts it, “Free Porn is Probably Not Feminist Porn — No Matter What it Looks Like.” Purchasing videos or memberships not only supports ethical creators and diverse performers, it literally lets you take ownership of your preferences.

Here are some worthwhile companies in which to consider investing. Most cost around a dollar a day, even less when you sign up for multi-month packages, and offer trial memberships and/or a few free clips. (Warning: Some links are NSFW)

Natalie Benway LISW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Coralville. She has a certification in sexuality studies from the University of Iowa and is currently pursuing additional licensure with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 243.


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