Cultural Trends/Popular Culture

Feminist Porn Awards Spotlight an Emerging Genre

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Porn is tied to the degradation of women and the worst kinds of trafficking and exploitation. But producers and fans of this variety say it fights all that and promotes a woman's equality at the most intimate point of her life.




porn
A performer at the 2012 Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto.

Credit: Courtesy of Eugenio Salas.

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(WOMENSENEWS)--When the 8th annual Feminist Porn Awards are held April 4 to 6 in Toronto, the focus will be on films that fans and producers say offer a positive image of female pleasure and an alternative to the dehumanizing, degrading aspects of some mainstream porn.

A couple of nominees are "The Art of Sex" by Viv Thomas at VivThomas.com and "How to be a Lover" by Scott Styles and Susan Wright at Wicked, a porn studio in Canoga Park, Calif.

Queer porn star Nikki Hearts is planning to attend the event, which usually attracts hundreds of women.

She said feminist porn, "Is really sex positive . . . it is everything I stand for."

Hearts added that few people know there is such a thing as sex-positive, inclusive porn. "That is why I do so many interviews. I want people to know this kind of porn exists."

Feminist porn is made by women, though intended for everyone's enjoyment, men and women. It often pairs with queer porn and celebrates a variety of body types and people.

Jincey Lumpkin, "chief sexy officer" of Juicy Pink Box, a porn company she founded in 2008 in New York that creates and produces films designed to encourage women to explore their lesbian fantasies, has won the award for Best Lesbian series two years in a row. She is not in the running for this year's awards.

"A lot of sexist ideas and stereotypes are tied up in sex," said Lumpkin in a recent phone interview. "They are directly related to our gender and the act of sex . . . We need to keep trying to erase the stigma around women and sexuality and that unfair double standard."

Since 2008 Juicy Pink Box has produced five films, available on its website and through the distributor Girlfriends Films, based in Los Angeles. Pink Visual, its digital distribution partner, handles distribution in all other platforms, including mobile, broadcast and video on demand.


Overcoming Slander

Lumpkin and other new-wave feminists are closing ranks with female eroticists from other eras such Anais Nin. They are making their own porn, defending it from criticism and arguing that it can help women achieve equality starting in the most intimate part of their lives.

"I want women to be able to stand up and say, 'I like sex,' and not be slandered for it," said Lumpkin.

Lumpkin said many third-wave feminists, a period marked as usually beginning in the early 1990s to the present, are concerned with creating male-female parity in the expression and enjoyment of sexual pleasure.

"There is an idea that women don't like porn at all," she said. "My customer base is women, so that's not true."

In January, the U.S. federal court sentenced "shock" pornographer Ira Isaacs to four years in prison for violating federal obscenity laws, by selling pornographic movies featuring bestiality and extreme fetishes. The New York-based group Morality in Media applauded the news, saying in a press statement that the sentencing sent a strong message to the porn industry and to the U.S. Department of Justice that the sexual exploitation of women by pornographers is wrong.

Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the organization, said, "Pornography leads to the degradation and dehumanization of women . . . It is a cause of increased prostitution and sex trafficking, as well as sexual violence against women and children."

Audacia Ray is a former sex worker and founder and director of the Red Umbrella Project, a peer-led organization for and by people in the sex trade, located in New York. "In any industry there can be exploitation of labor, which is what trafficking is. Certainly that can happen in pornography," she said in a phone interview.

However, she said U.S. porn is subject to regulations such as the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act, which requires producers to prove their performers are 18 or older by providing multiple forms of identification for record.

Some companies, to avoid regulations, shoot in other countries where regulations do not apply, which is where exploitation often occurs.

Ray said when talking about porn and sexual exploitation, it is important to differentiate between porn as a labor environment--where people work and produce a product--and porn as a visual expression of sexuality. She said that porn as a product--even when it is produced in an ethical way--is often misogynistic and full of "weird messages about gender, sexuality and race."

Feminist Porn Fights Back

Enter feminist porn.

Ray said that the "umbrella" that is feminist porn has moved from just showing authentic representations of female sexuality to now encompassing ethical production as well.

Lumpkin said she doesn't make anyone in her films do anything they don't feel comfortable doing. She said the women in her films negotiate their own boundaries of sex and at any time can decline to do something they are uneasy about.

"I have a lot of admiration for the women who work for me, baring their bodies and putting themselves in that vulnerable position," she said.

In the 1970s and 1980s Andrea Dworkin, and many other second-wave feminists, condemned porn. "Pornography is the essential sexuality of male power: of hate, of ownership, of hierarchy; of sadism, of dominance," Dworkin said in her 1971 book "Pornography, Men Possessing Women."

Lumpkin said the approach of the pornographer and the marketing style makes most of the difference in how porn is portrayed and received.

"The way in which most porn is packaged and marketed is misogynistic," said Lumpkin. "Rape terminology is very common. For example, 'Facial Abuse,' '18 and Abused,' etc. It seems like porn is just very extreme in its sexism."

The way a scene is shot is also important. "I try to make it more of a comprehensive experience," said Lumpkin. "I don't just zoom into the genitals, a depersonalized experience. I try to create an atmosphere that takes you through sex from beginning to end. The woman getting turned on, foreplay into sex, etc."

Lumpkin said humans are naturally sexual beings and since sex is something people in a society have in common, it should be portrayed in a positive light.

"Sex is a normal and natural part of life and we can celebrate that with depictions in magazines and film," she said.

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