Feminist Pornography

Erika Lust

Feminist pornography is pornography produced by and with feminist women. It is a small but growing segment of the pornography industry. Since 2006, there has been a Feminist Porn Awards held annually in Toronto, sponsored by a local feminist sex toy shop, Good for Her.

They have three guiding criteria: A woman had a hand in the production, writing, direction, etc. of the work; It depicts genuine female pleasure; and It expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn.

According to feminist author Tristan Taormino, ‘Feminist porn both responds to dominant images with alternative ones and creates its own iconography.’ Some pornographic actresses such as Nina Hartley, Ovidie, Madison Young, and Sasha Grey are also self-described ‘sex-positive feminists,’ and state that they do not see themselves as victims of sexism. They defend their decision to perform in pornography as freely chosen, and argue that much of what they do on camera is an expression of their sexuality. It has also been pointed out that in pornography, women generally earn more than their male counterparts. Some porn performers such as Nina Hartley are active in the sex workers’ rights movement.

Feminist porn directors include Candida Royalle, Tristan Taormino, Madison Young, Shine Louise Houston, and Erika Lust. Some of these directors make pornography specifically for a female or genderqueer (a catch-all term for gender identities other than man and woma) audience, while others try for a broad appeal across genders and sexual orientations. Directed by Abiola Abrams in 2006, ‘Afrodite Superstar’ is renowned as the first adult film directed by and for women of color. Other black female directors in adult film, in addition to Shine Louise Houston, include Estelle Joseph – director of the award-winning ‘City of Flesh’ series and Diana Devoe. Swedish filmmaker Mia Engberg along with twelve different directors produced a collection of feminist pornographic short films titled ‘Dirty Diaries’ which was released in 2009. The financing for the most part came from the Swedish Film Institute.

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