In the Chron: WTF is feminist pr0n?!

Image of the amazing award-winner Madison Young by Kelly Lind.

I just had to ask… Especially since the Feminist Porn Awards are getting huger and more popular every year. We must know! What does it mean? And I may be stepping into yet another controversial minefield. But it’s important, and really interesting, especially with the quotes I got… Check out my San Francisco Chronicle column this week, WTF is Feminist Porn? The Feminist Porn Awards announce 2008’s winners, and Violet Blue wants to know why we can’t all just get along. Here’s a snip from a *very* hot debate:

Feminist porn. For many, seeing those words together is like putting together the words “comfortable flight,” “lightly scented” and “Bill O’Reilly: journalist.” We now have Jet Blue and Virgin America, not everyone can smell your panty liners, and there’s no debate about the irony of the last bit — but pretty much everyone wants to know, what the hell are porn and feminism doing in bed together?

Some pretty nasty, kinky, shocking, and fun things, if the selections from this year’s Feminist Porn Awards are any indication. The winners were announced April 7 and included local bondage model (and porn performer, producer, art gallery owner and self-identified feminist) Madison Young ( Winning Hottest Kink Film for her debut film, the ultra-stylish Madison Bound Production “Bondage Boob Tube,” Young summed up her stance on feminism, porn, sex work and the raging debate between anti-porn feminism and pro-porn feminists in her acceptance speech by paraphrasing Emma Goldman: “If I can’t fuck, it’s not my revolution.”

I’m not going to say who’s playing top or bottom in that statement, but feminism and porn have been like Crisco and condoms for decades, and feminist positions (ahem) on porn are diverse. They often boil down to the notions that porn is degrading to women, abusive, encourages rape and violence against women, and reinforces sexual domination, coercion and humiliation of women. This is much like the position of religious fundies, who toss on top a little cherry of porn as destroyer of heterosexual families and marriage, encourager of serial killers, creator of child molesters and endorser of the sin of lust (that’s sexual pleasure to you and me). Many feminists loudly argue that porn-cum-sex-work is bad at its core values, and that any woman involved must be damaged, drugged, forced or worse.

Except for all the cool-headed women currently identifying as feminist and doing sex work and loving porn, like Young, Nina Hartley (, Carol Queen, Susie Bright (, all the women behind Spread magazine, plus oodles more.

The whole notion that a girl can get off watching porn, be in it, make it, and view sex work as positive — and be feminist — remains confusing for many. (…read more!)

BTW, I’m really proud of this one, even if you don’t agree. Let me know either way in the comments!

Share This Post

  • Lori S.

    slartibartfast, you’re assuming that just b/c I can see a difference between feminist and non-feminist porn, that I am giving feminist porn the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, and that the purpose of labeling one thing “feminist” is to condemn the rest as “immoral.”

    Hardly. Believe me, I get off on a lot of things that do not fall under the rubric “feminist porn.” And that’s fine — but that doesn’t mean the label has no value!

    Nor am I equating quality with feminism, either. Feminist porn can be bad too (and not in a moral sense).

  • Perhaps the first question to ask is: WTF is “feminism?” Because even that is up for debate. For some, it means “Men suck.” For others it means “Women are trapped in a male-created society and no matter what we do, we’re all victims.” (This latter theory seems to colour a lot of debate about porn, it seems).

    For me feminism means “Let’s give women the power to choose to live their lives in whatever ways seems best to them.”

    Personally, I have no problem with the idea of feminist porn or with Alison’s definition, given that it pretty much lines up with my philosophy. As far as I’m concerned, I make feminist porn. Others would disagree with me, but that’s fine.

  • slartibartfast

    “I like Alison Lee’s definition — porn that’s not only aware of, but centered around women as autonomous sexual actors in pursuit of their own pleasure, either onscreen or as acknowledged consumers”

    Even in mainstream porn, one could apply this definition. Can you absolutely prove that every girl on a Girls Gone Wild video does not fit this description. Personally, I can’t stand GGW but what I see here is that a line is being drawn from what is “good” moral feminist porn and “bad” immoral misogynist porn. And that is a subjective and very hazy line that will vary from person to person. Think about it. Tell an individual that it is pro-woman and okay to masturbate to Tristan Taormino but wrong and sexist to masturbate to Playboy magazine. Doesn’t it ultimately boil down to personal choice, personal freedom and civil liberties. Excluding coercive, non-consensual sex acts or child porn, then anything ought to be fair game in the privacy of his or her home. That said, coming from a guy, feminist porn is hot!!!!!

  • Lori S.

    I like Alison Lee’s definition — porn that’s not only aware of, but centered around women as autonomous sexual actors in pursuit of their own pleasure, either onscreen or as acknowledged consumers.

  • I’ve wondered about the term before as well.

    Once the world can get its head wrapped up in the fact that sex is something to be enjoyed by both women and men (in whatever combination they desire) then maybe we wouldn’t need definitions like this.

    Great article, and I’m still shocked at some/most of the comments you get over there. Crazy!

  • quehanna

    Someone once said to me ‘the only bad wine is the kind you don’t like’. ( insert porn for wine )

    Personally I get-off on whatever I happen to be viewing at the time; I tend to not worry about labels. That said I generally don’t view misogynistic type porn and prefer Ds/Fm, but there are exceptions to the ( my ) rule.

    An enjoyable article, nonetheless.

    I hope everyone gets to enjoy the sunshine today.

  • With that definition of Feminist Porn…I kind of wonder what the 4th wave will be like…

    Will we see a trend of women labeling each other as anti-feminist for getting off to now?