The Reclamation of Feminist Porn?

Feb 8, 2017 10:00 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — One of the most profound revolutions in adult entertainment was the introduction and increasing popularity of so-called “feminist porn” — a genre of erotica largely made by and for women.

Enabled by the diversification, empowerment, and inclusivity offered by today’s adult industry, feminist porn focuses on women’s various viewpoints of sex — ranging from light and romantic softcore “couple’s porn” to the raunchiest hardcore fare imaginable.

Although some of the buzz has faded from the headlines, the visionary vixens that produce feminist porn have remained hard at work over the years, refining their craft and fueling a robust marketplace; so it may have surprised a few of these innovators to learn that their art was in need of “reclamation.”

For example, observers such as HelloGiggles’ S. Nicole Lane, pointing to the rise of “punishment porn,” wonder “will feminism in porn begin to disappear?”

“I think there’s tons of room to reclaim [porn],” says actress Rashida Jones, whose controversial 2015 Netflix release of “Hot Girls Wanted” examined how young women are allegedly manipulated by the loosely conceptualized “pro-am” segment of the porn industry. Jones is back this year with a sequel entitled “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On,” which takes a behind-the-scenes look at women producers and sexual technology’s impact on personal relationships.

“I mean unfortunately or fortunately, everything is about consumerism,” Jones explains. “If there’s money to be made, there will be an audience and people will feel empowered and I truly believe that women haven’t fully tapped into their potential as a market.”

“I know women who watch porn,” Jones adds. “I’ve watched porn, and if we can actually be consumers of product in a way that can affect the marketplace, we can change it.”

While on the surface this may seem positive, some industry insiders are quick to point to problems with the characterizations Jones makes.

“Do you realize that countless women have been doing this for decades? Do you realize how patronizing it is to women working in the adult industry to hear you say this as if it was somehow a new concept?” writer/director Jacky St. James asks Jones. “It completely undermines everything that women have done for our industry and it discredits and diminishes the work of countless women.”

Writing for The Huffington Post, founder and director Angie Rowntree says that as a feminist pornographer, she doesn’t need Jones or anyone else attempting to “reclaim” pornographic work on her behalf.

“Unlike those who spend a great deal of time talking about porn, I have worked for decades to create a unique space for sexual expression and representation, one that’s guided directly by my members,” Rowntree wrote. “What I would love for Jones and her associates to do ... would be to take a step back and listen to women who work in the adult industry.”

“There have been so many instances of outsiders attempting to tell porn’s story, which includes my story and the stories of my peers, and they all generally butcher it,” Rowntree adds. “Consequently, many producers and directors and performers are wary of becoming sensationalized clickbait for mainstream fodder.”

Adult entertainment drives a dynamic marketplace, one where feminist viewpoints and a pro-women approach has long been commonplace, even if it is not dominant — or the stereotype that mainstream tends to typecast. While any positive attention the industry receives is welcome, when that attention crosses into being condescending, a better approach that reflects the industry’s realities may prove more beneficial to all.

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