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Ethical and Feminist Porn

 

Image courtesy Daniel Anton, Math Magazine Issue Five

 

Pornography is a part of many people's masturbation routines. Erotic films and imagery help to turn us on, allow us to explore fantasies, and develop our desires. However, with some of mainstream pornography promoting sexist and discriminatory narratives as well as mistreating it's stars and creators, how can we ensure the porn we're viewing is ethically made with a feminist agenda? What do feminism and ethical standards even look like within the world of porn? We interviewed the most progressive names in porn to give us some insight. 

 

Erika Lust at XConfessions

 



Erika Lust is one of the most noted names in the feminist porn arena, creating  the award-winning crowdsourced erotic project, XConfessions. In a unique interactive model, XConfessions encourages people to share their sexual stories and fantasies of which, each month Erika chooses two and turns them into captivating, arousing, cinematic explicit films. Her focus on portraying positive sexual encounters focused on pleasure helps dismantle  the unchecked misogynistic attitudes, racist categorizations, and degrading narratives of mass-produced, mainstream pornography.

WF: How would you define ethical / feminist porn?

Erika:

It’s important to say there is not a consensus yet about what ethical porn is exactly. It is adult cinema where consent has been given for every part of the film from all parties involved. This means consent regarding the sexual acts being performed, but also the rate of pay they are receiving. Personal limits and boundaries are respected and the performer can stop shooting at any moment if they feel uncomfortable. Everything is done under a safe sex environment, good working and safety conditions, and basic labour rights for performers and crew. It doesn't include the sex acts being depicted, production value or other elements like tenor and intensity. But in my own take on ethical porn production I also include the themes and messages I'm delivering.

Feminist porn, on the other hand, reclaims a genre that has traditionally been seen exclusively as the purview of men. It's made by feminist directors who directly inject their feminist values into the films. Women have leading roles behind the camera as directors, producers, art directors, directors of photography etc. making active decisions about how the film is produced and presented, and the stories are told through the female gaze. In general, this is everything that feminist porn encompasses.


WF: What can porn consumers do to ensure what they're viewing is ethical?

Erika:

There are a couple of things you should always check if you'd like to consume ethical porn. Does the website have an "about us" section? Does the film include credits at the end? Does it have a production and distribution company? And also, if you're not paying for it, then who is?


WF: Why do you think consuming porn is integrated into so many people’s self pleasure?

Erika:

I think porn can be a wonderful and safe stimulator to turn people on, either to enjoy with a partner or by yourself. There's nothing more natural than having sex and masturbating, and human kind has been creating erotic art and imaginary for thousands of years. I think sometimes we lose sight of history when we feel overwhelmed by technology advancing so fast. The truth is, human nature is sexual, and lust has always been a part of our lives. Stimulating ourselves with erotic images is as natural as it gets.

 

You can find more information about Erika and her films at https://erikalust.com or via her Instagram @erikalust. XConfessions can be found at https://xconfessions.com and Erika has launched her first web series that's available to watch for free at https://erikalust.com/webseries/Also for Masturbation Month to fight the stigma around female masturbation, XConfessions is giving away 10 free XConfessions access for one year to all the photos uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag  #CumOutLoud


Allie Oops



Allie Oops is interested in sex, in all of its manifestations and justice, wherever it's lacking. She fights for rights and fucks for money. A self taught videographer, she produces, directs, performs in, edits and distributes all of her own porn. With a predominately sex worker and exclusively woman, queer, trans and gender non conforming team; she subtly queerifies mainstream porn formulas with her documentary style pornography and behind the scenes shorts. Allie serves us ethically made porn that’s hot, beautiful and funny all in one film. She also gives really, really good head.


WF: How would you define ethical / feminist porn?

Allie:

I think ethical and feminist porn are two different things that sometimes overlap. Birthed in the 80’s, feminist porn as a genre feels like a thing of the past. The term originally meant that a porn was either directed by a (cis) woman, depicted “authentic” pleasure in (cis) women, and/or diverted the *dun dun dun* “male gaze.” A new genre meant to liberate women ended up creating space for only a small fraction of mostly white cis straight *vanilla* women’s view of “better” pornography. This is where ethically made porn is born as a new descriptor. Instead of focusing on what the images look like or who makes them, ethical porn focuses on labor rights of the industry, specifically the performers rights. Are the performers being treated and paid well? Are their needs and boundaries being heard and respected? Do they have agency over the script/performance? How is the porn distributed and using what language to market it? Ethically made porn holds the entire industry accountable to basic labor rights. Maybe you don’t like triple anal porn, but if the performer was treated and paid well, then that is ethical porn to me.


WF: What can porn consumers do to ensure what they're viewing is ethical?

Allie:

This is a hard question; an easy answer would be to buy and consume porn directly from the performer. There are endless independent content producers on sites like manyvids.com. You can also follow performers on twitter, switter and other platforms to see what they are saying about their work conditions. This requires a huge amount of vulnerability on the consumers end. Pornographers use social platforms to promote their explicit work along side everything else they are thinking about. Leaning into the discomfort of sexual imagery can help us pay attention to how they are made and how the people who participated feel about them. With that said, I think a lot of our socialized guilt around sex is projected onto porn performers. It’s important to remember the performers get paid for their labor, and like many jobs, they may not agree with or love the company they work for, but they did negotiate and gain something (money) from it. I think we need to stop projecting our own guilt and fears around sex onto porn, and start actually listening to what the performers involved have to say about it.




WF: Why do you think consuming porn is integrated into so many people’s self pleasure?

Allie:

I think for some people porn might be the only outlet for their desires and fantasies to play out. It might be because they are kinky, have a niche fetish or because they are LGBTQ+. Some porn can’t be recreated in real life, like giantess porn or hentai. For a lot of marginalized people, porn might be the only place they see themselves represented in media. This can be especially true for sexual and gender minorities who don’t have nearly as much visibility outside of porn. If you are questioning your sexual orientation and/or gender, porn can be a good place to seek out images of your community. Trans women for example are heavily represented in porn, but not so much in mainstream media. In 2018, porn is mostly a very private experience. Not only can explicit images and noises help arouse us, the images you consume can be your little secret with yourself. For how much porn is consumed globally, we really don’t talk about it at all (besides how evil and bad it is). It would be interesting to hear more about people’s positive experiences with porn, but in order to do that we need to actively fight against the stigma of porn consumption.


WF: How do you want people to feel after seeing one of your productions?

Allie:

First and foremost I want them to be turned on! But beyond that I also want people to laugh, to see the humanity in the performers. To be able to peek in through the window of our productions and see not just the porn but the whole picture. That is why I started making documentary, behind the scenes pornos last summer. Starting out as an experiment, people were really connecting with the interviews I put at the start of my porns. Expanding from there I now make blooper reels for every film, behind the scenes shorts (this last video has over 5 separate video shorts that are free, PG-13 and accompany the porn), and interviews spotlighting the performers. I think seeing that we are laughing, farting, have poor spitting aim, that kind of stuff - it really humanizes us as performers, and therefore the industry. It shows us as whole people who are choosing to be on set and have fun. If people walk away from my work only taking away that, then I feel fulfilled as a director/editor. I don’t need everyone to be attracted to me (lord knows I don’t enjoy watching myself have sex), but I do want people to walk away thinking more critically about how we have been socialized to understand the industry.


WF: What are some of the struggles you face in creating your content?

Allie:

Because I am self taught in all things film, it has been an uphill battle learning about video equipment, cinematography, editing - all the technical stuff. Sometimes I feel defeated looking at independent porn that is made by classically trained film people.  I felt that way the first time my porn premiered on the big screen. Everyone’s work was so creative and high quality, I didn’t feel “good enough” for the lineup. My work was just run of the mill porn made by a bunch of amateurs who know nothing about video and everything about sex. I shot my first porn on an iPhone 6 one year ago, and now we rent fancy cameras and mics and have more than one person operating equipment. But the higher quality equipment we get, the bigger the teams, the more expensive the productions are to fund. I pay for everything out of pocket, and if you know me you know I make sure everyone is paid on my sets. I realized very quickly that the video world is financially inaccessible, which is probably why cis white straight men dominate the industry. I refuse to have cis white straight men on my sets, which means that my entire team often ends up being as untrained as me. On my last set I hired a classically trained film person to teach the team how to use everything before we started. Everyone walked away feeling so fulfilled - not only do we get to learn and grow, my team was getting paid to learn this stuff!

 

WF: What do you think the future of porn looks like?

Allie:

I do suspect VR porn will be the future, at least of the mainstream industry, but I truly don’t know. I think the fact that porn performers are able to create and distribute their own porn can change everything in terms of representation and marketing. It is exciting to see the diversity in porn explode when people have the power to represent and market themselves however they see fit. On a political level we see porn censorship campaigns globally dominating policy making right now. The UK just passed a horrendous censorship bill, and the US is quickly trying to mimic it. This is scary mostly for independent porn creators. These very censorship policies could shut down the ability for the porn industry to truly change towards a more inclusive, modern domain. So maybe the future of porn won’t be so bright if our political and social climate doesn’t learn about the nuances and diversity within the industry and how their so-called “save the world policy” doesn’t actually help foster positive change in the sex industry. This is why now, more than ever, is a time to loudly and publicly support pornographers and sex workers. We need civilians on our team to aid us, and the whole internet, from net neutrality and other censorship policies.

 

Check out Allie's films at allieoops.findrow.com and use code "wildflowersex" to get 25% off her content until June 1st! Teasers at https://vimeo.com/allieoopsie

 

Vex Ashley at Four Chambers


 

Vex Ashley is an independent porn producer and performer with Four Chambers. Self taught in cinematography with an emphasis on collaborative DIY practices, Four Chambers has spearheaded a new wave of creators making contemporary pornographic work from a new perspective with the aim to expand ideas about what porn can say, do and be. Four Chambers is part of the growing decentralisation from traditional industry practices. Independent, conceptual, creative, porn cinema.


WF: How would you define ethical / feminist porn?

Vex:

For me personally, I don’t see my porn making as an inherently feminist act. I’m a feminist - who makes porn, but I don’t make “feminist porn”. Do my politics influence my porn making, yes. Does my porn making influence my politics, absolutely - but the two are not inherently intertwined. This tweet I saw recently really gets it: “when it comes to art/media, feminism is a lens through which to critique it, not an adjective to describe it"

Feminist porn for me, is just too often used as an easy buzzword or a selling point. It shouldn’t be co-opted as advertising to become meaningless, as just a stand in for any work produced by a woman or non-male person.

The difficulty is, in porn as in life: male is the default and needs no explanation but work produced by someone outside of that default is “other”, so you always make work “””as a women””” or as a “””queer person”” and your work is seen to be defined by this otherness. Which is why we have ‘porn’ and ‘porn for women’ - for me, it’s both limiting and patronising.

Ethical porn is simply porn that fits your own personal value system, so for me, that means should prioritise performer welfare. That means, ongoing negotiation both before a shoot, on set and in post production, flexibility and most importantly paying as well as possible.


WF: What can porn consumers do to ensure what they're viewing is ethical?

Vex:

They need to value porn in the same way they value all other kinds of media we create and consume. That means, supporting it, both by talking about it and sharing what you love openly so that people can find and support new work and most importantly financially. If you can help fund new work you love we can see new perspectives and more diversity come to the forefront of sex on film. That means, if you see something you love, consider throwing some money that way to help make more of it!


WF: Why do you think consuming porn is integrated into some many people’s self pleasure?

Vex:

Sex is just fascinating, we are naturally curious and social creatures who feel a natural draw to watch each other fuck. It’s healthy, it’s powerful, it turns us on. It makes us feel. It’s recently become incredibly easy to access vast archives of clips of thousands of hours of contextless fucking, instant and free at our fingertips in a way it wasn’t before. So you grow up masturbting to a certain routine in a certain way and it’s difficult or it seems pointless to break away from that? But I would say that variety is really important, denying yourself an easy orgasm in pursuit of a more complex one sometimes can be really powerful. Tip: one way to make porn kinda passe is to make porn your job, honestly I haven’t watched professional porn to masturbate in years. It’s just way too functional for me now.


WF: How do you want people to feel after seeing one of your productions?

Vex:

With Four Chambers we're trying to communicate the intensity and the atmosphere of what it feels like to fuck, People talk about sex in terms of chemistry but for me it’s always been more alchemy. I think it can be messy, experimental, sensory, magic. That’s what I’m hoping to explore with our work.


WF: What are some of the struggles you face in creating your content?

Vex:

Censorship. Deletion. Discrimination. In life and especially recently online. Existing in a world where porn and the people who perform in it are considered by the vast majority of people as worthless and disposable. We don’t value our depictions of sex enough. It’s risky. That’s part of why it’s exciting but it means that you never feel welcome and you never feel safe. It can be exhausting. But at the end of the day, I get to be my own boss and travel and fuck hot people and take my orgasms to the bank. I’m pretty lucky.


WF: What do you think the future of porn looks like?

Vex:

Diverse, independant and creative. Porn is relatively untapped as a medium, I’m so excited to see more voices and more perspectives coming to the forefront. We can’t let our depictions of sex to continue to be co-opted by one vision and one group. We can actively work to diversify it’s perspectives, to remove the stigma, protect and value its workers and celebrate and encourage new work. Then we can hopefully have a better dialogue around sex and porn instead of just the confusion and fear mongering today. So pornography can keep becoming more representative of the beauty, diversity and complexity of sex as a whole.

 

Check out the amazing content from Four Chambers at http://www.afourchamberedheart.com/. Find Vex Ashley on Instagram at @Vextape


MacKenzie Peck at Math Magazine


Image by Charlie Rubin

 

MacKenzie Peck is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Math Magazine, the progressive and inclusive print porn publication based in Brooklyn and shipping everywhere. Math Magazine maintains a dedication to highlighting an array of genders, an assortment of bodies, and a bouquet of beauty types in every issue. Each page oozes of a sex positive agenda focused on riding the world of sexual shames and promoting sexual exploration. 


WF: How would you define ethical / feminist porn?

MacKenzie:

While my methods and education are always evolving, I would say that ethical and feminist porn is media engineered to turn people on (and even get them off) while being generous to the performers and the audience. This generosity takes the form of collaboration and open dialogue between performers and producers on set where expectations and boundaries are clearly shared and open to adjustment. This generosity takes the form of honoring the vibrant and diverse range of narratives, fetishes, body types, and fantasies that people want to see. It is being responsive to the needs of sex workers, listening to sex workers, and listening to customers by maintaining open and honest lines of communication rooted in respect. It takes the form of undermining porn shame, sex stigmas and racial, sexual, gender-based stereotypes that are so prevalent in mainstream media. This generosity takes the form of giving the platform, the microphone, the spotlight to people who are under-represented and misrepresented. Using pleasure and sexual liberation to undermine shame and oppressive belief-systems is the most feminist thing I can think of doing right now.


WF: What can porn consumers do to ensure what they're are viewing is ethical?

MacKenzie:

Being thoughtful and well informed about the companies one gives their money, attention, and information to is a really smart move -- so long as it doesn’t make you crazy! I dabbled with that a little, but that’s another story. To whatever extent you feel comfortable or passionate, learn about the sites, performers, and production companies out there. If you get a weird feeling when looking at certain porn, it’s really helpful to reflect on where that is coming from. Inward, personal reflection and exploration plus outward, straight-up research will likely help reveal some surprising results from personal stigma or misunderstandings to an entire universe of porn that really works for you.

 

WF: Why do you think consuming porn is integrated into so many people’s self pleasure?

MacKenzie:

Porn can have this magical effect of snapping you into a state of arousal! One minute you can be answering emails and feeling frustrated about your day and the next you can be engrossed in a erotic fantasy in your head, inspired by, say, a video or a short story. Porn is a great way to focus, learn, and to enliven the imagination. Words, images, video, GIFs, artwork, poetry, smell, taste, touch … the list of ways we can heighten our sensual experience is practically endless! Porn is one of many tools in the sexual pleasure toolbox that can help us get in touch with others and ourselves. It can help us escape ourselves or it can help us embrace our bodies and desires even more.


Courtesy of Math Magazine


WF: How do you want people to feel after seeing one of your productions?

MacKenzie:

After seeing Math Magazine, I’d like folks feel their ideas of what porn can be -- expanded. My hope is that people feel inspired and surprised by what we’ve put together. Ethical, progressive, inclusive, and radical porn doesn’t have to be tame, predictable, or just one aesthetic. I want people to feel seen, delighted, inspired, turned-on, and enamored. I hope that people are inspired to have sex, to make porn, and to broaden their sexual horizons by trying something new! I want readers to feel empowered to live the sexual lives they’ve been dreaming of and to realize that the possibilities are endless!

 

WF: What are some of the struggles you face in creating your content? 

MacKenzie:

I have a hard time turning down work. There is a ton of beautiful content that doesn’t explore outside the realm of the known, the accepted and safe. It is tough to turn down so much great content but if it’s not pushing some sort of narrative or aesthetic forward, for me, it’s not what we need to be contributing to the discourse of porn, sex, and art.

Reaching new readers in this era of Facebook scandal and FOSTA legislation is frustrating. Working within these confining systems while pushing a radical message is fundamental to our publication (hence the low-key cover and confusing name). When we are being blocked at several turns and limited in the ways we can grow, I sometimes find myself fantasizing about getting into a simpler business where stigma and social change is less of an issue but if I weren’t pushing something meaningful forward I don’t think I’d be so passionate. The fact that this work is hard is the same reason as why I want to do it: it’s making a difference.

 

WF: What do you think the future of porn looks like?

MacKenzie:

We are seeing an intensely oppressive regime passing laws that put sex workers at great risk and, almost, everyday I worry that we will be shut down. The biggest platforms for reaching customers and making financial transactions are starkly anti-sex, among other things. We operate at the periphery, often populating new apps and sites before the gentrification begins and people in sex work move on to the next platform. We roam and continue to use the tools available to us to resist.

Yet I feel really optimistic. I see these tools being increasingly used for empowerment rather than oppression. People are increasingly skeptical of mainstream media and common narratives including those around sex, gender, and porn. I am seeing a growing movement of sex education, new porn, sex work, and ultimately sexual liberation. Young people are thinking more non-binary and are acting in opposition to common narratives.

I sense that we are at the early stages of another Sexual Revolution, one where sexual autonomy, gender politics, and just human rights see another wave of change and I’m so here for it! I see a future where the sexual-self is no longer repressed and is instead accepted as a part of human nature like any other.


Discover more about Math Magazine at https://math-mag.com/ or via their Instagram @MathMagazine


Other Mentionable Pornographers

 

 

Pink Label TV

 

 

Pink Label TV was inspired by the creativity and originality of the erotic movies Shine Louise Houston saw at the Berlin PornFilmFest. The platform, which has been described as the "'Netflix' of indie adult films" supports fellow independent producers with resources that help their films find a global audience, enable studios access to sexual health resources and ethical production practices, and offer generous revenue commissions. Where other adult sites often feature stolen porn clips for free, misgender trans performers, segregate performers of color, and fetishize older or younger performers, people of size, and folks with disabilities, PinkLabel.TV instead provides a viable and respectful hosting platform where studios and performers can make commissions. 

 

Crash Pad Series

 


Crash Pad Series is based on Houston’s feminist porn award-winning 'best dyke sex film' The Crash Pad about a clandestine San Francisco apartment where lucky queers get a key for hot sex rendezvous. The site can best be described as "queer porn," as it features couples of diverse genders and orientations from the LGBTQ+ community, including folks not often seen in porn such as people of color, people of size, older queers, and people with disabilities (including neurodivergent spectrums). Performers are paid an equal rate regardless of who they are (gender, race, experience) or what they do on camera, and it's common to see things like safer sex, enthusiastic consent and check-ins, BDSM, orgasms, and aftercare.

 

TrenchCoatX

 


TrenchCoatX was launched by veteran adult performers in 2015 with the goal of delivering high quality product, fair prices for the consumer, and fair pay for the people who created that content. The challenge was figuring out how those values fit into a changing adult entertainment industry, but in early 2017, the revenue generated by fans loyal to the site allowed them to grow into a full time production studio on top of continuing as a content delivery platform. 

 

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