Inside Feminist Porn: How Women Finally Get To Be On Top
“I need to watch some hardcore porn to prepare for this interview tomorrow. Any suggestions?” I jokingly ask my boyfriend-y character. I am not a porn connoisseur.
I do not know the good sites or hottest pornstars. And I’m somewhat frightened by the things I’ve seen on the pop-ups on my computer screen.
My Trusted Male Expert starts rattling off videos like it’s the alphabet song. I am admittedly kind of horrified.
It’s not that I didn’t expect him to not watch porn, I’m just surprised by the extent of his knowledge. And I’m even more shocked that I kind of mind that he watches it.
Maybe this will actually be a good thing for me to investigate.
“Just don’t get any ideas,” he jokes back. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be able to pick up any new tricks from watching between the cracks of my hand (which is covering my eyes).
“A very popular documentary of my submission was ‘The Training of O’ with my partner and director. It’s a documentation of a dominance-submission relationship in love. It showed the sub on a totally different level, from a place of love and pleasure and a couple going on a journey together. It is now really being viewed in many universities,” says Madison Young, a feminist porn star, activist, filmmaker, author, educator, artist and six-time Feminist Porn Award winner.
With all of these impressive accolades and her articulate way of speaking, it sounds like Young is discussing high-level politics -- not a highly-explicit video in which she is “f*cked and bound and spanked into submission,” according to the documentary’s description.
Madison Young has been a part of the kink community since she was 18 years old and a feminist for as long as she’s known the word.
While I am not especially well-versed in pornography (do awkward teenage sleepovers and "Don Jon" count?), nor am I familiar with BDSM (aside from a few excerpts of “Fifty Shades of Grey”), I am still very interested how Madison Young -- and the expanding sex worker community -- put “feminist” and “porn” and “bondage” and “equality” all in the same sentence.
What is feminist porn?
“I usually encounter, ‘Is that even possible?’ because people hear the word “porn” and they just feel that porn itself is misogynist and objectifying to women,” says Madison. “A lot of media in society is sexist and misogynist and coming from a male’s point-of-view,” she continues. “It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create change within the realm of TV and film and advertising... This is our point-of-view. And it’s not just a female point-of-view either. It’s creating equal space and positivity around sexuality for all people of all genders.”
Feminist porn champions the feminist ethos and the emotional aspect involved in sexuality. It’s not about capitalizing on a product or commodifying a woman’s body. Think of it as authentic pornography, free of directors yelling, “1, 2, 3, cum!”
And feminist porn isn’t just for women or made only by women. People of all genders create, watch and enjoy feminist porn -- it’s not solely a women’s movement.
According to Madison, in fact, there is a significant rise in the trans community’s involvement, with more transmen and transwomen picking up the camera and participating. Young would “like to see more men involved” but finds all the recent mainstream attention very encouraging.
Indeed there’s been huge growth in the industry since Madison started directing feminist porn in 2005. Forty-one films of her own later and a popularized novel, “The Feminist Porn Book,” by Tristan Taormino has incited much conversation about feminist porn.
Now everyone from sex educators to sex workers to academia is “talking about ideas of social change, social justice, workers' rights, and how that all intersects with this amazing media and art form that’s being created,” says Young.
That’s not to say that mainstream porn has gone away. Millions of us view mainstream porn and perpetuate the billion-dollar industry, and yet there are massive amounts of shame and embarrassment that comes from watching this type of pornography.
Is feminist porn the new answer to this repressed art form? A medium to showcase sexual activity and exploration in a way that is socially acceptable, justified and progressive.
The Future of Feminist Porn
“I feel like my sexuality, women’s sexuality and individual pleasure is something that does need to be documented and talked about. It’s something that needs more research and education. Art and media and film is a great way to have those conversations,” Madison suggests.
Understanding the social and cultural importance of pornography and introducing these topics in a classroom setting have been two especially rewarding aspects of the movement.
I’m not sure if my university offers a course on feminist pornography, or if I would have enrolled in it for that matter (I was way too immature during that time), but the inner Women’s Studies in me does feel satisfied seeing that “feminism” and “hardcore porn” don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And that women don’t need to be demeaned in order for something to be “hot.”
What’s probably most important though (and anyone who watches “Masters of Sex” will agree with me on this one) is the idea that feminist porn demystifies and destigmatizes shame surrounding our bodies and intimacy.
It’s helping us to think differently about our sexualities and the way we relate to one another. There’s nothing dirty or exploitive in that use of pornography.
With a newfound lens (so to speak), I decide to give my forays into porn another shot. I don’t watch much (I’m in the office!), but I can appreciate Madison’s words more and see the differences between mainstream and feminist porn.
Along with other feminist pornographers, Madison Young has succeeded in making porn approachable, fulfilling and ethical. Something that you wouldn’t necessarily mind your boyfriend watching.