The Course of Reason

Feminist Porn

March 27, 2013

There are some things going wrong in the porn industry. It can victimize women, emphasize stereotypes, and take advantage of underage or vulnerable people. A complaint that I have heard from friends is that the majority of porn caters to men. Think about some of the titles you’ve seen on porn sites. From “Watch Asian woman with big tits enjoying a cock”; advertises, “Black older women, Asian milfs, nasty grannies, naughty housewives”. It all sounds very childish and grotesque. To what audience does a video titled “Naughty Milf rubs her clit and plays with her giant boobs!” cater?


I’m not saying that I’ve never watched videos that are equivalent to the ones mentioned above (when a teenager is curious about sexuality where are they to go?), but I am not proud of it. The problem with this porn is that it is unrealistic and largely degrading, racially not diverse, and promotes false ideas about sex.

Lesser known, there are some good things happening in the porn industry. I am an advocate for ‘real’ porn and think that it is a good sexual outlet that adults should be able to enjoy. The director Tristan Taormino has made the ‘Chemistry’ series, which is ‘reality’ porn. Taormino gives the people in her films the power to decide what they want to do and with whom they are comfortable performing. During casting, she will ask each performer for the previously mentioned things, but also creates a safe place by requiring up-to-date STD and HIV testing with negative results, offers condoms to the actors, and changes the bed sheets between each scene. Taormino really does cater to her employees, supplying them with healthy food, their favorite sex products (like lube and toys) and never asks them to do something they dislike. As a result, the performers are energetic about their work.

The Chemistry series is also exciting because of Taormino’s use of diverse actors and allowing performers to control the scene. She creates the diversity that is not seen in much mainstream porn, and without pointing out stereotypes. The films that result from this kind of direction have more variety and less predictability or repetition. In an interview with Elizabeth Wood, a writer with the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, Taormino talks about breaking the typical porn formula (‘pornula’):

So, my goal for Chemistry is for as much as possible to deviate from the formula. I shoot scenes where there is intercourse, then oral sex, then intercourse. I shoot so-called “internal” cum shots and—this is a HUGE no-no—scenes WITHOUT cum shots. I shoot scenes where performers stay in one position for a long time. I shoot scenes where sex toys cover the pussy, a cardinal sin.

Taormino also has a different take on male and female roles in porn. She allows the females to reach orgasm and includes male shots, including facial expression and equal interview time with both sexes. Feminist porn is also a focus of Taormino’s. In this genre, she encourages women (and men) performers to act out their own desires and thus avoids stereotypes. On her website, Taormino writes:

Feminist porn is porn that empowers viewers, both women and men: it gives them information and ideas about sex. It inspires fantasy and adventure. It validates viewers when they see themselves or a part of their sexuality represented. It counteracts the other messages we get from society: sex is shameful, naughty, dirty, scary, dangerous, or it’s the domain of men, where only their desires and fantasies get fulfilled. It presents sex as joyful, fun, safe, mutual and satisfying.

By shifting porn to focus on all sexual identifies, ‘taboo’ desires, and equality of sexes in the bedroom, directors create realistic and satisfying films and begin breaking down stereotypes that we see in a lot of free internet porn.

To learn more about Tristan Taormino’s work, visit her website, watch her in panels in MSNBC, or read interviews in which she participates. Most of the information in this post is from her interview with Elizabeth Wood on



About the Author: Kate Heetland

Kate Heetland's photo
Kate Heetland is a sophomore pursuing a B.M. in vocal performance at the University of Northern Iowa and is the current Vice President for the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI). She is also involved with One Iowa at UNI and Sigma Alpha Iota, a music service fraternity.




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