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Kristina Rose and James Deen at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas last January. (Rex Feature Ltd.)
Kristina Rose and James Deen at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas last January. (Rex Feature Ltd.)

The rise of ethical porn: She chooses her co-star and the fantasy Add to ...

“The interaction between the actors and actresses herein is entirely consensual. The film is not intended to promote violence against anyone, and all performers herein engaged in their performances with full knowledge of, and consent to, their content and their character. The movie simply portrays a lifestyle.”

 

The disclaimer pops up on Rough Sex 2, a hardcore skin flick directed by a woman who describes her films as “ethical, organic, fair trade porn.” On the sets of feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino, female performers get to choose their co-stars, script scenes using their own fantasies, dictate the terms, no fly zones and safe words, even gaining input into set design, not to mention vegan catering and lubricants of their choosing delivered to the shoot.

“If you care where your food comes from or who makes your jeans, were they paid a fair wage or exploited in a factory, then you should also care about the conditions under which your [porn] was produced,” says Taormino, author of The Feminist Porn Book, published this month, who also launched the first-ever Feminist Porn conference last Saturday at the University of Toronto. “We are not about creating fast food,” Taormino told the crowd. “We’re about creating a really different kind of a product that’s made in a different way, and that might actually be a little more expensive. If you’re only going to buy organic juice, then you should think about buying some organic porn.”

It’s the latest incarnation of porn for women: While the prevailing notion remains that women who watch porn clamour for romantic storylines, soft lighting and intimate sex scenes without the fleshy closeups, feminist porn is increasingly embracing the hardcore and ditching production values, with a recent flick shot on an iPhone. Feminist porn keeps vastly different priorities, including full consent and control for the stars, and a focus on the authentic.

A mainstay of feminist porn, especially in the edgier titles, is the “negotiation” – filmed between performers before the sex and shown to viewers before or after the explicit scenes, these interviews show the stars chatting, usually on beds or couches, about their sexual preferences, fantasies, trigger words and also why they chose their co-star.

While still an emerging genre, feminist porn now makes up approximately 10 per cent of the multibillion-dollar porn universe, says Carlyle Jansen, founder of the Toronto sex shop Good For Her, which puts on the Feminist Porn Awards, now in their 8th year and growing in popularity annually. It’s a sign that the tenets of feminist porn are beginning to bleed into the mainstream adult industry. There is also substantial overlap between feminist directors, producers and performers working in the mainstream adult industry, including alongside big companies like Wicked, Vivid Entertainment and New Sensations. It’s estimated that 65 per cent of the actors now act in both alternative and mainstream films.

With non-traditional porn stars like auteur Sasha Grey and cuddly, guy-next-door James Deen gaining cultural icon status, the question remains: When will the mainstream evolve and change how it sees female viewers?

It’s a long road, say critics. “Mainstream pornography is often not being made with thought as to what kind of message about sexuality and relationships it wants to convey. It’s being made and slapped on the Internet quickly because it’s a consummable,” said Carol Queen, a San Francisco writer and cultural sexologist.

Amid calls for “porn literacy” and questions about what effect, exactly, mountains of readily available online porn ultimately have on male and female minds and intimate lives, proponents in the feminist industry want to shake up the aesthetics of mainstream porn for the benefit of the viewer.

“Just as we don’t want our young women adopting their sex roles and understanding of sexual function solely from formulaic mainstream porn, we don’t want our young men to be adopting that restricted set of understandings about themselves,” says Queen. “We want there to be a lot of different understandings of how people engage in sex.”

That’s been the aim of April Flores, an L.A.-based, plus-sized porn actress who uses her body as a “tool” to get a different message out. “I try to only work on projects that will make me proud,” she says. “I think about how this image will affect other women watching.”

Getting actors to be so vocal helps eradicate questions from the viewer’s mind: “Is she really enjoying this? Was that a flinch? Is something not going right? Did she know she was getting herself into this?” says Taormino. The director began incorporating interviews into her films in 2006; since then the technique has been adopted by other filmmakers in the genre.

Wolf Hudson, one of the few openly bisexual male performers, says these films are “a venue for showing authenticity, showing passion, showing something that’s real. There are a lot of male performers and men in general that would like to see that.”

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