What I Learned While Attending the Feminist Porn Awards 2014

by May 13, 2014
filed under Activism, Entertainment
Topics ,

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My two favorite things about attending the Feminist Porn Awards and conference, besides watching a latex gloved hand disappear into lower body orifices and retro-femme girl-bullies fuck each other with foot-long rainbow lollipops (on a big screen, in a room with two-hundred strangers), are the reactions I get from people when I tell them I managed to convince my university to send me there for the sex-positive club I help organize, and the conversations around feminism/porn that inevitably follow.

Already in its ninth year, this was the first time I attended – or actually even heard about – the FPA. Hosted by the sex-positive, female-friendly adult toy store Good for Her and followed by the radical and sexy FPcon, I left this four-day adventure feeling even more secure in my sexuality and armed with an advanced tool-kit for dispelling myths about pornography and talking about sex work as legitimate labour.

You may be asking, “what makes feminist porn different from ‘regular’ porn? How the heck can you call porn feminist, let alone ethical?” And importantly, “did the film screening turn into a giant glitter and popcorn infused orgy?” (Okay, that was just a fantasy I had on the flight from Edmonton to Toronto. Sadly, it didn’t happen.)

I too have asked myself these questions. I’m pleased to report that not only did this radical, sexy event answer them, but it also totally cozied my kink with politics.

Just like in any other industry, labour can be unethical, nonconsensual and exploitative. In sex work and porn, the risk of this happening can be greater than in other industries. This is more to do with societal stigma, systems of oppression and laws around sex work than the actual of the work itself. This doesn’t mean all ‘mainstream’ porn is shitty and oppressive, but let’s be honest – a lot of it is. Feminist porn strives to be more critical of those societal stigmas and oppressions by not recreating them in films.

My feminist porn hero, Jiz Lee describes feminist porn as “a framework used to discuss pornography (including production and consumption) with ethics, gender equality and socio-economic values at its core.” Basically: Consent is number one, misogyny and transphobia can beat it and for the love of lubricant, pay your performers!

At this year’s FPA, Zahra Stardust poked fun at censorship laws and the old question of “who’s being ‘oppressed’ in gay porn?” with her nominated film, The One on the Bottom, while Courtney Trouble challenged the intentional or unintentional exclusion of trans-bodies and experiences in the feminist and mainstream porn industry (aka the cotton ceiling) with her award winning, Trans Grrrls: Revolution Porn Style.

FPcon, in its second year, was a fantastic finish to the weekend. I work-shopped and panel-discussed the heck out of smashing systems and stigma with sessions on everything from Feminist Porn: What it is, what it isn’t and why it matters, to The Queercrip Politics of Re/Making Feminist Porn, to Sexual Consumption of Labour & Expressions of Women of Colour, to two of my favorites, Love the Whore You’re With and Archiving Feminist Porn in Academia. This is but a few, and I can’t begin to describe how valuable Jiz Lee’s session on web-building was!

Feminist porn, as a movement and a genre, challenges the stigma and shame around sex, sexuality and bodies, and aims to smash the systems of oppression that keep all that junk going. Through deeply political and most definitely fun and pleasurable actions, change is happening. As porn star and educator Annie Sprinkle has been quoted: “The answer to bad porn isn’t no porn…it’s to try and make better porn!”


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