Is Porn Dangerous for Women?

The adult entertainment industry has always been a divisive factor for feminists, with the anti-porn campers arguing that pornography is exploitative and damaging to women, and hence is not synonymous with a movement concerned with their equality and autonomy This sentiment is unsurprising, as porn is a key place where the domination/subordination dynamic in patriarchy is sexualized due to the constant exposure to violent and degrading images of women, churned out by an industry that under-represents them in creative roles. Despite this, mainstream porn continues to boast a large female viewership, perhaps because some women derive a sense of female sexual normalization from pornography. Porn allows them to explore their own sexual identities and interests without sexual shame, guilt or hypocrisy. It is also a source of sex education for many women who have formerly had sheltered access to it, especially in countries like India where porn is the only outlet for female sexual expression. Considering this angle, should the solution to ending gender-based violence be the moral condemnation and censorship of porn?


Liberal feminists argue that the solution is not that we need less porn, but that we need better porn. This has led to the championing of female-friendly, or feminist porn, which can be simply defined as porn that is made for women, by women. However, this definition may be considered overly simplistic, and you may be wondering- does the porn I consume count as feminist porn? To make things easier, the article below examines some of the principles of feminist porn and how they seek to challenge stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn.


Feminist pornography in a picture- porn for women, by women

The principal hallmark of feminist porn is its dedication to centering genuine female pleasure to create porn that does not cater to a male heteronormative audience. Most mainstream pornographic depictions of women have focused more on the pleasure the woman is capable of giving her male partner, as can be seen by the formula that most porn follows: fellatio, penetration, followed by the man’s orgasm (which usually marks the end of the film). However, feminist porn takes female pleasure as an independent phenomenon, capable of realization with or without a man. It includes authentic demonstrations of female orgasms and the ways in which these occur and shows women taking agency over the act, particularly through roles not traditionally available to them, such as domination. The film may highlight the physical connection, attraction, and chemistry between the performers instead of being routine and cold. Unlike in most mainstream pornography, the apex of the film’s plot is the woman’s orgasm, not the penis-carrying person’s orgasm. This holds the potential to disrupt the male gaze and create a “female” gaze while transforming women from mindless sex objects into subjects in their own right, who enjoy sex explicitly for their own pleasure.


Historically, women’s role in porn was to be in front of the camera and allow themselves to be posed, positioned, and penetrated, while men have been controlling the filming and production itself. Consequently, the lion’s share of the money in porn has flowed into the pockets of men, not the women who are the performing bodies. Hence, the involvement of women in all different levels of the business and the creation of pornography is a key tenet of feminist pornography. Hence, employing women as scriptwriters, producers, directors, editors, and so on, rather than simply as performers, not only gives women the creative freedom to create sexy images and storylines that may be more appealing to a female audience but also ensures that profits go towards female operated coffers.


Feminist porn centres female pleasure

Feminist porn shows a commitment towards ethical standards and fair trade production practices. For instance, feminist porn clearly depicts explicit dynamic consent on many levels on-screen, unlike mainstream porn where the woman is shown to gave already given consent. This applies particularly to contentious genres like BDSM. This norm is carried off-screen as well, with performers being given the right to choose who they will work with, what type of activities they will engage in, filming methods, and content distribution, to promote the idea of honest and transparent communication. Oftentimes, performers are allowed to bring their real-world experiences to the set, coming from a foundation of what works for them and supports their sexual and personal wellbeing. Lastly, performers are given a fair market price for their work. Safeguarding performers’ rights as employees and creating a healthy and secure workplace may make women working in the porn industry financially independent or increase their confidence, empowering them to do things that previous generations of women would have been unable to do. Furthermore, the emphasis on equal pay and enthusiastic consent in the production of feminist pornography helps to decrease the exploitation of women in the industry, and de-stigmatizes sex workers as unworthy of acceptance and respect.


Finally, feminist pornography serves as an outlet for the presentation of a variety of voices and the idiosyncrasy of human desire. The heteronormative version of sexuality present in most mainstream pornography presents the idea that white, athletic, cis-gendered, heterosexual men and women are the norm. However, feminist porn acknowledges the infinite fluidity of sexual pleasure and places no limits on what it can or cannot be. It strives to be inclusive and representative of queer bodies, fat bodies, disabled bodies, hairy bodies, non-gender conforming bodies, black and brown bodies, and every other kind of body that humanity comes contained in, and shows these bodies enjoying a wide variety of relationships, fantasies, kinks, etc. When bodies such as these are presented, they are done so in a way that does not make them strange or fetishized. Sex is sex and feminist pornography is a space where those who are not considered attractive n mainstream society are allowed to be sexy and to explore sex on their own terms. It does not matter what package that comes in (as long as that package is capable of consent).


In conclusion, feminist porn aims to shift the question from whether or not porn should exist, to what we can do to better pornography. It recognized the sexually transformative potential of porn as a tool that can combat sexual shame, embrace sexual difference, and resist tendencies to normalize male heteronormative desire over all others. After all, people of all identities and genders have the right to express their sexuality through pornography, whether by acting in it or by consuming it, and also the right to see themselves represented on screen in a thoughtful and nuanced way.