We here at ArtWank spend a great deal of time asking questions about blue movies, contemporary and vintage. Of course watching people get it on on video is hot and fun, but in an industry increasingly geared towards profits and shock tactics we’re not always down with what’s on offer.
In fact, Ophelia Bitz started the whole damned project because whilst cruising for a little light relief she found the mood had passed by the time she found something online that wasn’t politically dodgy or aesthetically off-putting!
Our favourite courtesan, smutstar and blogger Ms Kitty Stryker has a few choice notions on the subject of good porn and porn that is good for you. Enjoy!
“As the one who organizes Ladies High Tea and Pornography Society, I am often asked what can make porn ethical (and I do think it’s a good thing to focus on “ethical” vs the narrower term of “feminist”, but I digress). It’s a complicated question, and one that I have considered thoroughly as a porn performer myself, as I want to work within environments that stroke my political self as erotically as my physical self! Is it possible to be a socially-conscious individual and still make and consume pornography?
I say yes, and here’s how you can assess for for yourself.
When I’ve been called upon to describe what the phrase “ethical porn” means to me, I’m talking about pornography produced with the pleasure of the participants in mind- porn that did not depend on male-gaze shooting techniques- porn that shows body/gender/sexual orientation diversity- porn that allows the performers to have a say in how the action progresses and what happens. That’s just some of the things I think about when I look at a pornographic film and decide if it falls into my ethical porn category, though I also tend to want to know how the company works behind the scenes for a more accurate judgment.
How does this look in practice? Well, let’s take one example sex act- cunnilingus. How is one cunnilingus shot different from another? How can we deconstruct this one sexual behaviour that is seemingly about female pleasure and say whether the company is employing ethical standards or not?
There’s a huge difference in how it’s shot, for a start. Cunnilingus that’s good for the camera (i.e. focuses on tongue barely touching pink) is very different from cunnilingus done for sexual arousal (and porn directors that focus on female arousal tend to focus on the facial expressions vs the actual act). There’s a difference on how long is spent focusing on that activity- if it’s a girl on girl scene, how much time is spent on cunnilingus vs, say, dildo play, and if it’s a straight scene, how does the time spent on cunnilingus compare to the time spent on fellatio? Do you get any point-of-view shots from the female perspective, watching her pussy being eaten? Does it show her orgasming from this, or only when a toy is introduced?
Other things you might see more often in ethical porn:
-use of sex toys that are high quality, body safe, and sterile (silicone, metal, glass)
-less focus on penetration-sexual contact after orgasm (the “moneyshot” is not the finishing point)
-negotiation is seen on camera
-showing and sexualizing the soft penis vs just the hard
-more use of safer sex and/or safer sex barriers being put into place on camera
-different body types/ethnicities on film without that being objectified- so, curvy women, small breasts, butch women, and people of colour, without the title being “Black Beauties” or “Whale Watching”
That’s just a small list to begin thinking about when watching pornography, though there are other things you don’t see, behind the scenes stuff that’s just as important. When you look further into the company, what is there working environment like?. How much do they pay their models comparatively to how much the site makes? Do they judge how much to pay you according to how “hot” or “well known” you are? Do they have contracts that are respected- no bait and switch like you often get in mainstream porn? Are performers encouraged to work with people they want to work with and do sexual acts they enjoy on film, or does the company focus on providing a warm body? Do performers have some say in the editing process? Are safer sex limits ok, and does the company provide supplies? Are they “rewarded” financially for doing more hardcore stuff (a complicated one, of course, as some acts like anal involve more preparation and time, which should be paid for, but this can be also be used to manipulate performers on set).
This is what I think about when I buy porn, or when I perform in it. It’s not as simple as “all pornography objectifies women and is evil” or “all pornography is a free expression of sex”. It’s complicated by social constructs around gender expectations, racism, classism, homophobia. transphobia… all the same forms of oppression we see in society are present in pornography.
There’s hope, though. I’ve seen mainstream porn companies starting to improve their ethics according to my list. While watching one film put out by a mainstream company, I was amazed that there was safer sex being shown on screen, suggested male bisexuality without it being hilarious or creepy, non-heteronormative behavior from men. And of course the internet has spawned all sorts of independent companies that maintain ethical working conditions- I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few of them. There’s more women producing and directing porn themselves, and some are doing it from a female gaze, not a male one. It seems like it might be getting better.
I wish that there was a set of working standards that could label sites and dvds as “ethically produced”- a sort of “fair trade” for the sex industry. I hope it’ll happen. Because that’s the kind of porn I want to be in and buy- porn that celebrates sexuality, rather than othering it.”