My introduction to pornography was in my early adolescent years. It was part of a harmless game of dare. Until I saw a naked woman being whipped and tortured on a pole, and found my friends hooting at it. I remember feeling disgusted watching it. Years later, I was introduced to this new genre called feminist pornography. It was then that I could finally pinpoint the cause of my discomfort with mainstream porn for all those years, right from that first incident: it wasn’t pornography itself that was repulsive to me. Instead, it was the humiliating way women were treated in those videos.

It is not an easy task to talk about pornography, let alone one’s likes and dislikes within it. Living in a country where the idea of porn itself is tabooed, there is no safe space for such conversations. I know I am not the only girl who took a decade just to find out what I enjoy viewing. And it’s not like even I have found definite answers for myself. The main difference in the feminist pornography that was apparent to me right away was that women in it were treated as sexual collaborators with men rather than being merely sexual conquests of men.

What I have constantly failed to understand is that why can’t a porn video be sexually explicit and still present women as human beings?

Most mainstream porn is made by men, for men. It is outrightly misogynistic, and proudly so.  What I have constantly failed to understand is that why can’t a porn video be sexually explicit and still present women as human beings? Ones who deserve to be treated with respect, even when they have their clothes off. Ones who have an equal right to sexual desire, pleasure, and satisfaction.

The Two Feet of Feminist Porn: Consent and Pleasure

I had always felt that the most interesting bit about feminist porn is the way it includes consent, whether implicitly or explicitly, as part of its content. Mainstream pornography conveniently leaves it out altogether. Which is quite dangerous as it reflects and thereby reinforces the warped view of sex that underlies rape culture. But most feminist porn videos I have seen emphasise on consent.

Women in mainstream pornography have largely been portrayed as objects of desire and seldom as subjects of pleasure. But don’t women have desires of their own? What would she want her man to do in return for that blowjob she just gave him? How do we know she is even enjoying herself, let alone having an orgasm, during any kind of roleplay when all videos end with a gratified man? At the crux of the very act of sex lies pleasure. But then, female sexual pleasure has been a taboo not just in the patriarchal society, but it has also been equally ignored in the pornography industry as well. So much so that most girls I know, myself included, never even pondered on the subject of female pleasure while growing up.

Also Read: Adolescent Porn Consumption Is Dangerous Without Effective Sex Ed

I feel that inclusion of the angle of consent in feminist pornography plays an important role in the portrayal of mutual pleasure. When both parties agree on what they want, it builds up space for the sexual gratification of each.

I once remember reading an essay by the feminist-porn producer Tristan Taormino, where she noted that “if somebody is going to go to the trouble of calling a woman a slut and smacking her, there damn well better be an awesome orgasm in it for her. If she’s not having a great time, what’s the point?” I still agree with her wholeheartedly. I have also witnessed how this proud emphasis on female pleasure and consent in feminist pornography has helped to unwrap the shame that many feminist women around me had initially felt towards their fantasies of kink or domination. In real life, it even bestowed them with the agency to initiate bold sexual encounters.

The Push for Diversity

Something I’ve noted over the years is the attempt of the industry to depict a huge diversity. In fact, I still remember the amount of attention the short erotic film called Krutch gained. It got numerous media coverages. It was even nominated for the Feminist Porn Awards (FPA) that is arranged by the company store ‘Good For Her’ every year. The film featured a woman with a disability in a solo masturbation scene. The video challenged many ideas about sexuality and disability. Even I was quite surprised as to how much of a hit it was with the audience. Which in hindsight also made me believe that there’s a good enough demand for diversity on part of the viewers as well.

Also Read: Stop Slut-Shaming Women Who Own Their Sexuality

Feminist porn still remains a bundle of contradictions to me, despite it being my alternate choice over mainstream porn. What I have realized though, is that feminist porn is doing the same thing that feminists have been trying to do since ages: fight for sexual agency. Both rebel against the patriarchal forces that stifle their rights to make decisions about their own sexuality. And for that the industry gets all my respect.

Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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