"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere


Friday, June 14, 2013

Feminist Porn In Context


Note:  This is one of a series of posts about articles in The Feminist Porn Book. The other posts can be found here

Lynn Comella has a great piece in The Feminist Porn Book with the lovely (if academese-ish) title "From Text to Context: Feminist Porn and the Making of a Market" in which she gives us some of the historical of feminist porn as part of a way to contextualize current feminist porn.  Interestingly, this is done as a sort of response to some of the usual critiques by antiporn feminists, which are often "essentialist and reductionist".  Comella tells us:
Sex-positive feminists—those who make, watch, study, and write about pornography—are frequently accused by antipornography feminists of lacking any meaningful critique of the mainstream porn industry. And while antiporn feminists may occasionally acknowledge porn made by and for women, they typically do so only in passing before dismissing it as irrelevant. The reasons for this vary, but include the stance that pornography geared toward women comprises such a small segment of a much larger industry that its effects are virtually negligible, or that porn for women apes, rather than challenges, the dominant codes and conventions used by mainstream pornographers whose sole motivation, according to this narrative, is profit. The notion of “sex-positive synergy” challenges these arguments.
I must admit that the phrase "sex-positive synergy" makes me cringe--but "synergy" is being used as a technical term here:  Comella is making a case that the entire history of sex-positive feminism should be taken into account when examining feminist porn.  Feminist porn didn't arrive in a vacuum, and neither did it come simply as an aping of mainstream porn, as is often portrayed by antiporn folks.  It came as part of a cultural package that included other sex-positive facets of culture, including feminist sex-education efforts, feminist sex toy stores, lesbian feminist products and the like.  

Comella traces several threads of this cultural package which I encourage folks to read--I learned a lot about how many feminist porn creators came to be creating feminist porn--and the part that places like Good Vibrations played in all of this.  

In addition, Comella makes one of the most rigorous responses to Gail Dines, who is famous for armchair-analyzing things she doesn't know much about. Just a tidbit, to whet your appetite:  
The seminar Dines references—although did not attend—was one that I had moderated and helped to organize. In fact, joining me on stage were two feminist sex-toy retailers, Jacq Jones from Sugar in Baltimore and Mattie Fricker from Self Serve in Albuquerque, accompanied by Carol Queen from Good Vibrations, Diana DeVoe, a female porn producer, and Greg DeLong, the founder of Njoy, a sex-positive company that makes high quality, stainless steel sex toys. It was hardly the cesspool of women-hating “tricksters” and “predatory capitalists” that Dines describes; rather, the very composition of the panel reflects the kind of sex-positive synergy and entrepreneurship I’ve discussed throughout this essay.
I love that Comella points out that Dines was basically making shit up, while other feminists were actually doing feminist work.  I plan in the future, when folks who "critique" feminist porn by merely saying that it's aping mainstream porn, to quickly point to Comella's article, which soundly undermines such ideas with, y'know, facts and stuff. 

Bonus! Here's a talk by Comella with some of her research:
Lynn Comella, PhD from New View on Vimeo.
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