Female-Friendly Porn On The Rise?

There was an article from Washington Square News yesterday that caught my eye about an organized event by the National Organization of Women for Women at NYU on the evolution of the women’s porn industry.
Held at NYU last night, the speakers were Candida Royalle, the president of Femme Productions Inc., and Jayme Waxman, a Playgirl columnist and freelance pornographer who are trying to bring their feminist ideology into recent porn projects. “I wanted to give the genre a woman’s voice,” said Royalle. “It didn’t have to be something you would look at and feel dirty about.”
The event included screenings of some of Royalle’s flicks, which featured more realistic-looking women and more sophisticated plotlines that appealed to female sexuality. Some of the films like “One Size Fits All” and “Studhunters” include a comedic tone that parodies the over-the-top cheesiness that typical porn flicks tend to have.
Although the event was a celebration of sorts, with a naked torso cake for the audience (yum!), Royalle and Waxman stress that female-friendly porn still has a ways to go. One problem with this type of porn is that it’s often difficult to get funding, as most mainstream movies typically appeal to heterosexual men. Rayelle and Waxman also feel there’s a need for more women’s voices in the industry.
“If women don’t seize control of the reigns of production, men will continue to do it for us,” Royalle says.
One person in the audience asked about how Royalle would respond to the argument that all porn is wrong, she said, “It’s not going to go away, so let’s take it back and do it the way it should be done.”
Good job, ladies!

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18 Comments

  1. Posted April 1, 2005 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    I was saddened to read about the lack of funding for women’s porn. As Royalle’s final comment implies, I’m sure that when people witness the moral and artistic superiority of women’s porn to men’s, the latter will just wither gradually away. This is unlikely to happen, however, when the men’s porn monopoly has a stranglehold on the market.
    I believe the government should step in to redress this inequality arising from market failure. It’s not just about funding for porn production, either. There’s a whole job of training new cohorts of women to
    participate fully in an industry in which they have hitherto only been included in order to be exploited. Higher education establishments and careers advice agencies should be alerted to the problem.
    This is a good job, as you say, but as Royalle points out there is still some ways to go.

  2. Posted April 1, 2005 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad to see this. I write female-friendly erotic short stories, and a couple of magazines have accepted them, and paid me for them. Female-friendly porn does have a long way to go, but I’m glad to see that it’s off to such a good start.

  3. RedEmma
    Posted April 1, 2005 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    This is a great opportunity for us to put our pocketbooks where our politics are. If money talks, let’s raise our voices. Hooray for pro-woman porn!

  4. Thomas
    Posted April 1, 2005 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    It will surprise nobody that I’ve been on the “make better porn” bandwagon for a while.
    However, some feminists respond to women’s efforts to make sexually explicit representations of their own sexuality by saying that the volume is insignificant next to the voluminous misogynist hate speech out there produced by the mainstream companies. (To be clear, I _agree_ with the anti-porn folks that “bang bus” and its imitators are vicious anti-woman crap driven by hate and fear of real women’s sexuality.)
    So here, Vanessa has presented the question rather squarely. These women are trying to represent sexuality as they live it and want to see it, in a way they can be proud of and get off to. Do the anti-porn folks think this is a fool’s errand, that Candida, and Nina Hartley, and Maria Beatty, and Susie Bright, and Tristan Taormino ought to give up and go home?

  5. Posted April 2, 2005 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Anti-porn feminism isn’t much of a problem anymore, Thomas. There was actually a MSM article written about this recently that circulated several feminist blogs. Anyone remember it?

  6. Posted April 2, 2005 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see the MSM article.
    There’s an anti-porn feminist comment on the issue over at Trish Wilson’s blog. I don’t know how much of a “problem” anti-porn feminism is, but I think there are still lingering anti-porn (feminist and otherwise) ideas shaping the sexual culture, with consequences for what gets produced, who sees it, what kind of access there is to it, etc.

  7. Terpiskore
    Posted April 3, 2005 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Thomas, why should I accept your pick up here when you didn’t respond to what I had to say to you in the other thread? Looking at the archives of the way this subject plays here I don’t see much point of sharing my observations about the destructiveness of prostitution (and porn is filmed prostitution) when getting too close to the observable truth causes an abandonment of the topic by people without good responses to the questioning comments made. Still, I am eternally an optimist.
    If you look at this site’s archives you’ll see that despite the one-sided focus from the women here on the “whoring is feminist” angle, several feminist commentors, Katha Pollitt included, have questioned how feminist prostituting female sexuality can be and shown interest in questioning pornography’s contents and social messages. Just because corporate media have made it easier for young feminists to ignore the suffering of prostituted women in favor of getting their own vaginas moist at images of whores being pimped on fims doesn’t mean all feminists are buying the “you’ve come a long way baby” psuedo-femininst marketing tactic this article demonstrates so well.
    Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an essay a few months back about Abu Ghraib, about how it proved to her women mimicking male behaviors are never going to break out of patriarchal dominance. That’s my opinion on the pimps with vaginas versus pimps with penises, especially ones like Royale espousing a ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ attitude.
    At the same time New York NOW synergized this marketing event with prostitution film makers, a report came out about New York City sex workers facing a tremendous amount of violence despite being “independent contractors”. I think a report like this should be given more credence by serious femninists than a public relations party pornographers throw for themselves to boost flagging sales under the “You’ve come a long way baby” banner.
    Violence, isolation in lives of indoor sex workers
    http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny–sexwork-survey0330mar30,0,4584282.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork

  8. Fiona
    Posted April 3, 2005 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I second everything that Terpiskore said in spades, and don’t feel the need to repeat it as it was said so well.
    However, I will add that I think the “feminists” at that porn party are Tools of The Patriarchy. Think about it. I think sexist men and pornographers are only too happy to see women joining up for their exploitive agenda of women and all people being sex objects to provide voyeurs a thrill – while distracting them from the real issues at hand: millions of girls, women and children suffering immeasurable harm at the hands of pimps and patriarchy.
    If these female pornographers really gave a damn about giving women a voice that has any meaning, they might spend their time and energy focusing on more important things than “sexy women” and “hot men” having “steamy sex” on screen for others to get off on. They would be advocating on behalf of all of the millions of women and children in the world who have been and are – as I write this – being molested, incested, sexually harrassed, stalked, raped, tortured, and murdered. Maybe it’s just me, but doing something about these issues seems like a higher priority for humanity than providing masturbatory material or sexual entertainment for other privileged women who wish to indulge in sexual consumerism.

  9. stephen
    Posted April 4, 2005 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Sorry, irony doesn’t work in blog comments.
    Here’s my point non-ironically. The post, combined with Royalle’s comments, seems to contain this argument: -
    (1) Women’s porn is good and men’s porn is bad.
    (2) If women had control of the porn industry, it would produce good things and not bad things.
    (3) Women should therefore be encouraged to make porn.
    I think the fallacy is to compare women making porn with men making porn. For the conclusion (3) to follow we need to compare women making porn with women doing something else, like being Prime Minister, writing novels or fighting against injustices against women. Which is Fiona’s point: there are better things for women to be doing than making porn.
    There are better things for men to be doing that making porn, too.
    The most the argument can hope to establish is that if men stopped making porn the gain would be much greater than if women stopped making porn. That’s true, but not very interesting.

  10. Thomas
    Posted April 4, 2005 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Fiona and Terpiskore:
    I think you’ve answered my question rather clearly. I asked:
    “Do the anti-porn folks think this is a fool’s errand, that Candida, and Nina Hartley, and Maria Beatty, and Susie Bright, and Tristan Taormino ought to give up and go home? ”
    Your answer is that they are worse than fools, they’re “Tools of the Patriarchy.”
    It seems you both think that trying to express their sexuality as women is just not valuable at all — that they should instead be “advocating on behalf of all of the millions of women and children in the world who have been and are – as I write this – being molested, incested, sexually harrassed, stalked, raped, tortured, and murdered.”
    I take that to mean that the only appropriate expression of a woman’s sexuality in patriarchy is to be silent about sexuality, and instead devote one’s life to curing the worst misogynist crimes of patriarchy.
    I have no illusion you care what I think — many radical feminists reject the idea of a male feminist out of hand, and I’m guessing that goes for both of you. But lots of female feminists are not going to get on board with an ideology that explicit expression of sexuality in patriarchy will always just make things worse. If you are not willing to meaningfully differentiate between Max Hardcore and Candida Royale, you’re on a lonely quest.

  11. stephen
    Posted April 4, 2005 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m collecting invalid syllogisms and I’ve found another one here! -
    (1) “Advocating on behalf of millions etc….” is an alternative to making porn.
    (2) Making porn is a way of expressing sexuality.
    (3) Therefore if you advocate on behalf of millions etc., you can only express your sexuality through advocating on behalf of millions etc.
    But that’s not right. You can do the advocating and express your sexuality, too. You can do both, and not make porn, if you like. (I’m sure lots of people do exactly that thing.)
    To make the argument work, you need to believe that making porn is the only way a woman has of expressing her sexuality. But that’s clearly false.

  12. Fiona
    Posted April 4, 2005 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Well thank you Stephen. I’m glad somebody has studied logic and can point these things out in such a succinct way. Very well put.
    “You can do the advocating and express your sexuality, too. You can do both, and not make porn, if you like. (I’m sure lots of people do exactly that thing.)”
    Yes, I am one of them, and I know many others who do exactly that quite well – no porn involved at all. What a concept…

  13. Thomas
    Posted April 4, 2005 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Fiona, I seem to have misunderstood you. You said:
    “I will add that I think the “feminists” at that porn party are Tools of The Patriarchy.If these female pornographers really gave a damn about giving women a voice that has any meaning, they might spend their time and energy focusing on more important things than “sexy women” and “hot men” having “steamy sex” on screen for others to get off on. They would be advocating on behalf of all of the millions of women and children in the world who have been and are – as I write this – being molested, incested, sexually harrassed, stalked, raped, tortured, and murdered… Maybe it’s just me, but doing something about these issues seems like a higher priority for humanity than providing masturbatory material or sexual entertainment for other privileged women who wish to indulge in sexual consumerism.”
    I took that to mean that you thought Candida Royalle should stop making sexually explicit films because that was not a valid, feminist way of expressing her sexuality. Is that not what you meant?

  14. stephen
    Posted April 5, 2005 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    This one doesn’t make it into my collection of invalid arguments. It seems valid to me: -
    (1) Making porn brings small benefit to some women by giving them sexual pleasure.
    (2) Advocacy brings great benefits to many women by preventing great suffering.
    (3) It is not practically possible both to make porn and do advocacy.
    (4) Women who make porn wish to bring great benefits to other women.
    So (5) Women who make porn should do advocacy instead of making porn.
    This is a valid argument. It could be used not only against making porn but also against any less-than-optimal activity and which is exclusive of the optimal activity. This is a problem for committed people who want both to prevent suffering and to do more trivial things sometimes. (“Do I go on the march or watch TV?”) Luckily it’s not the only bit of practical reasoning in the box, otherwise many more people would be exhausted than already are.
    The form of the argument is as above, but its purpose is not to persuade women pornographers to take up advocacy. That would be unrealistic in many cases. The aim is to show that because women pornographers do not take up advocacy then (4) is false and the pornographers are insincere. Either way, the reasoning works.
    I’m not sure how many women pornographers make the claim expressed in (4), and the argument only applies to those that do make that claim.
    The argument does not have and does not need the premiss that “making porn is not a valid feminist expression of sexuality.” It only needs the premisses outlined above. The argument boils down to the proposition that there are much better things for a woman to do with her time than making porn. I am surprised that such a modest and unexceptionable claim should be controversial.

  15. Thomas
    Posted April 5, 2005 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Stephen:
    I am taking issue with premise 3. Are Fiona and Terpiskore saying that creating _any_ sexually explicit image is mutually exclusive of advocacy; or only certain kinds? If the latter, than what are the conditions which make sexually explicit expressions so destructive to women that creating them is exclusive of advocacy?
    Also, I think women who adopt premise 4 would argue that premise 1 is incorrect: that, done right, a feminist attempt to change the nature of porn [pick what term you like for explicit depictions of sexual conduct -- terminology in this area tends to be conclusory rather than descriptive] would do much more than simply give some privileged women some entertainment, but instead push misogynist hate speech out of the market. I’m not sure that’s true, but I’m not sure it isn’t.

  16. stephen
    Posted April 7, 2005 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Yep, you can campaign against injustices against women in the day, and you can make porn in the evening. The argument just needs to show that while you are making the porn you are are not campaigning against the injustices. ‘Exclusive’ is just about time and energy, you can’t do 2 things at once.
    Well, you can argue against (1), but I don’t buy it. You want to push misogynist hate speech out of the market. Great. And you do that by making porn. Is that because there won’t be room on the internet servers for both the good porn and the bad porn, so the bad porn will have to go? Sorry, not plausible.
    If you try to argue that porn is not a waste of time and energy, and that there are not better things for folk to be doing than making and using porn, then you’ve got a difficult case to make.

  17. Thomas
    Posted April 7, 2005 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t try to argue that it’s possible to crowd bad porn off servers — a ridiculous idea. When I said “push misogynist hate speech out of the market,” I was shorthanding for the idea of offering a better product which thereby changes consumer taste.
    Some folks really like misogynist hate speech, of course, and prefer it to any alternative. However, if we believe that violence in media promotes violence in society, and that misogynist sexually explicit images promote misogyny, why doubt the power of sexually explicit images to advance anti-patriarchal values?

  18. stephen
    Posted April 7, 2005 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Sorry about the straw man argument, your rebuke is merited….
    If advancing anti-patriarchal values is the aim, I still don’t see how it’s not better to go on the marches and write the letters than to make porn. The choice of activity isn’t good porn vs bad porn; it’s porn (whether good or bad) vs other more worthwhile activities.
    Maybe future generations of women will thank today’s pornographers for the ground-breaking work they did, in the way that we may thank great campaigners of the past for franchise, contraception, equal pay, etc. But to me it just does not seem comparable.

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