Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Can feminism build you a better orgasm?

A celebration of porn from the best possible perspective

April Flores collects the Heartthrob of the Year prize at the Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto on April 9. Credit: Lana Paiement

The 2010 Feminist Porn Awards is a dressy, smoothly run event where the crowd is hot enough to distract you from the porn being shown on the big screen. At the award ceremony on April 9, people are so busy cruising and flirting that by the end of the evening the acceptance speeches are barely audible, and the screen is a backdrop to the audience. Even though porn is ostensibly the reason everyone has gathered, this gathering is clearly to reconnect the people who make feminist porn with the people who love it.

“This event revitalizes my spirit,” says April Flores, winner of this year’s Heartthrob of the Year award. “It gets me out of the routine of trying to make porn and gives me perspective.”

That perspective is visionary. The goal of feminist porn is to reconnect sexual imagery with a willing and horny audience. There are people who have turned off porn. People who have never watched it. People who are bored by it. People who think that porn is something you can’t stand to watch even one second after you’ve come. If you are one of these people, you should know that there’s a dedicated group of porn producers who want to change that.

“Gay porn hasn’t evolved in some of the same ways that straight and feminist porn has over the years,” says Shine Louise Houston.

She is best known as the producer of the Crash Pad series of dyke porn and won this year’s Visionary award. She’s also planning a gay porn website, heavenlyspire.com, that will launch later this year.

“There’s so much to be done with gay porn,” she says, “I want to build a site that has more diversity in body type and shows guys with tattoos, real couples and real groups on camera that show the chemistry of genuine attraction.”

One goal of the awards is to create porn as a public experience, and the two-evening event begins with a movie screening and gala the following night. The audience had to let their giggles out for the first 15 minutes before settling into the experience of watching porn in a movie house. Still, the whole purpose of porn is to create an intensely personal experience. Feminist porn is a refreshing attempt to tap into that intensity.

“Men-only porn falls so quickly into the top-bottom dynamic,” says Ryan G Hinds. “The feminist porn I’ve seen is less about roles and more about watching someone experience pleasure. It’s more enjoyable to see someone who looks like they’re really having fun than watching a movie where we’re supposed to think the actors are aroused but they don’t even have erections. And everyone looks so ordinary [in men-only porn]. Porn is about fantasy and I want to see extravagance.”

Not everyone likes the term “feminist porn” though.

“I find that hyphenated porn points your attention away from the content and towards issues with the content,” says local smut producer David Findlay, of dirtysurface.com. “One word becomes an apology for another, and neither feminism nor porn need an apology. I’m not a feminist pornographer or a black pornographer, because neither of these things define my work.”

And yet that work is intensely personal. For the actors, or at least the actors here, it’s an expression of their sexuality and identity. Jiz Lee accepts her award for Boundary Breaker of the Year by saying that porn is the only place that understands her. Houston laments that she didn’t connect enough in-person with her audience but really hopes people share the vision of what she wanted to create. Flores says she loves the awards because they make her realize her work is being watched and appreciated. Each movie, in their hands, is a personal statement about what they think is hot enough to share, and hot enough to watch.

For the audience, it’s less easy for people to admit which vision has captured their attention. Or rather, which product they reliably turn to for an orgasm. Even at the FPA, when I ask people what they like to watch, few answer me clearly, some look at me sternly, and everyone takes a heartbeat of hesitation. It’s a personal question.

“No porn at all.”

“Fag porn, even though I’m a dyke.”

“The Crash Pad series.”

“Something a little more rough than what you see here.”

“Erotic books.”

“This one movie I bought in 2006.”

“Actually, 15-second clips of free stuff on the internet.”

The private habits are often at odds with what I expect to hear (although I can’t tell you exactly what I was expecting or why), and I suspect that even the honest responses are screened through mental censors. What people say and do are different. Who they are is different than what gets them off. What we watch is not consistent with how we are partnered, how we identify our sexuality, or even our gender.

“I know men who lie through their teeth about what they watch,” says Hinds. “I have friends who say they never watch porn, but then I’m borrowing their computer and their entire web history is nothing but porn sites.”

It is surprising how little even the producers of porn know about their audience. Guesstimates for dyke porn are that its bankrolling audience is 50 percent male, but the anonymity of porn consumption makes that nothing but a guess. Are those straight men? Gay men? I speak to enough dykes who watch gay porn that I could guess the reverse might be true. It does mean, though, that you can’t rely on the porn industry to meet your deepest desires when it barely knows who you are or what turns you on.

The message that feminist porn has for everyone is not just that the porn it produces is hotter, better and more ethical than what you normally see. It brings traditional feminist challenges into your personal sexual sphere. Don’t accept that what is shown to you is real. Don’t allow yourself to be conditioned to accept someone else’s fantasy as your own. Don’t believe that what you create as your own life, your own fantasy and your own sexual adventure is somehow less hot because you’ve never given yourself a chance to jerk off to it. Feminist porn is daring you to insert yourself back into the picture.

“I never watched porn until I started making it,” says Flores. “If you’re not into watching it, get a cheap camcorder and make your own. Once you watch that, you might get a different perspective. You need to know that you don’t have to watch what mainstream porn is trying to sell you. You can make your own.”