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Why one performer boycotted the Feminist Porn Awards

Kitty Stryker raises concerns over ‘she-male’ porn and alleged transphobia, misogyny

Kitty Stryker boycotted this year’s Feminist Porn Awards. “I can't say it was a decision that came easily.” Credit: Courtney Trouble

Kitty Stryker traveled all the way from California for Toronto’s Feminist Porn Awards on April 17, but never made it through the door.

She attended last year’s awards and enjoyed it. But the self-described fat porn performer and producer for Trouble Films boycotted this year’s ceremonies.

I can’t say it was a decision that came easily,” Stryker told Daily Xtra on the eve of the awards. “I really care about the space that the Feminist Porn Awards creates and the conversations that it started about how porn can be feminist.”

On March 25, Stryker took to her blog to publish an open letter outlining several of her concerns — among them, that the guidelines for award submissions favour white, cisgender performers and producers who have more money to put into their films, while at the same time tokenizing marginalized groups. She also made allegations of transphobia and misogyny against some of the nominees.

Stryker and others, like performer Chelsea Poe, have also raised concerns that one of the event’s sponsors — Grooby, a website featuring transgender performers — uses the word “she-male” to promote its products.

Poe, who was travelling and was only available through email, says that she is boycotting the awards because she feels that the awards’ organizers have failed to listen to trans women in queer porn.

However, Carlyle Jansen, the producer of the Feminist Porn Awards, refutes many of the allegations raised against the event. Though she admits that most of the submissions in previous years were not as diverse as hoped for, Jansen believes the winners of this year’s awards celebrate a wide swath of the feminist pornography community.

“The reality is that most of the submissions we have are white, cisgender performers — that’s the world of porn,” Jansen says. However, she points to Evie Eliot, a trans woman performer who won this year’s hottest newcomer award.

“We do our best to try and feature whoever we can,” Jansen adds. “I think what you see in terms of the films that are awarded, it’s much more than white and cisgender.”

Jansen also says that nothing has changed regarding the guidelines for submission, contrary to some concerns raised by Stryker noting them as new.

As for the use of the term “she-male” by Grooby, Jansen says she doesn’t think it’s fair to say that all performers are against its use. “I understand the concern,” Jansen says. “I don’t think it is black and white.”  She adds that there has been a dialogue with the staff at Grooby — which also runs the Transgender Erotica Awards — about language and how trans woman are portrayed.

“To me, that’s how we move forward . . . we have discussions, and we include people,” Jansen says. “We want to widen the circle, we want to make feminism and porn accessible to everybody. We don’t want to narrow it and make it just for a small group of people and a small club.”

According to Courtney Trouble (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun they), an artist and owner of Trouble Films, there was an email exchange between themselves and the organizers regarding some of Trouble’s own concerns with the awards, but the organizers response to their concerns was inadequate.

Despite having several nominations, Trouble did not attend, adding that they fully support Stryker’s boycott. They did win some awards on April 17.

“Feminist pornographers should be centering the voices of sex workers and making sure that their voices are heard and protected,” Trouble says. “The Feminist Porn Awards failed to do that this year.”

For Stryker, the public statement posted on the Feminist Porn Awards website on April 15 does not go far enough. “I know that hearing that the things that you do require critique is sad, but that’s part of feminism,” she says.

Jansen says that the organizers of the awards will continue to try and do better. “We’re going to listen to all sides,” she says. They will also continue to address issues as they come up.

Though she did not attend the awards, Stryker did organize her own alternative event where there was a mini-red carpet, film screenings and a discussion on what feminist pornography is.

“I bought a dress for the Feminist Porn Awards,” Stryker adds. “And I want to wear it.”