Feminist pornography, as an alternative to mainstream pornography, is becoming more and more successful these days – especially with women. It’s a form of pornos that is safer for the actors involved. Their consent is respected, and they show real pleasure.
But this industry divides feminists. Some see it as a reappropriation of feminine sexuality; others see it as a perpetuation of misogynous violence.
We talked to Julie Lavigne, a professor in the sexology department of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). One of her academic specialties is pornography. For her, feminist pornography can exist. “There’s a lot of pornography out there that isn’t feminist, that is much more ethical now,” she says.
But many continue to argue that all pornography, whether feminist or not, is a misogynistic domination tool. When we ask Julie about this, she reminds us that there isn’t just one sort of pornography. There are productions that are effectively truly macho, but one has to first ask what is pornography. “Is it showing a sexual relationship that is anti-feminist, or is it the representation of certain sexualities that poses a problem? There are a lot of feminists who see violence against women in all pornography, and there are feminists who see pornos as showing that women are there to do what men want. But in some productions it’s the opposite. In some productions there aren’t even men,” she adds, laughing.
She goes on to say: “At the same time, I understand that when we try to exemplify the patriarchal system, there are a lot of forms of pornography that can be really useful to denounce.” When we ask her for her opinion on feminine submission in feminist pornos, she replies that some militants have a problem with BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission) in and of itself; but others consider themselves to belong to that community. Since they’re considered consensual practices, we can’t really judge: “There are different types of contested sexualities that aren’t necessarily politically correct. Is it up to the feminist world to try and eliminate them? That’s another question.”
Does feminist pornography perpetuate violence against women? It all depends on the productions and the directors. In the porno milieu, we have to consider this on a case-by-case basis. Some productions respect everyone, whereas some fall short of the mark. Pornography that simply depicts a sexual act is not, according to Julie Lavigne, inherently violent.
Rather, it’s bad working conditions on the set that can lead to sexual, physical or psychological violence. According to Julie, feminist porno isn’t going to change the whole industry. But as she herself mentions, some of its elements can be seen nowadays in mainstream pornography.