Reader Skada requested on the recent thread about pornography that we put together some links to “women-empowering porn.” This post grew out of that request.
First, some disclaimers and few words about where I come from vis a vis sexually-explicit materials, feminism, and how the two fit together.
Disclaimers: To the extent that I am a consumer of sexually-explicit materials, my taste tends toward text (short stories, fanfic, novels, nonfiction essays, blog posts) and photographs (particularly pictures of actual naked people and vintage erotica; see below). In addition, I’m a fan of explicit sex in the context of novels, short stories, and films that are not actually being marketed as porn or erotica as such. Reading nonfiction about sex is something I find has erotic aspects to it, even though I read it not only for arousal purposes but for a whole constellation of other reasons as well … though I’d actually say the same for most of the categories above. I find erotica works best for me when it’s integrated into the rest of my life, rather than something that’s cordoned off into a secret other-space labeled “sex.”
What I’m trying to say here is this: I have exactly zero experience with the porn industry as an industry. Particularly live-action films — that is, what most people first think of when they hear the word “porn.” I’m going to include some suggestions in this list for where to find feminist-minded, independent-minded videos but I can’t personally recommend film-makers or titles. If anyone reading this post can, by all means recommend in comments.
A Few Words: I want to be clear up-front about a couple of things when it comes to sexually-explicit materials that are aimed at arousing people and elaborating on sexual fantasies. I believe non-coerced sex work should be legal for adults. I don’t believe pornography or any other form of commercially-produced erotic materials are inherently anti-feminist. I think that it is possible (and appropriate) to critique the narratives that sexually-explicit materials tell us about sex, sexual identity, human sexual expression gender, and relationships. At the same time, I think that a lot of our current conversations about pornography and other forms of sex talk and sexual expression are reductive and shaming. I don’t think the feminist community or sex-positive activists have been very good at thinking creatively and imaginatively about how to critique the impoverished narratives of mainstream erotica while avoiding shaming folks for whom some of those narratives are a source of sexual pleasure. See this thoughtful post by Charlie Glickman for more.
To that end, this post doesn’t seek to offer “women-empowering porn” exactly. Because every reader/viewer is going to have a different definition of what “empowering” porn or erotica would look like. And I don’t want to get into the business of defining what that means for everyone. Instead, what I’ve compiled here is a list of suggestions for where and how to go about seeking out erotica in places where you’re more likely to encounter feminist-minded, queer-minded creators and consumers of erotic material. Some of what I offer below is unabashedly “stuff I like” that happens to have erotic elements. Some of it is clearly all about erotic content. Either way, I hope it’s a useful starting place for those of you seeking to broaden your sexual horizons.
Resource Guides & Gateways:
- Since 2006 the Good For Her sex shop in Toronto has been hosting the annual Feminist Porn Awards. The website lists winners in categories ranging from “Best Bi Movie” to “Smutty Schoolteacher Award for Sex Education.” The emphasis is on films, so if you’re into visual erotica, this might be a good place to start
- It’s a few years old now, but blogger Kaelyn @ Feministe put together a post called Feminist Porn: Sex, Consent and Getting Off that reflects on the intersection of feminism and sexually-explicit material and also contains a whole list of links to feminist-friendly resources.
Books (Anthologies and Otherwise):
- Erotic writing doesn’t always have to be “plot? what plot?” fiction. Since 2005 erotica author Rachel Kramer Bussel has been editing the Best Sex Writing series, an annual anthology of nonfiction writing about sex.
- Cleis Press offers a wide range of erotica and sex writing, with a particular emphasis on women and the queer community, including
- the annual Best Lesbian Erotica series, which was edited for fourteen years by Tristan Taormino (Hanna says those were the golden years – she remembers 2000 and 2003 as associated with particularly good memories)
- Likewise, I’ve had good luck with The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica series by Running Press (I haven’t been able to find a series website, but there do seem to be regular volumes being released).
- Lambda Literary (a great clearinghouse for queer-themed book reviews of all kinds) offers regular reviews of erotica.
Plus, you already know I read fan fiction … more on that in the weeks to come.
Where to Find Pictures of Naked People:
One of the earliest (and best!) ways I learned to think about being sexual was by looking at happy pictures of naked people. I’m serious! One of my favorite books as a child was Edward Steichen’s Family of Man and I also loved the natural childbirth books my mother had, since most of them contained many photographs of naked and gloriously pregnant women. Thankfully, the web offers us plenty of chances to admire naked photographs … and not just airbrushed models at that. Here are a handful of sites (for example) that offer naked and/or erotic pictures. Some professionally produced, some not.
It should go without saying: All of these links are decidedly not safe for work.
I also happen to enjoy going on Flickr.com every so often and just searching for “naked” or “nude” … sometimes the straightforward works best!
Sex Bloggers & Sex Educators:
One of the best ways I’ve found of seeking out erotica is through reading the blogs and websites of people who regularly write, consume, and review erotica, sex toys, and other sexually-explicit material … often for a living! I have a whole section of my Google Reader set aside for folks who blog about sexuality. Here are some of my favorite writers, reviewers, educators (in alphabetical order)
And I think I’ll leave it at that for now. Please, please, please throw your own recommendations in comments! The more diverse the suggestions, the better.