The fabulous students who work at the Pollock Theater at University of California-Santa Barbara created this video of the Feminist Porn Mini Con, which happened in May at UCSB. It features many contributors to The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, including UCSB professors Constance Penley, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, and Mireille Miller-Young, Professor Kevin Heffernan of Southern Methodist University, directors Tristan Taormino and Carlos Batts, and performers Jiz Lee, Dylan Ryan, Sinnamon Love, and April Flores. Watch it now: Feminist Porn Mini Con on UCTV.
I just returned from Toronto and the 2013 Feminist Porn Awards and The Feminist Porn Conference, and I am still reeling. We arrived in Canada on Thursday and hit the ground running. Thursday night Good for Her presented Public. Provocative. Porn, a screening and panel that featured short films and clips by Gala Vanting, Saskia Quax, The Madame, Christian Slaughter, Julie Simone, Nica Noelle, and Clark Matthews. I’d heard a lot about Krutch starring Mia Gimp and directed by Clark Matthews, and I was really impressed by it. Mia Gimp is a star. The way the film is framed, how it flows, and the photography are all fantastic, especially for a first time director and performer! Mia and Clark are also articulate and funny, and, I wish the panel could have gone on longer.
The 8th Annual Feminist Porn Awards were on Friday night at a brand new venue this year, The Capitol Event Theater, which was really lovely. I was thrilled that Krutch won for Sexiest Short along with Biodildo, the Christian Slaughter film starring Jiz Lee that was screened the night before. I was truly surprised, and absolutely honored, to win the Smutty Schoolteacher Award for The Expert Guide to Pegging. Of all the sex ed movies I’ve made, this one is really close to my heart. Three of its stars (Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, and Wolf Hudson) were there to see me win (and were award winners themselves that night), and I dedicated my award to the kick ass women behind Bend Over Boyfriend.
Fittingly, Shar Rednour, femme diva, pioneering lesbian pornographer and the director of Bend Over Boyfriend presented The Trailblazer Award to Nan Kinney. Nan is a legend: she is the co-founder of On Our Backs and co-founder and current CEO of Fatale Media, the first company to produce lesbian porn by and for queer women. Nan’s speech was really moving, her partner Christi Cassidy (who runs Fatale with her) was in the audience beaming, and the crowd jumped to their feet in a well-deserved standing ovation.
This year, there were two awards for Hearththrob of the Year: Christian and Jiz Lee. I have directed Christian in a ton of films (Chemistry 2 and 3, Rough Sex, The Expert Guide to Oral Sex 2: Fellatio, The Expert Guide to Anal Pleasure for Men, The Expert Guide to Advanced Fellatio, The Expert Guide to Threesomes, The Expert Guide to Advanced Anal Sex, The Expert Guide to Pegging), and this was a big win for someone who is always overlooked by the mainstream adult industry. He was one of the first (and continues to be one of a handful of) male performers who has done gay, straight, and trans porn, who gets pegged on camera, and, as Nina Hartley once said, “lets his freak flag fly.” Congratulations Christian!
Jiz Lee is also just as deserving. I must say if there was any one person that everyone wanted to meet, who people gushed the most, and who is widely worshipped and adored by filmmakers and fans alike, it’s Jiz Lee. They rule for so many reasons, and I am so glad to know them. I’m also excited that Madison Young’s film 50 Shades of Dylan Ryan won for best kink movie and Gala Vanting, Ms. Naughty, and Wolf Hudson all received Honourable Mentions. Carlyle Jansen, owner of Good for Her and producer of the awards and JP, this year’s director, and their crew did an amazing job once again with the Awards Gala. It gets better every year!
The next morning, I was up bright and early to prep for The Feminist Porn Conference. The Feminist Porn Conference was inspired by The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure and my co-editors Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young. We first met and began a conversation about the intersections of feminism and pornography at the Console-ing Passions Conference in 2008 on a panel called “Sex Work in Industry and Academe.” It was the first time I had the opportunity to publicly talk to academics who were studying and teaching pornography, and it was an invaluable conversation. That conversation lead to more discussions, which lead to us co-editing The Feminist Porn Book. I created The Feminist Porn Conference to continue the dialogue that the book has sparked. Like the book, I wanted the conference to emphasize a hybrid approach, bringing together academics, cultural critics, performers, directors, producers, sex workers, activists, students and fans to explore the emergence of feminist porn as a genre, industry, and form of activism. Most importantly, the event was designed to put these folks into conversation by coupling academics with performers and producers whose work informs, inspires, or intersects with their porn scholarship.
We had some major accessibility issues at University College at UT, which I only found out about once I arrived in Toronto on Thursday. I want to thank Clark Matthews who assisted us in addressing some of these issues, Loree Erickson for bringing additional issues to our attention, and both of them for their patience and kindness during what was a frustrating, imperfect situation. I learned a great deal from the experience about what it means to be truly accessible, what kinds of questions to ask in the future, and make a public pledge to do better next year.
Interest in the conference exceeded my expectations, and we had 240 attendees. For you geeks out there, here’s what I know about who came to the conference: 31% of attendees were students, 22% identified themselves as producers, directors, or performers, 12% as professors and scholars, 12% were fans, members of the media and cultural critics made up 6%, 17% identified as “other,” and some of them specified: activist, writer, editor, therapist, sexologist, sex educator, sex worker, student and performer, researcher, programmer/curator, and sexual health clinic worker.
Although lots of folks partied late into the night, most managed to get to the conference in time for the first session at 10:15. Courtney Trouble organized the panel “If I Had A Hammer: Reclaiming Feminist Porn As A Tool of Political Activism Against Oppression,” and there was a big crowd for it. This notion of porn as a form of activism is really important and highlights the multiple ways feminists can intervene and challenge the status quo. Courtney is a shining example of putting politics into action. She is strong, driven, and steadfast in her refusal to shut about issues most important to her.
Constance Penley proved why she is such a kick ass feminist rock star when she opened the Keynote Lunch with some history and context for the conference and some amazing stories of teaching porn in the early nineties at UC Santa Barbara.
Mireille Miller-Young spoke eloquently about the importance of acknowledging access and privilege in spaces like the conference as well as the links between sex work, criminalization, politics, and pornography. I wrapped up by discussing why “feminist porn” is the right term for this genre, industry, field of study, philosophy, and movement and the parallels between feminist porn and the organic/fair trade movement. Then I put forth a call to action for folks to shift the cultural dialogue about feminist porn. I got a little fired up about it!
In Session 2, I was part of “Watch and Learn: Sex Education Discourses in Feminist Porn” which featured the scholarship of Kevin Heffernan of Southern Methodist University and Sarah Stevens of Ohio University whose work focuses on the sex ed films of Nina Hartley and I. I was both humbled and giddy with excitement to hear them talk about us! I cannot tell you how validating and revelatory it is to have academics talk about my filmmaking. Kevin analyzes it through the lens of early sex ed hygiene films and exploitation films, and Sarah does so from a theoretical perspective about pedagogies. Both of their presentations were fascinating, and I actually gained new insight into my own work through them. Notably, on the issue of authority (who has the authority to teach about sex education and especially about women’s sexuality), Sarah argued that I displace myself as the sole expert in The Expert Guide series when I include interviews of the performers who also serve as experts, teachers, and advisors. I strongly believe that professional porn performers do have much to teach us about sexuality from their unique point of view, so that point really resonated with me.
I was sad to miss a panel that was at the same time as mine: To Be Real: Authenticity in Queer and Feminist Porn with Jill Bakehorn, Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, and Shar Rednour. Authenticity in feminist porn is one of the most discussed concepts among directors, producers, performers, and audiences and Dylan, Jiz and Shar all have great things to say about it. Jill Bakehorn from UC Davis and UC Berkeley presented her academic work about authenticity as a social construction. To me, this panel epitomized what the conference was all about: having an in-depth discussion about crucial concepts where people had very different points of view and experiences. People really raved about the ensuing discussion. I heard wonderful feedback about all the sessions (here’s a great post by Girly Juice on the con). Several people were especially impacted by the panel Tina Horn organized and moderated “Being Out Now: How Performers Navigate Sexual Morality and Media Representation.” One attendee said it was “one of the most moving, important, life-changing experiences,” and another called it “an incredible array of experiences articulated by a group of smart, self-aware, thoughtful, fascinating people who happen to be sex workers.”
I attended “Feminist Porn XXX-Ed: Feminist Perspectives on Sexual Identity and Sexual Health in Educational and Feminist Porn” in Session 3 with Emily Nagoski of Smith College, Carol Queen, and Kali Williams. Emily’s presentation had me jotting down an entire page of notes, and she raised so many interesting questions about how feminist porn “queers” narratives about sex but doesn’t challenge them enough and often reinforces ideas about female sexuality that are not what she calls “evidence-based” or reflective of how women’s bodies, arousal processes, and orgasms actually work. She gave me so much food for thought. Carol Queen has the unique perspective of being involved with some of the earliest feminist porn and working at Good Vibrations (one of the first sex-positive shops that had a curated collection of porn for sale). Her thoughts about why people turn to porn for sex education, what role porn could play in sex ed, and how explicit sex education (or XXX-ed, as she calls it) fits into the mission of feminist porn. Kali Williams (founder of Kink Academy, Passionate U and Fearless Press) provided an interesting counterpoint when she argued that her explicit sex education is decidedly “not porn” because its intention is not to arouse but to teach. As I sat in the audience, I just really appreciated three powerful women discussing, disagreeing, and pushing the dialogue forward.
Each room was jam-packed for Session 4 which featured Constance Penley, Bobby Noble and Kevin Heffernan talking about Teaching Porn in Academe, Madison Young’s presentation on “The Politics of Kinky Porn and Feminism,” a panel about mandatory condoms and safer sex with Lisa Kadey, Courtney Trouble and Arabelle Raphael (moderated with skill by Lynn Comella, who is the best moderator in any industry anywhere), and the screening of Shine Louise Houston’s documentary Shiny Jewels.
At the closing reception, we all got to unwind a little and I had a chance to get my copy of The Feminist Porn Book autographed by contributors; I now have the signatures of Candida Royalle, Dylan Ryan, Sinnamon Love, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Ms. Naughty, Ariane Cruz, Mireille Miller-Young, Constance Penley, Kevin Heffernan, April Flores, Jiz Lee, and Lynn Comella. I missed Bobby Noble and Loree Erickson, the two Canadians dammit! Bobby Noble is the Principle Investigator of The Feminist Porn Archive and Research Project at York University. I had a few stolen moments with Sarah Stevens, Clark Matthews and Mia Gimp, Carlos Batts, Madison Young, Christi Cassidy and Nan Kinney.
I feel so much love, gratitude, respect, and awe for everyone who took part in this historic event. As I walked through the hallways or stopped outside classrooms, I’d catch bits and pieces of the most exciting, engaging conversations. People were clearly energized and buzzing from all the dialogue; they were making connections with each other, developing new ideas, re-thinking theories, challenging themselves and others. Each presenter paid their own way, traveling from California, Texas, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, and as far away as The Netherlands and Australia. There was also a fantastic local contingent of Toronto folks like Nicholas Matte and several of his undergrads from UT and Bobby Noble, Toby Wiggins, and Loree Erickson from York University. The presenters contributed to the success of the event in innumerable ways. I had an extraordinary team of volunteers lead by my co-producer and partner Colten: Simon, Clyde, Frances, JP, Addi, bek, Freia, Torsten, Ilana, Tania A., Mike, Marie, Petra, and Rachel worked tirelessly all day with smiles on their faces. Rebecca Thorpe of The Marc Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies and Aaron from UT worked their asses off making sure technology worked and things ran smoothly at the facility.
There was a dizzying array of tweets about the conference (#FPcon), and I want to close with some of my absolute favorites. If you want to read all the tweets from the event, we have an #FPCon Storify (special thanks to Epiphora!).
This week on Sex Out Loud I celebrate the release of The Feminist Porn Book, a new book I co-edited. The Feminist Porn Book brings together for the first time writings by feminists in the adult industry and research by feminist porn scholars, and this week on Sex Out Loud I’ll be talking to my co-editors – Celine Parreñas-Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young – about our 5 year journey to get the collection published. This book investigates not only how feminists understand pornography, but also how feminists do porn—that is, direct, act in, produce, and consume one of the world’s most lucrative and growing industries. Then I’ll talk to Claire Potter about REACT: THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE AT 50, an upcoming two-day symposium and exhibition on Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking book.
Celine Parreñas Shimizu teachs film and performance theory and production as Professor of Asian American, Comparative Literature, Feminist Studies and Film and Media Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is part of a decades long history of race and media production in the U.C. system. She is the author of the award-winning book The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene (Duke University Press, 2007) and Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies (Stanford University Press, 2012). Her first feature documentary Birthright: Mothering across Difference (2009) won Best Feature Documentary at the Big Mini DV Festival in 2009. Her films The Fact of Asian Women (2004), Super Flip (1997), and Mahal Means Love and Expensive are distributed by Progressive Films and Her Uprooting Plants Her (1995) is distributed by Third World Newsreel. Her numerous articles are included in the journals Concentric, The Journal of Asian American Studies, Signs, The Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Wide Angle and Theatre Journal.
Mireille Miller-Young, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She researches and teaches about race, gender, and sexuality in popular culture and the sex industries. Her forthcoming manuscript, A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women, Sex Work, and Pornography (Duke University Press) examines African American women’s sex work in the porn industry.
Constance Penley is Professor of Film and Media Studies and Co-Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and studied at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Her major areas of research interest are film history and theory, feminist theory, cultural studies, contemporary art, and science and technology studies. She is a founding editor of Camera Obscura: Feminism, Media, Cultural Studies and editor or co-editor of the influential collections Feminism and Film Theory, Male Trouble, Technoculture, The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Science and Gender, and The Feminist Porn Book. Her books include The Future of an Illusion: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis, NASA/TREK: Popular Science and Sex in America, and the forthcoming Teaching Pornography. Her collaborative art projects include MELROSE SPACE: Primetime Art by the GALA Committee and Biospheria: An Environmental Opera. Penley is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Award and the Kenneth Burke Society Prize for Excellence in Rhetorical Studies.
Claire Bond Potter has been Professor of History at The New School for Public Engagement since 2012. Prior to that I worked at Wesleyan University. I am currently writing a political history of anti-pornography campaigns, Sex in Public: Feminism, the Reagan Revolution and the Politics of Pornography, 1968-2000 (due to be completed in 2014.) I received my BA in English Literature from Yale University and my Ph.D. in History from New York University. I am the author of War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture (Rutgers University Press, 1998) and an editor, with Renee Romano, of Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back (University of Georgia Press, 2012). Since 2007 I have blogged at Tenured Radical, which moved to The Chronicle of Higher Education in July 2011.
The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure
is co-edited by Celine Parreñas-Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young, and me
and is published by The Feminist Press
The Feminist Porn Book brings together for the first time writings by feminists in the adult industry and research by feminist porn scholars. This book investigates not only how feminists understand pornography, but also how feminists do porn—that is, direct, act in, produce, and consume one of the world’s most lucrative and growing industries. With original contributions by Susie Bright, Candida Royalle, Betty Dodson, Nina Hartley, Buck Angel, Lynn Comella, Jane Ward, Ariane Cruz, Kevin Heffernan, and more, The Feminist Porn Book updates the arguments of the porn wars of the 1980s, which sharply divided the women’s movement, and identifies pornography as a form of expression and labor in which women and racial and sexual minorities produce power and pleasure. Check out the book’s official website to read the table of contents and see what people like Melissa Harris-Perry, Laura Kipnis, Jack Halberstam, Lisa Duggan, Carol Queen, Annie Sprinkle, and other luminaries have said about it. I am so unbelievably excited that The Feminist Porn Book is here! This is a project that is five years in the making, and I cannot believe it’s in print.
Inspired by the book, I am producing The Feminist Porn Conference, a one-day event on April 6, 2013 at the University of Toronto during the Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards festivities. Speakers include Lynn Comella, Ariane Cruz, Loree Erickson, April Flores, Kevin Heffernan, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Shine Louise Houston, Jiz Lee, Nicholas Matte, Mireille Miller-Young, Ms. Naughty, Nenna, Bobby Noble, Celine Parreñas-Shimizu, Constance Penley, Carol Queen, Dylan Ryan, Tristan Taormino, Courtney Trouble, Madison Young, and more to be confirmed soon. Registration is now open, and Early Bird Registration Rates are good through March 1, so register today! Our host hotel is the Holiday Inn; get our special discount code here. Special thanks to our sponsors Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, Good for Her, The Feminist Porn Awards, and The Feminist Press.
My head is still spinning from my first appearance on Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday. Watch it below or at these links—Segment 1: Porn in America and Segment 2: The Business of Pornography. I’ve done a fair amount of television appearances, and I have mixed feelings about them. In the past, I feel like many TV producers shy away from difficult topics, don’t allow for complex, nuanced analysis, and often want me to “dumb it down.” This time, none of that happened. I was excited when a producer for the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC contacted me last week about a show about female sexuality and porn. We had a spirited conversation where I feel like she really listened to me, rather than attempted to fit me into a quasi-script she had already written. When I found out that one of my co-panelists was author and activist Jaclyn Friedman, I felt relieved to have a sex-positive feminist sister there.
Segment 1 of 2 “Porn in America”
Fun fact: Jaclyn Friedman and I were both in the class of ’93 at Wesleyan University, and we were fellow activists and friends during college. Although we’ve followed and supported each other’s careers since then (I blurbed her newest book What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame Free Guide to Sex and Safety and she appeared on my radio show Sex Out Loud), we hadn’t been in the same room since the late 90s. We had dinner the night before, and Jaclyn reminded me we wouldn’t talk about the show, so that everything would stay fresh for the next day. We had plenty of catching up to do, so it didn’t matter!
At every stage of the booking process, the folks behind the scenes at MHP were competent, respectful, and, well, have their shit together. In the green room before the show, Jaclyn and I met Zephyr Lookout (author of Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics) who sat on the panel for an earlier segment and would be joining ours. She is a law professor at Fordham. I liked her immediately, and we bonded over our love of the children’s book Tuck Everlasting. She admitted she was “probably the most anti-porn of everyone on the panel,” which I appreciated her saying up front. It’s actually refreshing to engage with someone who really wants to dig into the topic and isn’t just ready to shut you down (like Gail Dines and crew are). After being fitted with our mics and mic packs (during which Jaclyn had her hands all the way up my dress to assist the sound guy), the three of us sat down at the table. That’s when I met the fourth panelist, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson (author of Holler If You Hear Me), and I truly had no idea what he was going to say about porn. I was pleasantly surprised to discover he knows quite a bit about it (he name checked Lexington Steele and Mr. Marcus!) and had smart things to say.
Segment 2 of 2 “Business of Pornography”
MHP introduced me as a feminist pornographer and showed the cover of my new book The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, co-edited with Celine Parrenas Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young and forthcoming from The Feminist Press at CUNY in 2013. The two segments just flew by so fast, and suddenly, she was doing the closing of the show (naming activist teen Julia Bluhm the Foot Soldier of the Week for petitioning Seventeen magazine).
Afterward, we all stood in the hallway, continuing the conversation, and I got to meet several more of the show’s producers including Jamil Smith and Executive Producer Shirley Zilberstein. Melissa Harris-Perry is so smart, it’s actually intimidating. But in a good way. Obviously, we barely scratched the surface on some pretty important topics. I have a whole lot more to say about race politics in the porn industry, shifting representations of sexuality in porn, today’s porn economy, queer porn, and on and on. But this was definitely a start, and great one.
Very few mainstream media outlets, and even fewer, if any, television news shows are willing to look at porn in an intelligent or balanced way. I am so impressed that Melissa Harris-Perry and her producers took a risk and really broke down a barrier. I know they have already gotten flack about it from conservatives and anti-porn feminists. So, if you want to show your support for the topic of this show, applaud Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC for making space for this conversation, you can do so in a number of ways:
Comment on the blog about the segments
Email the MSNBC network with your support