The Feminist Porn Mini-Con — a multi-series event which discussed feminist and queer pornography — opened with a two-hour discussion panel at Pollock Theater yesterday, as UCSB professors and adult film industry professionals discussed issues introduced in The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, a publication which examines feminist understanding, production and consumption of contemporary pornography.
The event took place from noon to 9 p.m., with The Feminist Porn Book Keynote Panel followed by a workshop at the UCen State Street Room entitled the Sex Ed! Education and Activism Workshop, as well as “The Feminist Porn Show” — a showcase screening of feminist porn hosted by author and adult filmmaker Tristan Taomino at 7 p.m. in Pollock Theater.
Co-written and edited by UCSB professors Constance Penley, Mirellie Miller-Young and Celine Parreñas Shimizu, The Feminist Porn Book states that it utilizes “sexually explicit imagery” to discuss “dominant representations” of societal “identity markers” like sexuality, gender, ethnicity, race, body type, class, ability and age.
Taomino moderated the introductory panel discussion on the book, posing questions to individual speakers in what Miller-Young called an “open-minded and informed discussion.” Topics ranged from ethical practices in making porn to cultural implications of feminist porn, as well as the role of diverse performers.
The cultural trepidation surrounding discussion of sexuality makes a discussion of pornography a sometimes difficult task, Shimizu said.
“It’s not easy to come into pornography within a world that panics, not only about our sexual lives and the multiplicity of our sexual desires, but also the power of representation and what it can do to the psychic life of our sexuality,” Shimizu said.
The Feminist Porn Book manages to move past some of these stigmas, according to Shimizu, who said the book unites various perspectives on the adult film industry to construct a compelling conversation regarding its purpose and role in contemporary society.
“What is so valuable about The Feminist Porn Book is that it brings together the academics who are working in the archives, looking at the social, historical, economic contexts of pornography,” Shimizu said. “But it brings into conversation the voices of the people who are on the ground, who are everyday using their bodies and asking, ‘What does my desire look like, and what does it feel like?’”
Building off of Shimzu’s statements, Taomino said feminist porn seeks to empower people of all identifications as it provides an open format for such strengthening of identity.
“It’s about fighting and dismantling the gender binary across the board,” Taomino said. “A reporter recently asked me: ‘Who’s your audience? It’s lesbians, right?’”
According to Taomino, her response to the reporter was that feminist porn reaches beyond this singular audience, extending itself to audiences of varying socio-economic, racial, ethnic, gender-oriented and sexual backgrounds.
“Feminist porn is for viewers who want to see porn that is ethically made, explicitly consensual, features authentic, diverse representations, is anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-classist, challenges societal conventions and norms about sexuality and is dedicated to creating sex-positive messages that encourage and empower people of all genders and identities around their sexuality,” Taomino said.
Adult film actor Dylan Ryan was the first of the current performers to speak, and she launched into discussion regarding the advancement of representation and empowerment of different sexualities in pornography.
Specifically, Ryan touched how women can have their identity strengthened while participating in various genres of adult film.
“My attention and direction with that work has been to educate not only women, but all people about what it looks like to see an empowered female body, female presence inside BDSM [Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism and Masochism] porn, which is always considered so violent and so abusive,” Ryan said. “I’ve always just wanted especially women to connect to my films, to say, ‘Wow, it looks like she is having a really fun time.’”
Adult performer Sinnamon Love spoke on the issue of “fetishized ethnic sex” and other representations of women of color in porn. She also emphasized the need for consumers to buy their pornography instead of pirating off the Internet, as this issue can complicate the financial dealings of those working within the industry.
“People don’t want to waste their budget on something that isn’t going to sell, and part of that goes to you guys — the consumers who are growing up in a generation that is accustomed to free, stolen porn,” Love said. “If you don’t buy the type of material that you are interested in, then you can’t prove to the producer that there is a viable marketplace for that porn.”
Additionally, Love said some minority communities have less access to purchasable porn.
“Black consumers, and other consumers of color, because of the economic disparity, don’t have the same kind of disposable income,” Love said. “So they’re less likely to go out and purchase something that is exactly what they are looking for.”
Artist, photographer and pornographic director Carlos Batts said feminist pornography is accessible to people of all genders and identifications.
“In addition to being a feminist filmmaker and a male, I have to take the responsibility to make sure that it is really spectacular,” Batts said. “In this whole industry, the thing that is making the feminist porn movement so special is that it is very DIY — a collection of very badass women and badass artists, who are smart, saving their money and say, ‘This is us. This is reflecting our peers.’”