Feminist pornography

Feminist pornography refers to a genre of film developed by and/or for those dedicated to gender equality. It was created for the purposes of encouraging women and their self-beliefs of freedom through sexuality, equality and pleasure.[1] Many third-wave feminists are open to seeking freedom and rights of sexual equality through entering the adult entertainment workforce.[2] Second-wave feminists, contrarily, often have a solidified belief that the oppression and/or sexual objectification of women is inherent to all pornography involving them. The conflict between the two waves causes many struggles between these two different feminist views.[3]

Feminists have disputed pornography ever since the Women’s Movement commenced, and the debate gained notorious vehemence throughout the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s. Although there is no specific production considered the primary paradigm of feminist porn, feminist porn originated in the 1980s. The contemporary feminist porn association acquired solemn momentum in the 2000s because of the Feminist Porn Awards (FPAs) by Good For Her in Toronto in 2006, which place the notion of overall introduced feminist porn to society. The FPAs spread awareness about feminist porn amongst a broader audience, encouraged extra media exposure and assisted in uniting a community of filmmakers, performers, and fans. Feminist porn has various ideas and definitions.[4]

Tristan Taormino is a sex educator, feminist pornographer, and co-editor of The Feminist Porn Book, who defines feminist pornography as dedicated to gender equality and social justice. Feminist pornography is porn that is generated in a fair manner, signifying that performers are paid a reasonable salary and most importantly treated with care and esteem; their approval, security, and well-being are vital, and what they bring to the production is appreciated. Feminist porn searches to expand the ideas about desire, beauty, gratification, and power through unconventional representations, aesthetics, and film making styles. The overall aim of feminist porn is to empower the performers who produce it and the people who view it.[5]


Women in the industry

The 2012 study, Why Become a Pornography Actress?[6] analyzes female pornographic film actresses and their reasons for choosing the occupation; two of which, being the top reasons, were money and sex.[7] This field of work gave women a convenient opportunity to earn their own money and still have the extra down time.[7] Others used it as a way of exploring their sexuality as means of enjoyment and pleasure.[8] Despite social stereotypes of on-screen adult actresses, these women merely see it as opportunity to better their own quality of life.[9] But despite all this, women in this study also express their concerns that come with their choices; many of which involving the unprofessionalism of their business agents and/or industry producers, or the general social stigma attached to the job when in public.[10]

Rise of feminist pornography

Feminist pornography is less likely to be filmed due to the high supply and demand of the audience, in which a majority of the viewers tend to be male.[11] The scope of the adult entertainment industry relies on the majority of their viewers, therefore, sculpting the need for female actresses to be young and overtly sexualized.[12] The increase in this mainstream mass-produced media puts both actresses and producers of feminist pornography at a disadvantage.[13] But the rise of on-screen appropriations, such as items like a strap-on dildo used by and for the pleasure of females during sexual intercourse, has granted more agency for women within the industry.[14] Annie Sprinkle is an example of a woman that chooses to partake in many forms of feminist pornography in order to counter-appropriate patriarchal mainstream pornography .[15] In films with Sprinkle, the public is shown scenes of her having orgasms instead of her male on-screen partners.[15]

Director and writer Ms. Naughty says "feminist porn seeks to take back the landscape of sexually explicit media, offering a more positive and inclusive way of depicting, and looking at, sex."[16] According to Tristan Taormino, "Feminist porn both responds to dominant images with alternative ones and creates its own iconography."[17]

Some pornographic actresses such as Nina Hartley,[18] Ovidie,[19] and Madison Young are also self-described sex-positive feminists, and state that they do not see themselves as victims of sexism. They defend their decision to perform in pornography as freely chosen, and argue that much of what they do on camera is an expression of their sexuality. It has also been pointed out that in pornography, women generally earn more than their male counterparts.[20] Some porn performers such as Nina Hartley are active in the sex workers' rights movement.

Femme Productions

In 1984, past adult performer (and Club 90 member) Candida Royalle established Femme Productions to construct films from a woman’s perspective. Even though Candida did not brand or advertise her films as feminist, she identifies as a feminist, her aspirations surely can be viewed as feminist, and she is largely considered one of the initiators of feminist porn. She is also viewed as a founder in the genres of porn for women and couple’s porn. Candida Royalle started Femme Productions in 1984 with the aim to give adult movies a woman’s voice and provide couples with video entertainment which they would be able to view together. Candida expressed that before 1984 the notion of couple’s movies was not as known of and the majority of the distributors told her, women were not interested in pornographic films, which irritated Royalle and motivated her to prove distributors otherwise. Since 2007, Royalle has produced 18 movies, and directed 13 of them.[21]

Royalle began her pornographic career by writing and producing, while her partner, Lauren Niemi, directed. Niemi and Royalle established Femme Productions together with the support and financing of her ex-husband¹s family who were producers and distributors in Europe. Royalle’s ex-husband, Per Sjosted, was a producer and assistant director who contributed to the Femme project with Royalle and Niemi. Their first two movies were “FemmE” and “Urban Heat”.[22] However, in their third movie, “Christine’s Secret”, Royalle began to co-direct. “Christine Secret” was another film they produced, which won five awards that year from the East Coast Critics Association consisting of “Ladies Choice”. It was not until the production of the film “Three Daughters”, in 1987, where Royalle began directing. Royalle expresses that this production was one of the most expensive films she had worked on, the film budget consisted of $75,000. “Three Daughters”, soon became the largest seller for Royalle, and it received an award for the sound track, which was produced by the British musician, Gary Window, who worked with Pink Floyd, the Psychedelic Furs. Gary Window was also the husband of the lead actress of “Three Daughters”, Siobhan Hunter.

I created Femme in order to put a woman’s voice to adult movies and give men something they could share with the women in their lives. You’ll find them to be less graphic, and you’ll also find story lines, good original music and real characters of all ages.
Candida Royalle[23]

Also, in 1984 the same year Femme Productions was founded, an assembly of women in San Francisco, which included, publishers Myrna Elana and Deborah Sundahi, as well as Nan Kinney, and Susie Bright, published the first issue of On Our Backs, a porn magazine by and for lesbians with the tagline “Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian”. Royalle soon after, produced a three volume set, “Star Director Series”, and “Revelations”. In this film, Royalle worked more over a year on this production, and was featured in 1992. “Revelations”, had a more political message on the perspective of how life would be life if we did not have the right to freely express ourselves artistically and sexually. Royalle explains that it was her form of retaliating to society’s hostility on adult industry and the indifference of clients purchasing and renting adult movies but not fighting for their rights to do so.

In 1995, Royalle became determined to fully return to production, and signed on with Adam and Eve to fund and produce more Femme productions. “My Surrender”, featured in 1996, which won AVN’s Best Actress award for Jeanna Fine. This film in addition has been selected for four other awards such as directing and editing. Other films that Royalle directed were, “The Gift”, starring McCullough and Mark Davis, “Bridal Shower”, which featured Nina Hartley, “One Size Fits All: A Sex Comedy In Five Acts”, starring Nina Hartley, Missy, Shanna McCullough and Mark Davis and Tom Byron in “Eyes of Desire”, parts one and two. This film was a starred Missy and her ex-husband Micky G, another was a comedy short film called “Stud Hunters, which starred Ava Vincent and Alexandra Silk and a group of New York “Studs”, that Royalle discovered. Stud Hunters later was given five AVN nominations in 1996. The film also was nominated for best director and best editing.

In 2005 Royalle, presented “Caribbean Heat”, where it was shot in Panama and introduced Manuela Sabrosa. The film was produced by Italian writer/film-maker Michele Capozzi. Additionally, in 2007 Royalle produced a new sex comedy titled “Under the Covers”, that features a mixture of new performers originated from New York and some from LA. Royalle also presented “Afrodite Superstar”, which was the beginning of new era of a mix of talented actors and actresses from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Royalle expressed that this line was being labeled as “Femme Chocolat”. Royalle’s expressed that her main aspiration with this project is to educate young new female directors.[23]

Annie Sprinkle

Sprinkle commenced her profession in the conventional porn business in the mid 1970s, slowly shifting to directing her own pictures, such as Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle. In the 1990s Sprinkle became largely involved in creating films, performances, and publications that were openly feminist and that participated in a playful and new form that involved women's, queer, and transgender sexuality. The majority of Annie Sprinkle’s works consists of several self-help-styles videos for example, such as Annie Sprinkle's Amazing World of Orgasm (US, 2004) and The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop (US, 1992), in which Sprinkle is portrayed as a skilled “sexpert”, motivating the audience to test out a range of elements of their own pleasures and fantasies. In the 1990s Annie Sprinkle became extensively renowned because she had switched from conventional porn to a feminist performance practice that combined live shows, writings on sexuality, and instructional videos. Yet, Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle, the initial film that Sprinkle both starred in and directed, had already shared several similar traits that later became hallmarks for her later works. These fundamentals incorporated an autobiographical emphasis, in which she displays to the viewer genuine photographs of her youth at the commencement of the film, for instance and the significance of women's self-satisfaction. Deep Inside, in distinction to Sprinkle's productions from the 1990s forward, was still advertised to conventional porn viewers, and extremely productively. Thus, it became the second leading grossing porn film of 1981.[24] Annie Sprinkles also becamse well known in the queer art movement for being the first to promote the term "postporn", and because she co-signed the Post-Porn Manifesto in 1989. Postporn became a niche term in the 80s and 90s, and continues to be an influential praxis in the transfeminist and queer movements, specifically in the fields of contemporary video and performance art.


Feminist porn directors include Courtney Trouble, Candida Royalle, Tristan Taormino, Madison Young, Shine Louise Houston, Jincey Lumpkin, Ovidie, and Erika Lust. Some of these directors make pornography specifically for a female or genderqueer audience, while others try for a broad appeal across genders and sexual orientations.

Doris Wishman is one of the earliest female pornography film directors. She began producing a series of nudist films without sex scenes, including Hideout in the Sun[25] (1960), Nude on the Moon[26] (1961) and Diary of a Nudist[27] (1961). Years after it she also produced a series of sexploitation films.

Directed by Abiola Abrams in 2006, Afrodite Superstar is regarded as the first erotic film to be both directed by a black women and marketed at black women. Other black female directors in adult film, include Shine Louise Houston, Diana Devoe and Estelle Joseph - director of the award-winning City of Flesh series.[28]

Swedish filmmaker Mia Engberg along with twelve different directors produced a collection of feminist pornographic short films titled Dirty Diaries which was released in September 2009. The financing for the most part came from the Swedish Film Institute.


Since 2006,[29] there has been a Feminist Porn Awards held annually in Toronto,[30] sponsored by a local feminist sex toy business, Good for Her. The awards are given in a number of categories and have three guiding criteria:[31]

  1. A woman had a hand in the production, writing, direction, etc. of the work.
  2. It depicts genuine female pleasure.
  3. It expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn.

In Europe since 2009 the best films are nominated with the PorYes-Award every other year.

US anti-porn feminists’ activities

In the 1970s Andrea Dworkin, a feminist activist, became the main theorist of the US anti-pornography campaign. The majority of the feminist debates were initiated by such proceedings as the 1976 exposure in the US of the film Snuff, in which a woman was revealed being mutilated for the audience’s sexual satisfaction. Erroneously believing that the eroticized anguish scenes in Snuff were real, Dworkin structured once a night vigils at locations where the film was being publicized, up roaring associated protests by women in other US cities (as well as in the UK). Well-known US feminists, including Susan Brownmiller and Gloria Steinem, joined Dworkin to establish the campaign group Women Against Pornography (WAP). The anti-porn campaign escalated with ‘Take Back the Night’ marches around locations such as Times Square, which contained ‘adult’ book stores, massage parlours and strip shows. Dworkin and other major feminists prearranged conferences and lecture tours, showing slide-shows featuring hard- and soft-core porn to women’s awareness groups.[6]

Feminism and the proliferation of pornography for women

Throughout the past decade many women became disillusioned with Dworkin and her anti-porn perspectives, perceiving them as excessively polarized and anti-sex. Feminists continue to debate if pornography is, or is not destructive. MacKinnon debates that pornography threatens the egalitarianism of women and serves a fundamental position in institutionalizing a subhuman, maltreated, second-class status for women (1994, 1995). Nevertheless, some argue sex feminist pornography occupied the formation of women’s porn/erotica and its endorsement as an apparent choice to men’s pornography. Feminists have greatly emphasized the way cybersex provides encouragement for identity bending, as users are capable to take on diverse characteristics (e.g. gender, age, sexuality, race, and physical exterior). They encompass in addition distinguished a figure of other benefits from new technologies, for example enhanced access to sex education and ‘safe’ sex, and opportunities for women and for minorities to make contact, and to manufacture and allocate their own representations.[32]

Pro-pornography Feminists

Mireille Miller-Young has researched the porn industry for the last ten years. In addition, Miller-Young has also interviewed a vast amount of performers and has encountered several positives of pornography in women’s lives.

“For some performers, pornography is a path to college and out of poverty. For others, it is a chance to make a statement about female pleasure.”
Mireille Miller-Young

Miller-Young expresses that the women she interviewed were excited to enter the pornography industry and viewed it as a great, profitable opportunity as well an accommodating job that would grant them independence. Women who had worked in retail or in nursing discovered that pornography gave them more control over their labor, and experience greater respect. Some women believed being part of the pornography industry, granted them the ability to escape poverty, provide for their families and attend college. While, others stressed that the inventive features of pornography, and state it grants them to boost their economic mobility while also creating a strong statement about female satisfaction. Miller-Young expressed that according to the performers she interviewed, the most difficult challenge they dealt with was social stigma, as well as gender and racial inequality.

Typically in both large and small companies, the males in proletarian businesses generally are inclined to marginalize the viewpoints and main concerns of women. Furthermore, these companies will often create a competitive setting, pinning female women against one another. In regards to African-American women, and men of color in a broad-spectrum, are compensated half to three-quarters of what White performers are paid. Such as in other types of industries, women and men of color face discrimination and disparity in structural and interpersonal forms. However, they also dispute them. Porn industry workers are striving to get more control over their labor and the products they create. The Internet is by far the most efficient and rapid way to democratize the porn industry. There is a grand range of diverse women who enter the pornography business such as soccer moms, single mothers, and college students, who are filming themselves and projecting their own pornographic fantasies. Miller-Young found that the porn industry to be mutually potential but also have influential limitations. The majority of women in pornography strongly feel that society should not treat porn as a problematic behemoth and a socially immoral act. However, women in the industry highlight that it can be improved, particularly with deference to workers’ rights.[33]

Royalle argues that viewing pornography is not intrinsically damaging to men or women. Yet, expresses that there are people who perhaps should not view porn, for example those with poor body image or those have experience sexual abuse. It depends on the viewer’s choice to view or not view porn. Royalle states that some individuals may develop impractical prospects about sex or what people enjoy, how they may feel expected to perform. Royalle adds that watching porn with another individual requires permission. Some of the positives that Royalle suggests is that pornography can have its benefits. Counselors at times will advise it to assist people become relaxed with a certain fantasy they or their partner may have. Pornography may re-energize a couple’s sex life. It can offer stimulating ideas, or assist individuals and couples to get in touch with their personal pleasures. Porn can supply individuals with great satisfaction or at worst, disgust. Royalle emphasizes that this all relies on what couples or individuals decide to view. She adds that porn is not the issue when it comes to unhealthy sexual behaviors, however the compulsive personality of an individual.

With regard to the performers, Royalle explains that there are some women who prefer to be in porn because they enjoy sex and deem it to be a great way of making a living. On the other hand, there are those who have approached porn as a mode of acting out intuitive psychological issues. For example, searching for their father’s love, or to receive punishment for being an immoral woman. For some women, it may be a bit of each.

I’m not sure the male performers get out completely unscathed either. While they may not be judged as harshly as the women, ultimately they’re viewed as freaks who make their living with their anatomy. John Holmes’ fate is the ultimate cautionary tale. Perhaps if we weren’t still so consumed with guilt and shame about sex, neither watching nor performing in these films would carry the weight it does. But then, perhaps we wouldn’t be so interested in them, either. If the fruit were not forbidden, would anyone care to take a bite?
Candida Royalle[34]

Tristan Taormino explains that pornography created by women for women can give women control over what is being presented about female sexuality and how it is represented and distributed. She argues that feminist pornography allow women to have a voice among a male dominated industry.

“… there’s been progress and that we can shift the way that people think about porn — the way that people make it, the way that people consume it, and the way that people relate to it.”[35]
Tristan Taormino


See also


  1. Snyder-Hall 2010, pp. 255.
  2. Snyder-Hall 2010, pp. 256.
  3. Snyder-Hall 2010, pp. 257.
  4. Sprinkle, Annie. "The Sprinkle Story". anniesprinkle.org. Annie Sprinkle. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  5. Breslaw, Anna. "So, what is feminist porn? Find out from a woman who makes it". Cosmopolitan. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  6. 1 2 Griffith, James D.; Adams, Lea T.; Hart, Christian L.; Mitchell, Sharon (July 2012). "Why become a pornography actress?". International Journal of Sexual Health. Taylor and Francis. 24 (3): 165–180. doi:10.1080/19317611.2012.666514.
  7. 1 2 Griffith et al. 2012, pp. 170.
  8. Griffith et al. 2012, pp. 170-171.
  9. Griffith et al. 2012, pp. 178.
  10. Griffith et al. 2012, pp. 179.
  11. Ciclitira 2004, pp. 297.
  12. Corsianos 2007, pp. 867.
  13. Ciclitira 2004, pp. 295-297.
  14. Corsianos 2007, pp. 873.
  15. 1 2 Corsianos 2007, pp. 869.
  16. Naughty, Ms. (September 2011). "Fabulous Feminist Porn". Schnitt. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  17. Vogels, Josey (21 April 2009). "Female-friendly porn". Metro. Toronto, Canada: Free Daily News Group Inc. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  18. Hartley, Nina (1998), "Confessions of a feminist porno star", in Delacoste, Frédérique; Alexander, Priscilla, Sex work: writings by women in the sex industry, San Francisco, California: Cleis Press, pp. 142–144, ISBN 9781573440424.
  19. Ovidie (2004). Porno manifesto [Porn manifesto] (in French). La Musardine. ISBN 9782842712372.
  20. Faludi, Susan (2000). Stiffed: the betrayal of the American man. New York: Perennial. ISBN 9780380720453.
  21. Taormino, Tristan (ed.). The feminist porn book: the politics of producing pleasure (1st ed.). New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York. ISBN 9781558618190.
  22. Street, Sharan (September 2013). "Editor". Adult Video News: 18.
  23. 1 2 Royalle, Candida. "About Femme Productions". candidaroyalle.com. Candida Royalle. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  24. Williams, Linda (Winter 1993). "A provoking agent: the pornography and performance art of Annie Sprinkle". Social Text, special section (edited by Anne McClintock): Explores the Sex Trade. Duke University Press via JSTOR. 37: 117–133. doi:10.2307/466263. JSTOR 466263.
  25. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053908/
  26. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056293/
  27. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054809/
  28. Loren, Arielle (20 April 2011). "Black feminist pornography: reshaping the future of adult entertainment". Clutch Magazine Online. Sutton Media. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  29. Taormino, Tristan (6 June 2006). "Political smut makers". Village Voice. Peter Barbey. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  30. Walker, Susan (4 April 2009). "Women behind the camera for new breed of adult film". Toronto Star. Torstar. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  31. "Feminist porn awards". goodforher.com. Good For Her. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  32. Ciclitira, Karen (August 2004). "Pornography, women and feminism: between pleasure and politics". Sexualities. Sage. 7 (3): 281–301. doi:10.1177/1363460704040143.
  33. Miller-Young, Mireille. "Empowering to the Women on Screen". International New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  34. Royalle, Candida. "Great potential for great fun". International New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  35. Clark-Flory, Tracy. "The feminist pornographer". salon.com. Salon. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
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