I read this really great Tits and Sass piece called “Fuck Your Feminist Porn”. A quote:
”The feminist ideals upheld by this kind of alternative porn are a joke. Their insistence on natural, “alternative” beauty excludes those who cannot attain white beauty ideals or at least have to work to reach them. At these porn companies, makeup is frowned upon, plastic surgery is a hell no, and fatness is as shunned as ever. While the image isn’t one of people actively working to meet fashion industry perfection, it instead enters around only those who can achieve it without effort. Ultimately, their “feminist” message is: “don’t work to be beautiful, but fuck you if you’re not effortlessly beautiful.””
Seriously, go read the whole thing, it’s a good critique.
I agree with a lot of it. I have many issues with so called feminist porn and its lack of representation, how many so called feminist pornographers take a “well if it didn’t happen on set” attitude to abuse/rape, how many have taken credit for other women’s work or hemmed and hawed about paying at all for a scene. God knows I had my own confusions about "authenticity" in sex, which seems to be a feminist porn buzzword, the "feminist porn awards" generally and how they're reflective of white feminism, and what is "natural" in terms of look.
That said. I have also seen how female competitiveness has influenced these critiques in some cases (especially on tumblr, cough cough). How someone I used to consider a best friend has been using the language of labour politics to talk shit about one such company (the one I work for) while buddying up with another producer who once paid this ex-friend just $50 for a scene in which she featured.
(Full disclosure- I’m fucking that ex-friend’s ex. This critique of the company I work for happened after that news went public. I don’t think that’s coincidence, tbh, and I'm really tired of keeping my mouth shut while rumors fly.)
I’ve seen people rant on Tumblr about how queer and/or feminist porn should pay the same as mainstream or GTFO, that by not doing so it’s indicative of a lack of care about worker rights. Yet I know these folks happily work with “feminist” companies that refuse to hire trans women, fat women, or black women, and have no complaints. It's also worth mentioning that to complain or to critique openly is often to burn bridges in the porn world, so rather than having direct discussions to work out next steps when it comes to porn and realistic labour practices, instead performers talk shit about each other behind closed doors or via subtweets. It's tiresome, it's cliche, it's unprofessional, and it's ineffective at actually fixing the problem.
I am often the first to say that critiques of the business I work for are completely valid and I’m happy we’ve taking such incredible strides forward in addressing the issues brought forward. That’s part of what I’m focusing on as Head of Productions, bringing the work that was started forward- creating a better working environment for performers, creating new alternative payment methods to benefit our workers, diversifying our directors, putting a larger variety of performers front and center. I just feel like sometimes these critiques are tainted by personal bias just as much if not more than actual accountability. And can I be honest? I am so bored with rumors behind hands being the gold standard for analysis. That doesn't solve these problems you claim to care about. If you want them solved, speak up!
I have also seen people holding porn to this impossible standard as a godsend job, never mind feminist porn. I’ve watched people move to the Bay expecting to earn a living on queer porn alone. No one does that. Hell, mainstream performers also hustle in many different ways with their own sex toys, stripping, personal appearances, writing memoirs. But with queer and feminist porn, I’ve also seen people get really upset when those jobs aren’t there, like they’ve been betrayed. It’s vitally important to be realistic with your expectations. Queer porn cannot be the financial support system for every queer marginalized person, definitely not if people don't pay for their porn.
Typically, we don’t have the money coming in to pay the same as mainstream. Partially because people don’t pay for their porn, or feel entitled to it for free because they’re sticking it to anti-capitalism when they torrent our shit. That ends up trickling down to how much budget we have to make new work, directly, FYI, and I know this because I see the budget. (which seems like a good time to remind you I have a new film out).
Never mind that expecting small companies to pay $600-1000+ a scene would mean a lot less diversity of content. Many smaller companies run by performers exist because of trade content, and I don’t see that as a bad thing if managed clearly and ethically. I recommend reading Jiz Lee’s piece on trade content best practices… though I do have to laugh that one of the people cited still has yet to send me 3 of the 4 scenes I shot for her for free - and that was two 8 hour shoots with no food, unlike most trades I’ve done which was maybe 2-3 hours and snacks provided.
It’s worth mentioning that, as I point out above, at least our company asks ¼ to ½ the time commitment mainstream has and a lot more artistic agency for our performers, as well as not insisting on a particular look, makeup routine, or wardrobe. You can show up exactly as you are, and many performers do. You can fuck who you want, how you want.
It’s still PORN, though, at the end of the day, and I have to question if sex work (and work, generally, though particularly gendered work) under capitalist white supremacist patriarchy cannot really be 100% feminist.