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Feminist Porn Awards: Lauren Reports!

Note: Some links NSFW

This month, I went to the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto, a three day event showing and celebrating porn focused on women’s pleasure and visibility for marginalized identities. The events included three nights of screenings, performance, discussion, and lastly an awards ceremony honoring the best in feminist porn this year. In an interview, the founder of the Feminist Porn Awards, Alison Lee said,

“Porn has expanded to include women and marginalized communities, and many people don’t know about the hot and artistic movies that are being made with a feminist sensibility. We are proud to promote these filmmakers, and excited about directing people to their work.”

The awards brought in a huge diverse crowd, and was successful in showing a huge array of films showcasing sexual diversity and sex-positivity.

In it’s 6th year, the events were truly inspiring. The guests were sex-positive, creative and radical folks who strived to revolutionize a largely sexist and transphobic industry. Notable guests and panelists included, feminist pornographer and educator Tristan Taormino, sex educator and filmmaker Jaiya, genderqueer pornstar Jiz Lee and filmmaker Cheryl Dunye.

One of my favorite parts of the events was the inclusion of men in discussions of feminism and responsible media making. Artist and filmmaker Carlos Batts spoke about the importance of making his models feel comfortable and consenting to everything they do in his shoots. Batts also includes varieties of body types in his films, expanding sex-positivity beyond the world of skinny white women. It was so refreshing to see a man in the industry who cared about these issues and is making politically aware ethical smut.

Drew Deveaux, who won the “Heartthrob of the Year” award is a Canadian, trans woman who noted her porn performance as a natural extension of her previous activism work. Not seeing herself represented in porn, she found this lack of diversity to be a problem. In an interview she said,

“My motivation for making porn was that I didn’t see many representations of trans-women…I put myself out there as an androgynous, post-op trans-woman. There were virtually no women who were like me in porn, but I knew so many hot, andro, queer trans-women. I was kind of doing it for them.”

Being cautious of the dangers of stereotyping, Drew is making porn to represent herself and her community.

The events really pointed out the importance of promoting feminist media and using it as a powerful tool for changing stereotypes and creating visibility.

For more about the awards check out the Good for Her website.

Explicit Academics: Northwestern and Sexuality Studies

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A constant frustration I have within sexuality studies is the lack of concrete substance it has in the classroom. I have taken classes such in topics such as queer performance, which dance around issues of pornography for example, without ever looking at these materials in fear of being too explicit. I think the most important thing to keep in mind here is, the study of sexuality involves sex. Proponents of sex positivity, and educators should not be silenced or censored when they are trying to discuss issues of sexuality no matter what their techniques may be as long as everyone involved is aware of the nature of the demonstrations.

John Michael Bailey, a professor at Northwestern University, has recently and unexpectedly gained national medial attention because of a live sex demonstration in his human sexualities class. The lecture was about kinky sex, the female gspot and female ejaculation and included a 10 minute demonstration of Jim Marcus penetrating his fiance Faith Kroll with a “fucksaw,” essentially a power tool with a dildo on the end.

In a statement Bailey explained the circumstance,

I was talking about the female gspot and the phenomenon of female ejaculation, both of which are scientifically controversial.…Earlier that day in my lecture I had talked about the attempts to silence sex research, and how this largely reflected sex negativity, I did not wish, and I do not wish, to surrender to sex negativity and fear.

From this explanation, it is clear that Bailey was not trying to be controversial or playing out a personal fantasy. Bailey understandably finds the silencing of sex research and sexuality to be troubling, so he did not want this to happen within his own classroom. He is sex positive, and as acting an educator practicing what he preaches.

Most importantly, this lecture was entirely optional, held outside of regular class meetings prefaced with warnings about the explicit nature as indicated in an article in Salon. No student was forced to attend, or reprimanded for not doing so. In an interview Bailey also noted that the observers were students older than 18 who were “legally capable of voting, enlisting in the military, and consuming pornography.” In addition, the couple demonstrating volunteered to participate without coercion. After the lecture and demonstration, the class held a discussion about kinky sex and the female orgasm, making the actions academically relevant in the scope of their course.

This event was taken out of context by writers such as John Kass for the Chicago Tribune who brought up issues of Northwestern spending tuition money on this demonstration. He asks, “If this bizarre peep show can be offered up as higher education, then what’s the next “edgy” thing? How do you get any edgier?” The demonstration was not used for shock value or to be edgy, but was legitimately believed by the professor to be an educational tool and therefore use of university funding should support this action.

This leads to some questions of the place of explicit sexuality within academic settings. In a class about human sexuality, how can a real example of this become so controversial?

Hollaback guest-posts! Words,& House Bill 14 in the state of Georgia.

What’s in a name?

Words are powerful. They can educate and empower, express and encourage. Words can forge relationships and build bridges. But despite their awesome ability to strengthen, they can also dismantle and destroy when they’re used as weapons. Stick and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt me? Tell that to anyone who’s ever been verbally bullied, abused, or harassed. There is gravity in words.

Changing the word “victim” to “accuser” until convictions are obtained in cases of rape, domestic violence, and stalking – as Rep. Bobby Franklin’s proposed House Bill 14 in Georgia seeks to do – tells survivors that not even the government believes their story. Basically, the rapists, stalkers, and abusers are innocent until proven guilty, but the survivors are on trial as soon as they report the crime. And for the record, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, only 39% of rape survivors do report the crime – and of those, only half will result in a conviction. Those whose cases didn’t result in guilty verdict? Forget everything that can go wrong in a trial or the sphere of influence your attacker might have (Cough, cough Ben Roethlisberger) – Rep. Franklin thinks you’re just dirty, rotten liars who imagined the whole thing or are just out to ruin a perfectly good dude’s life. (In case you’re keeping a journal of Franklin’s opinions, he also considers gays to be “unrepentant drug dealers.” An elected official, ladies and gentlemen.)

A dangerous bill like this would be yet another deterrent in survivors reporting their crimes, and that results in more criminals living freely in our communities. (Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it?) It’s not just registered Georgia voters like me who feel outraged by this nonsense. A change.org petition proves that frustration is being felt from Illinois all the way to Israel. And while House Bill 14 may not pass, Rep. Franklin should know that we are not giving our consent for any attack on justice for victims that our officials might attempt to make – and we’re not lying about that.

Lauren Zink is an activist and writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the Co-director of HollabackAtlanta and an all-around badass.

Visit Hollaback for more information.

We Support Tristan Taormino!

Tristan Taormino, courtesy of sexartandpolitics.tumblr.com

Tristan Taormino, courtesy of sexartandpolitics.tumblr.com


Tristan Taormino, is an author, feminist, award winning pornographer and sex educator, who runs puckerup.com and directs pornography through a feminist lens for Vivid Entertainment. She writes of her professional goals as educating “people of all genders and sexual orientations in their pursuit of healthy, empowering, and transformative sex and relationships.” In tandem with these admirable and important goals, Taormino frequents universities giving lectures on queer issues, gender and feminism.

Recently, Taormino was asked to be the keynote speaker at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex conference, and was later revoked this invitation based on the content of her resume and website. Her impressive resume, which includes lectures at Yale and Columbia, the publication of several books, TV appearances etc. was part of the basis of her “uninvite.” Considering that Taormino is an accomplished author, filmmaker and educator, her silencing by OSU is alarming.

On the matter Taormino said,

“I’m extremely disappointed that OSU has decided to cancel my appearance…I have never misrepresented who I am or what I do. I am proud of all the work I do, including the sex education films and feminist pornography I make,”

Even though Taormino is completely public and unapologetic about her work, OSU deemed her unqualified for their funding after her appearance was booked and her travel arrangements made. (And mind you, without reimbursing her for travel expenses.)

A post on Fleshbot wrote,

“I value her voice and positive message of sexual empowerment and freedom…I’m also quite disturbed by the implication that her affiliation with the adult industry makes her unfit to speak on a public university campus.”

This brings up an important point. Any sex-positive educator or activist has to unfortunately face these challenges, but despite these roadblocks their voices need to be heard. Her censorship is alarming and unacceptable.

The stigma surrounding sexuality, particularly women vocal about sexuality never seems to lose its prevalence, but in pushing boundaries some brave individuals are hopefully changing this. A university setting seems to be a great place to bring up discussions of sex education, sex-positivitiy and sexual diversity, and OSU should be honored to have Taormino speak at their conference, being that she has a strong and prevalent voice on these topics.

Postpartum Sex-Positivity

Courtesy of scragz, Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of scragz, Flickr Creative Commons

Kendra Holliday, a St. Louis based blogger and sex-positive mother, recently revealed her identity on her long time anonymous blog The Beautiful Kind. This personal blog deals with her polyamorous BDSM lifestyle, reviews sex toys and films, and discusses various queer sexualities through stories and advice. She calls it “smut for smart people”. As a result of her “coming out,” she lost her job and is now fighting for custody of her child, as indicated in a recent entry. According to Holliday, the claims for custody of her child all have to do with her sexuality.

While I don’t know the capacity of Holliday as a parent, claiming she is unfit for parenthood based solely on her sexual exploits, involvement with BDSM and polyamory seems unreasonable and discriminatory. People who are sex-positive are not intrinsically bad parents, and they should not be treated as such. Being open about sexuality and accepting of polyamory or BDSM for example does not indicate you are incapable of having a healthy relationship with your children. Why have parenting and sex positivity become mutually exclusive?

In an interview with Good Vibrations Magazine, sex-positive, educator, activist, director and actor Madison Young discussed maintaining her sex work with her new born daughter on the way. She said,

“I plan to be honest and open with my daughter about sex and my work in the sex industry. I want for my child to know that the work that I do is empowering to many women and that it helps couples and individuals to discover a sense of pleasure, that I’m an educator and an artist, a film maker and gallerist…If you “out” yourself and do so with dignity and educate others around the realities of the work you do then it becomes much less exciting to gossip about than if it is something that you are trying to keep secret.”

Young is entirely optimistic about maintaining her sex-positivity post-parenthood, but this proves to be a challenging task. While Young seems to have the right attitude about sex-positive parenting, unfortunately this doesn’t take into consideration the repercussions of coming out, whether it be as a queer person, sex worker, kinkster or anything else.

So this term “sex-positive” is thrown around a lot, but what are we really talking about? Holliday’s predicament is obviously unfortunate, but this is an indication of a larger issue; the problem seems to lie in the unspoken exclusivity of sex-positivity. While in concept sex-positivity is all-inclusive, there are constantly still boundaries being drawn for who it is acceptable for, and to what capacity. In the case of Holliday, her sex-positivity became problematic when she also had to play the role of mother, but sex still becomes taboo when talking about the elderly, disabled, overweight etc.

Sex positivity should incorporate all people, not just those who we allow to be sexually expressive. (young, attractive, able-bodied, straight, childless folks) As nicely put by Moms in Babeland, a blog run by mothers affiliated with the female owned sex toy boutique Babeland, says, “just because you had a babe, doesn’t mean you can’t be a babe!”

Is There A Choice for Condoms in Porn?

Image via trec_lit on flickr.

Image via trec_lit on flickr.

Recent news has sent the adult industry in a tizzy after an unidentified female porn actor,  tested positive for HIV. As a result, The AIDS Healthcare Foundation released a press statement calling for mandatory condom use in porn. While it’s unclear if the actor received the virus from her personal or professional life, her involvement with the porn industry and her diagnosis brings up many questions about the ethics of creating porn that respects the health and safety of the actors while still allowing them to make decisions about their own bodies and sex practices. Porn actors and activists have taken both sides on this debate.

Nina Hartley, for example, is against the mandated use of condoms in porn because it removes the decision from the performer. Similarly, porn actor, director and activist Madison Young in an interview with Salon Magazine said, “Making condoms mandatory for all adult films is just as confining and dis-empowering as eliminating condoms as an option for performers. There needs to be an element of choice, and the choice shouldn’t be that if you want work you don’t use condoms and if you want to use condoms then you don’t work.” Young does in fact usually opt for safe-sex practices in her films, but this ability of decision making is essential for her. She instead points to the fact that safe sex practices shouldn’t be a deterrent in employment for actors.

Many voices in the sex industry have taken the stance that safe sex can be sexy, which is an important point to consider. Many of the anti-condom arguments surrounding this debate rely on the aspect of fantasy and idealized sex that porn creates. While the fantasy of unprotected sex might be indulged through porn, this brings up questions of why safe sex can’t be part of fantasy. Porn actor Vid Tuesday expressed that ruining this fantasy could be a positive thing for people who think ” you can run about having sex all willy-nilly without regular STI tests and/or barriers.” Similarly, porn actor Buck Angel said “I think that if we as film makers made condom only porn then it would become part of reality and thus fantasy as well.” These actors are not only supporting representations of safe sex in porn for the sake of the actors, but also for the viewers who are influenced by these films.

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Porn and Consent

Image via Frerieke on flickr.

Image via Frerieke on flickr.

I know porn is a controversial topic. But instead of getting caught up in should porn exist?, I’d like to take on porn as a cultural influence on sexuality.

Given the inevitable existence of porn, I try to promote positive messages of sexuality, safe sex and consent that exist in some films. We have rights as viewers to demand good porn supporting the ideals of sex-positivity and consent.

The bulk of porn that exists now doesn’t align with feminism. I want my porn not only to be hot, but to do this while working from a background and through a lens that I can appreciate and support. So instead of condemning porn, I venture to say that we should condemn bad porn.

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A New Voice with Strong Convictions

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Hey there, I’m Lauren Ross, a new blogger and intern for THE LINE Campaign!

I’m currently a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. I’m an advocate of free speech, and film as a tool for social change. I’m an outspoken queer, sex-positive fierce lady, feminist on a mission. I’ve interned at The National Council for Research on Women, worked in a female owned sex shop, researched and written on queer pornography, and worked as part of my campus’ V-Day Campaign.

So, where is my line? Making sure my beliefs aren’t compromised. Whether these be the ideals of feminism, queerness, consent, body acceptance or sex positivity, these all have to be upheld.

I’m excited to be working for The Line, and sharing my thoughts with you, and I look forward to an active dialogue with y’all.

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