What Happens To Porn When Women Step Behind The Camera?

porn

Women in the porn industry are fighting the forces of sexism, racism and homophobia, one dirty film at a time.

In order to better understand the scope of sexual desire, a professor named Meredith Chivers once invited a group of men and women into her lab at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. There, she showed them videos of men having sex with women, men having sex with men, women having sex with women, and the occasional ape having sex with another ape. Sexual arousal in men proved to be what she calls “category specific.” Straight men became aroused when watching women having sex on screen while gay men got turned on when watching guys go at it. Women, on the other hand, got excited no matter who was having sex on screen. They even liked watching the apes bump uglies.

The takeaway is female sexuality is complicated. It doesn’t come neatly packaged; it’s not predictable and it doesn’t function as an equal and opposite answer to male sexuality. But most mainstream depictions of women and sex don’t exactly hammer that message home. Then again, most mainstream depictions of women and sex are crafted by men.

Looking to porn, we can say there are those inside the industry who don’t care to disrupt what’s been a very profitable plot formula. Big boobs and macho hunks may seem like a narrow approach to sex, but they continue to sell well. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped some performers from stepping behind the camera to see what they can come up with instead. And a lot of those performers turned filmmakers happen to be women.

Award-winning porn actress Jessica Drake came out with her own line of educational porn back in 2011. “I was being approached time and time again by people asking me questions about sex, relationship issues, things they saw in porn, and I was stunned by how much misinformation is out there,” she told AlterNet in an email. “It also dawned on me how many people were taking lessons from porn. Unable to really navigate what they saw onscreen as fantasy, they were puzzled as to why it wasn’t working the same way for them at home.”

While Drake doesn’t abandon popular porn stunts (her first film focused on fellatio, specifically), she makes sure that not too much “movie magic” goes into her films. “I tend to portray sex in more of a realistic fashion than you may see in an adult movie, even if the finished product seems polished,” she explained. Earlier this week, Drake nabbed an XBIZ nomination for “Sexpert of the Year.”

But transitioning from performer to director in a notoriously male-dominated industry isn’t always easy, especially if you’re sporting platinum blonde hair, large breasts, and a pretty face. “There were some people who thought my name was just on the box while others did the bulk of the work,” she told us “That can’t be farther from the truth. I choose the topics, do the research, write them, cast them, narrate them, direct them, even cater them. It’s truly a labor of love.”

Erika Lust is another big name in the porn production business. Her project, XConfessions, creates films based on the real-life fantasies of her followers. “Most of the current mainstream pornography is a reflection of the misogynist society we live in. [Porn] has the ability to mold our sexuality, it gives men an unrealistic picture of female desires and it divorces sex from emotions, particularly those of respect and kindness,” she explained in an email. “Equality and culture of consent are paramount on XConfessions.”

Currently, Lust is hosting an open call worldwide for female erotic directors. She’s set aside $250,000 to help fund the project. “True control over pleasure in porn comes from getting to make active decisions about how it’s produced and presented,” she says. “By making space for women to show their perspective on things we get closer to equality.”

And the call to create more inclusive content extends beyond a sense of social responsibility. In 2015, Pornhub, one of the web’s most popular porn outlets, received 21.2 billion visits worldwide. Twenty four percent came from women. Those kinds of numbers can net a significant profit.

Given the non-fixed nature of female sexual arousal (as demonstrated by Professor Chivers and her team) it’s unsurprising that most films featuring more fluid sexualities and diverse bodies are created by women. The Crash Pad Series, created by lesbian pornographer Shine Louise Houston, spotlights queer sexuality and incorporates people of different genders, sexualities, ethnicities, body types, and abilities. April Flores is another award-winning queer pornographer, best known for her contributions to the plus-size scene. Carlyle Jansen, founder of the sex-positive retailer Good for Her, deciding to champion the genre by creating the Feminist Porn Awards, an annual event that celebrates the women (and men) involved in the feminist porn scene.

But just because female pornographers are creating content with the “fairer sex” in mind doesn’t mean it’s mild. “Fantasies and sexuality are definitely not defined by gender. The idea that women need roses to get aroused or that female directors only shoot super soft sex is absurd,” says Lust. “I shoot hard core too, I’ve directed anal and BDSM. Those are sexual acts that can please all genders.

“I really think female-friendly porn, and indie adult cinema in general has the power to liberate,” she added. “The more diversity there is in pornography, the more perspectives, the more the viewer can see there are other realities.”

Women are rising to power, in porn at least. Now if only the rest of the world would follow suit.

Carrie Weisman is an AlterNet staff writer who focuses on sex, relationships, and culture. Got tips, ideas, or a first-person story? Email her.

This originally appeared on Alternet. Republished here with permission.

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