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The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure

edited by Tristan Taormino, Constance Penley, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, and Mireille Miller-Young

genre: non-fiction, psychology, sexology, journalism, human sexuality

There were so many great essays in here, but I found some repetitive. Find out why I gave it 4 out of 5 stars!

Summary

(Taken from Goodreads)Feminist-Porn-Book

The Feminist Porn Book brings together for the first time writings by feminists in the adult industry and research by feminist porn scholars. This book investigates not only how feminists understand pornography, but also how feminists do porn—that is, direct, act in, produce, and consume one of the world’s most lucrative and growing industries. With original contributions by Susie Bright, Candida Royalle, Betty Dodson, Nina Hartley, Buck Angel, and more, The Feminist Porn Book updates the debates of the porn wars of the 1980s, which sharply divided the women’s movement, and identifies pornography as a form of expression and labor in which women and other minorities produce power and pleasure.

Review

I was excited to read this book because I wanted to hear the debate about pornography from an open perspective that would talk about the issues on both sides. Unfortunately, this book isn’t so much about the debate about pornography, but more about feminist pornography. Although the book talks about how feminist pornography differs for some, it is more or less ethically produced pornography that emphasises genuine sexual pleasure on screen (particularly the womans and other oppressed sexual minorities). I had heard about feminist pornography and this book really filled me in on the history and big debates in the field. For that, I found it fascinating, but I also wish there was more talk about mainstream pornography.

My favourite essays were from porn-stars-turned-directors and a psychologist. It helped me work through ingrained beliefs I didn’t believe I had. For example, that female sex workers are always victims or have somehow been ‘damaged’. Even though there is most definitely exploited women in pornography, there are also women (hopefully not a small minority) that genuinely love what they do and have not experienced any kind of trauma in their upbringing. Even though I had accepted that idea, I hadn’t really processed it as well until I read some of these essays. As a psychology student, I really enjoyed the essay from the psychologist and learning how pornography was able to help her clients through their identity and self-esteem troubles. It was an eye-opener because I had never considered pornography as a possible tool for counselling.

I found most essays interesting in one way or the other. I read them all from front to back. I sadly found some of the essays repetitive or some didn’t offer anything very new compared to the rest. I didn’t like the ones where they were more bogged down in sociology theory, particularly Celine Parrenas Shimizu‘s essay since it was pretty much all speculation with no real basis. But I did enjoy the earlier part of that essay which highlighted racial stereotypes I hadn’t considered in porn before, the emasculated Asian male who is rarely portrayed as a strong heterosexual stud.

I also enjoyed the first essay that really went into the feminist porn wars. Where one group of feminists ran anti-porn campaigns to end pornography, believing that the business was inherently degrading to women, and the other camp of feminists who believed it could be used to celebrate and express women’s pleasure and liberate. I found it fascinating to read because I feel like as a feminist, and as a sexual young woman who knows her way through the internet, I have felt very unsure about my stance on pornography. This book helped sort some of my thoughts even though there are still more questions to ask. I just wish that all pornography was ethically created and cared about the genuine pleasure of both parties rather than always catering to only the pleasure of white, straight men.

Overall, I loved how this book challenged a lot of mainstream pornography tropes. There are definitely essays in here that I will revisit time and time again. I really enjoyed the feminist perspectives and the intersectionality of the book. It didn’t shy away from black women’s experiences or queer women’s experiences in pornography and I think that’s important in this kind of book. I loved reading their experiences as someone who isn’t part of those populations. Pornography can be racist and homophobic but it reflects the media of the society it’s produced. From reading their experiences, it seems that pornography doesn’t appear to be any more racist or homophobic than other forms of media.

Would you give this book a go? Do you think it adds more food for thought in the heated discussion of pornography? Would you try out one of the essays?

4 out of 5 stars

amazonbutton2 copyThis book is for you if you:

  • Want to learn more about what feminist pornography is and what it aims to achieve
  • Enjoy reading books compiled of multiple essays instead of being written by one author

This book is not for you if you:

  • Are too sensitive when reading about specific sex acts
  • Only want to hear debates strictly on mainstream pornography

 Ermisenda Alvarez

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