Further to our ongoing discussion about pr0n, Anita from Kiwipolitico has offered this addition to the divergence of views we've been hosting. Big thanks to Anita for sharing.
In the midst of the posts debating porn a few weeks ago I offered Julie a post showing an anti-porn perspective from a sex-positive third-wave point of view. This is a somewhat challenging exercise for me as I believe that women who want to can and should make empowering pro-women porn, but my views remain conflicted.
This is my strongest area of conflict: can we reclaim porn for ourselves, or do we just give men another control over our sexual imaginations?
Imagine, if you will, your best case scenario for positive respectful pornography made by women for women. Perhaps that scenario requires that all profits are returned to the actors, or that there are no profits; perhaps that it is distributed only to friends and acquaintances, or free all over the net; perhaps that the actors as doing it as an act of empowerment, or that the stories are deliberately those of strong women; perhaps the set is full of laughter and joy as the make it, or what they make is really hot. Whatever it takes, imagine your best case scenario.
Then think about how those women will be constructing the shots, thinking about the lighting, the angles, the narrative, the sets, the stories, what to show and what to hide.
Their thoughts, however politically conscious they are, will be rooted in the male pornography paradigm. The male porn industry is so dominant it frames everything we think about porn. Even when we consciously work to construct something different it is framed as being not-like-that: the male paradigm remains the dominant force. A quick look at the photographers' guidelines of Filament demonstrate this: every explanation is grounded in a shared understanding of stereotypical male porn, every difference is an exception worth mentioning, every similarity unmentioned.
So the dominant exploitative anti-woman porn provides the frame for all pro-woman porn, either by providing norms we accept, or by being the norms we react against. So whether we want it to or not, by making porn we allow that destructive paradigm to control our sexual imagination.
It's an easy and obvious argument to make, but answering the question it poses is much harder: how then do we create pro-woman sexual images for us to share?
Rather than trying to bridge from anti-woman sexual images, perhaps we would be better to bridge from other pro-woman forms. There is a long tradition of strong pro-woman writing, and a younger tradition of pro-woman written erotica, perhaps we need to strengthen that tradition, then move from there to more explicit images of that erotica, then build out from there. Or strengthen our young tradition of pro-woman movies, then add more sex, and build from there.
Perhaps we wouldn't end up with something like the current male dominated porn, but isn't that the point? It's not so much that I'm arguing against porn altogether, as that I'm arguing against porn being the starting point to our development of pro-women sexual images, and against assuming that porn will be the end point.
The female sexual imagination at its truest and most powerful is not the exploitative imagination of the male porn industry, and we shouldn't be controlled by their damaging dominance.