I watched a lot of pornography in 2009, for reasons too obvious to intellectualise, or type. It was bad pornography, the kind no feminist should watch, because to call being slapped round the face and spat on an act of empowerment is a contortion no feminist, however self-loathing or deranged, can make. You cannot masturbate to bad pornography with one hand and honour the ghost of Andrea Dworkin with the other. For some reason, this bothered me.
So I became obsessed with feminist pornography. It is quite niche and barely profitable, because the mainstream view is: if nobody is exploited then nobody comes. Feminist pornography is essentially a guerrilla operation with tits and plush fabrics. No one thinks about the fabrics in mainstream pornography. Here, in feminist porn, there are wonderful fabrics and no one is slapped about; there’s often a scene in which someone lovingly reaches for the condom. (“Oh, you remembered!” “I respect your reproductive autonomy!”) I was delighted; and so, I fondly thought, was Dworkin’s ghost. I accosted the pornographers and interviewed them.
I met Petra Joy at a symposium at the ICA in London. She screened her porn parody: a big, fake-titted blonde, writhing on a table, sucking her fingers and trying not to laugh. Petra would never use a “come shot” or “money shot”, which is the Hollywood ending of porn, and more awful than the average Disney film even if, to feminist eyes, they share elements. “It is symbolic of the way that archetypal pornography is all about the male’s pleasure,” she said. “You don’t have to be on your knees to be loved.”
I met Violetta at an Indian restaurant in Ealing. She had devised her own fantasy and Petra had shot it: making love to two sailor girls. A woman at the next table overheard her testimony, and hissed at us with all the fury of the obliviously enslaved. “I’m not the enemy,” Violetta said mildly, chewing on a naan bread. “I’m not the one who’s oppressing her.”
Could it be true? I went to a feminist porn shoot starring a woman described as “the Martin Luther King of anal sex”. It wasn’t very feminist, unless you think sitting on the face of a girl dressed as a child who has recently dropped a lollipop, while having your picture taken for a Facebook post, all for money, is feminist. It was bogus feminism, of which there is too much about. (Dworkin, I think, was frowning.) Then I went to a real feminist porn shoot, directed by Erika Lust, a Swede working in Spain. She thinks that most pornography is chauvinist only “because the people making it are chauvinist”. It took place at a glossy hotel in Barcelona. In the presence of multiple excellent fabrics, a young man worshipped an older woman with his body; the only thing that mattered – aside from the fabrics – was her pleasure.
I had found it: the unicorn of porn. (There are no dolphins in feminist porn. That is a myth.) “Play it,” Erika told them, and Dworkin smiled, “like you are in love.”
This article appears in the 06 Jan 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The God issue