Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sex-positive porn! Feminist porn?

by Josh Franklin

Okay. I did promise myself I wouldn't write about this anymore, but I saw this and I couldn't resist. It's a Feministe interview with Shine Louise Houston, the creator of the pornography producer Pink and White Inc. As the article describes it:

...in an industry dominated by degradation and objectification, PW Inc is actively working to reclaim real eroticism in a healthy and sex positive way. Allowing the models to essentially script their own scenes, PW Inc’s model-empowerment strategy is revolutionary in its approach to porn. And revolution is damn sexy.

This is a very appealing idea. There is an understanding of pornography, often integral to feminist critiques, which sees the whole enterprise in terms of men objectifying and exploiting women for their own sexual pleasure. I believe in a feminism that makes visible possibilities for living lives without gender violence and exploitation, and pornography and sex in general are certainly legitimate objects for creating those possibilities. That's why I was very interested to read how the creator of PW Inc. felt about her endeavor, and the ethical ideas that guide her:

The core values are to stay true to my ideals of sex-positivity, so both on screen and off screen we are extremely respectful of the models. We really work with them to make them feel comfortable, we don’t ask anybody to do anything they wouldn’t otherwise do in their normal sex life. We have a mission to show different types of bodies: queer bodies, natural bodies.

But more than a guiding feminist ethic, Houston views the films she produces with PW Inc. as works of art, saying, "...I’m coming back to that idea that I’m an independent filmmaker and the films that I make happen to have a lot of sex in them because that’s also an aspect of humanity that really interests me." This is exciting, as is the fact that she describes her audience as fairly diverse. I understand that there are many problems with pornography, but work like Houston's at PW Inc. seems very promising to me. I think that this is the essence of sex-positivity: rather than essentializing and moralizing about various activities, we ought to think critically and honestly about how we can make sex--and porn, and all of the other countless aspects of our sexuality--good. I think the relative obscurity of institutions like PW Inc. is just one more reason why we need an open discussion of sex on campus and in general; it's a discussion that I hope can take us one step away from exploitation and objectification and one step towards good sexual lives for everyone, whatever that happens to be.

More on the topic of pornography from the University of Maryland, where students' public screening of Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge has sparked a controversial debate about free speech and open discussion of pornography.

Thanks to Chloe and Kalila for the tips!

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