Feminist Porn Book

PDF EBook by Tristan Taormino

EBook Description

If this book were a machine it would be one that did a lot of different jobs and had a lot of moving parts. Feminist Porn Book PDF EBook Moreover, it would come as a kit which one would have to put together for oneself in accordance with the particular uses that came to mind. The fact that it’s for an as yet largely uncreated audience makes it interesting, intriguing, and maybe important.

Several Good Reads reviews reckon with the fact that the book is not on the whole for them by suggesting that the reader skip over the essays whose language or point of view is unappealing.That’s probably good advice for any work composed of a large number of various voices. It’s also, though, worth noting that someone else is savoring and dwelling upon the very essays one samples and skips.

There are two stances one can take toward this reading fact. The first is traditional different- PDFstrokes-for-different-folks tolerance. You read yours, and I’ll read mine. But, the volume can be said to represent an opportunity for readerly edge play. The point, of course, is not to convert a squik-out to a turn-on, but to come to a comfortable familiarity with a range of embodied experience different than one’s own. Because without some sense of an active inquiry into intimate experience as it exists outside the range of one’s bodily memories, tolerance tends toward indifference, and mores all too easily pass themselves off as morality.

So The Feminist Porn Book offers, at a high level of abstraction, a safe place for a non-personal exploration of the philosophical form of the question: What is hot? By opening that seemingly conventional question up to also ask: For whom? When and where and how and why? And what innovations in hotness might be possible? And more specifically, what is hot when pornography prioritizes and celebrates female desire, pleasure, and orgasm?

Many of the pornographers writing here are quite forthcoming about making the kind of porn they wanted to see, but could not find on the market. Many of the professorial students of porn are as candid as they can manage to be about the mysteries of their own vexed taste for porn. It all makes for an unprecedented exploration of the category of “the hot.”

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If you’re like me you’ve heard the term “sex positive” often enough to realize it was deployed by some self-conscious group that aspired to be a movement, but you had no information concerning the activists, performers, writers, scholars, and entrepreneurs who made the movement go. The Feminist Porn Book serves as a kind of informal genealogical survey of some of that movement’s central voices.

One of the Amazon reviewers complained that “the same ten names are referenced over and over,” and while that’s true, to complain about it strikes me as ungenerous. That’s because these names often come up in the course of first person essays in which someone is celebrating or wrestling with their involvement with porn. As they explain their journey they cite the names of those they’ve met, argued with, and been influenced by. Assembling these “same ten names,” then, I would see as part of the book’s achievement.

In a few short decades the direct influence of the vital lives of Betty Dodson, Nina Hartley, and Susie Bright will be lost to living memory. The Feminist Porn Book includes memoir-essays by these founding figures, as well as well as a lot of grateful citation by women whose lives, thought, expression, and inner-composure achieved through sexual and intellectual exploration they’ve made possible.

I guess if you read a bunch of thank you notes as thank you notes they’d be pretty boring (unless they were written to you). But lines of gratitude are a way to enter the deeper mysteries of transmission, and are a crucial function of any writing whose aim is high influence.

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One of the things I admire about The Feminist Porn Book is the way it manages its relation to its powerful thousand-volumed older sister The Feminist Anti-Porn Book. As is recounted by several contributors, in the 1980’s some feminists’ advocacy of censoring sexual representations in the name of public morality was so powerful it became associated in the public mind with feminism itself.

Andrea Dworkin argued with passionate and influential conviction that because pornography dehumanized women it should be criminalized, and the law professor Catherine McKinnon made serious inroads in getting laws passed that would have allowed women to sue venues showing pornography for violating their civil rights. The essayist Robin Morgan coined WAP’s (Women Against Pornography) rallying cry: “Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice.” These abolitionist fears about the effects of representation were so powerfully set out in the 1980’s that one hears them voiced as instant reactions even today. For example in a Good Reads response to this book someone wrote, “The fact that people apologizing and working for the filmed rape industry can call themselves "feminists" just goes to show how meaningless that word has become.”

Confronted by this denunciation of their choices and decisions to participate in the porn industry, or introduce a porn canon and conditions-of-production-and-reception study into university curriculums, one might imagine that the women writing in The Feminist Porn Book might be a little irritated by their judgmental older sister. But, by and large, they don’t come across as counter-judgmental. Many acknowledge the provoking influence of the Dworkin-McKinnon arguments as they sought views that would square their experience of lived sexuality and encounters with porn. Perhaps coming to some kind of terms with one’s inner-puritan is a crucial part of any ethical development. But now, immersed in their own projects of creating an inclusive, ethical and consent-based pornography that is still hot and profitable, they are at peace with what they have to offer. Many are willing to be in dialogue with the sister who sees them as wretchedly misguided, but they do not seek her permission. They know what they are about and what they’re trying to do. They have porn to make, and a world to change.

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My favorite essay was “Imag(in)ing Possibilities: The Psychotherapeutic Potential of Queer Pornography.” It was written by the psychotherapist Keiko Lane, and like so many of these essays what made it good was her complication of a received interpretation. In this case it’s the one that says that an attraction to violent sex can only indicate the presence of a trauma history which must not be "acted out." The idea is that one seeks out degrading actual encounters (this is used to explain sex workers to themselves) or virtual ones (through a taste for rough sex pornography) in order to relive or reverse childhood abuse.

Now that this can happen is an agreed-upon thing, a premise that any competent therapist will have in mind. But that account of someone’s motivation is a small swath on a large spectrum, and there’s a tendency on the part of insight therapists to imagine it as the answer—the one about which the client must be convinced for the sake of her own self-knowledge.

So the story that Dr. Lane tells is of being “an out queer therapist” doing her internship and being assigned “a butch-identified dyke in her late twenties.” This client had in fact been sexually abused as a child, and had “fantasies of being in charge” which she borrowed from pornography “made by and for straight men.” Dr. Lane had some kind of discussion, largely undisclosed, with her client about her desire and its possible meanings and implications. Apparently the discussions did not focus on the danger of her desires—but left open the possibility that under the right circumstances they could be the source of mutual consensual pleasure and fulfillment.

After the session ended, I turned off the tape recorder. I had a brief fantasy of erasing the tape, because I didn’t sound like any of the neutral-toned psychoanalytic therapists in the case studies my supervisor had been giving me to read. My fantasies of erasing the tape, or even just misplacing it, were quickly supplanted by a sinking feeling of dread over sharing it with my supervisor.


It turns out that Dr. Lane’s forebodings were well founded. Her supervisor did not want her to discuss with her client the possibility of “healing enactments.”

I argued with my supervisor about this for weeks. She was interested in my idea about symbolized enactments, but still felt that my client was setting herself up to traumatize herself or someone else. Eventually she told me that I had to confront my client, to caution her against enacting her fantasies and urge her to explore them only verbally.


The young therapist did as she was told, and felt crappy about it—as if she’d betrayed her client’s courage in bringing forward her desire. The essay then pivots to describe “a class called Queer Bodies in Psychotherapy” which Dr. Lane teaches to graduate students in a clinical psychology program. It’s a class in which pornography is part of the curriculum for reasons she explains, and the issue of enactment presumably gets a fuller and more nuanced hearing than was available even just ten years ago.

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The most important thing about The Feminist Porn Book is that it documents and forwards an ongoing conversation. As I was writing this review Twitter told me that the second annual Feminist Porn Conference would be held on April third and fourth of 2014 at the University of Toronto's Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. If the topic intrigues you, but after sampling this book you don’t share my enthusiasm for it, stay tuned: there’s more to come.



Here's a list of presentation titles for the 2014 Feminist Porn Conference referred to above.

Feminist Porn 101: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters

Consent & download; Authenticity: Interrogating Two Feminist Porn Tenets

Feminist/Porn Battlegrounds: Religion, The Law and…Tumblr

Theory/Practice: Masochistic Femininity and Feminist Kink Porn

Our Great Grand Queers: Porn Before WWII

Turned On: New Technologies, Sexual Interface & Feminist Erotic Media

Business Track: If You Build It, They Will .com: Feminist Porn Website Development & Troubleshooting

Race and Sexual Labor on Screen: Perspectives from a Performer, a Viewer, and an Academic

Research It, Archive It, Teach It, Do It: Sex Work in the Academy

Love the Whore You’re With: Self-Care & Allyship for Sex Workers

Turned On: New Technologies, Sexual Interface & Feminist Erotic Media



Contrapuntal Reading

Glosswitch writes, "The underlying thought behind sex-positive feminism is conservative and unimaginative, fearing a sexless void should patriarchy ever vacate the space it currently fills." I find this a puzzling formulation, but here is a link to the essay.

"Sex Positive" Feminism doing patriarchy's work for it



Conference Tweets

So the Conference is over, but Claire Litton helpfully created a storify tweet archive. Unfortunately I can't post a direct link because you have to have a Storify account to see it—but it's free to set one up, and only takes seconds. Then you can search Storify for "Feminist Porn Conference 2014: Day 2."

Or search Twitter for the Conference hashtag: #fpcon2

Like this book? Read online this: Brain Porn, Porn.

Feminist Porn Book PDF download

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