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This past June, the second annual Feminist Porn Awards took place at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, reminding the public that the porn industry has a creative side beyond mainstream expectations. Chanelle Gallant, the manager of Good For Her, a feminist and trans-friendly Toronto workshop centre and sex boutique, spearheaded The Emmas (named after iconic feminist-anarchist Emma Goldman). “We created [the awards] in response to the difficulty we had communicating to our distributors what we wanted when requesting videos that represented actors of color,” explains Gallant. They weren’t looking for films that portrayed minority actors as sexually fetishized objects of desire, which is what they were getting. Contemporary feminism works to privilege the agency and, in this case, the viable and nuanced sexualities of marginalized groups. The staff members at Good For Her were frustrated over their inability to point their customers to a decent variety of “sensitive” queer, transgender, ethnic and even mainstream porn. So in an effort to track down and promote the pornography with positive representations of sexuality, gender, body type and ethnicity that they knew must be out there, they inaugurated the Feminist Porn Awards.
By holding pornography up to certain standards of artistic and representational integrity, The Emmas spotlight it as a form of contemporary cultural production. Because the porn industry is usually an invisible and unpublicized system—that nevertheless fulfils the demand of a large, generally un-polled audience—feedback between producers and viewers is difficult. If an enterprising viewer wants to research made-by-women-for-women porn on her own, for example, productive information is hard to come by. Just try googling "good porn." A viewer has little choice but to muddle through the publicly available options, which tend to be an education in restriction and subjugated gender roles rather than a representation of creative, sensitive, joyful, or empowering sexuality.
Fuelled by the need to establish a standard of ethical representations of women and other minorities in porn, Gallant came up with three criteria for feminist pornography. A film has to meet at least two to be eligible for The Emmas. One: women have to be substantially involved behind the scenes. Two: the film must promote and represent genuine female pleasure. Three: the film must expand on the traditionally accepted range of women’s sexual expression.
As for the opposite of feminist pornography, “any film made with female coercion” would qualify, says Gallant. She stresses that feminist porn is not a genre. You can’t identify it by pointing to certain aspects of storyline, sexual content, or its status as soft or hardcore. Feminist porn does not look like something in particular; it acts like something in particular. Because of this, there really is no “feminist porn community,” and the filmmakers met each other for the first time during the award ceremonies. Gallant hopes the annual event will help foster such a community, or at least collaborations between filmmakers.
For the second annual Emmas, the selections came mainly from Good for Her’s stock, since the store actively seeks pornography that represents minorities without exoticizing them. Gallant says they may post an open call for submissions in the future. The members of Good For Her’s staff, from the cashiers to the manager, served as the judges.
The store’s holistic approach to sexuality also extends beyond its selection of pornography. Not only does it offer transgender and women-only shopping hours, but Good For Her also hosts the largest number of sexuality workshops in Canada. Besides expected topics like “Muff Diving for Men: The Art of Cunnilingus,” you can also find “From Swinging to Polyamory: Guidelines for Open Relationships,” and “Sex for Survivors: Sensuality and Pleasure,” all on a sliding pay scale. Like the crews responsible for the films featured in The Emmas, the staff members at Good For Her make it their business to arm the public in its quest for healthy sexuality.
A Sampling of the Winners:
Hottest Group Sex Scene:
Under the Covers.
Candida Royalle; Femme Productions, USA.
Royalle is the founder of Femme Productions, a member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), a founding board member of Feminists for Free Expression (FFE), and also works as a mentor for emerging female directors. Under the Covers is a comedy about women who work and inhabit the sex industry.
Hottest Trans Sex Scene:
In Search of the Wild Kingdom
Shine Louise Houston; Blowfish Video, USA.
Houston is a lesbian porn producer, the founder of Pink and White Productions, and the only queer woman of color currently with a distribution deal. She made her first film in 2005 in response to the difficulty she had recommending hot women-on-women sex to lesbian customers that wasn't made for or directed by men while she worked as a sex shop clerk. In Search of the Wild Kingdom is a humorous mockumentary about lesbian sex, complete with a dysfunctional film crew, spoofs on typical “lesbian” porn and “behind the scenes” footage.
Hottest Bisexual Sex Scene:
The Bi Apple
Audacia Ray; Adam and Eve Pictures, USA.
Audacia Ray is a sex-worker-rights advocate, the executive editor of $pread magazine, an art curator, a sex worker, and an academic. The movie’s official tag line is “New York girls like boys doing boys who like to do girls,” and includes a scene that illustrates Gallant’s mandate to expand the range of women’s sexual expression, in which a woman clearly derives voyeuristic pleasure from watching two men together in a shower. Both the depiction of male homoeroticism in a film not specifically meant for gay men and the portrayal of a woman being aroused by male homosexual activity while not physically participating are rare in mainstream pornography.
Hottest Gonzo Sex Scene and Hottest Diverse Cast:
Tristan Taormino; Adam and Eve Pictures, USA.
Taormino has a degree in American Studies, co-edited A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World, and wrote The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and Pucker Up: A Hands-on Guide to Ecstatic Sex. Chemistry 1 is another genre-bender, this time in the vein of reality TV. The scenario: seven porn stars have a house to themselves for 36 hours. No script, no stunts and no bad “porn acting.” There are even confessionals.
For more information and for a full list of winners, you can visit Good For Her online at www.goodforher.com
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.