What is sex positive porn? (AKA Ethical Porn, Feminist Porn, Alt-Porn)

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Maybe you have heard this phrase used and thought, well, what the hell makes some porn sex positive or feminist or ethical and others not?
Great question, we hope this page can at least cover a very basic understanding of the ethics of pornography and then add a little of Permission 4 Pleasure’s values to boot.  (btw, if you want a list of ethical porn producers look here)

Enjoy x

What is sex positive porn? 

The contemporary use of the term ‘sex positive’ comes from the branch of feminism called sex positive feminism. Its the simple understanding that sex and sexuality are a fundamentally pleasurable and healthy for most* people (*of course with many of the asexual sexual identities not so much) Previous to its current usage in feminist theory, the term originated from the historical social movement of sexual liberation. Today, it’s just a way of  suggesting a general belief, that sex isn’t inherently bad. That also means the culture of shaming sexually active people as whores or sluts or regarding sex work as somehow lesser are actually false value judgement.

At Permission 4 Pleasure we use this term because we believe in agency for all autonomous beings including women (to clarify as well, we will be using the word woman and this includes all female identifying people)
We reject anti-porn feminist sentiments that all porn and performers in porn are just victims of patriarchal oppression and believe consenting adults can not only choose sex work, but also benefit and enjoy the work they choose.

We do not think it is a helpful exercise to conflate sex work and sex trafficking because it not only confuses and obfuscates the actual importance of addressing trafficking but it also amplifies misconceptions about sex work being ‘wrong’.

Of course, we acknowledge there are many unethical situations that happen in the consenting sex industry which brings us to our next question:

What is ethical porn? 

You want your tee shirts made slave labor free right? Well, for a lot of people, they want their porn to be held to the same standards as anything else. Not exploitative, not coercive or dangerous for the cast and crew and most of all, that there is transparency so that consumers can pay for the porn that matches their ethics.
Now, you may watch a video from kink.com and think, well that woman is in a cage, being tortured, surely this is not ethical porn? Well this is where ethical porn and sex positive porn come together. Some woman, really enjoy BDSM, to tell them otherwise is to deny that woman her agency to choose or decide what she wants for her life.  Kink.com also has widely public ethical practices that it employs to ensure a safe work environment.

Just like when you have a summer job in Kmart and they won’t let you stand on a step ladder without a training session on safe step ladder usage but then through either fault, accident or wrong doing you fall over anyway. Porn production companies that are ethical do their best to provide a safe work environment, it doesn’t mean accidents never happen but it is the process of providing the safest situation to do work that can sometimes be challenging.

So, that got a little long winded, but the point is ethical porn is not a single, defined practice but a series of processes that are put in place to ensure safe productions, non exploitation of performers and consensual acts between adults. A lot of porn industries are unregulated because of varied degrees of legality status, but we know a hell of a lot of great companies that do a fantastic job at self regulating and maintaining high standards for their productions.

What is alt porn? 

So this is a little different to feminist porn or sex positive because this is more of a genre. We would argue that there are two usages for this term at the moment. There is a fairly mainstream use of the term, which tends to reference the performers looking ‘alternative’ (tattoos, piercings, coloured hair) but then there is the use applied to a more broad statement of porn that is different to the mainstream. For P4P we feature older bodies, which are alternative to what you would normally see. You might also use term to describe production style (avant guard, art house porn, exotica, erotica etc)

What is independent porn?

This one is just like the regular film industry. Some people work for big companies (distributors or large production companies) but other people work independently.  There can be feminist, sex positive, ethical porn made from either category. Often independent porn is less constrained or driven by market values so you might see more alternative modes of production or narrative style.

What is feminist porn? How can porn even be feminist? 

The million dollar question. People like to say feminist porn can’t really exist, because all porn is a product of the patriarchy. If you are anything like us at P4P, you might think, “Shit, but I like to watch porn, am I just a empty vessel who can’t tell the difference between what I really want to do and what ‘the man’ forces me to do?”
Nah, its all good – you can totally be a feminist and watch porn or make porn, just like you can wear make-up to look beautiful for yourself without being a product of mass media’s beauty standards. No one is saying don’t have a good introspective look at yourself to make sure you are doing things for yourself and your own desires, but to deny that many woman know themselves and what they want is equally anti-feminist.
For a text to be feminist, it really just needs to be created by people who have feminist intent, IE a self identified feminist makes some art with her feminist lens of the world. Like in critical theory, that work is then subject to perspective from an audience. They can debate the merit of the ‘feminist’ nature of the work, but ultimately, if  a woman with feminist ideological background (probably sex positive) wants to write, direct and produce a video of herself being subjected to extreme BDSM (as we have done here at p4p) then that work is feminist. You can debate it and tell her she only made that video because- patriarchy but ultimately if we use artist intent as the bar for critique then certainly porn can be feminist.
We should also remember that multiple feminisms exist simultaneously. If one person does something feminist that won’t fit your type of feminism you don’t need to worry because its an intellectual position, not an absolute you don’t need everyone to agree with you (and guess what, no two people will, thanks pluralism) This is the same reason you shouldn’t worry about Taylor Swift ruining feminism, if you attribute her the power to ruin an entire idealogical framework you are a bigger Tswift fan that you think.

 

Ultimately, porn and pornographic material as well as sex work are a healthy, normal part of life. We (and many others) just want to make sure there are standards applied for safe, consensual, non-exploitative work environments so that consumers and workers alike can choose content that matches just some basic ethical standards that we expect in most other facets of life.

We are just humble filmmakers, so these answers are just our opinions and not cited – there are amazing academics and writers working in various faculties who write on these topics, you should use google scholar to get deeper into the topic. If you want to jump in and watch something- check out our beginners guide to ethical porn

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 4.29.35 pm

P4P performer Jade Winters – she consented to balloons being dropped on her before we did this.

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