The adult film industry has always been operated by and catered to White men. Thems the facts, Jack.
Let’s face it. Porn for women is nothing new. Neither are female filmmakers in the porn industry. But there’s still something left to be desired. For some reason, filmmakers think that porn for women equals girl on girl or some super mushy, boring sex scene. Filmmakers like Erika Lust and Shine Louise Houston are taking a different approach, creating adult indie films that are diverse and hot.
Most people do not learn about sex or sexuality in a sex education class or from talking to their parents. Most people, as sex-positive educator Olivia Tarplin points out, learn about sex from stumbling upon adult magazines, their parents’ (or friend’s parent’s) hidden VHS stash or, the internet. Or, from hearsay from friends who discovered sex from one of the ways mentioned above. Tristan Taormino, a wrote a steamy, but educational book called “Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women” that became a very “hands-on” instructional video.
The documentary The Price of Pleasure asserts that "Pornography is a world view; it's an ideology - a way of understanding relationships," And this ideology is that men rule--men are dominant, men are supposed to dominate, men are supposed to be aggressive and then there's the belief that women want to be dominated, as a few people mentioned in the documentary. With this accepted aggression comes the violence towards women. Gender, Race, Class and Media Even the words for "sexual intercourse equate violence: fucking, nailing screwing, banging."
Pornography's male dominance ideology even shares with patriarchal religion, the idea of sex being 'dirty' but also that women are inferior to and in service to men...providing for a sexual double standard that allows men greater sexual latitude, defines women in relation to men, splits women into pure or dirty, virgins or whores, keepers or trash, 'good' goods or damaged goods, often along race and class lines" (GRCM, 314). These are ideals that are ingrained in society by religion and adopted by the porn industry, which the media then recycles to continue to sell the idea of male sexual dominance. And these are ideals that create porn that’s not so enjoyable for many, if not most women.
Much like the video game and tech industries, women have infiltrated the porn industry behind the scenes. Yes, women make up a rather sizeable portion of porn consumption. We are sexual beings, after all, making up 29% of Pornhub visitors in 2018. The word "lesbian" has continuously been the top search among women visitors to PornHub. And no, that’s not because most women have “lesbian tendancies.” It’s because, according to Dr. Laurie Betito, Director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center, women continue to enjoy porn that depict acts that they enjoy having done to themselves, which is why "pussy-licking" is popular. Women were also twice as likely to watch videos featuring "gangbang" and "double penetration" and romantic themed porn.
That’s why women filmmakers are creating indie porn. Since the 80’s when pornographic actress turned director Candida Royalle broke ground, more women filmmakers have been obliterating these stereotypes by creating the type of porn that they, themselves, would enjoy. Erika Lust is a Swedish filmmaker who wants to bring more women directors, writers, and producers into the porn industry. In Lust’s Tedx Vienna Talk, she explains that her first time watching porn, having snuck and watched part of a video as a child during a sleepover, and watching porn in college with her boyfriend showed absolutely no change in the direction of porn.
In 2013, Lust launched XConfessions, where members share their stories and/or fantasies with the community. Erika Lust and team then create a sexy, adult short film from it. While many other small-time, independent adult film studios find themselves struggling to keep up with the likes of Digital Playground and Brazzers, Xconfessions has been incredibly successful, producing “one new film every other week.”
While women-directed porn is growing in popularity, recognition among their peers has been an uphill battle. But people are starting to turn their eye toward femme-made porn. Taormino’s Chemistry was the first woman-directed adult film to win AVN’s coveted Best Gonzo Release (unscripted scenes, influenced by amateur pornography and popularized in the 1990s). In 2016, Bree Mills, who creates some of the more taboo (pun intended for her highly popular PureTaboo films) won XBIZ Director of the Year and AVN’s Movie of the Year awards. Like many women in the adult film industry, Mills saw that the “the quality [of porn] had become secondary to generating impressions and pushing traffic,” she explains.
When people hear “woman-directed porn” they think of softcore porn of the likes of Cinemax After Dark or 50 Shades of Pseudo BDSM. But that’s not what all women want. Women can be and do want the dirty, rough, and hardcore. And at the same time, want something that seeks to entertain them, to speak to their own pleasure. That’s why it’s important to have more women behind the scenes. “Having women behind the camera is crucial to more realistic representations in porn,” says Amanda de Cadenet, who conducted Marie Clarie's women's porn-viewing habits survey and runs a foundation, GirlGaze, that supports female photographers.
Women have grown tired of having to settle for the same old, tired “pornography directed by stereotypical horny males—there’s a lot of that, and a lot of it’s not that good,” as videographer Mike Quaser calls it. But that doesn’t mean the alternative is boring. It’s anything but. Women want “an authentic representation of human sexuality," Lust says. In 2005 Shine Louise Houston released The Crash Pad, a “hot hardcore indie feminist dyke porn” about a secret apartment in San Francisco “where people could explore their deepest fantasies.” The film featured the diversity that of Black femmes and different body types that mainstream porn simply lacks..
Houston told The Daily Dot, “Whoever wins the war gets to write the history, right? So whoever’s behind the camera is basically writing the story. And if all we have are white cis guys writing their story, those are the only stories we have.”
"Mainstream porn is full of repetitive codes and tiring power tropes that are all about (female) genitalia and body parts, yet nothing about the woman. For the men who dominate the industry, pleasuring women normally entails rose petals and silk sheets,” Lust says. “Oh no — women like sex just as dirty, kinky and exciting as men do. That's a myth mainstream porn has set out for us and it's completely untrue." And these women directors are proving it.