Compromising Positions

A sex ed blog with more

Feminist Porn Conference 2014

The 2nd annual international Feminist Porn Conference in Toronto featured producers, performers, academics, and consumers from as far away as Australia and as near as U of T campus. This is another conference I encourage everyone to attend.  Apparently it’s totally worth it to spend the money for the VIP ticket to the “Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards.”  They just celebrated their 9th year, and it takes place on the Friday before the conference. This conference has something for everyone: a business track, 101 panels for those who know little about the industry (like me), and panels for those heavily involved in the business. There are also screenings. My mind was expanded, and once again, I had the opportunity to encounter individuals I don’t get to interact with in my daily life. FPcon normalized the industry for me in the same way that Orange is the New Black normalized being transgender for the masses. It seemed like everyone at the conference was so comfortable and confident. I had conversations with kinksters, genderqueer people, trans* people, and porn stars. I love being exposed to new ideas and new people; this conference definitely delivered on that front.

Feminist Porn: Ethical Porn with a Political Agenda
What is feminist porn? Well, it’s ethical porn that is anti-oppression based with a focus on diversity and consent of all parties. It is more collaborative than mainstream. Tristan Taormino, the founder & producer of the conference, says the difference between ethical and feminist porn is the political agenda re: social justice and gender representation while interpreting feminism in various ways. Feminist porn is challenging mainstream porn’s stereotypical representation. We need to pay for at least some of the porn we watch to help these producers and performers earn a living wage so they can keep creating.

Performers are People, Too
This conference featured academics, performers and producers on the same panels, as equals. 50% of panelists self-identified as sex workers – something unheard of elsewhere! One of the panels at the conference, Getting In & Getting Out, featured two performers: Danny Wylde is recently out of the industry while Dylan Ryan is on her 10th year. I learned a lot from these two. They are both incredibly articulate, well-spoken, intelligent, honest humans. Surprise! Porn performers are simply people who have jobs. Just like the rest of us, they can talk about things besides their job; they have families and friends and varied interests. Like many of us, when they talk about their days at work they don’t want to get into the nitty, gritty details but will give overarching ideas like “I’m feeling really inspired by someone I work with” or “I’m having some trouble working with a certain person” or “Today was really exhausting and I would love to have a foot rub.” The panel also discussed the significant difference in sex work for men and women: women are shamed while men are congratulated. Turns out that in mainstream porn, men are also expected to have sex with whomever, however, and don’t complain. I learned that porn can be a great way to explore fantasies in a regulated, safe environment. Dylan Ryan used the example of a gang bang, or when there is one person who is repeatedly being fucked by a number of others: if a woman wants to try this in the real world, it can be difficult to find supportive people willing to comply safely without overstepping any physical or emotional boundaries. On set, however, there is a whole crew making sure that everything happens according to plan.
It is really important to watch the behind the scenes interviews if you care about authenticity, the treatment of the performers, and consent…. Particularly if you’re into non-consensual porn i.e. if you like rape fantasies but are concerned about whether the performers consented to the non-consent.

Privilege
Courtney Trouble’s closing keynote was absolutely pivotal: they received ~7 standing ovations throughout the hour-long presentation. Unreal. You will notice that I use the pronoun ‘they’: Courtney is gender queer and this is their preferred pronoun. I was trying to take notes and/or tweet but literally every other sentence was golden. I gave up and ended up recording it on my phone so I could refer back to it later. I even got a lil teary. Check out the awesome 45-minute keynote, recorded by Tobi Hill-Meyer here.
Because of the closing keynote, I ended up having a number of conversations with non-conference goers about privilege and what I was able to glean from the keynote. Courtney started by recognizing their privilege. At first, I was feeling completely downtrodden and useless: I am an incredibly privileged person (white, educated, cis, mostly straight), so what right do I have? Then this inspirational bomb was dropped: Use your privilege to get into the space where others cannot, to create safer spaces, and to open up those spaces. Yeah! Courtney then literally opened the floor to people of colour in the audience who wanted to say something, even if it was just their name. She created the space for others who have a voice to share but were not given the same opportunity. This showed me, not just told me, how important it is for those of us who are given the space and are more accepted by the mainstream to acknowledge our own privilege and use it for good (as opposed to evil, I suppose).
If you know someone involved in sex work the best ways to be supportive are: ask questions like ‘how can I support you?’, learn more about their line of work, be there regardless of what you think is right for them, and create safe space to simply talk about work.  If you’re looking for Feminist Porn resources, check out http://www.goodforher.com/feminist_porn_awards and http://ethicalporn.org/

The Post-Con Drop
I’ve attended two totally incredible conferences in the last month: Catalyst Con East in DC and the Feminist Porn Conference in Toronto. There is definitely what some call “The Conference Drop” i.e. the depressing feeling post-conference of getting back to regular/less exciting life. How do others deal with the Drop? I’m looking for some coping strategies. Maybe the moral of the story is that I need to always have things to look forward to and exciting things to work on.

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One comment on “Feminist Porn Conference 2014

  1. Pingback: Sexual Ethics: Pornography | Compromising Positions

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