Is Porn OK If It’s Made by Women?

Women probably make better porn than men. But that doesn’t mean that anyone should embrace it.

Erika Lust disagrees. The feminist filmmaker featured in the first episode of the new Netflix series, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, wants everyone to believe that if a woman is in charge, porn is suddenly a powerful, positive force for good.

She posits that adult films produced by women don’t just have greater production value, they have greater inherent value simply because they offer the oft-overlooked feminine perspective. “It’s just not fair that only men work in pornography, that only men are the ones portraying human sexuality,” she says in the series.

Most modern mainstream porn is made by men, for men—it’s produced with the male point-of-view in mind, and thus frequently plays to stereotypical male fantasies. That explains the prominence of porn that features cheerleaders, fake French maids, and surgically-enhanced secretaries.

It’s not just this cheap, vapid, superficial stuff that Lust wants to change. It’s the dark and deeply disturbing content that the male dominated industry releases that she’s really after: In one scene in the series, she grows visibly angry after seeing a popup porn ad showing a girl who looks about eleven carrying an Easter basket under the title Teens Get Destroyed.

That’s what’s out there. And that’s not even the worst of it.

Lust’s hypothesis is that only men could produce the kind of porn today that involves crude, degrading, and physically violent acts against women. No woman, for example, would ever produce an “erotic film” showing a man holding a woman’s head in a toilet while it’s being flushed.

Surely there would be no female humiliation or brutality with a woman behind the camera, nor the disturbing preoccupation with teenage girls and bleached blondes with breast implants. Surely a female producer could use her feminine touch to create something more soft and sensual and less scary and sadistic, or at the very least, more realistic and less dangerous. “I want to show all of the passion, intimacy, love and lust in sex,” Lust explains. “When you show sex, it should be based on values where you feel that the people in it, that they are connected. That they are respecting each other.”

Regardless of one’s opinions about porn, the unavoidable reality is that millions of people watch millions of minutes of it every day. So long as that’s the case, surely it is preferable to have a female producer speaking of porn with words like “values” and “respect” than a male producer using words like “teens get destroyed.”

So, sure—women who make porn probably create “better” on-screen content than men.

But even porn made by women is not pro-woman. No matter the sex of the director, there is only so much “value” and “respect” inherent to porn. Giving a female the camera does not suddenly change the fundamental reality of what porn is and what it does. There is no “value” in asking people to sell their bodies on camera nor anything “respectful” about asking strangers to have sex with each other for money.

Lust may think she’s creating something powerful and pro-woman, but even she knows she has to cover up all the inevitable and disturbing realities that take place on a porn set. She thinks her porn is “realistic,” but her films don’t show her rushing around trying to “get the sex part over by lunch.” She sees her porn as “intimate and emotional,” but her movies don’t show her coaching actors through very unromantic technical details so she can get the right shot.

As she explains, “In the end, even if it is real sex, this is a film, and it’s an illusion, and I create the image that I want you to see.” Of course, she doesn’t want you to see the look of wide-eyed terror on the amateur actress’s face during the shoot, or her struggle to endure the physical pain, or her admission it was “more intense” than expected, or that she will need time to “process” the experience.

Yet somehow, Lust sees her work as a victory for women, and thinks of herself as some kind of feminist champion. Lust’s idea of feminism—that simply by being a woman she can do anything men do, but better—blinds her to the harsh reality that producing porn is an inherently reductionist act. It reduces human beings into mindless, soulless bodies to be used, paid, and dismissed. It reduces the beauty and power of sex to a staged and edited illusion.

The sad irony here is that Lust actually believes her work is beautiful and empowering. But all she’s doing is parroting the lie that women gain power and equality by doing everything men do, and perpetuating an industry that furthers the degradation and exploitation of her own sex. Ultimately, even if Lust’s porn is better, women aren’t better off because of her.

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  • JP

    After the first paragraph, the author could have wrote: See 50 shades of Gray and been finished.

  • Del_Varner

    What this article points out indirectly is that current feminist thinking continues the want to make women have all the worst traits of men.