“Who wants to see that?” was a question many pioneers of the feminist porn movement heard when they were starting out. Now, “porn for women” is coming into its own, with the volume, mainstream attention, and distribution channels to support it. To help you tap into the growing women and couple’s market, Xbiz got intimate with female pioneers, female-friendly retailers, and festival organizers. We also took a look at the talent paving the way for a generation of porn for women that is also for men.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Porn for Women
Neither “porn for women” nor “feminist porn” implies that men won’t love this genre. Alison Lee of Toronto retailer Good For Her, which founded the Feminist Porn Awards, said: “Feminist porn at its most basic is porn that takes a female viewer into account, and shows agency, pleasure, and consent regardless of the gender of the people on screen.”
Lisa Vandever, co-founder and director of NYC’s CineKink, which showcases erotic filmmakers from adult and mainstream, feels the market is opening up to the “shocking” revelation that women desire sex and want to see it on-screen…often in a different way than has traditionally been depicted.
So when we talk about porn for women, we’re really talking about a different perspective and style of sex on screen. As Coyote Days, producer for Good Vibrations’ new distribution line Good Releasing (and its labels HeartCore, Pleasure-ed and Reel Queer), said: “[The idea of porn for women] is a really complex conversation. We’re making amazing, cutting-edge artistic films that run at a different pace.”
Lee added, “There are also a large number of men looking for movies with a bit of context, movies they can watch feeling confident that the performers were treated well, or that they can watch with their female partners. I think this is the biggest thing most mainstream porn misses: So-called ‘porn for women’ has a huge male audience.”
As a market indication, Good For Her’s DVD sales have tripled in the last three years. Since the Feminist Porn Awards were founded in 2006, they grew from a single night of female erotica with 250 guests to two nights with 700 guests (70% women) aged 18 to 70. Berlin’s similarly indie, but not female-centric, pornfilmfest, wrote black figures for the first time last year since its inception in 2006. Even though Good Releasing (founded in 2009) only had four films out by the AVN Awards deadline, they received three nominations. Their offerings were also screened at the Feminist Porn Awards, pornfilmfest, and CineKink.
“The skepticism over validity and viability [of women-run studios] has waned,” Days said. “In 2010 people will really know our lines.” Their 20-plus titles can be found in many large chains and new deals are in talks. They intend to get their educational series “Pleasure-ed” into mainstream retailers.
For a taste of the variety, some directors to have worked with Good Releasing include award-winning queer film director Courtney Trouble, L.A. photographer Dave Naz, and fine art photographer/adult director Carlos Batts, whose adoration of muse and wife April Flores is apparent in his films. Androgynous gender representation, killer soundtracks, candid interviews with sex workers making their adult debut, and sex that eludes gay/straight/bi classifications—these films are not typical. <- i think it’s stronger to end on “these films are not typical.”
So, when we talk about porn for women, we also talk about introducing consumers to porn as a film art. An art with genres so distinct, that they can be compared to the difference between, say, film noir, the blockbuster, and the French New Wave. It’s all part of the “mainstreaming of porn” that we keep hearing about. When consumers turn into connoisseurs, the market shifts.
The Old Guard Nurtures the New
The pioneers of women’s porn—exemplified in Europe by Petra Joy and stateside by Candida Royalle (who started as a performer in the Golden Age of porn)—certainly can empathize with industry skepticism. Royalle filmed the first U.S. couples erotica and turned this concept into an empire, including the novelty line Natural Contours and Femme Productions, distributed through Adam&Eve. As part of her mission with Femme, Royalle said, “I’m only interested in women directors who are doing something different to standard porn and have their own vision.”
In Europe, Petra Joy, once active in the anti-porn movement, decided to make porn she wanted to see: safe sex, close attention to set and costume detail, and raw amateur performers. Her first offering was Sexual Sushi (2006), which “was in the drawer of distributors for years, until I started getting a lot of press.” After entering mega-adult-retailer Beate Uhse, she said, “It went from there.” Now UK-based Petra is a sought-after spokesperson on porn for women, especially in German-speaking markets.
To support first-time female directors, Joy founded the Petra Joy Awards in 2009. Winners received cash prizes, had their films screened during the pornfilmfest and received distribution in Joy’s Her Porn series—a carefully-curated compilation showcasing international directors such as Marianna Beck, Maria Beatty, Maria Llopis, and Candida Royalle. The second installment is due out this spring. Like Candida Royalle, Joy promotes new work as a distributor, for example the Swedish compilation Dirty Diaries and Marianna Beck’s Free Love.
Joy believes that quality porn for women has a longer shelf life than mainstream fare. She noted that her films, although several years old, are still strong sellers. Her first two still top the sales list of Australia’s WildnWicked.com.au.
Though Europe has a number of compelling directors, including Britain’s Anna Span and Sweden/Spain’s Erika Lust, the content does not always travel. Royalle expressed an interest in distributing Anna Span, but wasn’t sure the “down-home British” content would find a U.S. audience. Similarly, of the four titles Joy has directed, only Feeling It! is available via Femme Productions/Adam&Eve. Conversely, sex educator Jamye Waxman feels that sites like ForTheGirls.com and HotMoviesForHer.com have really democratized distribution. Still, consumers need help finding what they desire.
These women in porn are part of a world-wide web of erotic filmmakers who cross paths at film festivals and promote each other’s work when their visions align. It would be a mistake to say that they all like each other’s approach. But that’s not the point. The point is that a dynamic group of voices is now being heard, and together, they’re causing a commotion.
Article originally published in Xbiz.