Activism, porn, and pleasure coming together

Photo provided by Courtney Trouble

Some may see the term feminist pornographer as a bit of an oxymoron, but just as there is no one right way to be a feminist, there are many ways that porn and feminism intersect.

The first, and most obvious, would be acknowledging that porn can be for everyone.

“Women are raised to think that porn is evil. Our mothers told us it was evil. Our fathers and brothers hid it from us, said it was just for the guys,” says Courtney Trouble.

“We didn’t have anything of our own to give us sexual agency or confidence – just a series of closed doors with signs insisting we stay chaste, virginal, and somehow still available while our boyfriends got the explicit imagery, information, inspiration, and encouragement to enjoy sex. We just weren’t allowed access to it.”

In the face of this limited access, Trouble is a trailblazing queer porn icon. She’s the founder of Indie Porn Revolution—formerly NoFauxxx.com—as well as the director of 14 full-length films and a performer in countless others.

She sees porn as a way of sharing images that accurately represent and validate diverse ways of being in the world, and will be coming to Winnipeg on Feb. 14 to talk more about representing pleasure in feminist porn.

“We want to see our bodies and desires reflected back to us in ways we understand. We want to see porn directed by women, funded by women, sold to us by women. Aside from that, the kind of porn we want to see—feminist or not—could look like literally anything.”

While some may see feminist porn as separate from and in opposition to the dominant porn industry, Trouble believes that important elements of feminism can appear even in places where they aren’t named as such. Even if people don’t identify as feminists, if their work helps to portray sex work as “a valid occupation,” then it’s part of a larger feminist understanding.

“Feminist porn is not entirely in opposition to the dominant porn industry,” says Trouble. “Instead, it seeks to create dialogue around sex-positive feminist values, and create space for us to talk openly about how porn makes us feel, what we want to see, and how we can support, share, and enjoy porn projects that don’t trigger us as an oppressed group.”

Rather than having to choose labelling some work as feminist or not, Trouble looks at feminist porn as more of a movement instead, made up of “filmmakers, sex workers, adult industry workers, and fans or consumers who are interested in porn that makes space for women’s voices, ideas, and safety.”

One goal of this movement is to inspire “sexual agency and confidence” that inspires and affirms people’s identities and desires. Trouble is committed to building inclusivity in her community by making porn more accessible and including more trans performers.

“People are making sure they belong by placing themselves in the picture. We are taking the medium of pornography and turning it into a zine, a poster, a mix CD full of protest love songs,” says Trouble.

There are much larger aspects of social justice and activism that Trouble integrates into all of her work, and these go far beyond celebrating or vilifying porn.

“What must really be done is not a conversation about whether porn is bad or good, but how we can be assured that we are getting porn that is informative in the right ways, inspirational in the right ways, and equally available to all genders.”

Visibility and representation are two ways porn becomes more accessible and inspirational, and reflecting real, authentic expressions of sexuality is another element of Trouble’s social justice focus.

“[Sometimes] seeing someone naked and vulnerable, or naked and strong, or naked and smiling or laughing, can teach us more about that person than seeing them on the street or characterized in a [television] show or magazine.”

And while showing a wider range of bodies and desires is celebrated by some, Trouble also comes up against all kinds of stigma – “porn stigma, queer stigma, sex stigma, feminist art stigma,” to name a few. Her attempts to open up a space she called a “porn studio/queer sex positive community centre” were quashed within a week by upset neighbours.

While she’s lost spaces and friends over her work and beliefs, Trouble is confident that continuing to work in porn can lead to radical change.

“[The] more we make space for women to create the kind of porn they want to see in this world, the more we will see female ejaculation, fisting, menstrual blood, crying, emotions, love, BDSM, queer sex. The more agency is visible in female sexuality, the more we can ask for, the more we can fight.”

The work being done in porn is also informing academic conversations, and creating new streams of information about sexuality. For example, “the way we are researching women’s relationships to erotic imagery will change the way we think about women’s sexuality – it could be as world-changing as the original Masters and Johnson studies that brought the female orgasm to light,” says Trouble.

Beyond the realm of sexuality, the adult industry has also been a source of innovation for technologies—especially Internet-based technologies—that we use in our everyday lives, and, according to Trouble, it has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

“I can see future correlations between the feminist porn movement and reproductive health politics, queer rights, trans health, consent culture/ending rape. It may take some time, but I think porn is laying some groundwork for serious political evolution in the future.”

 

“Feminist Porn: Representing Pleasure with Courtney Trouble” is being held on Feb. 14 at the Gas Station Theatre at 7 p.m. as part of Genderfest.