Women's pornography

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Women's pornography, sometimes referred to as sex-positive pornography, is pornography often produced by women and aimed specifically at the female market [1] – rejecting the view that pornography is only for men.[2][1][3]

In the 1980s, writer Susie Bright pointed out that women's pornography "is a contradiction in terms for many people, so convinced are they that pornography represents the darker, gutter side of lust."[4]

More recently, in 2015, scholar and director Ingrid Ryberg said that feminist pornography is defined "less by specific content or style and more by the ways in which it is based on a political critique of and challenge to dominant notions of gender and sexuality and aims to empower women sexually."

Since that date, women have become accepted as a growing market when it comes to pornography.[5][6]


The main purpose of women's pornography is fulfilling the desires of a woman audience.[7] As a result, the focus emphasizes women as subjects of pleasure reaching real orgasms.[8] Women's pornography audio emphasizes what is being felt; the use of the female voice to display pleasure enhances the performance of orgasms.[8] The camera shots, such as close-ups of the face, also emphasize pleasure and emotion.[8] Other camera shots that are sometimes used include angles that display the faces of the male performers, rather than just their penises, in attempt to eroticize the male body more.[8] Showing more of the male bodies negates the objectification of the female body in typical porn.[9] Furthermore, women's pornography pays special attention to the care of performers by ensuring their comfort and consent with their performance and performance partners.[8] Director Erika Lust says mainstream porn is "fake" and "crappy"; instead she wants to show "real sex".[9] Not being slandered and disrespected by a man is what women's pornography is supposed to look like. Women's pornography portrays real connections and real pleasure.[9]

Producers and directors[edit]

Erika Lust[edit]

Erika Lust is a feminist porn director, producer, and screenplay writer.[10] She is also the founder of Erika Lust Films.[10] Lust got her start in directing and producing feminist adult films because she found mainstream porn "unrelatable, unimaginative, and unattractive", so she wanted to do something about it.[10] In 2005, Lust began to film her series called XConfessions.[11] Lust Productions subscribers submitted their fantasies to Lust and she picked two each month to film for her new series.[11] In everything Lust produces, she wants the viewer to see realistic scenarios, real characters, and real pleasure.[10] For Lust, an important component in feminist porn is consent and respect; making sure the actors want to participate and that they want to experience arousal.[10] Lust's films want to demonstrate real passion and connection between the actors.[12] Lust says, "We make love, not porn. And we do all this with a feminine, aesthetic and innovative approach."[12]

Angie Rowntree[edit]

Angie Rowntree is a director, writer and producer of women's pornography who got her start in the 1990s, launching her flagship site, Sssh.com, in 1999. Of female porn directors, Rowntree says "There may not be a lot of us, but we're passionate about what we do, and we're working hard every day to provide women with porn that does appeal to them."[10] Rowntree said Sssh's mission is straightforward: "We want to create movies that our customers want to see and enjoy watching. The only real difference between what I do and what producers of ‘typical' porn do is that I'm serving a different audience, and instead of assuming we know what they want to see, we ask them what they want to see."[13]

Jacky St. James[edit]

Jacky St. James is a writer, producer, and director who has been recently[when?] working with Bellesa Films.[14] St. James won the AVN Award for Best Screenplay in 2012 and was nominated for many more through 2018.[15] She directed films for Bellesa House, an imprint of Bellesa Films where performers are allowed to choose their partners and clothing and perform without a script and without makeup.[16] The project is open to anyone who is willing to perform, regardless of prior experience in the porn industry, gender, body type, race, or age. Real-life couples were also welcome to perform. Bellesa House was created with the intent to film passionate sex and to develop engaging storylines in pornographic film.[16] Outside of her work with Bellesa, St. James stresses the importance of comfort with female performers.[14] She also speaks out against the restrictiveness of free porn.[14]

Contrast to mainstream pornography[edit]

Most pornographic movies are filmed by men in a way that allows their target male audience to portray themselves in the role.[17] As a result, women are presented as objects of desire and not as subjects of pleasure.[17]

Mainstream porn does not show concern for the female performer's comfort or respect. Although the majority of porn audiences are male, more women are opening up about their interest and how they would prefer porn that considers female viewers and is not as crude or rough as mainstream pornography.[18] A number of women are dedicated to creating this alternative to mainstream porn. They care about making films that do not include horny schoolgirls, naughty nurses, or "bad step-mom and daughter" relationships. They also banish stereotypes about women's sexuality and expectations surrounding body shape and size.[19]

The ideology behind mainstream pornography is founded on a belief that sexual activity in a patriarchal society is intrinsically male and that male sexuality is naturally aggressive or destructive.  Furthermore, it assumes that women cannot choose to be free participants in an industry whose purpose is to satisfy the male gaze and contributes to male aggression. Radical feminist scholar and writer Andrea Dworkin named male power as the "‘raison d'être' of pornography", as well as stating that pornography in itself is a means for expressing male power in her 1981 book Pornography: Men Possessing Women.[20]

Women's pornography is produced and directed by women, and it is intended for the female audience.[12] One of the goals of women's pornography is to produce something that the customers want to see and will enjoy.[10] This type of porn is a minority on the internet, but is high quality, based on women's actual feedback.[21] It is a common misconception for people to assume that women are not as easily aroused by sexually explicit images as men.[22] Women that produce porn believe that male-produced porn ignores the sexuality of women and objectifies them.[22] Anti-pornography feminists believe that the solution to this is to abolish pornography, but pro-pornography feminists think the solution is to create porn that attends to women's sexuality.[22] Pornography produced by women is placed in the category "romance" by the Adult Video News (AVN) awards.[11] This new category was added to the AVN awards in 2010.[11] The AVN awards are movie awards that recognize writers, directors, and producers for their achievements in the creation of American pornographic films. Women's porn directors focus on different styles, but pay particular attention to the actual story, the actors, music, locations, and aesthetics of the scenes. The directors' main concern is making sure women enjoy the porn by making it realistic.[21]


Porn stars have differing views on the idea of women's pornography. Some performers note the problems in the industry and then turn to directing themselves, like Madison Young. Young felt that most mainstream adult film videos lacked substance and sent confusing and potentially harmful signals about sex and body image to viewers. As a result, she turned to directing to add to the new movement of porn. Madison makes sure to include verbal consent, body positivity, and inclusiveness to all her performances.[23]

Other performers do not see need for a specific type of porn just for women. As porn star James Deen put it, "Why is there porn explicitly only for women? By saying there needs to be porn for women, you're basically isolating women as a gender, and saying, "This is how women should think. This is how their sexuality should be." It's counterproductive (from what I understand) to the equality movement."[24] Performer Samantha Bentley believes that pornography already includes equality for women, stating that women are necessary for the porn industry and are represented and paid equally or more than men.[25]

While praising sites including Bellesa, Sssh.com and ForHerTube for presenting "adult content that centers women's agency and portrays them as active, consenting players enjoying realistic sexual experiences", Sofia Barrett-Ibarria of Vice wrote that the narrative of "porn for women" makes harmful generalizations about what women enjoy, presents porn not labelled as such as for male consumption and can exclude queerness and cisgenderness. Barrett-Ibarria quoted Sssh.com founder Angie Rowntree saying that the term "porn for women" on tube sites is "a huge injustice to the diversity of our desires" and Erika Lust as preferring "indie" to "porn for women". Chauntelle Tibbals said "Nothing can meet the needs of all women, as all women have very diverse interests". Pornographic actor Courtney Trouble suggested instead having labels to describe which videos "depict masculine domination, or other factors that may present themselves to be undesirable to an audience that's seeking something 'feminine focused'".[26]

Individualist feminism and sex-positive pornography[edit]

An individualist feminist view upon pornography is that both male and female derive pleasure from consuming the pornography.[9] Women state that they "see their consumption of pornography as both a source of sexual pleasure and affirmation of their sexual identities, as well as an exercise of freedom of choice.[9]" Another belief that is shared within the Individualist feminist community is that pornography should be legalized.

In opposition to individualist feminism are conservative feminists against pornography. A large movement on TikTok has accused the pro-pornography movement of grooming minors and encouraging them to get involved with sex work as soon as they are legal.[9] The sex worker exclusionary radical feminist (SWERF) movement believes that sex work and pornography are inherently harmful to women and cannot be ethical.[27] Both pro- and anti-pornography feminists acknowledge that mainstream pornography is harmful to women, but they take different approaches to solving this problem.[27]

Harmful effects of pornography[edit]

One of the effects of mainstream pornography that women's pornography addresses is the frequency of violence in pornography and its effect on sexual violence against women. A positive correlation has been found between violence in pornography and support of violence against women. Violence against the LGBTQ community, particularly lesbian women, has also surfaced because of the rising popularity of the lesbian pornographic genre.[28][29]

Another effect of mainstream pornography is the unrealistic standards that it sets for everyday women. The integration of pornographic consumption into everyday life has led women to feel incompetent compared to performers, which can lead to increased rates in divorce and a strain in relationships.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b May, Catalina (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  2. ^ XBIZ (2012-12-18). "Director's Chair: Erika Lust Promotes Sex-Positive Porn". XBIZ.com. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  3. ^ Susie Bright, Totally Heterotica (1995) p. 384
  4. ^ Susie Bright, Totally Heterotica (1995) p. 3
  5. ^ "FoxSexpert: Porn Isn't Just for Men Anymore". Fox News. 2009-11-09. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  6. ^ Sykes, Tom (2013-02-11). "Porn Isn't Just For Men! Why Women Love Watching". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  7. ^ Schauer, Terrie (2005). "Women's Porno: The heterosexual female gaze in porn sites "for women"". Sexuality and Culture. 9 (2): 42–64. doi:10.1007/s12119-005-1007-8.
  8. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Eithne (1993). "Excess and Ecstasy: Constructing Female Pleasure in Porn Movies". The Velvet Light Trap: 30–49.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Porn director says her sex films are feminist because she treats women as people". Evening Standard. 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "4 Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn for Women". The Huffington Post. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  11. ^ a b c d "What a girl wants: The rise of porn for women". s.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  12. ^ a b c May, Catalina (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  13. ^ "4 Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn for Women". The Huffington Post. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  14. ^ a b c Hazlehurst, Beatrice (2020-04-09). "3 women porn directors on navigating a world without new porn". i-D. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  15. ^ "Jacky St. James". IMDb. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  16. ^ a b AVN, Sharan Street. "Jacky St. James Opens the Doors to Bellesa House AVN". AVN. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  17. ^ a b "What Does Feminist Porn Look Like?". Everyday Feminism. 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  18. ^ "The problem with mainstream porn". The Independent. 2015-04-21. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  19. ^ May, Catalina (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  20. ^ Dworkin, Andrea (1981). Pornography: Men Possessing Women. Perigee. ISBN 0399505326.
  21. ^ a b Catalina May (2011-03-22). "Porn made for women, by women | Life and style | guardian.co.uk". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  22. ^ a b c Sun, Chyng; Bridges, Ana; Wosnitzer, Robert; Scharrer, Erica; Liberman, Rachael (2008-09-01). "A Comparison of Male and Female Directors in Popular Pornography: What Happens when Women are at the Helm?". Psychology of Women Quarterly. 32 (3): 312–325. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00439.x. ISSN 0361-6843.
  23. ^ "Madison Young Aims to Revolutionize Pornography". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  24. ^ "James Deen Shares His Thoughts On 'Porn For Women'". The Huffington Post. 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  25. ^ "Women Against Feminism - A Pornstar's Point of View". HuffPost UK. 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  26. ^ Barrett-Ibarria, Sofia (June 28, 2019). "The Problem With 'Porn for Women'". Vice. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  27. ^ a b "Beware of SWERFs: Sex work shamers who claim they are feminist". The Daily Dot. 2018-08-19. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  28. ^ "Homophobic night bus attack: Four teens charged". BBC News. 2019-07-25. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  29. ^ a b Hough, Patrick (2010-03-23). "The Social Costs of Pornography". Public Discourse. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  • Ann Snitow, 'Mass Market Romance: Porn for Women is Different' (1983)
  • D. Cornell ed., Feminism and Pornography (OUP 2000)

External links[edit]