Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Feminist Porn Awards 2010: Reflections and Photos!

Hola! I'm back from my wonderful trip to the equally wonderful Toronto. What a fabulous city. I was very sad to leave, but also broke. Eight bucks for a beer that takes half an hour to arrive is a little much for me, but cest la vie.

I attended two feminist porn events - Public.Provocative.Porn. (a cinema screening of scenes from some of the nominated films, followed by a Q&A), and the awards ceremony itself. When I travelled out to Toronto, I was aware of the political difficulties in defining "feminist porn," and indeed some would argue that it doesn't exist (I'm not one of them). One difficulty is in which relationship you center for your definition: does the production itself, and the experiences of the sex workers, have to be feminist? Do the representations have to be feminist? And what if these two areas do not reconcile? In other words, what if the representation is feminist, but the performer doesn't get off? Or, conversely, what if the performer gets off, but the representation appears to be misogynistic? These are questions I mulled over during the preceding weeks, and questions I think all feminist porn watchers might do well to consider.

First of all, here is the definition of feminist porn according to the event organizers themselves:

In order to be considered for a Feminist Porn Award, the movie/short/website/whatever! must meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) A woman had a hand in the production, writing, direction, etc. of the work.
2) It depicts genuine female pleasure
3) It expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn.

And of course, it has to be hot!

Overall, Feminist Porn Award winners tend to show movies that consider a female viewer from start to finish. This means that you are more likely to see active desire and consent, real orgasms, and women taking control of their own fantasies (even when that fantasy is to hand over that control).

Fair enough, but even with this handy definition, I found myself growing frustrated with some of the conversations I overheard, as well as some of the comments made more publicly about what is "not feminist." This is all par for the course with feminism, of course, and the reason why it's such a dynamic discourse - ever changing, always in dialogue - so I'm sure I'm not offending anyone by raising some questions.

One thing that really struck me was how easily "feminist porn" was conflated or used interchangeably with "queer porn," which led me to ponder what the difference was, and whether the inevitable continuation of feminism is into queer theory and queer politics. I think it's important that these two areas of study and thought are distinct, while we also acknowledge where they overlap. Clearly, feminism and queer theory are both committed to challenging gender norms, so this is where the overlap at the Feminist Porn Awards derives from. But still, overhearing angry conversations amongst guests about how a film "isn't queer" and therefore somehow not valid was disconcerting to me, and left me wondering if there is a space for a feminist heterosexual identity that does not appear to diverge from gender norms. Put another way, is there a space for heteronormativity in feminist porn? Is there such a thing as a radical heteronormativity?


On a different note, but still related, my experience of the cinema screening was very strange, and I know a couple of other folks felt similarly from comments they made on reflection. The first scene they showed was from Nica Noelle's The Deviant, which I reviewed briefly a couple of weeks back. The scene they showed was between Manuel Ferrara and Elexis Monroe - a steamy scene that has a little plot set-up, followed by Ferrara's trademark French whispering and giant uncircumcised penis. The giggling was immediate, with seemingly forced nervous laughter during the pre-sex narrative sequence. Ok, it was pretty funny, and Manuel is adorable, so I figured they would all settle down once they got over that. Well, they didn't. The giggling and laughter persisted throughout, and when that cock was revealed, there was an audible gasp, followed by various forms of verbal articulation and laughter at the rather intense fucking action and multiple female orgasms. Were they laughing because they were nervous? I suspect they might have been shocked by the pretty straightforward, hot heterosexual sex, especially as the much queerer scenes that followed were met with far more moments of silent pondering and applause. Maybe it's simply because it was the first scene, but as I nipped out to go to the "washroom" (as they call it in Toronto), I heard the tail end of a cinema worker derisively calling the scene "vanilla," by which I assume she means "straight." I think that, ironically, this scene challenged the audience in ways that the other, queerer scenes did not, and probably made some people unexpectedly uncomfortable.

So, after that interesting, thought-provoking experience, the awards ceremony was the next night, and instead of my fancy dress, I did the unthinkable... I wore the very same jeans and shirt outfit I wore to the cinema screening. Shame on me, but it was snowing, and I didn't want to overdress. The awards show was a lot of fun, and once again, Mr. GGG and I were front and center with our VIP tickets, sitting amongst the stars. This meant that we were able to share silly jokes and comments with our porno neighbors during the ceremony, and a lot of giggles were shared by all. There were dance performances, tearful speeches, comedy routines from the host, and much more besides. I think CoCo la Creme may have stolen the show with her Baptist-church-gospel-singer-turned-stripper routine, to the tunes of Jesus Walks, but there were a lot of highlights to remember. For example, it was fun to be offered work by a nominated director (must have been my killer shoes) which I turned down. She even tried to persuade me by promising to pair me with a performer that I had drooled over in a conversation with her moments before - my heart all a-flutter, I explained that tempting as the offer was, I will forever be a commentator and fan of this fascinating industry, rather than an active participant.

Notable female industry figures were not nominated - Belladonna and Mason, most obviously - but that's because they didn't submit work, even though Belladonna was asked to do so. I wonder, is it an issue of politics? Publicity? Mainstream v. Indie? Either way, I think Belladonna and Mason have a lot to say regarding feminism, and I hope they become part of the equation at some stage, adding further diversity and dialogue to this important event.

No comments:

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails