by Furry Girl

03.11.13

Last night, the feminist porn bubble erupted in girlie squeals of "OMG, a cute boy looked at us!" on Twitter because it has found a new celebrity hero: Justin Timberlake.  In a skit on Saturday Night Live, a character Timberlake was playing made a joking reference to feminist porn, which the feminist porn scene have been quick to appropriate (inaccurately) as some sort of serious celebrity endorsement of their genre, with Tristan Taormino now using Timberlake's face with the line from the SNL joke as marketing for her latest book.  An image of Timberlake's face and the quote is currently being widely retweeted, reblogged, and celebrated as a victory.  (On what planet does a joke on SNL constitute a celebrity's endorsement and interest in you using their image to sell you products, anyway?  Should the piss porn genre should start using Patrick Stewart's face to sell their products because he once did a skit on SNL where he played a man turned on by women urinating?)

However, implying a celebrity endorsement of your products where none exists and using their image without their permission so you can make money isn't why I take issue with Taormino and others fawning all over Timberlake.  (Though those are perfectly problematic issues in themselves.)

timberlakeReally?  I oppose feminist porn because I know how to treat a lady right.

Timberlake was one of the celebrities who appeared in advertisements for the now-defunct Demi N Ashton Foundation, an anti-sex worker organization that regurgitated the same old lies about how the average age of entering the sex industry is 12, and how a whopping 1% of the population of America are trafficked child sex slaves.  If you follow sex workers' rights issues even in the most passing way, you'd remember what a big deal this celebrity-led campaign was, and how it launched the biggest-yet mainstream media coverage of the rescue industry in the form of a series of Village Voice articles debunking the Foundation's claims.  Like it or not, celebrities get more attention that any normal person ever could, including most politicians, so when celebrities pick up a cause as a trendy new way of earning themselves some good PR, millions of people will hear about that cause.  It's because of the instant credibility which Americans assign to celebrities that their campaigns have so much power to undermine grownup-level conversations like sex workers' rights.  I'm infuriated that Tristan Taormino and the rest of the sexy feminist team are currently heroizing a man who was very recently making the rounds as an anti-sex worker campaigner.  Justin Timberlake has contributed to setting the sex workers' rights movement back by popularizing the worst lies about us, and no amount of jokes about porn can right that wrong.  Feminists like Taormino couldn't care less about Timberlake's anti-sex worker activism, though, apparently finding it perfectly acceptable to throw normal sex workers under the bus so they can grasp desperately at the exciting straw of a celebrity knowing their porn genre exists.

This spat with an obtuse feminist pornographer reminds me of why I hate the feminist porn genre so much.  No, not the products it makes, since I think a lot of it is sexy, but the way the genre works.  It adds insult to injury that so many people see feminist porn as an extension of and solution to sex workers' rights, when it's really an obstacle.

Feminist porn is the anti-sex worker sex work, and its marketing commonly slams other sex workers and their appearance.  One of the first feminist porn sites was Nakkid Nerds, whose motto was "Smarter than your average porn star," and it's only gone downhill ever since.  Feminist porn has an aesthetic, and that aesthetic is marketed as the definition of being "empowered," as though a woman's intelligence and value as a human being is to be judged solely by whether or not she has tattoos and thick-rimmed hipster glasses.  I can't tell you how many times I have seen feminist porn marketed with insults, catty little jabs about how their company doesn't have those brain-dead bleach-blonde drugged-up bimbos you see in regular porn, it has artists and lovers and manic pixie dream girls.  As someone who makes porn with a similar "not traditional beauty standards" aesthetic, I have always tried to avoid that kind of vicious marketing copy, and while I do want to differentiate myself from a mainstream porn site, I prefer to use terms like, "not another cookie-cutter porn site," rather than launch an attack on how mainstream porn performers are ugly and stupid.  You don't have to insult the appearances and intelligence of other sex workers to show that you're different, but it's endemic to feminist porn.

Feminist porn excludes normal sex workers by screening out applications from anyone who dares to be motivated by money, and the genre has long been inconsistent when it comes to actually paying performers.  Feminist porn sites try and avoid hiring people who are "just in it for the money," as though there's nothing more disgusting than being a sex worker.  One of the largest feminist porn companies used to openly claim that you could only get paid modeling work if you did some free work, so they could deter those awful people who were in it for the money.  Another famous feminist porn director is renowned for financially screwing over her performers by trying to talk them down to accepting a lower payment after they've already shown up for work, or have already performed their scene, or simply not paying them at all.  Most feminist porn sites start not with some investment capital, but by asking performers to donate their labor on the vague promise that they will be paid if and when the site ever makes a profit.  (And many sites fail, which leaves a lot of hurt feelings.)  I've watched as this business model has lead to plenty of behind-the-scene drama over the years when models don't get paid.  This is not just about one feminist porn company, it's how the genre works.  This financially exploitative relationship to workers is their normal, and it only continues to work because there will always be plenty of cute college-age punks and hipsters who are motivated by the fun and rebellious aspect of the porn industry, but aren't trying to make it a reliable source of income.  Many feminist porn sites also expect workers to donate unpaid labor in the form of writing blogs for the site, participating in the site's online forums and flirting with paying subscribers, responding to fan emails, and doing member chats.  Those precious "social networking" and "community" features, of which the feminist porn genre is so proud, are built on the labor of unpaid workers, who are well aware that doing free work might lead to being hired for paid work again.

Feminist porn splashes the word "revolutionary" all over everything it does.  This might seem like I'm nitpicking semantics here, but I take deep offense to corporations using the term "revolution" in order to sell things.  After all, let's not forget that feminist porn is a business, and as a business, its goal is to make money.  It's fine by me to make money, I like making money, too, but I would never insult all the peoples of the world who have engaged in lengthy and costly life-or-death struggles by touting my collection of tit pics a "revolution."  Using that word to market entertainment products shows a profound ignorance of and giggly insensitivity towards countless historical and global struggles where vast numbers of oppressed people have died in horrible ways while fighting for freedoms like ending racial segregation, to buck off colonialism, or to overthrow dictators.  Feminist porn sellers are not "revolutionaries" by any stretch of the imagination.

People who dabble in feminist porn are regularly handed paid speaking gigs at colleges around the country to speak on sex work issues, even though they only rarely engage in sex work, and do so mostly for fun.  This would be akin to having an event about labor organizing for farm workers and hiring as your speaker someone who occasionally helps with a friend's garden on summer weekends.  People are drawn to sex work for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is that it's naughty and exciting, but it's deeply troublesome to have most of the public faces of sex work be feminist porn models who are motivated by an interest in transgressive fun.  The vast, vast majority of sex workers are not in the business primarily for personal growth and sexual fulfillment, so it always bothers me to see such people actively seeking so much attention as sex workers.  I doubt any of these feminist porn dabblers claim to represent all sex workers in their lectures, but that doesn't negate the fact that when the public is handed a token sex worker at an event, they will mentally assign to them the status of "spokesperson for sex workers."  It's because of the fact that representatives are taken as representative that the onus should be on people invited to speak before large groups as a token sex workers to ask themselves, "Am I really the person who should be addressing this group?  Might they be better served by someone who is a full-time sex worker, or who has more experience than I, or who is a more typical sex worker?"  I have refused plenty of chances to be on TV or in the media because I felt like I was not the best spokesperson for whatever a journalist wanted to discuss, and I always referred them to people who are better suited than I.  I've dabbling in pro-domming work, but I certainly wouldn't be marketing myself to universities as someone they should hire to speak to students on what it's like to be a dominatrix.  Dabblers shouldn't be spokespersons, period, but the lure of fame and being able to add "college speaker" to one's resume is too irresistible to feminist porn people.

And the biggest one: feminist porn hinges on the idea that sex work is only ethical or acceptable if it's done by people who are doing it primarily for personal fulfillment.  This "let them eat cake" attitude is such profound bullshit, and it's completely antithetical to the idea of sex workers' rights.  The feminist porn scene trades on (and profits from) marketing copy that implies that sex work is unethical when it's done by normal sex workers, who are no doubt exploited and degraded.  This is so insulting, especially when some of them obtusely throw out the argument that feminist porn is some kind of "solution" to sex workers' rights, as though the millions of sex workers around the world could sustain their incomes by traveling to San Francisco to do a couple of porn shoots a year where they may or may not ever be paid.  (Feminists have deployed a similar argument about how the "solution" to large stage fees and mandatory tipouts in the strip club industry is that everyone instead works at San Francisco's small worker-run Lusty Lady punk/chubby girl strip club where everyone earns an hourly wage.)

Along with decriminalization, the goal of the global sex workers' rights movement is to gain public respect for our work and to be recognized as workers, and feminist porn is fighting for the exact opposite: that sex work is only acceptable if it's done by not-workers for not-money, and that being motivated by money to do sex work is a problem in itself.  Every business needs its marketing angles and to differentiate itself from competitors, but feminist porn needn't put its own profits and feel-good image ahead of the struggles of sex workers to convince the public that selling sexual services is a legitimate job and should be respected as such.  The real insult of all of this is that any advancement in sex workers' rights also benefits feminist porn performers, but feminist porn believes it can only succeed by disparaging other sex workers.





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