What happens on a porn set has always held more interest for me than what’s in the videos and pictures. It’s what led me to briefly get into porn myself. This was an incredibly minor act in my working life, but it afforded me the chance to look where I most wanted to look: behind the camera, off the screen.
The new anthology The Feminist Porn Book goes fully off-screen and onto the shop floor of porn production. Performers and producers write alongside academics, proposing a shared analysis not just of what it means to look at pictures of adult sexual activity, but also of what it means to make them.
It’s no accident that I had the chance to do so myself in the late 1990s. Digital camera prices were falling, and it was possible to get ahead of the Big Porno curve by learning enough HTML to put your own website together. We pitched our porn – mostly made by women, working informally or running small businesses employing our friends, frequently out of our own bedrooms – not against the feminist anti-porn camp, but against the mainstream of porn.
For anti-porn feminists, the internet serves a sinister function. The same technologies that increased access to porn have also increased the pool of porn producers, and that, too, they say, must be stopped – never mind if these technologies also make it a bit easier for some women to call more of the shots. The same feminists who theorize that porn could never be feminist not only ignore those who have experience in the field; they also want to knock them out of it.
Over a decade has passed since the first gasps of online feminist porn. Now, there are several well-established and explicitly feminist porn production companies, and quite a few start-ups (whose performers and producers feature strongly in the book). Feminist porn is no longer a debatable reality; it has become a matter of discussing how it will be organized, and who will get paid, and for doing what.