State-Funded Feminist Porn!

Sweden really is a conservative’s nightmare. As if the socialised medicine and great parental leave provisions weren’t enough, now the government’s funding feminist pornography (and only *feminist* pornography)!! The Swedish Film Institute defends the decision thusly:

“Everyone in the films is over the age of 18, no one is doing anything against their will, everyone shares equally in the money from the films,” Frenkel said.

“All of this makes Mia Engberg’s project different from regular porn in many ways. This is an ambitious project that in both form and content lives up to the demands we set for the projects we support,” she added.

Of course, there are loads of interesting issues about whether feminist pornography is possible (some definitions of ‘pornography’ rule this out), what it would take for porn to be feminist, and whether or not this porn qualifies as feminist. But what I find most interesting is the idea of a government deciding to financially support a feminist vision of sexuality. (They might be wrong that this is a feminist vision, but they clearly do think that it is.) Thanks, Rob!

11 thoughts on “State-Funded Feminist Porn!

  1. I’ve attended the Feminist Porn Awards before, a lot of fun. Here are their criteria:

    “What makes a movie a Feminist Porn Award winner?

    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! ”

    See http://www.goodforher.com/Feminist_Porn_Awards.html for titles of recent winners, etc.

  2. I really like Good For Her’s project, but I’ve always wondered about that first criterion. While the other two leave a lot up to debate, I think the first runs two risks.

    On one hand, it might devalue the women who perform in porn, not to mention the performance itself, by implying that they do not contribute to the genre in a form productive/powerful enough to deem feminist. On the other hand, it opens itself up to all sorts of pornography that has no interest in feminism whatsoever and yet is still produced by women.

    Admittedly, that second scenario is not likely to produce a submission to the festival, but in terms of deciding what is or what is not feminist porn, that seems like an important consideration. That’s not to say that feminism can’t claim any work it judges worthy of its ranks, just that criterion number one seriously undermines the task of “guarding the gates” that the criteria itself takes up.

    Perhaps that’s a task worth undermining? Personally, I’d resolve the issue by insisting that any porn admitted meet at least *two* of the criteria.

    On a side note, anyone close enough to attend the Feminist Porn Awards who is interested in porn studies should stay tuned for a conference on Porn & the Humanities in Buffalo, NY next spring. Linda Williams will be the keynote!

  3. We should recall that the US’s National Endowment for the Arts (a gov’t organization) has funded gay porno. Things didn’t proceed quietly, though, and it certainly drove the conservatives bonkers. For those who don’t know about the utter hysteria that ensured, here’s a short recounting. The post also says that in a commenorative meeting, “Karen Findley made the first “stimulus package” joke.” Cool.

  4. But was that funded *as* gay porn, or as art that happened to be sexually explicit? My understanding was the latter.

  5. I’ve never heard Mapplethorpe described as porn before! I suppose Jesse Helms was just a little more accurate than the sorts of Republican commentators you get today…

  6. Jender and KE: nice points, which somewhat alarmed me. What in the world was I thinking, I was asking myself.

    One possibility was that, influenced a bit by the article, I was using the term ironically. BUT I checked out definitions of “pornography” and notice that Caroline West in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy remarks that sometimes people use “porn” just to mean sexually explicit. I expect I do. Not to defend this use, but if you live in a climate where lots of great art can be labeled porn by people you talk to, you might find it easiest NOT to get involved in disputes about intentions or effects, and rather just concentrate on whether the piece is great art.

  7. I agree 100% with a type of porno that is not sexist because I think that lots of women watch porno and it is very important to offer models that do not offend women, otherwise it will be harmful for the construct of their sexuality.

  8. Meeting one those 3 criteria mentioned in the first comment seems like a very low bar to pass, especially since meeting either the 1st or the 3rd on their own seems like a pretty low bar. But I’m confused about the 2nd criterion: does it mean that it depicts what is, according to the fiction, genuine female pleasure? Presumably not, for all sorts of disgusting rape fantasy porn would thereby count as feminist porn. So does it instead mean that what is in fact depicted in the fiction is, in reality, a case of genuine female pleasure? If so it seems quite irrelevant to whether the work counts as feminist: a female actress can simply be bored on the day and not enjoying her job and so the work will fail to meet this criterion? I mean, the world is better if people like their jobs than if they don’t, but this instance doesn’t seem to speak particularly to the feminist credentials of the work.

    That said, I doubt that any porn can be feministically (word?) acceptable, but I realise there’s a sensible debate to be had here.

  9. Hmm… I definitely agree that the three criteria aren’t actually a good way to define feminist porn. The first one isn’t just a low bar, though it’s also a high one. I’d say having a woman involved in production, etc is neither necessary nor sufficient for being feminist porn. Both because, as Dee Es says, that can devalue the contributions of women involved as actors and because men can do feminist things.

    Off the top of my head– I do think that there can be feminists who make pornography and feminists who view pornography. But I’m less clear about whether the porn itself could be considered feminist. (Though it seems clear that some porn– e.g. porn in which actors are actually raped– is not feminist.) I think these are really very difficult issues.

  10. @Jender and Ross: Just to be clear..these are the criteria for consideration in the contest. The actual winners do much more. And I think it can be a feminist act in such an anti-woman, anti-queer, and anti-sex culture to stand up and share desire and pleasure with the world. I’ve always thought that feminism needs to name sources of pleasure and offer alternatives. Susie Bright and Annie Sprinkle are feminists, no doubt in my mind there.

  11. I totally agree. My worries are more about how to define ‘feminist porn’ in a satisfying way. But hey, since when have we even been able to define ‘feminist’?

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