Frankie says feminist pornography

Pub date March 12, 2013

SEX It is hard to imagine an industry as rich, yet as under-examined as that of pornography. We spend billions of dollars on porn in this country, and billions of hours trying to hide that fact, erasing search histories and wedging DVDs under the bed when our parents are coming over.

So perhaps it makes sense that The Feminist Porn Book, the first of its kind to include writings from porn-studying academics and porn performers, is designed so as to resemble nothing so much as a traffic sign. “What are you reading?” I doofily joked to myself on BART while positioning the Day-Glo paperback with its “FRANKIE SAYS RELAX” massive font in a way I hoped would avoid undue scorn-face from my fellow passengers.

It’s their loss, really. The book is a big deal, a first-time conglomeration of viewpoints from across the pro-sex feminist landscape. Its introduction alone was the most comprehensive history of feminist pornography I’ve ever seen (how appropriate that we’re in the middle of Women’s History Month 2013.) The next time anyone has a question about whether porn can really be anti-sexist, I will direct them to The Feminist Porn Book‘s neon glow.

Within its pages, professionals from a variety of nooks and crannies tackle some issues that even we, as feminists who believe porn can reflect and augment healthy sexuality, have trouble resolving. Penn State’s Ariana Cruz tackles the image of black women in porn (and the no-less-interesting reality of being a black female academic who studies black women in porn.) Am I the only one who gets giddy about heavily-footnoted academic essays on the race issues stirred up by Asian porn star Keni Styles’ participation in locker room orgy scenes?

Performers’ voices are well represented here, mainly in first-person testimonials that explain their career paths, complicated stories that don’t dodge critique of the adult industry. Transman pioneer Buck Angel talks vagina, seasoned pro Nina Hartley about being a role model. The Bay Area’s April Flores explains how she busts up the BBW stereotype. model Dylan Ryan and director Lorelei Lee explore society’s conception of their professional lives.

In a brief phone chat, one of the book’s editors and longtime feminist pornographer herself Tristan Taormino explained to me that the book came about after a panel discussion in which she participated that featured both academics and porn stars. That fusion, the participants felt, gave birth to a conversation that had to be continued. A few panelists from that chat can now be found within the anthology’s pages, and Taormino is now organizing a day-long conference to take place on April 6 amid the hangovers from the eight-year-old Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto.

“There are feminists in mainstream porn. I’m not the only one, I swear!” Taormino says this in a jocular manner, but given those billions of dollars, her implication that porn is starting to allow more room for feminist imagery and voices is a rather big deal. For now, I resolve to worry less about what other people on BART think of my reading list.


Three years of Oh! Powerhouse, 1347 Folsom, SF. Wed/13, 10pm-2am, $3. Darling DJ Robin Simmons will give you something to listen to beyond the slaps and moans at the third anniversary of this gentlemanly meet-up for dirty dappers.

BDSM panel for anarchists California Institute of Integral Studies, Room 304, 1453 Mission, SF. Sat/16, 6:30-8:30pm, free. Internet flame wars ensued when Native scholar Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz canceled her talk at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair upon realizing it would be held in the event rental space of’s Armory this year. Today’s discussion looks to re-unite members of the radical community who disagreed over the issue. Pre-open floor, a history of pornography and feminism will be presented, as well as ways to support sex workers, women, and people who think differently than you do.