Where it gets complicated

When choosy-choice libertarian “feminism” meets Porn Culture Today – and the result is hipster bullshit.

Can a feminist have rape fantasies?

According to feminist pornography producer Pandora Blake, who runs the fetish porn site Dreams of Spanking and frequently portrays fantasies of “non-consent”, the answer is a no-brainer. “Absolutely.”

The general consensus in the feminist porn movement is that no fantasy, no matter how anti-feminist the subject matter appears to be, is off limits. To tell a woman what she is and is not allowed to be turned on by is just about as anti-feminist as it gets.

No, it really isn’t. We know the advertisers and marketers and porn producers want you to think that, but if we think really hard we can come up with a reason for that that’s separate from “because it’s true.”

First, “allowed to” isn’t the issue. That’s where the bullshit comes in – it’s dishonest. Saying X isn’t feminist does not equate to saying X isn’t allowed, much less you’re not allowed to X. None of this has anything at all to do with permission or commandment.

Second, it’s possible to be turned on by something that makes you feel uncomfortable to be turned on by. Third, it’s ok to talk about that, in fact it’s good to talk about that. Feminists have been trying to figure out the guilty pleasure of rape fantasies since forever. Trying to figure it out is one thing, and claiming it’s obviously and “absolutely” feminist in itself is another.

Feminists routinely fight for sexual agency – a woman’s right to make decisions about her own sexuality, including when and with whom to have sex, and when, if ever, to get pregnant. Feminists traditionally rebel against the forces that would hem in these rights: the puritanical voices that say that a woman who enjoys sex is a slut, that would restrict access to contraceptives, that claim that dressing provocatively is inviting rape.

Following that logic, feminists argue they shouldn’t invoke shame around the sexual fantasies of others – even if those fantasies include images of kink and domination, or even rape.

But not invoking shame is one thing, and celebrating is another.

“There’s a clear distinction between fantasizing about being coerced, and actually being coerced,” Blake says, explaining that just because she has (and depicts) dark fantasies doesn’t in any way mean that she’s endorsing real-life nonconsensual sex acts.

Wait. They keep sneaking extra claims in here. Having fantasies is one thing, and depicting them (and distributing and profiting from the depictions of them) is another.

The feminism of Trouble and Taormino’s porn isn’t limited to the content – they are also strongly committed to a safe and comfortable work environment, fair pay, and a creative voice for their actors. This behind-the-scenes work is especially important for porn like Blake’s. While Blake doesn’t believe that the content of her work is at odds with her feminism, where it gets complicated, she says, is in portraying and sharing those fantasies without promoting actual violence toward women. In a world where porn is the de facto sex education for any teenager with an internet connection, socially responsible producers have to think not only about what will get people off, but what people will learn.

Well exactly. So why begin the piece with all that dishonest blamey crap then?

Because it’s hotter that way, I suppose.

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