Most of us are familiar with tired porn clichés. From the pizza boys and sexy nurses to the trite storylines that escalate way too quickly (literally from zero to anal in 60 seconds), porn is hardly renowned for its realism. Its purpose is, after all, to recreate fantasies. The problem is, however, that an increasing number of us are turning to porn’s linear, occasionally regressive scenes to inform our own sex lives. It’s hardly surprising – for most of us, memories of half-arsed condom demonstrations and the obligatory gonorrhea photos that comprised ‘sex education’ on the school syllabus weren’t quite enough to form a well-rounded, sex-positive attitude towards intercourse and intimacy.
Yet the fact that the porn industry has a lot to answer for is unignorable. Male pleasure often takes priority over the female orgasm, the bodies of PoC, queer and trans people are usually either erased or fetishised and rape fantasies can be stumbled upon with just one accidental click of a rogue pop-up. Increasingly, though, a new wave of directors, actors and activists are looking to rectify these archaic narratives, presenting intersectional celebrations of sex in all its glory.
There is, of course, still work to be done. Racial minorities are still often fetishised by reductive, unnecessary tags such as ‘BBW’ and ‘interracial’, although directors such as Milcah Halili, Shine Louise Houston and Lorraine Hewitt are looking to combat this through a combination of education and representation. Elsewhere, The Clit List curates porn for survivors of sexual assault, Inside Flesh celebrates the aesthetic beauty of fetish and MakeLoveNotPorn showcases the intimacy and awkwardness of IRL sex scenes; here are the better sites to turn to if what really turns you on is kinky, ethical porn free of violence and misogyny.
‘Pro-sex, pro-porn, pro-knowing the difference’. This is the tagline of MakeLoveNotPorn, a user-generated platform that celebrates the intimacy and occasional awkwardness of real sex scenes. The site is the erotic brainchild of Cindy Gallop, an entrepreneur (and the only TED speaker to use the words “come on my face” six times) who quickly discovered that younger men were picking up tips and tricks through porn. Determined to make a change, she enlisted the skills of Sarah Beall as ‘Madam Curator’ and set about showcasing a refreshing alternative to the scripted hardcore fantasies usually depicted in mainstream porn. The result is a unique fusion of realistic sex scenes and unconventional sex education – bonus points go to any performer submitting under the tag #condomhot.
PINK & WHITE PRODUCTIONS
It was just last week that a viral video highlighted the depressing fact that lesbian porn – despite its popularity – is usually more tailored towards men than the women it depicts. One director looking to change this is Shine Louise Houston, founder of queer porn company Pink & White Productions. Houston’s company has been showcasing realistic trans and queer sex scenes for over a decade, providing a much-needed alternative to the hyper-femme protagonists of most lesbian porn. Instead, Houston celebrates the beauty of butch women and genderqueer performers – currently, she is working on a project entitled “Snapshot” which will celebrate QPOC in a storyline which incorporates elements of her own ‘coming out’ story.
The fashion industry is notoriously obsessed with sex – gimp masks, latex and bondage gear are hardly anomalous on the runway. Inside Flesh is the art duo truly embracing porn’s aesthetic potential, creating hypnotic clips driven by non-linear storylines and pulsing industrial soundtracks. Founded by SUKA OFF, a Polish art collective consisting of a husband and wife duo, the videos fuse elements of S&M with a a focus on the sensuality of sensory pleasure; flesh and fabric intermingle to create provocative clips which could easily be shown in any arthouse cinema. Absent are the tired clichés of mainstream porn, replaced instead by visually arresting explorations of fetish in all its aesthetic glory.
For years, Paulita Pappel has dedicated herself to creating porn which both showcases and celebrates the female orgasm. In 2010 she established Ersties Studios, a platform for sex videos created by women, for women – now, she works at Lustery, a site which gives real couples a chance to film and share their sex lives online. Alongside her work she uses her social media platforms to share articles on consent, female objectification and rigid beauty standards – oh, and she even has a Vimeo account which houses a brilliantly informative tongue-in-cheek video entitled “The Ultimate Guide to the Female Orgasm.”
Tobi Hill-Meyer’s career has seen her establish ‘radical, oppression-aware media collective’ Handbasket Productions and rack up a filmography including titles such as The Genderfellator and Trans Grrrls: Revolution Style Porn Now. Not only is her work inherently political, it’s more important than ever in the context of a porn industry which often fetishises its trans performers. Hill-Meyer herself identifies as a multiracial trans woman and transfers her vital point of view into her work as performer, director and External Coordinator of the Gender Justice League. Most recently, she noticed that trans stories are often narrated by cisgender authors and aimed to tackle the problem by crowdfunding an anthology entitled Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic written entirely by authors connected to the trans community. Slowly, Hill-Meyer is establishing an impressive porfolio dedicated to empowering the sexuality of trans people in an industry which often seeks to exploit them.
Erika Lust is the Barcelona-based filmmaker creating indie sex films driven by intelligent scripts and a focus on female pleasure. Lust’s XConfessions is an online subscription-based platform that crowdsources fantasies through its online members forums and turns them into short films. More recently, Lust teamed up with her husband to pioneer The Porn Conversation, a project offering tools for parents to openly discuss porn with their children. Lust continues to release films which challenge the status quo, yet uses her voice as an activist to eradicate stigma surrounding sex education and encourage parents to raise a new generation well-versed in the benefits of safe, consensual sex.
Follow Jake Hall on Twitter here @jake2103