"You write a sex column. So that means I can ask you anything," says my friend Cam over coffee.
"Yeah—I guess that's true," I laugh.
"So why do I like watching penis porn?" she spits out.
"You mean like penis-and-vagina porn?"
"No, man. Like penis porn!"
Cam's a very butch lesbian who follows a strict vagatarian, phallic-free diet. This confession is particularly horrifying for her as it doesn't line up with her identity in the slightest.
Whether you're butch, femme, queer or stick-straight, it's hard to watch porn if you're a woman (or one of those feMENists). Or a trans guy. Or a person of color. Or anyone, really, who isn't socially privileged. But here we'll talk about those of us with lady parts.
Low-budget films made by financially desperate, questionably aged women dominate the industry. Even if we manage to find something hot, looming social expectations, self-judgments and guilt sparked by the Degradation Question kill the post-orgasm buzz. Add in getting off on the unexpected and we're really (mentally) screwed.
I made it all the way to 18 before seeing an official porno. We bought it at a seedy shop for a porn-loving friend's 19th birthday. The creepster behind the counter had barely even taken our money before mentally re-casting us in our purchase, festively titled Nineteen. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but I will say that the surprise appearance of one young performer's hearing aids (no kidding) really killed the XXX for me for quite some time.
Then I worked at a feminist adult store that offered employees free porn rentals. This is where I realized that I could actually like porn. But much like Cam, though I enjoyed these pornos, watching them wasn't simple. More of an omnivore than a vagatarian myself, I found that a fluid sexuality opened a range of videos that could, theoretically, suit my tastes. I tried lesbian porn, mainstream hetero, BDSM, alternative and low-budget.
Since I'm married to a woman myself, it surprises many that mainstream performer Sasha Grey, a classic specimen of a porn star known for her sailor's mouth and penis-focused flicks, is one of my favorites. I now tilt more toward porns discussed in past column "Feminist Porn" (May 5, 2011), but I hate girl/girl pairings—only penis-and-vagina (or other sexy locations) for me.
Only penis-and-penis for butch lesbian Cam.
As after a drunken one-night stand, while you wipe the lube off your hands, post-porn-watching you can be left thinking—what the hell was that? Does this make me straight? What does it mean for straight women to get off on gay men banging? Am I a bad feminist for watching women be sexually bossed around? Are women contributing to female oppression by enjoying porn? Though these are largely personal questions to answer, I say No!
The biggest hurdle to enjoying porn, next to finding a good one, is giving yourself permission to enjoy it. Porn is, largely, a visual playout of fantasies. The best thing about fantasies is that they don't have to be acted on, or even desired to be acted on.
Fantasies, and the porns that depict them, give us a chance to sexually enjoy things outside our realities or personal identities. So stop judging yourself when a scene, act or partner-pairing gives you an unexpected tingle. I love watching Adrianna Nicole get slapped around in Adrianna's Dangerous Mind. Does this mean I condone her "degradation" or want to act out her scenes with my wife? Not necessarily.
Having done my research, I trust this film's feminist porn director Tristan Taormino, Adrianna Nicole and her co-performers. I know that these scenes were based on Adrianna's real-life fantasies with performers she chose to work with and that Taormino's an ethical producer. As I catch my breath after watching this film, I know my morals are still intact, that I love my wife and that I don't personally enjoy sex that's... quite... that rough.
And this is what I tell Cam: If it's not hurting you and it's not hurting them and it feels good, then let it. Read Violet Blue's The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn and see her list of female-friendly titles at tinynibbles.com/smartporn to get started. And enjoy yourself!