There's been a lot of talk in the past few years about feminist porn, and what defines it. Is it about a female focus? Is it about ethical production guidelines? Is it about explicit consent? Is it about empowering the performer and viewer? As a female director of adult film, and someone who produced adult film for an overwhelmingly female audience for nearly two decades, I think maybe we should talk less about the politics of the content (although all the points above are important), and more about how we can help women feel comfortable with their sexuality.
At Sssh.com -- the site I founded in 1999 -- one of our primary goals has been to make sure people feel comfortable exploring their sexuality and fantasies through our site, our movies, our forums and everything else we do.
Over the years, a big part of this effort has been our emphasis on maintaining open communication with our members. We encourage our members to be as free and frank with their desires and fantasies as they can bring themselves to be. We engage with them in forums, we actively solicit their "wish lists." We let them know whether or not we act on their suggestions and requests, one thing we will never do is judge them based on their feedback, comments and questions.
One question I've heard again and again over the years, in various forms, is: "Am I normal?"
When I first started running adult websites over twenty years ago, the entire world of porn was new to me. I really had no frame of reference for what I was about to undertake -- and some of it, honestly, did seem strange to me at the time. What I learned though, very quickly, was that people have an amazing range of tastes and interests, one far broader and more varied than I'd ever realized.
Ultimately I realized the issue wasn't really the nature of the porn to which I was being exposed; the issue was the definition of "normal" I'd been carrying around in my brain. What I came to realize was the fundamental truth of the old cliché "different strokes for different folks" is just as obvious when it comes to porn as it is if we're talking about authors, or food preference, or the merits of action movies as opposed to rom-com's. It isn't a matter of 'normal' and 'strange,' in other words, because what strikes one of us as strange might seem perfectly normal to the next person.
I hear it from people who like things which are pretty standard fare in adult movies -- like light spanking, hair-pulling, public sex, etc. -- as well as from viewers with more niched requests, some of which are hard to come by, even at a time when the internet has opened up an unprecedented channel for sexual expression.
Over the course of several years, I wondered about the right way to respond to the endless stream of "Am I Normal?" emails and comments. After all, they follow so many different stories, and requests and experiences. So I settled on a very simple one: "Yes, you are normal."
I had concluded the human sexual continuum was a bigger and more varied place than I'd ever realized.
What I've come to realize, though, is the far better answer is "No, you are not normal -- because you are better than normal."
This might seem counterintuitive, but it's a good sign to be someone who asks herself questions like "Am I Normal?" It's a question that reveals introspection, one that says you care about how you interact with other people, and you care about how your desires, fantasies and interests might impact and affect them.
As Socrates once wrote, "the life which is unexamined is not worth living." If you're asking yourself questions, pondering your sexual normalcy, you are examining life and trying to look honestly at yourself. In my book, that's a hell of a lot better than just stumbling through existence pretending your sexuality doesn't exist, or being too afraid of what you might find if you turn over the particular stone which covers up your sexual fantasies.
We may not all be "normal," but I'm quite confident we're all human, and being human can be tough. As humans, we're all naturally filled with doubt, angst, concern and anxiety, but we're also filled with joy, triumph, love and a yearning for pleasure.
So when you watch one of my movies, or when you come upon something you like, but which might seem a little outside "the norm" for what you typically enjoy watching, don't let it worry you. That response certainly is very normal.
Don't let things like shame and embarrassment overly constrain you. Because, as a culture, we should encourage women (and men!) to freely, safely and consensually explore and expand erotic horizons, without fear of judgment or embarrassment. I've spent nearly two decades at Sssh.com building a community of women who come not only to see their fantasies realized on screen, but to talk, share, and discuss their sexuality in a safe and supportive environment -- no matter what turns them on.
To me, that's feminist porn.