Lesbian porn

L porn: Real pleasure in front of the camera

In lesbian porn, made by and for women, you’ll find no long fake-nailed silicone-enhanced blondes. What will you find? Real lesbians experiencing real orgasms! Unlike straight porn, lesbian porn stretches boundaries and genres. Zij aan Zij spoke to a few American porn film makers and publishers who reversed the feminist tide to make a record of their own fantasies.

Back in the early 80s, Nan Kinney and her then lover, Debi Sundahl, were exploring their sexuality. They went looking for real lesbian porn. “That was the first time that it dawned on us that there wasn’t any,” she told me. What existed was by men for men. To understand why, you need to go back to the 70s, when radical feminists declared war on pornography. They said it degraded women and led to violence against them, and that women were either physically forced to do it or were too psychologically damaged by patriarchy to be capable of giving ‘real’ consent. Is that true? Annie Sprinkle, a sex-positive feminist and educator, thinks they’re wrong and she should know: she entered the porn industry in 1973 because it fascinated her. She wanted to have sex with lots of people and combine creativity with sex. Back then, no one knew or cared whether a woman could have an orgasm or not. It was all about manipulating women to have sex. “Even if they wanted to, they had to go: ‘No, no, no!’”, she says. Yet Annie insists that it’s not true that all women in porn are exploited victims. “A lot of women in the anti-porn movement were way more fucked up than I was and had a miserable life,” she says. It was degrading then, but she thinks “we have come a long long way”.

A tattooed femme lies back and uses a bullet vibrator on her clitoris while her femme girlfriend penetrates her with the fingers of both hands. They are a real-life couple and they later tell how knowing they’re being watched turns them on.

Special Delivery (Early to Bed)

[DVD cover]

Sex and violence

What is the experience of women who came into the industry later? Shine Louise Houston, founder of Pink & White Productions has neither experienced nor seen exploitation. She makes high quality, hardcore queer porn and has only ever worked with people who wanted to be in it. She sees no relation between sex and violence or between porn and violence, and disagrees that “any type of sexual desire that isn’t soft and warm and fuzzy, is bad and exploitative and violent, and that only non-penetrative sex is right and good”. Award winning author, columnist, editor, and sex educator Tristan Taormino sees women with no knowledge or experience of the sex industry making blanket statements like “no woman ever enjoys the process of performing in pornography”. Their unbending conviction makes her laugh: “Yeah, sometimes the lights are hot and you’re in a position that you don’t like, but sometimes you’re coming like crazy.” It also makes her angry: “I feel like it also totally devalues the woman who stands up like Nina Hartley and says: ‘I do enjoy what I do’. It completely discredits her and really ignores her voice.”

A butch goes down on her elegant femme girlfriend. She uses a strap on dildo on her and then stimulates her g-spot with her fingers until she ejaculates. This real life couple met while performing in a sex club, the femme as a stripper and the butch in a live sex act.

The Crash Pad (Blowfish Video)

[DVD cover]

A bent over butch with a strap-on lets a leather-clad drag king (with tattoos and nipple piercings) use a strap-on on her in this futuristic fantasy about a world where sugar is outlawed and dykes do anything to get it.

Sugar High Glitter City (S.I.R. Video)

[DVD cover]

What happened to the feminism that respects women and the choices they make? Anti-porn feminists somehow close their eyes to the fact that the lesbian porn industry is full of strong and assertive and feminist women. In the name of liberation, they had introduced new taboos: liking penetrative sex or porn was ‘collaborating with the enemy’. This new sexual repression made women scared to express their own sexuality and to admit their need for arousal, just like old-style patriarchy had always done.

Take Back the Night

A dominatrix human clone brings a waitress to orgasm by penetrating her with the pepper grinder, in this gender-bending BDSM porn/sci fi movie.

Dominatrix Waitrix (Fatale Media)

[DVD cover]

Nan Kinney met Debi Sundahl when they were both involved in the Take Back the Night marches. Disillusioned by the focus shift to sex and pornography as the causes of violence against women, they left and went in search of other women like them. In 1984, with Susie Bright, they started the erotic magazine On Our Backs. They came up against resistance, but were determined to change the anti-sex culture. In 1985, they released Private Pleasures and Shadows, two sexually explicit videos made by lesbians for lesbians. Today Nan is president of Fatale Media (now celebrating its 21st birthday) and producer of Fatale Videos. Fatale Media’s Real Lesbian Sex video Awards encourage real women to make their own porn. Other women too decided to make their own when they couldn’t find what they were looking for. Tristan Taormino started publishing lesbian erotica books because there were hardly any around and no one would publish what was being written. She also wrote sex guides and gave workshops, and when people demanded videos, she made those too. After majoring in film at San Francisco Art Institute, Shine Louise Houston spent 5 years working at Good Vibrations, the woman-centred sex toy shop. “In lesbian porn,” she says, “especially lesbian-made lesbian porn, our selection was very very small compared to the other sorts of porn that we had, so I thought, ‘Okay, I have a film degree, I keep hearing the same questions from customers who want something with good production values, that’s hot, that’s real’.” Inspired by a small emerging wave of lesbian porn, she decided to have a go. At the 2007 Feminist Porn Awards, her movie ‘Superfreak’ won Best Dyke Sex Scene and ‘In Search of the Wild Kingdom’ won Best Trans Sex Scene. This year, her ‘Crash Pad Series Volume 1’ is nominated for Best Dyke Sex Scene.

Somehow, the myth that women don’t like porn has stuck despite the fact that it just isn’t true. A review of existing research in the Sexual and Relationship Therapy Journalshows that women, regardless of their sexual orientation, are physically aroused by straight, lesbian and gay porn. Anyone you ask will tell you that men are aroused by visual and hardcore material, while women prefer non-visual soft porn. This too is a myth: what turns women on most is hardcore visual material. Tristan Taormino thinks that anyone who works in sex knows this, ‘because lesbians forever, since I came out have been really into gay male porn,’ she says. ‘I thought “am I the only queer person who’s into straight porn?” and then people would admit it to you quietly…’

 Oiled-up women dressed in thongs wrestle in a big writhing heap, in this stylised and artistic, yet surprisingly sexy, film. In the midst of all the slippery bodies, one couple gets completely naked and has sex to orgasm. There is more sex in the shower afterwards. The movie is cut with beautiful close-up shots (no face or body) of a woman masturbating to a very real orgasm as she watches the action.

Take Her Down! Lesbian Erotic Oil Wrestling Party (Fatale Media)

[DVD cover]

Is the tide finally turning? About two years ago, at a debate at Yale University, a woman told Tristan that ‘porn is prostitution with a camera present and anyone who makes it is a pimp’. She found that very hard to hear from a fellow feminist, but there was also hope: “I felt like some of them were ready for a serious debate and were ready to accept the fact that they haven’t seen everything that’s out there, they haven’t seen porn by women for women.” If they had, they would see women, often real-life couples, experiencing the kind of pleasure you don’t often see in “lesbian” porn that is based on male fantasies. There isn’t a fake orgasm in sight and that’s what makes lesbian made porn so different: it’s real. The long-nailed, silicone enhanced standard of man-made “lesbian” porn is replaced by a wide variety of types, including also (but definitely not only) butch and transsexual. There’s also real bisexual porn, where the guys are bisexual too. There’s something for every taste, and that goes for the sex too: there’s emotion if you want it and just sex if you don’t.

Straight porn

Lesbian porn isn’t like straight porn: it stretches boundaries and genres. It reflects complex and varied sexualities and sometimes even shows us what we want to know, but is always very hot and real. Tristan Taormino’s believes people learn from porn that isn’t labelled “how to”. She wants to present images where sex is fun, consensual and spontaneous. It’s “the kind of sex I want to see and I think is missing from a lot of porn”. Part of what she does is a response to what she doesn’t like about some porn: a lack of female pleasure, a lack of orgasm. Shine Louise Houston feels it’s imperative for her, “as a woman of colour, queer and a film maker” to make her own images. She wants her sexuality, her queer sub-culture to be represented. Annie Sprinkle has documented her sexual life. She’s still making alternative porn, showing how beautiful an older woman can be, and teaching us how to reach mind-blowing orgasms. She tells me she’s in the menopause, has had breast cancer, has put on weight, and is feeling more passionate than ever. The work on her Love Art Laboratory website is more about love, but is still sexual. She’s always been interested in new genres of porn. “Now I’m involved in more art oriented porn, porn for art audiences.” She sees porn like a big tree with different branches, each a different kind of porn. “It’s grown enormously,” she says.

An elegant businesswoman gets a lift home from a butch biker dyke. She plays a little hard to get, but the butch persuades her to do a striptease to music and rewards her with some strap-on dildo action. Then the femme persuades the butch to strip. Later, the femme’s cheating butch girlfriend walks in on them. They fight and then talk, and have sad, tender sex that turns into hot anal and vaginal penetration with a strap-on dildo. Afterwards, they break up. The double DVD also includes How to Fuck in High Heels, a very funny, intelligent and sexy fake documentary.

Hard Love (S.I.R. Video)

[DVD cover]

Ashley and (the once straight-identifying) Kisha talk openly about their love and their sex life and about how Ashley, the lady-killer, seduced the sexually conservative and straight Kisha. They are obviously very much in love and the sex scene is tender and loving and as real as the rest.

Ashley and Kisha: Finding the Right Fit (Comstock Films)

[DVD cover]

What about women’s attitudes to porn? “When I go to a college campus,” Annie Sprinkle says, “I say: how many of you have seen porn before? And everybody raises their hands. Maybe one or two people say they haven’t. Ten years ago, only three or four people raised their hands.” Nan Kinney thinks that “sex is just much more acceptable in general society and therefore it gets much more acceptable with lesbians as well”. She’s seen huge changes in the last twenty years. “There’s still a faction of lesbians that are very anti-pornography,” she says, “but they aren’t the dominant lesbian culture anymore.” She sees the lesbian porn business as an established fact. “When we first started it was more like we were doing missionary work,” she says, “now they’re looking for it.” Women want porn and erotica, and thanks to the internet they can get it without having to go into a store.

“If you’re looking at porn as a film genre like any other film genre,” Shine Louise Houston says, “it’s still in its very early stages, very very primitive film making mode.” It doesn’t have the huge production budgets of straight or gay porn and she wants to change that. She thinks that “people are becoming a little bit more sophisticated, a little less shameful about the fact that they want porn, and now they’re being picky and selective”. “Right now, it’s my passion,” she says, “I would love to see these films grow.”

A couple use a phone sex service that they found in On Our Backs, and then have very hot sex with a lesbian escort who comes to their house.

Suburban Dykes (Fatale Media)

[DVD cover]

Nan Kinney would like to see Europe follow in the footsteps of the US lesbian porn revolution. Fatale Media, 25% of whose clients are from Europe, have just signed a distribution contract with Hystérie Prod, a French film production company that makes lesbian porn. Could this be the dawning of the age of European lesbian porn?

© Ronete Cohen 2009

Links:

Annie Sprinkle: http://www.anniesprinkle.org

Fatale Media: http://www.fatalemedia.com

Hystérie Prod: http://www.hysterieprod.com

Love Art Laboratory: http://www.loveartlab.org

Pink & White Productions: pinkwhite.biz

Tristan Taormino: http://www.puckerup.com

On Our Backs magazine: http://www.onourbacksmag.com

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