I am continuing my series of entries on quotes from one of the sex-posi favorites in my bookshelf, The Feminist Porn Book.
“You see, erotic filmmakers were the original indie filmmakers. The fact that their films turned you on was no different from a different genre scaring the daylights out of you, or making you cry. Films are great vehicles to elicit strong emotion. When they touch you on multiple levels simultaneously, we call them ‘masterpieces'” Susie Bright
This quote speaks to the movie lover in me. I don’t know a lot (actually, nothing at all) about film, so my reaction to movies is very simple: I like it the most when it makes me feel something – anything.
I appreciate the quote because it attempts – as I and many sexuality educators do as well – to normalize porn and porn consumption. Just like sex work is still work but is treated very differently (and sometimes violently) because sex is taboo in our society, porn flicks are still flicks that are treated very differently , often because the emotions and sensations (arousal, pleasure) it can produce are taboo in our society. The taboo gives us a story about the society it lives in, but it is not a valid reason to judge the work itself, the porn movie itself.
We sometimes think of or perceive pleasure as unacceptable, inappropriate, shameful. But really, fear, excitement, anger: they’re all ways in which our bodies and brains are aroused. It’s the same thing with sexual arousal.
This quote also says a lot about how pornographic films – I don’t mean PornHub four-minute videos here – are looked down upon when they take their own set of skills and they are their own genre, within film and media. Both mainstream and feminist porn have certain conventions, standards, particular practices to the genre. Same with actors – just like not every average Joe can pull off what Tom Hiddleston (and his stunt doubles, I guess) can, not a lot of gals can do flexibility, grace & endurance like Stoya can.
Susie Bright’s quote reminds me, moreover, of the fact that pornography (as is clasified by whoever classifies pornography) is not the only type of film, or media, that can sexually arouse. I don’t know about my readers, but seeing Loki making everyone kneel is a pretty intense experience.
All jokes aside, different images and mediums and formats arouse different people, but they are not all treated the same way. To mark as pornographic the media that has sexual arousal as a purpose makes sense, I guess, but it is also alienating. A shoe fetishist can enjoy watching Sex & The City more than they enjoy YouPorn, for all I know. And THAT IS OKAY. Pleasure as one of many sensations and emotions that film, or TV, brings out in us, is okay.
Now you may think, “Well yes, but isn’t it calling some porn film a masterpiece a bit of a stretch?” I don’t really know. I don’t think so. A porno, within its genre & era & budget & goals, CAN be a masterpiece. Just like you can’t (or would probably be mistaken to) compare an Action movie to a Documentary – because the skills, the required talents, the money going into them, etc are not comparable – I would not ask anyone to compare, I don’t know, No Country for Old Men to Much More Pussy.
(Even the criticism of porn as being racist, sexist, with sometimes sketchy work conditions. I hate to say it but most industries have varying degrees of racism, sexism, & it is always the case that the more an employee needs a job, the more an employer feels like they can abuse their power. Sexism, classism, violence, racism, ablesim: they are society issues, not pornography issues.)
I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t be so quick to judge or look down on the porn flicks, or the porn performers, or the porn consumers. Their art is not all that different & neither are their struggles.
If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:
Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.