Friday, March 16, 2012

How About Real Porn for Women?

Sarah Wendel of Smart Bitches Trashy Books has written an impassioned, intelligent response to the eternal publishing question, "Is Romance porn for women?" in response to the reaction to the best-seller status of EL James' 50 Shades of Grey. And, as an extra bonus, she's added her two cents on a woman's right to read arousing material. It's good. We should all read it, http://tinyurl.com/7dzrgs5

But my response to this question is personal, because I came of age during the feminist movement in the late 70s, where the personal is always political, and my personal issues are not romance and porn, but feminism and porn.

As some of you may have noticed, I call myself a feminist pornographer on my Twitter description, and I consider that part of my personal brand.

Porn has been co-opted by men, and defined by men. Even though a handful of female directors have made porn for women, they were born in the crucible of porn created and crafted for men, so men have dictated this market. Porn, as we know it in America, is all about the male gaze, even gay porn.

Erotic romance is the only place where you will find the female gaze. Just look at those covers.

It is the only place in America where you'll find men objectified by women.

So, no, romance is not porn for women, because it doesn't always objectify the men (although the marketing always has), but erotic romance, in my not so humble opinion, IS porn for women. That there are stories and characters and metaphor is all icing on the beefcake. The sole purpose of erotic romance is to seduce and carry its readers into the fantasy that has a happy ending both literally and figuratively.

I love the chutzpah that Sarah displays in giving those who call romance porn the middle finger, but I want to go one further, and say, talk to the hand.

While romance may not be a feminist issue, erotic romance is. I have always seen feminism as the right to choose, and the empowerment to have choices. For me, a lot of that empowerment has been in freedom from other people's ideals of a woman's sexuality. We should have the freedom and the opportunity to choose from every level on the spectrum from asexuality to responsible polyamory.

Is calling 50 Shades of Grey "mommy porn" demeaning to women? You bet. So instead of trying to distance ourselves and divide ourselves into good girls and bad girls, why not upset the entire apple cart and say, yes. It is porn for women, and we want to own it.

Let's make real porn for women. Let's make porn better. Let's change the definition of porn.

Let's bring the the romance reading community and the sex positive feminists together and create feminist porn that will totally change the way women in this country are defined. Let's stop letting the male gaze define us.

6 comments:

Andrew Shaffer said...

For me, the worst part about calling it "porn for women" is that suggests erotica and erotic romance is as badly written as an adult movie...

C. T. Blaise said...

It's not porn. It's consumer-driven variety.

C.T. Blaise

Karen Stivali said...

I see your point in terms of the fact that erotic romance, like porn, is intended to arouse its audience. And yes, women should be able to own the fact that they read it because it is pleasurable. At the same time I very strongly agree with the above comment (by Andrew Shaffer). Porn is generally only about sexual content. Character development and plot are not at all necessary for most porn, but they are quite essential to erotic romances. People who are not acquainted with erotic romance novels already regard them as total fluff, written just for the sake of getting the sexy scenes in there. To me labeling it "porn" will only further convince people that erotic romance has no content beyond the sexual and I think that does the genre and the readers a disservice.

ryan field said...

I discovered FSoG in the strangest way and even posted about it...before it became big. I honestly can't comment on women's issues because I'm a man, and gay men think like men. For me to do that would be as presumptuous as a woman telling me what it's like to think and feel like a gay man. But I did get a great deal of insight from both of these posts. And it's good to see women speaking up about it.

Denny S. Bryce said...

Excellent blog, excellent points, and you nailed all of the key points that have bothered me about the media and industry reaction, to some extent, to Fifty Shades...when's the first rally - I'll be there!

PS: I would love to share this article but I didn't see any social media icons or share buttons...

Ravenous Romance said...

Denny, if you go up to the left hand corner of blogger, there's a "share" button. Press that and you can tweet and FB the blogpost.