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Partying at the 9th Annual Feminist Porn Awards
  • April 18, 2014 : 18:04
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With an open mind and short nails (just in case), I headed to Toronto for the ninth annual Feminist Porn Awards (FPAs). While I self-identify as a feminist and have watched my fair share of porn, I had no clue what to expect as I got ready to attend a press junket held hours before the ceremony. Is all the porn that turns me on feminist porn?

As I entered the room I was greeted with smiles, hugs and excited small talk from those who were there to attend and cover and the event. I was surprised by the general level of friendliness in the room—never before have I been welcomed into a warmer environment. I was just thinking that the porn industry must bring the best out of people when a handsome man walked towards me and placed his hand on my shoulder. I wondered at his familiarity. “I’m Vanessa, by the way,” I said as I eyed his hand and extended mine towards his other for a more traditional salutation. “Yeah, we’ve met before,” he said. (Note: No, no we haven’t.) “I wouldn’t have been so forward otherwise,” he added. He plunked his bags on the chair beside mine, looking a little hurt that I didn’t remember him, and said, “I’m Wolf!” Right. Wolf. “Ah, sorry Wolf, I’m not great at faces…and I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.” (Note: I had.) His lips curled down from a smile. Did he think I was someone else? He and all the friendlies? A few people had already asked me about the party I’d supposedly been at the night before, which was confusing since the only party I’d been to was the solo cheeseburger party I had in a 24-hour McDonald’s.

Moments after the junket started, keynote speaker and pornstar Courtney Trouble waltzed in and I figured it out. Turns out we share a striking resemblance. Not just in a passing, we’re-both-redheads way. Enough to explain all the super-friendly fawning. This case of mistaken identity would be a running theme in my first attendance at the event.

FPA creator and Toronto-based sex educator Carlyle Jansen shared what the awards mean to her, noting that the title can be misleading to some. “I feel that when people hear Feminist Porn Awards they think ‘lesbian porn awards’ or ‘people who hate men awards.’ I say it’s about representing lots of diverse desires and representing people in different ways—women, men and trans people.” She added rousingly, “Somehow [people] feel that they are lost as soon as I say the word feminist. But I want to reclaim the word feminist!”

Jansen’s statement was met with a resounding holler from a room filled with sex workers, professors, directors, performers, advocates and a guy from the BBC who sat near the back. “This is porn for everybody,” she added. “It’s not about excluding anybody; it’s just bringing everybody else into it and representing those who haven’t traditionally been there. So if you still want to have straight, white, young, skinny people having sex in the missionary position, that’s great! But we’re just expanding it a little bit more.”

The last 10 years have seen a radical shift in the world of smut. Thanks to a very public dialogue on sexuality, the pornographic subgenres that make up feminist porn have begun bubbling to the surface and those who enjoy, perform in and produce the off-brand films have found a sense of community that is evidently alive and well here. “I feel like it’s summer camp!” Siouxsie Q, a porn performer, sex workers’ rights advocate and podcast host, exclaimed. “Everyone is so beautiful and so inspired,” she added. The whole room appeared to share Siouxsie Q’s excitement. It was refreshing to be in the company of those who were just as eager to learn and expand their knowledge on the subject as they were to share their stories and opinions about porn. Maybe it would help shed light on what feminist porn actually is since porn that might be considered feminist can be hard to define since the board stroke term of feminism and its relationship pornography is an ever-evolving one.

Tristan Taormino, the award-winning author of Pucker Up and True Lust, said, “Feminist pornographers are organized around creating work that is ethical, diverse and empowering.” What this means specifically is that performers have a lot more agency than they would in other types of porn. “Performers often take the lead,” she said, “or, at the very least, collaborate in the creation of their scenes. Everyone is encouraged to experience real pleasure and orgasms.” Another difference between mainstream porn and porn that defines itself as feminist is its inclusion. “The films of feminist pornographers also respond to and challenge stereotypes seen in other kinds of porn and attempt to move beyond one-dimensional depictions of gender, sexuality, race, class, disability and other identity markers,” She said.

Taormino’s comments made me realize something that hadn’t crossed my mind while I’ve scrolled through porn sites. Is the porn I’m clicking on ethical by feminist standards? I know that a majority of the pornstars I enjoy consider themselves principled, active participants in the product they make with their colleagues and well versed on the subject when it comes to rights in the workplace, but how can I be sure?

After mingling for an hour or so, a few of the pornstars filed out to shoot some Taormino-directed porn scenes, while others went to grab some lunch. I found myself lingering around in the dwindling company with Siouxsie Q and Pandora Blake, a spanking performer, chatting about sex workers’ rights. “Feminist porn is such an integral part of the sex workers’ rights movement,” said Siouxsie Q, who explained that the more sex workers can create their own media and tell their own stories on their own platforms, the more they can “dismantle the patriarchy and take over the world.”

Porn Awards

Being at this award show is like being in a room full of people you can’t quite place. I found myself staring at people I later realized that I’ve probably whacked off to. I brought a friend of mine from university as my date to the awards, where she Instagrammed our two hosts making jokes about BDSM. “I may or may not be at the Feminist Porn Awards,” she captioned the shot. “You really should figure that out,” commented one of her coworkers.

The attendees were far from what “porn awards” may call to mind. The event was packed wall-to-wall, with every race, body type, minority and majority accounted for. “I get people calling me asking if they can come to the FPAs if they’re a guy, or if they could come with their wives,” FPAs creator Jansen told me. “Or I get people stopping me at the awards who say, ‘We’re just a nice couple that lives in North Toronto and we have kids and we heard about the event and we thought we’d come, and you know what? We had a really good time! This was really fun!’ and they come back year after year.”

About halfway through the awards ceremony the bar had to switch to plastic cups because every glass had already been used. Everyone was having a good time, even the performers and directors who didn’t win. When each category was announced, the audience would watch a clip from the award winning film while the actors, actresses and directors filed to the stage. Since the seating room wasn’t as large as say, the Oscars, the whole crew of winners would be standing underneath a large screen of themselves fucking for a good ten or so seconds before the lights would come back up. At first it felt a bit strange to be watching porn with 400 or so strangers, but after a while I started enjoying the pornography for its own sake, and to celebrate its adeptness at capturing sex, fetishism and fantasy through the lens of the feminist porn aesthetic.

I even found myself jotting down the titles of the clips to enjoy later on, like the film Trains starring Dylan Ryan and Lily Cade, which explores the limits of control, desire and timing in the setting of a train car. “I think the passing trains are supposed to signify their oncoming orgasms,” I whispered to my friend beside me. “I think you’re reading way too into this. Weren’t they supposed to just halt the oncoming trains to film this porn?” she whispered back, tapping my empty glass of gin and tonic.

The ceremony also featured stripteases, burlesque performances and clips from outstanding honorable mention pornos. All night I was met with stares and kind congratulations for “my” (aka my lookalike Courtney Trouble’s) wins, which I redirected to the pornstar whom I was constantly being mistaken for. At one point when she went onstage to accept an award, the entire group in front of us turned to stare at me, perhaps thinking they were experiencing a glitch in the Matrix. For the rest of the night my friends would jokingly call me by the wrong name and would chant and stomp their feet anytime my doppelgänger went to get an award, showering me with empty congratulations. “Have you ever watched porn with Courtney in it?” my friend asked. “That would sure be a mind fuck!”

After the last award had been passed out, a group of us got our photos taken with sex toy props like anal beads, dildos and vibrators and toasted to winners The Madame for Sexiest Short, Courtney Trouble for Hottest Dyke Film and Erika Lust for Hottest Straight Vignette and to new friends we’ll only ever know by their stage names. My friend convinced me that I just had to get a photo with Courtney Trouble to prove how similar we look, so I grabbed her to take a selfie. “You’re so cute!” she yelled over the music. “Do you have Twitter?” Leaving the awards felt like a rush, like stepping out of another place and time. Feminist porn’s message of celebrating our openness, diversity and sexuality is a good one, but I just don’t know if the world is ready to be aware of all of the things that go into what they’re jerking off to yet.

read more: Sex and Dating, porn, awards

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