Photo courtesy of DivineBitches.Com featuring Ned. Graphic by me!
The only thing certain about pornography is that it’s complicated.
Feb 21-26 will be a celebration of lady porn organized by Rabbit White. Even before the project got out the gate it began inspiring conversation: Maymay and Remittance Girl both commented on the graphics produced by rabbit to help promote the event. This led to tweets, emails, and an abundance of discourse. If the pre-game commentary is any indicator, Lady Porn Week is going to be an exciting ride.
The early critics said a lot of things, but the overwhelming message wasn’t really about the promotional graphics for Lady Porn Day themselves. It was about the fact that when someone says the word porn the overwhelming majority of people will probably think of a naked white chick. That’s a problem. When I saw the early images I didn’t think of it as a limitation at all. To the contrary, I thought that it was the perfect way to launch the conversation because of this one social experiment: Take off your safe search feature on Google, go to image search, and type in the phrase “porn.”
What you’re looking at is the whole reason I was so excited about Lady Porn Day in the first place. A giant concentrated conversation about porn happening for a week. It’s like telecommuting to a conference! Referrals to awesome porn you wouldn’t necessarily know of the keywords to search for on Google. A glimpse at some hot images that don’t make the popular circulation. Maybe some crazy opinionated sex bloggers going off on rants about hymens. Porn isn’t just skinny white women, that’s the whole point. We’re here (I post a lot of pictures of my naked body here) and we can be hot and spicy and smart and sexy but we’re not alone. We don’t own sex. “Good Pornography” is being defined by a flawed rubric; one that values the perspective of a limited audience only. The numbers don’t reflect who buys “porn.” The number reflects who is buying porn almost solely produced by white heterosexual men.
Sexuality is just one facet of the infinite diversity of the human experience; I’m always trying to hear and collect these stories as stars in my pocket like grains of sand. Sexual fantasies can only be numbered by that impractical and irrational symbol of infinity. It was exciting to hear responses about Lady Porn Day from the get-go with people asking critical questions about viewership exclusion. We talk about how accessible porn is but then we forget that finding exactly what you want is a difficult task. If you watch porn and you have attempted to search for it on the internet it is likely that you have run into the ill effects of keyword saturation and monopolization. The internet is not a meritocracy. The internet isn’t even a democracy like so many people. (On the other hand, it does actually function the way that democracy does in practice.)
I’ve been asked a few times about my thoughts regarding the pre-game commentary. To be quick, I liked them. I took the Lady Porn Day landing page to be a starting point that was going to be filled with more images, more thoughts, and more ideas. What I found fascinating are the conventions of “safe for work” imagery that can contain nude women in some contexts but never nude men. The original crop of images for LPD featured some content that probably came from a fashion spread rather than an explicitly erotic work of art. (Air quotes hanging over the word fashion.) Found alone on a work computer, many of those images could land your average employee in some trouble at work even though you could probably find it again sitting in the office waiting room inside a copy of Vogue. Yes, the images she used for promotion at the start were skinny white women. Thing of it is, not only are they the most abundant they are also much more likely to be considered “safe for work.” We’re much more comfortable with skinny naked white women. That doesn’t make these images “the best” (as if there were such a thing) or “the sexiest.” It makes these images the most photographed and that raises all kinds of questions for me.
- Why is some nudity more taboo than others?
- How does skin color change the way a viewer will receive nudity?
- Why is an erect penis patently pornographic?
- How do privilege and gaze interact with one another?
- Is pornography a matter of intent or context?
- Is there such a thing as “objectively good porn?”
- What does it mean to have power over images of your sexuality?
- What can we do to put our fantasies (all fantasies) aside to insure that all workers are treated fairly and safely within their workplace?
- Are ethics between porn production and porn consumption different?
- Why do we still act as though Hay’s Code is an objective and empirical means of identifying obscenity?
- Why are the overwhelming majority of sex bloggers white women?
- When it comes to talking about pornography, how can I step up? How should I step back?
- How can I make sure that I am heard and that my needs are met?
- How has my privilege impacted the way that I watch porn?
- What is the difference between racist porn/mainstream porn/anti-racist porn?
- How far can porn producers ethically extend the phrase, “That’s just what sells” in regards to racist/homophobic/sexist pornography and business practices?
Lady Porn Day was designed to elicit as many voices as possible and the written content of the project made this clear to me. I hope that you’ll take a look at what people are saying and jump in! Write a blog post, get on twitter, talk to your friends. To quote Rabbit herself, Lady Porn Day is:
“At it’s heart, this is about celebrating pornography and masturbation. It is an opportunity for ladies of all genders (or however you identify) to open up a dialog: What is feminist porn? What is your history with porn? What do you find hot?
And ultimately it’s a dare to share your hot links. Because the more we can openly talk about porn and what we like, the more likely it is that porn for women will continue being made. And really guys have been sharing and recommending porn for ages! So help a sister out.
I dare you to start the conversation, ask your friends: “hey what do you think about porn–and what sites can you recommend?” The point is to get women across the globe talking and thinking about porn and masturbation in a healthy and fruitful way.” [Lady Porn Day Text]