Ever since I discovered porn, my belief was that pornography was made exclusively for male viewing. After numerous conversations with other women, I discovered this is a belief most of them held as well. They too believed that porn wasn’t for them, because ultimately, sex wasn’t for them either; sex solely belonged to men. This ridiculous belief regarding the exclusivity of pornography for men wasn’t just predominant among women, most men I encountered held this belief, too.

Among my classmates, back when I was in school, whenever there was a ‘rumour’ of a woman watching porn, the boys met it with shock and the girls met the news with disgust. But eventually the message would be clear to everyone – this is a ‘bad woman’.

In one such ‘rumour’, a female classmate was called a woman of ‘loose morals’ and ‘questionable character’ by a male classmate, whose advances she had rejected. He went on to say that he knows her ‘no’ has no value since she wants this anyway, because he knows the ‘kind of woman’ she is.

They too believed that porn wasn’t for them, because ultimately, sex wasn’t for them either; sex solely belonged to men.

What still continues to stand out to me about this entire, long-drawn incident from half a decade ago is that this girl’s only defence was denying the accusation that she had ever watched porn. Unfortunately, this was also the only defence that would have worked. Everyone who stood by her – unsurprisingly, a very small number – alleged that what was happening was wrong because she had never watched porn and subjecting her to intense shaming and ostracization based on an untrue allegation is wrong. No one fought it because women have the right to view whatever they desire to, without being slut-shamed.

Also Read: Fingers To Scroll And Fingers To Touch: What Erotica Taught Me

This experience wasn’t just limited to me or those around me. It is the story of numerous women who are subjected to scrutiny for viewing something that is deemed perfectly acceptable for men to view; not just acceptable, but commonplace and even an healthy expression of their sexuality.

Abhilasha* (19) says, “I always assumed women watching porn was extremely wrong. I was deeply ashamed of my own porn-viewing habits. I always lived with the fear of being discovered, shamed, and shunned. For a very long time, I believed there was something wrong with me and my ways were perverse. I had seen girls around me being shamed, labelled, and shunned for this and for very long I couldn’t rid myself of the constant fear of eventually being subjected to this. It took me over half a decade to accept my porn-viewing as a normal, healthy expression of my sexuality, and unsurprisingly, with this acceptance also came the acceptance of my sexual desires and of my status as a sexual being who enjoys sexually stimulating activities.”

Riya* (18) has a similar experience as well. She says, “I always knew there was no shame in viewing porn, but I was also aware that I would be subjected to extreme scrutiny and slut-shaming for ever revealing it. Although I take no shame in it, I still try keeping it to myself for the most part because we, as women, are still asked to take immense shame in our libido.”

Varshini (18) tells of a different experience, “I for the most part didn’t know women watched porn at all and believed it to be exclusively for men. I discovered pornography and the fact that women watch it, only in my late teens. I take no shame in admitting it, but I am aware of the stigma surrounding it.”

It is quite telling that men only have to discover porn, but women also have to discover that they are allowed to view it and that there is nothing abnormal or wrong with it. This often takes years and for a lot of women the day never comes.

Why is it that boys discovering porn is a part of growing-up, but girls doing it is a matter of shame, shock, and disgust? It’s all too common for boys to discuss pornography with their peers, we have all seen it happen, on playgrounds, in classrooms, everywhere. This almost never happens with girls, as most girls and women either compulsively hide their porn-viewing habits or live in complete ignorance of the fact that porn isn’t exclusively for men.

men only have to discover porn, but women also have to discover that they are allowed to watch it.

There is stigma surrounding the fact that women watch porn for the same reason that we still cannot see women as sexual beings. We still see women as beings devoid of any sexual desire or libido and their participation in sexual acts is considered only acceptable if it is to further men’s pleasure. When we refuse to let women be sexual beings and constantly teach them to take deep shame in their sexuality or sexual desires, we begin to make them out to be abnormal for engaging their sexuality and seeking out any sexually stimulating activity, be it having sex, masturbating, or merely viewing pornography.

The problem concerning women and pornography doesn’t end with the stigma they are subjected to for viewing it. Almost all porn is created for the male gaze. Most things in our media and internet culture today portray a male-centric view. This leads to the glorification of violence against women and the incessant objectification of them. Porn suffers from this too.

Being created solely for straight men, porn often glorifies violence against women and sexual coercion – where violating or disregarding consent is sold as appealing and as a turn on, and the objectification of women, which can be very off putting for many women. Seeing women being portrayed as sex objects for men to enjoy, with or without their consent and with the use of violence, continues to stand in the way of women being able to own pornography just as much as men.

In light of this, feminist porn has began to emerge in the recent decades. Feminist porn that is free of violence, objectification, and includes aspects of enthusiastic and ongoing consent, has finally provided women with porn they can enjoy without sexist undertones and influences from rape culture. Unlike women in regular porn, women in feminist porn have agency and are in control of their sexuality. They are also always willing and enthusiastic participants, unlike in regular porn, where women are quite often reduced to being props that can be violated and degraded to further a man’s pleasure.

Feminist porn doesn’t focus on straight men as an audience, but in fact is aimed towards women, which keeps it from succumbing to harmful and degrading portrayals of women to generate money and create a larger audience-base.

This link is a fairly comprehensive list of feminist porn sites that are inclusive, intelligent, and revolutionary. Among them, pinklabel.tv particularly stands out for its collection of inclusive and progressive porn. Apart from featuring porn that isn’t created with the male gaze in mind, the website features porn with actors of different races, ethnicities, body types, sexual orientations, and gender identities.

Feminist porn has finally provided women with porn they can enjoy without sexist undertones and influences from rape culture.

Creating porn like this wouldn’t be possible without female creators who see the necessity of feminist porn in an age where violence against women and coercion on screen are sold as turn-ons. Creators like Erika Lust and Paulita Pappel have been creating feminist porn, hoping to bring a wave of change. Swedish-born Erika Lust began her career as a feminist porn director back in 2004 with the well-received The Good Girl. Since then Lust has gone on to create numerous films shot from a female perspective, focusing on female pleasure. Lust is also the founder of the crowdsourced platform, xconfessions.com, where sexual fantasies or experiences told by the general public are turned into short films by Lust.

Ersties is a female-friendly porn website that features feminist porn and also a large and diverse collection of queer porn, owned and run by Paulita Pappel. Before each shoot Pappel ensures the actors interact with each other and that everyone on the set is comfortable. Paulita told Tech Insider, “We ask, “Is there any part of your body where you don’t like to be touched? What turns you on? Are you ticklish? Do you like kissing?” I don’t want to watch a film and wonder, does that woman on screen really want to be doing that?”

Creators like Lust and Pappel don’t just create feminist porn that are beneficial and essential to women and the general audience, they also inevitably create safe spaces for female porn stars that are free of abuse and violence, where they have a voice and are treated with dignity.

This list features an additional of thirty porn directors that have put in excellent work in the field of feminist porn and brought about a sea of change in the way we view porn, sexuality, sex, and women.

Despite all the progress creators like these have paved way for, feminist porn remains an alien concept in India. With no creators of female-friendly pornography, porn in India still continues to cater to the male gaze, with portrayals of objectification of women, violence towards them, and disregard for consent being rampant in them.

When we allow men the space and means to engage their sexual desires and don’t attach morality to their libido or sexuality, why is it that we continue to attach morality to women’s sexual desires and honour in their indifference to their sexuality? Controlling women’s sexuality and shaming them, for having sex or even viewing porn is ultimately a control mechanism, something that shouldn’t be allowed to exist in our world today. Women are sexual beings with sexual desires of their own – we aren’t props to further men’s pleasures or entities for their fantasies. The fact that women watch porn should be considered normal and healthy and no woman should be pushed into silence or taught to take shame in it, because taking shame in viewing porn is ultimately taking shame in the fact that they are sexual beings.

Also read: Female Masturbation: Politics and Pleasure


*Some names have been changed to protect the identities of the contributors

Featured Source Image: Metro UK

3 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting piece and I agree that often women are slut shamed or considered “loose” or of bad character (by both genders)for watching porn which is absurd.

    I am however conflicted with porn in general cos even though mainstream porn was created for the male gaze, despite advent of feminist more that is supposed to non-violent, more inclusive, consensual etc it however still objectifies the human body and reduces them to mere objects of lust. Also find that people have recognised the niche market for “feminist porn” and apart from them stating it is consensual there is still a chance of abuse etc because end of the day this is livelihood for porn actors, at some point they would have to follow script to be paid etc

    Even feminist porn can be addictive, in committed relationships it can be considered from of cheating when it is done in hiding from partners. Watching porn constantly be it feminist or not can in many ppl put u in a constant state of lust and unsatiated even when in a relationship. Ofcourse not everyone is like that, however I have noticed this to be the case with many young ppl including older ppl

  2. So… mainstream porn actually features violence against women and objectification? !

    I mean, I am sure there is not a single guy out there who does not view porn. Am I the only one bothered about the fact that that is kind of material dudes are exposed to?

  3. Consuming porn, no matter what the dosage, is never good either for men or women. It inflates your expectations of how sex ought to turn out, and the kind of mates you think will turn you on.

    And for Christs sake, stop whining about things that are out of your control. This is the hand you’ve been dealt. Brooding over it will only make you bitter.

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