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Inherently Harmful vs. ‘Hot and Healthy’

Mills College Weekly

Women have always played a central role in the sex industry, but
a growing number are entering the business on the other side of the

Companies that sell pornography and are run by and geared
towards women, like Good Vibrations, have played an instrumental
role in opening the market to women. As a result, films such as
“Bend Over Boyfriend,” “G Marks The Spot,” and “Voluptuous Vixens”
have been released.

Mark Kernes, senior editor of Adult News, estimates that
one-third to one-fourth of the workforce behind the camera are
women, including camera operators, technicians, publicists and
writers. Many female directors aim to make a difference in the
content of the films they produce and veer away from pornography
that degrades women.

“When we move away from the philosophy that all porn is
unacceptable, it opens up avenues for women who would like to see
their own vision on screen,” said Carol Queen, Good Vibrations
staff sexologist.

Candida Royalle, who performed in pornographic films in the 70s,
started Femme Productions in 1984 as a means of producing films
that appeal to a female audience.

“I wanted to do something that spoke of women’s sexuality and
that gave a female voice to a medium that was sorely lacking it,
and I sensed that women were ready,” said Royalle. “The women’s
movement had empowered them to seek out sexual material that
appealed to them.”

Royalle, a founding board member of Feminists for Free
Expression, has launched a line of highly popular ergonomically
designed vibrators and is planning on producing some films for the
newly restarted Cherry Bomb, a web site that features “sex from the
female perspective.”

The founders of Cherry Bomb, Carlin Ross, 30, and Christina
Head, 26, a lawyer and documentary filmmaker, are at the head of a
new wave of women who are following in Royalle’s footsteps and view
the sex industry as a feasible way to make a living.

Sexpositive Productions, a branch of Good Vibrations, produces
female-directed porn films featuring “hot, realistic and healthy
sexual interactions with respect for the many ways people
experience their sexuality.”

While a number of feminist groups such as FFE support
pornography, others find it destructive and see no improvement in
female-directed porn.

Dr. Diana Russell, a professor emerita of sociology at Mills,
defines pornography as material that “sexually objectifies females
and combines sex with degradation, abuse and/or discrimination
against women for the purpose of sexual arousal,” and argues that
it can only be used as a feminist statement by “showing examples of
it to adults to educate them about the misogyny inherent in

“Feminists against pornography have typically used this method
to raise mostly women’s awareness about the destructive effects of
males viewing and masturbating to pornographic material.

In contrast, women who watch, direct or star in pornography are
behaving in a decidedly anti-feminist way that is degrading and
damaging to women in all of these roles, as well as to all women,”
said Russell.

Many of the women who are filling jobs formerly held only by men
view their participation as a feminist statement and object to any
argument that porn exploits women.

“I think that feminism is about empowerment,” said Royalle.
“Seizing the reigns of production and creating our own voice and
imagery is a very empowering step for women in reclaiming our
sexuality and our overall power in the world.”

Jewel De’Nyle, a porn-star and director, echoed Royalle’s

“I think being behind the camera is very empowering and the
female talent has more respect for me, knowing I was once in front
of the camera,” said De’Nyle.

Becky Goldberg made a documentary film titled “Hot and Bothered:
Feminist Pornography” after moving to New York from the Midwest and
going into culture shock. In making the film she found that there
was a handful of women pornographers who were doing “feminist

“As culture changes, women need to be able to go where women
haven’t gone before and porn is a perfect example of that,” said
Goldberg. “The only way for feminism to continue to exist is to
infiltrate these spaces where women didn’t exist and make it a safe
place for women. It’s a perfect match for women to exist in the
world of sex where they were previously only allowed to be looked

Many women in the industry view pornography directed towards a
female audience as distinct from pornography geared towards men.
Queen cites a focus on “women’s experience of pleasure,” “aesthetic
looking sets,” and more attractive male performers in heterosexual
films as the main differences.

Royalle argues that the content of pornography is more directly
related to the director’s vision than their gender.

“There are plenty of women doing it the same old way,” said
Royalle. “It’s being a woman with a vision that is coming from a
feminist background that makes the difference.”

“Pornography that is produced for women by women tends to be
gentler, more tender, and less degrading, particularly when it is
aimed at the lesbian market,” said Russell. “However, some women
pornographers produce videos that are just like the worst examples
of male pornography, involving extreme acts of brutality against

Many industry insiders believe that the growing trend of female
porn directors will continue.

“Men have been making porn since the beginning,” said Goldberg.
“Women are just getting started and they have a lot to say.”