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Lascivious: For the Love of Porn

By Queerie Bradshaw

Photo credit Cody T Williams

February is the month of love, and there’s nothing I love more than porn.
 
Someone on my feed recently posted a quote from a marriage-counseling conference that said, “No one in the history of the world has ever had a better marriage because of pornography.”
 
Fuck that, I thought. Sure, I’m not married, straight, or Christian, so I’m not really this particular conference’s target demographic, but I am an avid porn watcher and I can confidently and honestly say that my relationships have been made better because of pornography.
 
To be more specific: queer, feminist pornography has changed the way I love and live.
 
Pages upon pages have been written on what defines the terms queer, feminist, and pornography, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what queer, feminist porn is.
 
I’ll tell you what it’s not, though. It’s not massive breast implants. It’s not fake orgasms. It’s not playing to the camera and angling into ridiculously unreal positions that can’t feel good. Sometimes it includes degradation and control, but it’s always about consent and creating safe spaces for people to explore sexuality. It’s about respect for minorities of all kind—women, queers, people of color, differently abled people, people of larger sizes—and representing sex from their perspective.
 
In that, queer, feminist pornography represents sex from my perspective.
 
Every piece of media that bombarded my awkward, fat dyke brain as a kid told me I was not OK. My body was not OK. My appreciation of the pleasure my body can give me was not OK. The bodies I desired to touch were not OK. Nothing about myself and my desire was OK
 
Then I saw The Crash Pad.
 
Photo credit Cody T Williams
 
It was 2007 and my first girlfriend and I had just broken up. I was exploring sex in a whole new way, which meant I was spending serious time at the sex shop Good Vibrations on Valencia Street, right in the heart of queer San Francisco. I’d always been interested in sex, but I hadn’t had access to what lesbian sex looked like outside of Hustler magazine and some crappy free porn I’d found on the internet. I spent hours in Good Vibes, buying every porn, toy, and book I could afford, learning what it meant to be queer.
 
Looking back, it makes me sad how little I knew about being gay for someone who came out at 12. The media does a shit job of portraying any kind of minorities in their proper light and as a lesbian in a small farming town I was stuck with only two major influences: the Indigo Girls and Chasing Amy.
 
I vividly remember prom night my senior year, watching the Chasing Amy dyke bar scene over and over again with two other lesbians on our limo’s TV/VCR. I wanted to be Joey Lauren Adams, singing some throaty rendition of a song I wrote about passion and pain, I wanted to jump off the stage and run to that hot blonde in the tight white shirt, grab her face and kiss her while Ben Affleck looks on shocked, realizing just how unattainable I am, just how gay I am.
 
My prom date was getting a blowjob from a guy friend to my right and my other friend was fucking some guy that wasn’t her boyfriend to my left, but I didn’t care. I had Chasing Amy.
 
Joey Lauren Adams kissing Carmen Llywelyn was the closest I got to watching lesbians have sex for a very long time.
 
Fast forward ten years, and I’m chatting over email with Jiz Lee and Courtney Trouble about fisting. It’s almost October 21, 2011, the first International Fisting Day, and we’re discussing the laws surrounding fisting in porn. More specifically, I’m answering their questions on the effect of obscenity laws on the queer community, a topic on which I wrote my 30-page final law school paper.
 
 
My first "Lascivious" column detailed my transition from farmer’s daughter to sex writer, so I won’t go into too many details here, but queer, feminist porn played a significant part in my blossoming into what I am today. There, on my computer screen, were people having the kind of sex I really wanted to have, the kind of sex I really wanted others to have access to as well. While my friends were fighting for gay marriage, I was fighting for my right to watch a hot dyke get fisted.
 
Fisting Day was started by Lee and Trouble as a way to debunk the negative stereotypes surrounding fisting, a sex act of putting an entire hand inside someone. I love fisting. It’s a common thing in lesbian sex, so I was pissed off when I saw it on a list of acts in porn that may get you slapped with obscenity charges. As makers of queer porn, Trouble and Lee were equally pissed, hence Fisting Day.
 
Outside of a handful of Twitter interactions and a few emails, I don’t know Courtney Trouble or Jiz Lee. I don’t know if they’re the kind of people who help old ladies cross the street, or the kind who put their elbows on the table while eating and who pick their noses in public, but I do know that they’re helping to bring about a new generation of sex-positive, body-positive, gender-bending queers, and I have grown to respect them for it. They’re activists in a field that’s constantly ostracized, and even if it looks fun to fuck for a living, it’s still long, hard work.
 
By definition, queer, feminist pornography is the work of activists. Anything that portrays something this far beyond the mainstream has no choice but to be activism. Hairy pussies, big butch women, men with vaginas, women with penises, fat rolls, strap ons, gender play, and all the things that other people fetishize are portrayed in a real way: portrayed by us for us.
 
We are these people. We are fat, hairy and really fucking gay. We are not a fetish.
 
I am not a fetish.
 
Queer, feminist pornography teaches me that my body and the bodies of the people with whom I have sex are more than just something to gawk at. We are sexy as fuck and we are sexy while fucking. That’s the exact opposite of what I’m told by mainstream media.
 
Lee and Trouble are far from alone in their activism. I could list hundreds of strong, intelligent feminists and queers fighting for visibility and credibility in a world that constantly ignores, mocks, hides, or fetishizes us. By making, or even simply appreciating, queer, feminist porn, we’re taking back the bits of our sexuality that were packaged and sold to others.
 
 
Tristan Taormino, Shine Louise Houston, Madison Young, Tina Horn, the Mayhems, Buck Angel, Erika Lust, Nenna, Jincey Lumpkin, James Darling, N. Maxwell Lander, Rae Threat. These are just a few of the people producing and directing amazing moving and still images that portray people like me having sex like I have it.
 
Or more accurately, having sex like I’d like to have it. Because let’s face it, these days I’m not quite the sex kitten I used to be, but it’s good to know the option for the future, it’s comforting to see an example of the possibilities that lie ahead.
 
I’ve found a surprising amount of comfort from the people in porn as well. A couple years ago, I was live tweeting while watching Boutique, a film by Jincey Lumpkin, and Ela Darling, one of the stars, started following me. A few sessions of geeking out over feminism and porn later, this wonderful woman that I’ve never met in person is a major support for me after watching my brother die. She sends me messages of love and strength, and we’re planning a trip to Disneyland with Mona, my dominatrix friend from that first "Lascivious" column.
 
A similar thing happened with Jincey Lumpkin, the founder of Juicy Pink Box. Late one night we were tweeting up a storm about femme problems, and the next thing I know we’re sitting in a fabulous restaurant in New York City chatting about what defines lesbian versus queer porn. She too was a wonderful support through my brother’s battle with cancer, and my subsequent grief at his loss of that battle.
 
I find myself drawn to people in porn not just because they’re sexy, but also because they break social norms and know what it’s like to be an outcast. They know what it’s like to be me. I relate with people who are sexually open. I relate with people who embrace their bodies even when they’re not what’s on the average television screens. I relate to people who want to tie someone to a chair and ride their strapped-on cock while slapping their face.
 
The makers of queer and feminist porn have changed my life and most of them don’t even know it. I see myself in them, in their scenes. They’re wonderful because they do what most us can’t, they put themselves out there in a way that most of us won’t afford ourselves socially or psychologically.
 
Photo credit Dennis Ho.
 
I write about, analyze, and review porn but I still avoid being in it for fear of the repercussions to my life. I fear being ostracized by others, I fear my father finding out, I fear my young male cousins happening upon it one day, I fear a future lover shunning me for it, I fear seeing my fat bounce around in high-definition, reminding me of everything I’ve ever been told to hate about myself.
 
Even as sex-positive as I am, I still fear the stigma that sex carries.
 
Porn stars, they break through that fear. I know they have it, how can you not have issues growing up in our puritanical society that at once admonishes and is obsessed with sexuality, but they seem to work through it, or at least push it aside for the time they’re on camera with a courage I have yet to find.
 
Once, I had a breast cancer scare, and I decided that before anyone carved into or radiated my tits I was going to show them off to the world. My plan was to call every porn star I knew, every director and producer of any kind of smut, every old friend from film school, and together we were going to make a whole porn centered around my glorious breasts.
 
It was going to be epic.
 
There was a (very small and irrational) part of me that was sad when the results came back, and I just had a cyst, sad my perfect excuse to finally be in porn was gone. I felt like anything can be excused if you have cancer; without cancer I had no excuse to venture into porn. I’ve danced burlesque, posed nude for art classes and been photographed butt naked, but there’s something holding me back psychologically from fucking on film.
 
The hypocritical thing is that I have nothing against porn myself, nothing against people in porn. It’s that stigma I’m worried about. Maybe it’s from years of film school, when we were warned that once you work in the porn industry it’s practically impossible to get a “real” job in Hollywood (which is hilarious considering how sexual and badly acted most Hollywood films are these days). Maybe it’s a self-esteem thing from years of being told I’m unsexy because I’m fat. Or maybe it’s just laziness, being sexy on film sounds exhausting.
 
While I may not be at the point yet where I’m ready to fuck on film, I know that watching porn is helping me get there, especially when it comes to self-esteem. There’s always been something ingrained deep into my brain that it’s OK to be gay as long as you don’t look or act gay. Assimilation is easier, accepted. I always worried about looking too dykey, too masculine, too much of a gay cliché.
 
Queer porn doesn’t worry about looking too gay. There’s is no such thing as too gay in that world. I want to live in a world where there is no such thing as too gay. I want to live in porn.
 
Lately I’ve been playing with gender. I got a more masculine haircut, I wear ties. I am feminine, being a “femme” is part of who I am and what I do, but I’m finding myself wanting to fuck with perceptions of what gender means, what really is feminine. That scares me. I worry about what others will think, I worry about losing my femininity and all that I’ve associated with it.
 
Then I think about Dylan Ryan.
 
Dylan Ryan has always been one of my favorite porn stars. Maybe it’s because I once randomly made out with her onstage at an amateur strip contest in San Francisco years ago, maybe it’s because she had the most amazing orgasm in the first queer porn I ever saw, maybe it’s because her legs are taller than I am, or maybe it’s because she’s just really sexy. Whatever it is, lately, I’ve been studying photos of her to get an idea of how to rock the femme androgyny, how to fuck with gender without losing the softness I like having.
 
When I’m feeling unsexy and unlovable because of my fat, I watch Courtney Trouble. We have similar body types and wear the same size clothing. I think her body is really sexy, so it gives me hope that someone could think my body is really sexy.
 
The self-worth I get from seeing others like me portrayed in a positive, sexy, sensual light helps me, it helps my relationships. Insecurities, unchecked vulnerabilities, a lack of communication, these are all things that make marriages and relationships fail. Problems with porn are a by-product of these larger issues.
 
Or a by-product of picking bad porn. Or a by-product of assuming that your life has to mimic the pornography you watch.
 
To fix the former, start paying for porn. Look up some of the people I’ve mentioned here and buy their products from their sites or reputable places like Good Vibrations, Babeland, or whatever your local independent, sex-positive shop is. Quality comes at a price, and trust me when I say it’s worth every penny to invest in your sex life.
 
For the latter, check out Cindy Gallop’s TED talk and her site Make Love Not Porn which helps people understand the difference between hardcore porn and real-life sex.
 
I pick porn like I pick groceries. I pick what’s going to make me feel good in the end, what’s going to help me be mentally and physically healthy, even if it costs more or takes more time to obtain. If you have a problem with porn, I suggest you start doing the same.
 

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