Comment: The Politics of Porn – Erotic Red

Comment: The Politics of Porn – Erotic Red

Words: Nataša Cordeaux
Photograph: Nastasia Alberti

By distinguishing the female erotic as separate from mainstream phallocentric pornography, Audre Lorde provided a potential female gateway for women to begin discovering their sexual autonomy in sync with their own bodies and independent of the patriarch’s gaze, camera lens and erection. “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual place.” Taking Lorde at her word, women must start realigning their conscious, psychological sexuality with the workings of the unconscious, physical body – we may like to begin this erotic quest by actually listening our own body’s natural rhythm and cycles opposed to the forced sexual shrieks and tacky mainstream scripts which permeate not only the internet but the minds of both men and women.

Constructing female sexual desires from androcentric pornography is not only unnatural, but can actually alienate women from their bodies which contain the potential for pleasure. The woman who masturbates to mainstream pornography does so through the perspective of male sexuality: (i). arousal (ii) climax (iii) relief. Whereas the female erotic, as described by Lorde, facilitates an all-inclusive stimulation where the vagina is allowed to experience multiple orgasms regardless if she is ‘prepped’ for sexual activity: by “recognizing the power of the erotic” woman can experience her own sexuality, in her own terms.

It may thus be argued that pornography (in most contexts) segregates woman from both her vagina and ovaries dictating when we are allowed to feel sexy and/or aroused and when we are not. Women “are taught to separate the erotic from the most vital areas of our lives other than sex” – the male, mainstream pornographic idea of sex that is. Hair and menstruation are prime examples of ‘vital areas’ in being female that have been isolated and exiled from association with sex and sexiness. Statements such as these are not uncommon, and damage how we view ourselves as sexual beings: “A sexy woman is a hairless woman”; “you can’t feel sexy or have sex whilst on your period”. It is the presence of the patriarchal gaze and His stamp of approval of a hairless, ‘clean’ porn star that infuses these self-deprecating perceptions. That is pornography has made not only its male audience so aware of the visual element of sex, but consequently pornography has become a spectre which haunts women in both their day to day and sexual lives.

Due to society’s explicit acknowledgement of the normality of men watching pornography, we are extremely conscious of the extraordinary numbers of men who divulge in porn (to the extent that in Britain today it would be surprising to find out that a young man does not watch porn). Hyper sensitive to the fact that heterosexual, mainstream male sexuality is informed by their education and experience with watching porn, many women have evolved a consciousness of how their sexual body is viewed aesthetically.

However, it goes beyond this – it is not just the women in these films that feel the patriarchal gaze upon their own bodies, but subconsciously the ordinary woman who have also become shadowed (or perhaps shadows of) the ‘other women’ in these pornos when engaging in sexual encounters. The focalised gaze on the ‘perfect porn stars’ have forced women to direct their gaze onto these women as well as themselves. Consequently, whether intentionally or not, porn has become a kind of mirror, and the porn stars are our morphed reflection. They represent us and we signify them. Yet we are inextricably connected to these women, and more specifically, we are tied to how these women are viewed under the male gaze. The fear of the aesthetics of menstruation and hair, and mainstream British society’s deeming of it as unattractive, challenges women’s sexual licence to experience their sexuality whilst hairy and menstruating – a social taboo.

In light of this, it seems that a female erotic (which Lorde’s triumphs as key to sexual empowerment) is emerging in the cyberspace within the niche erotica of menstruation. Although the line between fetish porn and the erotic can often seem blurred, Lauren Rosewarne’s sub-chapter “Menstrual Porn” in Periods in Pop Culture: Menstruation in Film and Television provides us with explicit examples distinguishing the ‘blood bath’ depictions of periods as ‘taboo’ and ‘humiliating’ which create the ‘shame narratives’ which are key to the realm of fetish porn vs. the natural process of menstruation and being aroused whilst ‘on’.

‘Erotic Red’ (www.eroticred.com) is a current, living example of Lorde’s view that the erotic can empower and allow women to display their sexuality without shame, even online. Furthermore, the political importance of using the female erotic as a resource to counter Western patriarchy’s suppression of woman’s sexual nature is acknowledged by the website’s founder, Furry Girl: ‘I stand firm in believing that Erotic Red is an important [web]site to open- especially in a time when we’re in a sexually repressive environment in the US.’

This is one example of how the female erotic is finding a voice amongst the phallocentric virtual pornland, taking the necessary steps down the long road to female sexual empowerment. It is through the appropriation of our own vaginas and by synchronising our sexuality with our natural cycles and emotions that women can truly begin to comprehend herself gynocentrically and assert our sexual autonomy.  Ultimately in doing so, we can attempt to deconstruct woman as a signifier of male pleasure/ejaculation, thus replacing the distorted mirror by viewing the body as it is truly reflected.

Artist Profile: Margarita Gluzberg & Filling the Spiritual Void

Artist Profile: Margarita Gluzberg & Filling the Spiritual Void

LFF Review: Brooklyn Feels Like Home

LFF Review: Brooklyn Feels Like Home