Queer, Feminist, Anti-Racist PORN?! It’s Not a Contradiction, It’s An Actual (Awesome) Thing

I don’t know about you, but until adulthood I had no idea there was such a thing as progressive porn.

Nov 14, 2011 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

 

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A few months ago, I got a text from my friend Michael: “What are you doing? Want to go to a magazine launch party with me?” Of course, being the print media geek and collector that I am (and also, of course, a pretentious d-bag who likes to tell people that I went to a magazine launch party), I immediately said yes.

The magazine, it turned out, was actually the first issue of a new smut and porn series called Salacious. Initially I planned to go to the launch mostly to enjoy booze, people watch and be on my merry way, happy to tell people on Monday that I had done more over the weekend than my usual (play videogames and snuggle the cat).

As I made my way through the party, however, I couldn’t help but find my curiosity piqued - Salacious’ main focus as a magazine is comics and the cover of each issue features titillating illustrations of the month’s theme. Salacious Number 1, featured a purple cover with a variety of bodies and body types engaging in all manner of sex acts and gender play. I couldn’t help myself, I had to take a peak inside. 

Flipping through that first issue, I was impressed and almost overwhelmed by the diversity of material present. Along with the comics and illustrations there were photos, poems, short stories, longer prose, essays, tons of really interesting adverts for new and unique shows and sex positive communities, along with all manners of bodies, sex and gender expressions.  I needed to buy a copy.

As I was checking out, I met KD “Megaphone” Diamond, the magazine’s editor and founder. I chatted with Diamond briefly and asked her to sign my copy of the magazine. I also admitted that Salacious was the first in-print porn I’d ever purchased.  

In speaking with Diamond, she mentioned that part of creating Salacious is in sharing porn and smut that is made by and for queer people. Salacious isn’t about the oversaturated commercialized hetero-normative male vision of porn (which, as Diamond notes in the introduction to Salacious #1, is just really really boring -- and pretty mediocre in quality). It’s about sex in all its complexity, but without the racist, sexist and harmful paradigms that mainstream porn perpetuates. (Sidenote: I also love that Salacious’ mission includes “the fusion of pornography and high art.”)

As with many of my adult lady friends, porn and smut were, for a long time, things that seemed strictly off limits. Porn, it seemed, was composed by and for heterosexual men -- it was about their wants, their pleasures, and women were not part of the story or audience. True, some of my lady friends read romance novels (which are really smutty), but the bodice-ripping genre seemed to also really be built on this concept of straight sex and getting women to buy into the male fantasy. 

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While I’m a proud agnostic now, I come from a very religious upbringing. My parents aren’t prudes by any means, but sex wasn’t really on the table as a topic of discussion while I was growing up (though my mom and I do talk about it openly every once in awhile now).

When I reached my early 20s and started to really question and leave behind my religious worldview, I also started to explore sex and my sexuality. I realized that sex was something to be enjoyed, in a variety of ways, without shame. I set off to learn more about sex positivity, but still felt, largely, that porn was an area that set the whole thing backward.

For the most part, my first encounters with porn were wildly uncomfortable -- largely because they were through the male-gaze driven recommendations of my guy friends. I remember my gal-pal roommates hosting a porn and pizza night because they were genuinely curious about “what the boys saw in all of this.”

I was so grossed out and upset by the degrading spectacle and positions the women represented were in, I ended up locking myself in my room for the rest of the night. (I don’t remember what we were watching, but it was one of those "We obviously got these girls drunk/drugged and insisted they do things for us” videos). 

The first time I entered a porn shop (on an un-sexy bachelorette-related errand), I was again assaulted with titles and images of women that were uncomfortable, hurtful and gross. To top it all off, a nearby customer, who no joke was wearing a trench coat, mumbled something about my friend and I being “dirty bitches.” We hightailed it out of there, bachelorette mission failed. 

Happily I’ve since discovered stores like Good Vibrations, podcasts like Savage Love, sites like Crash Pad, and of course activist educators (and pornographers) like Tristan Taormino (who really deserves a separate post all her own). Whether or not you agree that the terms "feminist" and "pornography" can go hand in hand, it’s indisputable that there’s so much more out there in terms of conceptions and visions of sex than what “mainstream” porn culture would lead us to believe. There’s more to sex than the pleasure pursuit of heterosexual males, and that’s why I’m thankful that publications like Salacious exist.

So far Salacious has released two issues (both of which I proudly own) with a third on the way. If you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy, or going to an issue release party (seriously, they’re fun), you can learn more on their website.  Also, the editorial staff is great about showcasing new and diverse voices (on average each issue has about 30 contributors), so go submit! 

I’m curious to know the thoughts of xoJaners in the comments below -- what do you think of smut, porn, erotica? Do you read it, produce it, recommend it? As for me, I’m still dipping my pinky toe into the glorious pool of feminist porn and erotica -- so send me your recs too!