The Happy Trail

Find a healthy alternative to mainstream porn

Produced in 1846, the first pornographic film was an extremely short, black-and-white clip of a remarkably solemn middle-aged man gingerly inserting his penis into the vagina of an equally solemn middle-aged woman. Fast forward 169 years and you arrive at the present day, where the history of the pornographic tradition has seared an image of porn as something grim, sometimes violent, questionably consensual and frequently both misogynistic and racist into our cultural memory.

Depending on who you ask, the phrase “porn star” will likely bring to mind the image of a stick thin girl with a tiny waist and unnaturally enormous breasts, panting and squealing in such an overdramatic way as to be comical, were it not for the insults of “whore” and “slut” being hurled at her by the man who is penetrating her. From the first austere clip of a nineteenth century couple partaking in some somber penetration to the current clips of violent, nonconsensual gangbangs, porn has not been a pretty picture.

But times have been changing, and a major figure demanding change is sex educator, former prostitute, porn star and author Annie Sprinkle. Commenting on the long history of degrading pornography, Sprinkle wrote that “the answer to bad porn isn’t no porn… it’s to try and make better porn!” With this statement alone, Sprinkle has set herself apart from generations of feminists who have come before, who demanded an end to pornography because of their belief that it was intrinsically degrading to women. Sprinkle argues that, despite its tradition of racism and misogyny—a tradition depicting women as submissive, traditionally attractive objects and depicting whiteness as the default against which fetishes such as “Asian” or “Black” can be contrasted—porn’s liberation of erotic fantasy is healthy, and therefore everyone should have a form of porn with whose dreams and desires they can identify.

One of the most assertive and outspoken forms of this counter-culture porn is “Indie Porn,” and there is a significant difference between “mainstream” porn and this.  For one, you will see fat people.  This is a good thing.

This is, in fact, a wonderful thing, because now there is porn wherein people of greater weight can be perceived as attractive and desirable.  For another, the fetish of “interracial”—porn wherein people of varying ethnicities—is abolished, in order to recognize the fact that it is not unusual for people of different ethnicities to have sex together.  In its stead, people of color have much greater prevalence throughout counter-culture porn, keeping them from being sexualized though othering.  But a trait of indie porn that is most progressive for the porn industry is the presence of transsexuals, because their presence, alongside the presentation of their desires and pleasures, breaks down the barriers of gender-related pleasure—who gets pleasure and who gives it.

For the past nine years, the Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards have been acting as a driving force for the cause of feminist and inclusive porn, praising the erotic representations of women and minorities through such awards that fulfill the following:

1) Women and/or traditionally marginalized people were involved in the direction, production and/or conception of the work.

2) The work depicts genuine pleasure, agency and desire for all performers, especially women and traditionally marginalized people.

3) The work expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film, challenges stereotypes and presents a vision that sets the content apart from most mainstream pornography.  This may include depicting a diversity of desires, types of people, bodies, sexual practices, and/or an anti-racist or anti-oppression framework throughout the production.

So let’s take a step farther away from the banal porn clip from which our internet porn originated, and bring on the pornographic liberation!