June 19, 2011
If you’re a fan of kink, anal sex and/or feminist porn, you’re likely quite familiar with the name Tristan Taormino. For those of you who don’t know that name I have to ask you, where’ve you been?, Tristan is a renowned sex educator and activist who has made it her mission to “educate people of all genders and sexual orientations in their pursuit of healthy, empowering, and transformative sex and relationships.” And educate she does, by spreading her ‘pleasure-positive’ message through her lectures, teaching, writing, books, and feminist pornography. Tristan produces films that depict consensual, ethical, and very HOT sex, for the enjoyment of anyone (that includes men) who wants to see porn featuring fresh and accessible performers; genuine chemistry between the actors; and REAL orgasms for everyone.
From left to right: J.D. Bauchery, Tristan Taormino and Colten
Back in April I was lucky enough to be introduced to Tristan at the Feminist Porn Awards show, right here in Toronto. I took the opportunity request an interview, and she graciously granted my request. So without further ado, I give you Tristan Taormino, in her own words…
Skye: While attending Good For Her’s 2011 Feminist Porn Awards, I learned that feminist porn is pornography that: 1) a woman had a hand in the production, writing, direction, etc of; 2) depicts genuine female pleasure; and 3) expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn. What if anything would you add to that definition?
TT: I would add the following, which reflects my own definition of feminist porn: the working conditions and the filmmaking process are fair, ethical, and positive; the films contain authentic and diverse representations of female and male pleasure, fantasy, and orgasm; and it’s a collaborative process where performers participate in creating the representation of their sexuality.
Skye: What frontiers/issues do you think have yet to be explored in feminist porn?
TT: I think there is so much that has not been fully explored, particularly: 1) a diversity of body types, ages, and abilities; 2) complicating images of masculinity and men’s sexuality; 3) re-imagining anti-racist representations of race and ethnicity in a sexual context; and 4) how to eroticize power dynamics. We have a lot of work still to do.
Skye: Why do you think it’s important for women to create feminist, ethical porn?
TT: There need to be alternative images out there to educate, empower, and inspire women and men. We need to represent sex in positive ways to counteract all the shame, guilt, and judgment that our society heaps on sex.
Skye: What are some issues you explore in your films?
TT: I like to explore what the performers themselves are interested in. Who they are, their feelings about working in porn, their real fantasies and desires.
Skye: Do you think the stigma linked to watching, producing, and/or enjoying porn will ever disappear? Why do you think as sex crazed as our society is, so many people are afraid to discuss or view porn openly?
TT: It’s pretty amazing that so many people stigmatize porn and the individuals who make it, yet those same people consume it voraciously. Our society is so confused; people are simultaneously titillated and horrified by explicit sex. They feel guilty for watching it but they can’t help themselves.
Skye: With respect to mainstream porn, do you think it will ever move away from the male centred and phallocentric ideals it now upholds?
TT: I think it already has. Mainstream porn is a lot more diverse than people give it credit for. There are more female directors and producers than there have ever been, and many of us, whether working independently or within the mainstream industry, are changing the mainstream porn with our work.
Skye: I recently read one of your past interviews and in response to the following question: What’s your sense of how your porn portrays sex and pleasure for men and for women?, you said “I feel like lots of porn represents male sexuality as hard, aggressive, and robot-like, and female sexuality as merely a vehicle/receptacle for men’s pleasure. To me, a lot of porn does a disservice to men and women, and I want my porn to be different.” With that in mind how do you go about making your porn films different?
TT: I like to collaborate with performers on how their sexuality is represented, rather than giving them a script or a formula to follow. Women and men are given choices: they choose who they will have sex with, they choose the positions they want to be in, they choose the toys they play with, all based on what feels good to them, and their actual sexuality, not a fabricated script. I want to capture complex, three-dimensional beings, rather than simplistic stereotypes. I want to create an open environment that’s safe for everyone—especially women—to take charge of their pleasure and be able to express their desires freely. I want to represent sex as positive, fun, healthy, and adventurous.
Skye: In as much as mainstream porn tends to be male focused, as you’ve already pointed out men are often cut out of the frame of shots and reduced to a voiceless and faceless walking erection. I myself have noticed that in film men’s nude bodies are often posited as sources of amusement, when they are not engaged in the act. Male bodies are simply not revered as beautiful/sexual/desirable in the same way as woman’s bodies are. Why do you think that is and do you think our society’s perception of the male form will change – for the better – at some point?
TT: In a lot of mainstream porn, male bodies are not eroticized, but instead used as props. Men’s cocks are visible, but the rest of their bodies are absent. You rarely see their faces, their reactions to the sex—it’s so strange. Porn makers mistakenly believe that “no one wants to see the guys,” but it’s just not true, especially when it comes to female viewers who very much want to see the men.
Skye: What books are currently on your reading list or bedside table? Who are your favorite authors?
TT: Susie Bright’s memoir Big Sex, Little Death. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. Girlvert: A Porno Memoir by Orianna Small aka Ashley Blue.
Skye: Who are your feminist heroes?
TT: Susie Bright, Betty Dodson, Nina Hartley, Nan Kinney, Deborah Sundahl, Annie Sprinkle, Constance Penley, Georgia O’Keefe, and Emma Goldman.
Skye: What’s in your goody drawer?
TT: It’s not a drawer, it’s a dresser, a filing cabinet, multiple storage tubs, and several bookshelves. I have more sex toys than you could ever imagine.
Skye: What’s one thing that people don’t know about you – that you’re willing to share – that would surprise your fans?
TT: I love pajamas.