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Jessica’s Blog: On Feminist Porn

Jessica Young
Written by Jessica Young

Porn-mag-in-hedgeThe first time I saw a porno mag I was probably in fourth grade. Sex was pretty invisible to me; I was still grossed out by seeing my parents kiss, I hadn’t yet hit puberty, and my crushes on older boys at my church involved fantasies of holding hands and listening to New Edition and Tevin Campbell. I had no interest in anything sweaty or naked, and wouldn’t have known what to do even if I had been interested.

I found the magazine on the playground at day camp. I was the first one out the door that afternoon, and it was at the top of the playground tunnel slide. I didn’t know what I was looking at, so I flipped through it. I remember women with wet-looking, pink, open mouths and big hair, fondling themselves and each other, and sometimes just random body parts, close up. My mouth fell open. Is this what sex is like? I was totally creeped out, but I kept flipping through the magazine anyway. I was stunned. Moments later, my friends came bounding out the door toward me. In a panic I folded the magazine into fourths and shoved it under my shirt. One of them noticed that my shirt was sticking out and pointed at me. “Jessi, what’s wrong with your boob, it looks like it’s laying to the side!” She started laughing at me, and while the others joined in, I climbed off the jungle gym and took the hidden magazine to the teacher.

Since then, porn’s only made a brief sprinkle in my world: five minutes of an utterly incomprehensible close-up on repeat in a college performance studies class; pages of white women, spread-eagled and quivering, used as birthday giftwrap at a friend’s party; the occasional soft-core on hotel cable. It never made a huge impression on me, not like that magazine did. I mean, looking at the stuff, I felt arousal, sure. The turn-on was the easy part. But porn never seemed relevant to my sex life, or even. The best part of sex isn’t seeing something that makes me feel sexy; it’s feeling sexy in relationship. The external stimuli of body parts, no matter their dimensions or appearance, it just didn’t do it for me.

Additionally, all the porn I saw seemed so fake. I mean, never, ever has a man shot is wad all over me like a shaken champagne bottle. When the pizza guy delivers my pizza, he leaves after I sign the receipt. My partners, handsome and lovely as they’ve been, have never had chiseled jaws, washboard abs and equipment that could slap me in the face at ten feet. My boobs don’t stand at attention or jiggle like Jell-O. I don’t look like a Barbie-doll porn star, and I don’t know any women who look like porn stars. The jiggly women in that magazine, the naughty night nurses, the bukaki queens on the internet: is this what men want? Is this what my man wants?

For years, I had my brain shut to porn. It made me feel bad about myself and it caused me to doubt my sexuality. No way is a business that empowers women, but instead it objectifies them and subjugates them in an industry that doesn’t care for them at all. I thought porn was anti-woman, anti-relationship, anti-feminist, and misogynistic, and I was sure that even though it’s been completely normalized, that it was still damaging individuals and relationships, both producers and consumers.

So when the editors here at Ms. Fit were talking about sex workers and feminist porn, I did a double take. Is such a thing even possible? Porn isn’t an agent of equality and growth, it alienates people, it robs them of the experience of reality with another human; it ruins relationships. Or does it? I got schooled, lovingly, on the idea of feminist porn, and began to wonder if beyond the seedy, cum-stained belly of this industry there wasn’t something that might not be interesting, maybe even fun.

So when I heard about the Hump! 2014 Tour in Chicago on the Dan Savage podcast, I thought it might be a safe and interesting way to learn more about the side of porn that maybe isn’t quite so gross and discouraging. I’ll be livetweeting on Saturday, the 15th for Ms. Fit, so join me. I don’t know if I’m going to feel utterly squicked out, if I won’t last an hour, or if I’ll laugh and blush and enjoy myself more than I ever thought.

There’s only one way to find out. Follow Ms. Fit on Twitter and see.

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About the author

Jessica Young

Jessica Young

Jessica Young has a degree from Northwestern University and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. She’s performed her stories with 2nd Story, at the Mixed Roots Literary and Film Festival in LA, and she was recently a contributing blogger for WBEZ’s summer series, “Race Out Loud.” When she’s not writing or teaching, Jess enjoys yoga, gluten-free vegan cooking, and learning how women can take care of themselves and each other through healthy choices and practices.

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