Hot and Bothered:Feminist Pornography

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While the words "feminist" and "porn' are usually on the opposite sides of each other, Becky Goldberg's 2003 documentary looks at the women who proudly call themselves feminists and make pornography.

The whole 'feminists vs. the porn industry' is a long running battle that still continues on today, though it rarely makes progress in the feminist movement or the adult industry. If anything, it instills the belief in most women that all porn is degrading and a turn-off for women, even though most anti-porn feminists probably never watch porn. That's why Hot and Bothered: Feminist Pornography is such an important documentary for these times. It shows that intelligent, feminist women are not only making and buying porn, but also making a difference in the adult industry. The film features interviews with some of the most important names in the adult industry, including Veronica Hart, Sharon Mitchell, Tristan Taormino, Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano from SIR Video, Nina Hartley, Greta Christina from, and the editors of (now defunct) Fabula magazine.

Early on in the doc, filmmaker, writer, and anal sex queen Tristan Taormino declares, "Feminism...expanded my whole idea of sex." Indeed, the whole concept of feminist porn is now a growing one in which women don't need to look like Barbie dolls and empowers women around sexuality and shows women enjoying sex. Normally women are embarrassed to buy porn because they feel conditioned to feel insecure about their sexuality, but as Greta Christina notes, "if more women aware of feminist porn, they would check it out."

Veronica Hart was a top porn star in the 70's, but instead of burning out and fading away like so many porn starlets, she is now a successful director in the adult industry. Hart writes, directs, and edits films for VCA pictures and always tries to portray women in strong roles in her movies. Hart states she "doesn't shy away from hard sex in her movies", but hates being linked to the typical sexist porn films so many of us associate with.

However, all of the women in the film do agree these typical sexist films do large numbers. Hart wants to make films that are not degrading to women, but notes that it's difficult considering the people who are pulling the strings are the "old boys" network who go with what sells, which is usually crap. As Greta Christina complains that the money shot, the ever-present punctuation mark in most porn, has become "tired, boring, and makes her queasy", it is still the standard for the industry. Unfortunately, it is probably what turns off most women from watching porn. As a montage of men shooting their loads in women's faces, mouths, etc., is shown, you can't help but think, "why do men want to watch other men cumming?"

As for the funding issue, the crew follows Tristan Taormino as she literally begs John "Buttman" Stagliano, head of the Evil Angel enterprise, to fund the film version of her book "The Ultimate Guide for Anal Sex for Women". A somewhat skeptical Stagliano listens to Taormino's plea and then promises her he'll do it only if she can convince an anal-phobic performer to agree to have a dildo inserted in her ass. Taormino opens her briefcase full of toys and goes to work. She is, of course, successful, and so was the resulting video, "Tristan Taormino's Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women", directed by Stagliano. Taormino has gone to direct several other titles and is now a director for Vivid's "Vivid-Ed" line of educational porn videos.

Jackie Strano and Shar Rednour founded SIR Video as a way to show real-life dykes in porn, not the "Playboy"-style girl-girl scenes that are so prevalent, but never accurate. Their first release "Hard Love" and "How to Fuck in High Heels" was a suprise winner at the 2000 AVN awards (the Oscars of porn) and was the first lesbian release to win for best girl-girl scene. Despite their success, they too complain of having funding issues and as of current, the company is now on hiatus.

Hot and Bothered: Feminist Pornography Still other women maintain that being a feminist in porn is about maintaing control. As Nina Hartley says, "my body, my rules." Hartley had tried to align herself with the feminist movement years ago, but once they found out about her profession, wanted nothing to do with her. She's highly regarded as one of the adult industry's foremost educators and still adheres to feminist ideals.

Like Hartley, Sharon Mitchell is one of porn's top educators and runs AIM, the STD testing facility for all adult performers. Mitchell was a top 70's porn star, but later became a drug addict and was brutally attacked by a fan after a performance at a strip club in the 90's. She turned her life around, went back to school, earned a doctorate in public health, and founded Adult Industry Management Healthcare (AIM), which has succeeded in virtually eliminating HIV transmission within the industry.

Though sexism will always exist in the porn industry, the only way to fight it is for more women to take control. The women in "Hot and Bothered: Feminist Pornography" are just a few of the names actually making a difference, but what they're doing is so important. As more and more women enter the field, the content will change and women will begin consuming porn more and more, creating a market especially for them. Feminist and porn don't have to be oxymorons any more, instead they can walk hand in hand into a new and exciting future.

Review by The Libertine, aka Libby.


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