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As with what happens with any event with a 'feminist' label, the Feminist Porn Awards have garnered some opinions. Mine is but only one. It doesn't mean it's the right one, or the wrong one. It just is one.

I recently discovered Kitty Stryker's Open Letter to the Feminist Porn Awards. In it, she describes her feelings about Good For Her's Tenth Annual FPAs, and what issues have caused her to decide to not attend. I don't know Kitty personally, though I saw her speak at the Feminist Porn Conference last year, and found her thoughtful, intelligent, and inspiring. I'm always fascinated by hearing other people's stories of how they navigate their way through sex, porn, and feminism, and her panel, along with others in the business, on sex work and stigma did not disappoint.


I won't address all her concerns here as I feel I cannot speak on topics I have little experience with {mainly, trans issues and portrayals in porn}; just the one that hits close to home for me, and one I can speak about from a personal level.


One of Kitty's concerns about the FPAs are the guidelines. From her letter:


"I am disurbed at the new guidelines for judging the FPAs, particularly the insistence that feminist porn needs to have high production value, that earnestness is not enough. High production value requires valuable time, learned skills, expensive equipment, pricey editing software, budget to fund the project. It sets a precedent that capitalist consumerist values are more important than actual politics, which is somewhat contrary to feminism, in my understanding. Additionally for those who are not as privileged and don’t have companies funding their projects, or who are small, independent companies, earnestness is all they often have. By seemingly setting the bar in a way that requires financial privilege, you are likely shutting out many potential feminist pornographers, which is disappointing in a space that wants to court diversity."


I have to disagree. When I saw that the FPAs were considering higher production values for their submissions, I rejoiced. I have seen enough porn in my life to know I actually hate most of it, and a big reason for that is because of the poor production value. I'm a very visual person, and most of my career before now was as an Art Director. I know my way around design and visual art, and I'm good at it.


One reason I know I'm good at it is the acknowledgement I've been getting for my erotic films. They have been touring around the world at various festivals {having been invited to most based on their selection in other festivals}, gaining notoriety and awards along the way. After one festival ends, my inbox fills with messages from viewers who were impressed by my work. These accolades are what keep me making films.


My horniness is directly related to both content AND visuals. If one is missing, I can't be bothered with the other. I acknowledge that this is not the case for everyone, but earnestness is not enough. If it were, why bother with ceremonial acknowledgement? It's easy to place a bunch of films together, but without judging criteria, that's all they are - just a bunch of films. The FPAS and other festivals award notice and excellence in film, and just as the Oscars award technical ability in Hollywood mainstream film, so should ceremonies that celebrate porn. If anything, it helps legitimize our industry as an art, not just a societal comment. Having visual standards in a visual medium is a good thing. I have yet to hear about a film festival or award ceremony that judges solely based on politics. If there is one, all the power to them. But I likely won't submit to it.


What brought me back to porn was Erika Lust and her short film for Hotel Camper. Lush, beautifully shot, and incredibly sexy, I discovered porn could be more than just sex. And that's when I realized I could shoot what I wanted to see. I had nowhere near Erika's budget, but I do have some skill. Skill I've acquired through hard work and experimentation.


My budget for my first film was less than $200. I paid for half day of a studio rental and shot the rest outside because I couldn't afford more time, some snacks for my one-person crew and one cast member, both of whom were graciously willing to help me try my hand at porn making, for no fee. My editing software is a few years old and 'borrowed' from an old agency I used to work for. My camera was my already-in-use iPhone 3GS. I worked with what I had.


And I think the results are amazing. From the critical success of that film, followed by a thousand "you shot that on your phone?!" comments, I have continued to shoot with budgets less than $400, and my films continue to wow audiences. I'm proud of what I can accomplish with a teeny budget, and I'm thrilled that judges take notice of the artistry, because I work hard at it.


This is not to say that I won't shoot with higher budgets - perish the thought. I have plans for other films that I have put on hold precisely because I can't afford what I want to do. But I'm not going to shoot them simply because I want to get an earnest feminist message out. I want to shoot them when I'm ready and know I'll have a complete package, one that withstands my own judging criteria. We're all our own harshest critics, but I know what I like to see and what I don't. This doesn't make me a lesser earnest feminist. It makes me an artist.


My education within the feminist movement has been a tough one. From dealing with sexist work issues, assault, threats of rape & murder by misogynist assholes on the outside of the movement, to being told I'm nothing but a racist, classist, too sexy, not sexy enough, slutty, stupid, too inclusive, not inclusive enough, privileged non-feminist by those on the inside of the movement, I've had my fair share of being told what kind of feminist I am or am not. This has shown me that no matter what kind of feminists we are, we can never please everyone, and we shouldn't have to. Feminism is not a monolith representing the same person – which would be incredibly boring – and despite all the battles we fight, it's an interesting ride, and we should, indeed, be making our opinions known. It's the only way for change and enlightement to happen, but we can't shut ourselves out of communities that have a thing or two we don't like about them. If I did that, I would never leave my house. I also like money and nice things, so my feminism includes capitalism.


There's some porn and filmmakers I'm not too fond of that are given nods by the FPAs, but I'm not going to fault the FPAs, or the filmmakers for making something I don't like. Especially the FPAs, because they have introduced me to a vastly different type of porn that what I grew up with, and for that I am grateful.


While the FPAs may have its own issues {and all award ceremonies do}, I will be happily attending to celebrate its merits. I owe a lot to them, including showing me that there are artists like Kitty Stryker, and those with strong opinions. My life, both personally and professionally, is all the better for them.


- The Madame





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