Wednesday, June 8, 2011

new porn empowering women: focus on masturbation

(This post was originally published online at Good Vibrations Magazine)

Three Daughters
I will never forget how my mom caught me red-handed one day, touching myself beneath the covers in my bedroom, home sick from school. The look of disapproval in her face. The humiliation I felt.

Later on my older sister gave me a book about puberty and sex aimed at youth; I threw it in to the back of my closet, still feeling the shame.

Around this time, Candida Royalle, the pioneer of new porn aimed at women, launched her Femme Productions company.

Three Daughters (1987), one of Royalle’s earliest films, features the sexual self-exploration of the youngest daughter, Heather. Lying in bed, she first studies a book about human sexuality with illustrations of women's vulvae, while examining her own with a hand mirror, before drifting off into masturbating. The film was selected for a special screening at a conference of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), of which Royalle—as the first producer of adult films—is also a member.

Incidentally, the book Heather studies is one by New York-based sex-positive feminist Betty Dodson. Around the time I was born, Dodson was beginning to host regular masturbation workshops for women, having recognized early on the need for more attention to women's genitalia and masturbation. Dodson has also made several inspiring and powerful sexological films featuring women masturbating. Sadly, I never learned of Dodson's or Royalle's work until I was well into adulthood. But I am glad I finally did.

Today, Dodson and Royalle are joined by a new generation of women creating films that feature women masturbating.

Barcelona Sex Project (2008) by Barcelona-based Erika Lust affirms the natural joy and sexiness of women and men masturbating. Shot as a documentary featuring three women and three men, we first get a sense of their everyday lives and likes through one-on-one interviews, before we see them masturbate individually for the camera. Both the interviews and the masturbation scenes are shot in a more subdued style than Lust’s short films, further emphasized by the white backdrop and minimalist furniture used for this documentary.


In 2006, Swedish Mia Engberg produced the short film Come Together (included as a bonus feature on Engberg's Dirty Diaries) for which she invited several women to capture their faces with their cell phone camera while masturbating. Some viewers criticized the film for featuring women that did not fulfill specific beauty ideals. This provoked Engberg to produce more films that portray real women’s sexual desires and pleasures. For that purpose, she received substantial state support amounting to approximately eighty thousand dollars from the Swedish Film Institute.

Dirty Diaries (2009) is a collection of twelve feminist porn films directed by invited film artists and produced by Engberg. Among them is Ingrid Ryberg's "Phone Fuck," which features two women who are ex-girlfriends masturbating while talking on the phone. The film crosscuts between each of the women masturbating and the fantasy they share in which they have sex together. The shots are charged with the sound of their breathing, sighing, kissing, and licking. When they both begin to masturbate, their talk turns dirtier; to sexy stuff, about what they miss, what they used to do, are doing, when they have sex together. The film illustrates how words, and images, can move and arouse, for the two women, and for us watching. The film was shot with a cell phone camera and the quality of the shots at times works as a retro filter over the pictures; it’s esthetically successful, beautiful and intense. They come. They land. A nostalgic rhythm with strength and warmth accompany the credits.

video

Some truly esthetic porn has been coming out from Paris recently, where Sohpie Bramly of SoFilles Productions is producing chic explicit films aimed at women. Their first X-femmes short film, "Vous désirez?” (“You wanted something?” 2008), features a woman masturbating. As SoFilles Productions points out in a press release, it is very fitting that they should introduce their line of films with one that probes female masturbation, meditating on “what provokes desire and pleasure,” a question to which all their films are devoted.

Directed by Caroline Loeb, "Vous désirez?” stands out for its exquisitely charged energy of excited desire and pleasure. The film focuses on a beautiful dark haired woman lying in a bed among brocade blankets in warm red earth tones; dressed in thin transparent silk panties, a silk scarf over her shoulders, long pearl necklaces draped around her. Beautiful close-ups capture the woman fingering herself in a sexy sensual way, just small circles around clitoris alternating with a finger deep inside her. The camera moves through extreme close-ups, the picture at times almost indistinct; panties, scarf, pearls, fingers. The shots fade in and out through a sensual use of dissolution.


The above featured women are joined by a growing number of others making progressive new porn that feature female (and male) masturbation, encouraging women and men to own and enjoy their bodies and sexuality. I find this an encouraging trend.

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