The Rise of the Female Voice in Porn: Female Directors Are Re-Shaping The Industry

09/26/2016 12:52 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016
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Success for women in the porn industry is no longer just being defined from their work on camera. There is a growing number of women working behind the camera directing the action, which can be seen by three ― Jacky St. James, Mason and Stormy Daniels ― out of the 15 nominees for best director at the recent Adult Video Awards were women.

These women along with other budding female directors are attempting to blend feminism and eroticism seamlessly to both entertain and promote a sex-positive message. Working in a male driven industry, they are approaching erotica solely from a female’s point of view and starting to make an impact. But being a part of the industry and trying to affect change in a positive light hasn’t always been easy for women in porn.

The path to creating a positive female voice in porn was paved by one pioneer, Candida Royalle. Royalle appeared in more than two dozen films in the 1970s and was the first female director in porn starting in the mid 1980s. She founded Femme Productions, the first studio owned and run by a woman, which produced erotic films from a female perspective that spoke from a woman’s voice, promoted a positive sexual role model for women all while being entertaining. Through her films, she was able to express how erotica was a medium where women were able to show and more importantly hone their sexuality.

Kelly Holland, chief executive, Penthouse Global Media
Penthouse Magazine
Kelly Holland, chief executive, Penthouse Global Media

Thanks to Royalle, women in the industry are being given the creativity and ownership to direct according to “their own vision, which has in turn diversified the aesthetics of porn and introduced radically different on-screen dynamics,” says Angie Rowntree, director and founder of www.Sssh.com. Kelly Holland, chief executive, Penthouse Global Media, credits Royalle for being a strong and transformative voice in the realm of female empowerment in erotica, all while breaking down many walls which before her time seemed insurmountable. Her work is

Royalle’s vision has been made a reality as women are afforded opportunities behind the camera and now are able to re-write the script about women’s involvement in porn both on and off camera.

St. James, who is a screenwriter, director, and publicist for New Sensations, believes that there has been a trend of more female directors making their way into the adult industry because “society is acknowledging the fact that women are every bit as sexual as men and that there is a very large female audience out there that does watch pornography.” Paired with this is the fact that there is a growing market for material that “captures sex from a different arguably more compelling angle than what ‘mainstream porn’ offers,” says Alec Helmy, president & publisher of XBIZ™.

And then there is the female touch. Female directors are able to bring a “level of emotional focus to the sex that is sometimes not as predominant in male-driven productions,” says Bree Mills, Head of production for Girlsway.com and Gamma Films. Instead of focusing on the stigmas of mainstream porn - naughty nurses, horny schoolgirls, desperate housewives, etc. - with the spotlight on male pleasure and female exploitation, subjugation and degradation of women, female directors are providing content that “feels less ‘exploitative,’ and much more positive and empowering,” says Rowntree.

This has led to the rise of what is now known as ‘feminist porn’ and even to a yearly awards show, the Feminist Porn Awards, which celebrate people who are making porn in a feminist way. This type of content “better reflects the desires and ideas women have about sex,” says Erika Lust, an award-winning writer and erotic film director, and shows that women’s pleasure matters, not just men’s.

Furthermore, the re-shaping of the industry has positively impacted the negative and demeaning social stereotypes that persists around on-screen adult performers. Royalle, changed the trajectory and spurred growth in the industry while fighting “shaming and stereotypes that are still unfortunately with us today, though of a lesser degree,” says Jessica Drake, a Wicked Pictures contract performer and director. The perception that women go into porn as a last resort or that a woman doing porn is a whore - while a male in the industry is applauded - is simply untrue according to a number of on-screen porn stars. One such star, Tasha Reign, penthouse pet, adult film star and director, sees porn as an opportunity for her and other performers to better their own quality of life, while also allowing them to explore their sexuality and freedom/independence.

Since Royalle, women have made great strides in the adult industry. Instead of being shamed as sluts for their porn performances, women in porn are being able to show their own voice through the films in which they participate. They are given the freedom and creative expression to create porn that portrays women in a positive light, while being allowed to grow in the industry behind the scenes.

Although women both on and off screen are increasing the visibility of the negative stereotypes of mainstream porn, will they be successful in blending porn into mainstream culture? Will this growing wave of feminist porn lead to women being praised in the same way men are for having sex on screen?

Please share your comments and thoughts below.

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