The idea of pornographers with ethics and strong political convictions seems ridiculous to many people. After all, isn’t porn just about overly-tanned hedonism, driven by the desire to make a mint while surrounded by swarms of hot chicks who wouldn’t otherwise give you (assuming the portly, fiftyish male “you”) the time of day? Not so fast, assumption-maker.”I think a lot of folks are surprised that what I produce even exists,” says FurryGirl, “especially lefty/liberal sorts of people who have a condescending attitude towards the sex industry and people who work within it.”
Furry Girl, so named for her commitment to her body hair, has been in the adult industry for five years. She quickly became a photographer and webmistress after she started modeling – and did the math. She cut out the content creator and manager middlemen and took control of production and marketing herself, and has reaped the benefits ever since. In addition to her eponymous site, Furry Girl runs a porn site featuring vegan and vegetarian models, VegPorn; a menstruation porn site, EroticRed; and the Sensual Vegan, an all-vegan sexuality products online shop. Beyond the fact that Furry Girl benefits better financially from cutting out the middleman-her sites are her sole source of income-she can market herself without the trappings of porno protocol. What emerges from her sites is the sense of Furry Girl as friendly, personable, and delightfully naughty, without a hint of the dirty shame that seems to permeate a lot of other sites.
Amateur and independent porn began getting buzz with the advent of the home video camera and the newly glorious ability it bestowed on the average electronics geek to film his or her pasty white ass bobbing up and down in a poorly lit guest bedroom in New Jersey (not to stereotype or anything). But it really took off in the early 2000s as the Internet began to emerge as the go-to place for sex businesses, especially homemade ones. More specifically, young, technologically inclined idealists began to turn to the Internet to create their visions of sex-positive culture online.
When the oft-cited Suicide Girls was launched in 2001, it positioned itself as a site of female-empowerment via Internet nudity. In subsequent years, this turned out to be a bit more complicated and maybe not really the way things were running behind the scenes. Still, there are independent pornographers whose hope for the empowering mojo of independent porn springs eternal. The Sharing is Sexy (SiS) collective is one such group – their freshly hatched and totally free website launched just last week. Unlike Furry Girl, the SiS folks have no intention of making a living from their work on the site. In fact, as collective member lotu5 puts it, “SiS came out of anti-capitalist activism. …all our content is free, we try to spend as little as possible, dumpster what we can, leech resources from universities and jobs and make everything free.” At the same time, lotu5 says that, “One of our primary goals is to not discredit sex workers and ‘for pay’ porn sites.”
Although I do raise my fist in solidarity with queer, feminist, indie pornographers like the SiS collective, it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea of detaching images of people getting sexy from the money-making industry around it. Part of this, no doubt, is the fact that I’ve made my living in and around the adult industry for the past six years. My impulse is not “it’s a dirty business but someone’s got to do it,” but rather that if you’re going to put yourself out there in a very intense, life-altering way, you should be financially rewarded for it as handsomely as possible.
This isn’t to say that porn performers and producers should be doing laps in platinum-lined swimming pools, hungry people of the world be damned. In fact, there are a number of porn businesses that funnel some of their porn money into other sex-positive causes. Furry Girl donates 5% of earnings from her adventures in porn to the independently financed Scarleteen, a sexuality resource for teenagers. Madison Young, an adult performer and owner of the San Francisco art gallery Femina Potens, has also used her porn money to fund her work with the gallery, which shows art by women and transgendered artists. Madison also has a website, Anal4Art, in the works. “Anal4Art will feature hot queer and straight artists getting it up the ass in hot settings like rock venues, artist studios, art class, etc.,” says Young. The earnings from the site will benefit Femina Potens.
But what kind of cultural currency does a free porn site hold? For the visitors the answer is painfully obvious: unmitigated access to free porn (duh). But for producers and performers, things are a little more complex. The collective members of Sharing is Sexy clearly see their disregard for the finances of the porn biz as an act of resistance. “I came to SiS with the remembrance that the realization of my desires has healed my cunt from shame and abuse,” asserts collective member j, “and from this sexual liberation I am ready to share my desires.” For the collective, SiS is about sharing, and constructive exchanges around sexuality. This doesn’t make the site a higher form of porn than that produced by Furry Girl, Madison Young, or the hordes of producers churning out a new DVD every week. Instead, it’s a different form of sexual communicating. If the power of porn is handled well by people who over think (ahem), then maybe the way sites handle their money isn’t the biggest issue of them all, as long as everyone’s free to do as they please with their resources (whether those resources are flesh or cash).
Check out her directorial debut, The Bi Apple!