Kara Chamberlain and I founded CrossLine Theatre (CLT) in our home town of Edmonton, Canada in 2013. As a company, we explore feminism and the female experience of sex, sexual education, relationships, and day-to-day life. Our first production, Impurities, which premiered at the Edmonton Fringe Festival in 2013, explored ideas about virginity and female sexuality. In 2014 we both moved to the UK to study, Kara received her MA in Acting from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and I began my MFA in Playwriting at Central. Now that we are both settled in London, we’ve decided to go back to where we left off with CLT.
For our second production we knew we wanted to continue exploring feminism and sexuality, and in every brainstorming session porn kept coming up. As we began discussing porn we quickly realized that, although we are both sex-positive feminists, we each look at porn in different ways. We each like and dislike different things, different genres, and different mediums of ‘sexual inspiration’. The more we talked about porn, the more we wondered how porn affects the way we all think about sex. And is there a difference in someone’s perspective in sex if they have had access to porn since they were a pre-teen? We are indeed part of the very generation that has grown up with having porn just a button click away. We decided to talk to some people about it to gather their thoughts about porn and its impact on sex, and before we knew it the process of creating Cream Pie begun.
As part of our research, Kara and I decided to watch three different documentaries about porn: Hot Girls Wanted, After Porn Ends, and Mutantes: Punk Porn Feminism. And, of course, we also looked at some porn ourselves.
Here’s a disclaimer: I don’t watch porn. Of course I’ve seen it but I am not a fan of using it during my…solo time. The main reason for this is because I haven’t found anything that really does it for me. Then again, I also haven’t looked at much porn either, until I started working on Cream Pie.
Disappointingly and somewhat unsurprisingly, when Kara and I first researched some porn I literally felt sick to my stomach. We watched a “Casting Couch” video, in which a young girl auditions for an agent in hopes of becoming an actress. The genre was Amateur, which means it’s taken from “real life” (however, as we learned from Hot Girl’s Wanted, Amateur can be a deceiving term as its films can sometimes be scripted and feature paid actors). I found the video distressing because the man was clearly taking advantage of the girl, she never gave clear consent, and she looked uncomfortable during every sexual act. If the video was ‘real’, then I just watched sexual assault.
Even more worrying is the fact that this wasn’t an underground, niche fetish video that a handful of people find exciting, this was one of the most viewed videos on the website: this is mainstream porn. As we delved further in to the ‘dark playground’ we found more and more of the same films; if this is what most of the porn-watching audience jerks off to, then I’m worried. No wonder rape culture is still very much alive in our society.
However, In spite of the depressing, horrifying, violent videos that I have watched as part of my research, I also have a lot of hope for the future of porn. In many of the verbatim pieces we have collected people discuss not only negative experiences but also positive experiences with porn. There is clearly a market for porn, especially for porn where people’s desires and fantasies are being explored in a way that is safe and consensual and hopefully fun.
The documentary Mutantes: Punk Porn Feminism looks at pro-sex feminists who’ve gone into prostitution to find sexual empowerment and the people behind the Post Porn movement which actively rejects mainstream, heterosexual, cisgender porn. These are individuals who weren’t happy with the porn they were watching, so they created their own porn, where everyone involved is safe, comfortable, and sexually empowered.
However, not all porn can reject mainstream ideals because many porn consumers look for mainstream, heterosexual, cisgender porn because that is what turns them on. Perhaps a way to make better mainstream porn is to put people of all races, sexualities, and gender identities in charge of creating and producing. Kara and I have always believed that censoring porn is not the answer. We want people to question the porn they watch and ask themselves what they really like and don’t like, and we want the porn we watch to reflect positive sexual values like consent, mutual enjoyment, and orgasm equality.
Lastly, we don’t want people to shame the porn industry or to feel ashamed of themselves for consuming it. Let’s start talking about porn and about what we want to get out of it. Perhaps if we can change the way we consume porn, we can have some impact on the industry.
Catch CrossLine Theatre’s Cream Pie on Tue 22 Sep, as part of Calm Down, Dear festival of feminism. FIND OUT MORE.