Thursday September 3rd sees the premiere of Mia Engberg's ‘Dirty diaries’, a feminist porn movie funded by the Swedish Film Institute. Engberg received 500,000 kronor ($69,000) from the Institute to make the movie.
Engberg has also tried to make feminist porn before, which has resulted in a lesbian porn film and a film of women's' facial expressions at the point of orgasm. Her vision is to get make the porn industry more appealing to women, all in the name of feminism. She also claims that women's sexuality is more multi-faceted than men's.
But to argue that girls having sex with girls and women masturbating is somehow a good alternative to mainstream porn feels like a completely alien concept to me, and to many other women. Furthermore, most people would agree that the state should not fund pornography. And when it does, should it really only benefit women, all in the name of equality? If a man had sought and received similar funding for ‘regular’ porn, it wouldn’t have taken long before there was an outcry from supporters of equality between the sexes.
Although the market catering for women's sexuality is increasing, it is still limited. There can be no doubt that the porn industry is dominated by men. It is therefore not the idea of developing the industry in favour of women that is upsetting – this is something that many women would welcome - it is the fact that it is happening with our tax money under the cloak of feminism. By labeling lesbian sex as feminist, it also contributes to the prejudiced notion that the equality debate is all about excluding men and privileging women.
In my opinion, one of the main reasons the porn industry is male-dominated and not particularly attractive to women is that ‘regular’ porn movies often feature a great deal of sex between women. Being heterosexual, it is not very exciting to watch. Oddly, it seems to have the opposite effect on men. Lesbian porn is far from the solution to creating a porn market that appeals to more women. While it might very well broaden the market for people with different sexual orientations, it should not trade under the banner of feminism.
Engberg's aim -- to make mainstream porn less mainstream, and complex rather than flat -- is definitely not something that the state should be paying for, regardless of whether it is lesbian or feminist porn. If the state was to sponsor alternative genres in every field just to create more options, the costs would soon be astronomical. Just because some of us don’t enjoy mainstream music like Britney Spears, which we maybe find flat and lacking in nuance, it doesn’t mean we should expect the state to fund underground metal music. In the same way, the fact that Mia Engberg doesn't like mainstream porn does not mean the state should sponsor feminist or lesbian porn.
It’s not so long since Sweden’s Feminist Initiative received 400,000 kronor from the state to fund its educational programme. Soon afterwards, Engberg was given 500,000 for feminist porn. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that feminism has earned a special status and has somehow been deemed deserving of people's tax money in order to fund everything from seminars to pornography.
It’s saddening to see that respect for taxpayers’ money is almost non-existent. While everyone is of course in favour of equality, there is no consensus that it can be achieved through feminism, or feminist pornography for that matter. The fact that there is a woman wanting to make alternative porn for women, maybe even only involving women, does not make it any more deserving from a gender equity standpoint. Men do not get the same kind of sponsorship, and ‘male’ pornography is denied the status of art seemingly merited by ‘female’ porn. Surely the question of whether you prefer the naked body of a man or a woman is very much a subjective matter.
Women will eventually have their needs represented on the market as demand increases. If we women want more alternatives, as increasingly seems to be the case, we will make our own demands on the market and output will increase. If we don't want to watch girls having sex with other girls, we should not pay for it, either voluntarily or through taxes. The state does not need to redistribute our money to places where it believes it is wanted.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective. For the state to decide that feminist porn is art but ‘regular’ porn is reprehensible is little more than paternalistic moralising and sends out all the wrong signals in the equality debate. Equality is an important issue, but it should never function as a cloak for state funding of ideologies that are somehow deemed correct in the eyes of the authorities.
In a democracy people should be able to decide for themselves the ideas and values they would like to sponsor, and what is and what is not art. People’s morals are a private matter and it should be up to each individual whether they want to pay for feminist porn - or something else entirely.