You Need Help: The Quest For Awesome Queer Feminist Porn

I was recently asked “I’d like to see if porn does anything for me, would you have any (ethical, lesbian) recommendations for the first try of a young adult with an eye for the femmier?” and I thought this would be a great question to answer at length, and with help!

Huzzah for you for taking the plunge into the the wide world of ethical porn. And it is a wide world, believe it or not. Yes, there will always be the people who feel that all porn is wrong, unfeminist or unethical. Or, of course, a very inaccurate portrayal of lesbians and other queer-identified folks. A large portion of porn is all those things and even more horrible descriptors that I haven’t thought of yet, but the porn you’re looking for — ethical and with real queer folks — is out there! I have my personal favorites: just keep an eye on the Feminist Porn Awards, for instance. Good For Her, a Toronto sex toy shop, began running the FPAs in 2006 when they decided that “it’s not enough to criticize adult films for not adequately representing the diversity of women’s, trans folk’s- and in many cases, men’s – sexuality. So we decided to do something about it.” To be considered for an FPA, a series, scene or film must meet the following criteria:

1) Women and/or traditionally marginalized people were involved in the direction, production and/or conception of the work.

2) The work depicts genuine pleasure, agency and desire for all performers, especially women and traditionally marginalized people.

3) The work expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film, challenges stereotypes and presents a vision that sets the content apart from most mainstream pornography. This may include depicting a diversity of desires, types of people, bodies, sexual practices, and/or an anti-racist or anti-oppression framework throughout the production.

And of course it must be hot!

Here’s the list of Feminist Porn Nominees from 2012, and the 2013 FPAs take place in April. A ton of my favorites have been nominated for Feminist Porn Awards: Crash Pad, Jiz Lee, Meet the Mayhems, and Queer Porn TV. As for scenes for someone “with an eye to the femmier,” you might try this one with Madison Young, this one with Sydney Morgan and Summer Vega or this one with Kimberly Kills and Sparky Sin Claire. And that’s just the Crash Pad ones I can think of off the top of my head – there are so, so many more. In fact, there’s so much more on the subject that I needed to call in the experts (or should I say, x-perts).

I’ve reached out to some people making ethical, feminist porn: Hayley Fingersmith (a performer for Courtney Trouble’s Queer Porn TV), Pink and White Productions (the production company behind Crash Pad), Maggie Mayhem (a queer porn performer and guerrilla porn producer), J-Bird (a queer porn performer extraordinaire), Courtney Trouble (a self-proclaimed fat feminist queer pornographer whose works have been recognized by the mainstream AVN Awards as well as the indy, woman-run Feminist Porn Award) and Jiz Lee (a porn superhero who produces Karma Pervs, a super ethical way to get off, and who wants you to follow them on twitter) with three questions. And may I urge you, as Hayley Fingersmith says, to “Let go of preconceptions about what kind of porn is going to turn you on.”

Let’s go on an ethical porn adventure together!

Jiz Lee, Sine Louise, Courtney Trouble and Tina Horn at the AVN 2012.  photo: Jeff Koga. via Jiz Lee's website

Jiz Lee, Shine Louise, Courtney Trouble and Tina Horn at the AVN 2012. photo: Jeff Koga. via Jiz Lee’s website

What kinds of criteria do you consider when deciding if porn is ethical? Feminist? What are some examples of production companies or individuals who you think produce ethical, feminist porn?

Hayley Fingersmith:

I think porn is ethical when everybody involved in making it knows what they’re getting into, grasps the risks involved, isn’t pressured into doing anything they’re uncomfortable with, and is compensated fairly.

I try to avoid talking about feminism on the Internet because it means so many different things to different people. I don’t think there’s a hard line. Companies like Pink and White (who do Crashpad) and Queerporn.tv position their porn as “feminist” because they feature performers with a variety of genders and body types, try to engage viewers who aren’t straight men, and try to center the pleasure of people who you don’t see much of in mainstream porn, and generally present queer sex authentically. That’s all amazing, and I think they’re filling a real need, but I wouldn’t avoid mainstream porn producers if their scenes turn you on.

Courtney Trouble:

Courtney Trouble. Via Crash Pad

Courtney Trouble. Via Crash Pad

A feminist may perform in porn that doesn’t “look” feminist – but feminists these days (at least the ones I know) are pretty pro- or neutral regarding sex work – and that’s what porn essentially is. So if the performer’s feminist, then anything they do would probably be pretty fun or interesting to watch – to see how their feminism shines through in the performances. I would seek out performers like Jiz Lee, Dylan Ryan, April Flores, Bianca Stone, Papi Coxxx, Ela Darling, Lorelei Lee, or myself!

Feminist creators of porn will often use themes of gender equality, the female gaze, female empowerment, queer theory, female masculinity, body diversity, and any number of feminist issues in their work directly, be it through casting, script, content, or even direct political messages within the work itself. I consider any work that has a direct or implied message of feminism, gender equality, or female empowerment that ALSO has a absence of body shaming, stereotyping of female typecasts, or sex-negative or desire-shaming elements to fall under the guise of “feminist porn,” though not all of that work would include the themes that I find most important, such as size and racial diversity and the authentic, empowering inclusion of trans women in porn.

J-Bird:

My taste in porn leans always to queer porn and I’ve had the privilege/honor to perform in many local companies here in the Bay. The experiences I have had given me a new perspective on how ethical porn can be. It requires communication, consent, and respect. I love working with production companies where the performer has a lot of freedom to create their own scene, come as they are (ie: body hair, clothing (or not)) and there is a supporting environment around. That feels ethical and feminist to me. Some examples of production companies I have first hand experienced as ethical, feminist porn is Crash Pad Series (Shine Louise Houston) and Indie Porn Revolution/Queerporn.tv (Courtney Trouble). Two of my favorite production companies because they gave me the resources, comfort, and confidence to create the scenes I wanted to make.

Pink and White Productions:

For a company to be ethical, some criteria include company policies and the treatment of performers and crew. At Pink & White Productions, we are transparent about our policies and communicate with performers and crew to ensure informed decisions and consent. Part of this includes a substance-free work environment, performers’ contracts, providing resources for testing and safer sex supplies, communicating with crew and cast about scene ideas and limits, and presenting trigger warnings on scenes where consensual non-consent is chosen by performers. We hope our business practices create a safe environment where people can feel comfortable to have authentic pleasure, and fun!

Maggie Mayhem:

The ethics of porn are hard to find because it’s an industry with many veils. Following performers on social media will give you a lot of information. Looking at their product as a whole rather than scene-by-scene is also key. A scene in and of itself won’t give you the whole picture because many people choose the studios that are the most respectful to produce the fantasies they need as performers that also make them the most vulnerable. There is no set of hard and fast guidelines but stepping back and looking at the website as a whole can offer help with interpretation.

Maggie Mayhem via MissMaggieMayhem.com

Maggie Mayhem via MissMaggieMayhem.com

When I make porn, I’m doing it literally on no budget. We shoot queer porn with no budgets, no permits, and on the good graces of trade agreements and friends inviting us into their homes to fuck. I don’t have the cash to pay people and I’m unwilling to exploit people. I’m limited to shooting with individuals for whom a content trade would be fair. In a content trade, I come together with other people and we share the time, talent, and energy of a shoot and create a contract in which we all equally own the content. This allows us to edit and distribute it differently. You might notice some similar content on queer/indie porn and half the fun is seeing how that shoot changes with different editing and different contexts. As an example, you might notice that there are shoots on MeetTheMayhems.Com, the website I run with my husband, that you can also spot on FTMFucker.Com by James Darling or WolfHudsonIsBad.Com by Wolf Hudson. I love being able to work with people who benefit from collaboration because owning a shoot and having your own independent distribution rights means that this content can keep working for you for the rest of your life rather than just being $200-300 in cash which is the average rate that a queer budget can afford to pay a performer for what we make back in return.

I think looking at self-produced projects are also key. Support the baby projects that are basicly the fruits of pinko-commie-collaborative love.

Jiz Lee:

Some examples of ethical functions that many companies and performers adhere to include STI testing, contracts/written consent, verbal consent and communication, and transparency between the production and it’s audience. For example, a company may have interviews with performers that demonstrate the model’s interests and expectations, and reactions, within being involved in the work. I am a production assistant on the set of CrashPadSeries.com, a site that aims for authenticity, even within scenes that demonstrate role play and consentual non-consent. Even within this transparency of authenticity with the audience, director Shine Louise Houston will talk with models off camera about their boundaries, ideas for the shoot, concerns and desires, all before repeating the conversation on camera — this takes pressure off the models to allow them to be more able to assert boundaries. Naturally, performers still have pressures on the work place, as there’s the interest in doing a good job and setting a good impression, getting hired again, and getting paid.

Models talk to one another, so if a performer has a bad experience, they may tell others in the industry and even critizise publically via blogs. With today’s social media profundancey, often the easiest way to find what a performers’ best scene might be is to simply ask them, or read their blog or twitter account to see what they’re the most excited about.

One of my concerns with the phrasing of “queer porn” or “feminist porn” is that on the onehand, studios who self-identify begin to hold ownership of the phrase and soon set the definition of what that kind of porn looks like, which can create exclusion and stagnancy. On the other hand, by defining something as “feminist” it means that everything else is inherent in the definition, NOT feminist. And that binary logistic is problematic for porn companies as it’s too simplistic. Sex is complicated, and porn can be just as messy. I’ve seen very queer moments in what would be definited as straight, hardcore mainstream porn, just as I’ve witnessed vibrant feminist ideals on mainstream sets. It’s against the definition of queer, to say that something is NOT queer; it’s anti-feminist to prescribe what is and what isn’t feminist of something based on one’s own preferences.

These labels are incredibly helpful for audiences searching for alternative works, but just keep in mind that at the end of the day, they’re just labels. Annie Sprinkle is quoted as having said, “The answer to bad porn is not no porn. It’s to make better porn!” and to this, I’d add that “better” may be in the eye of the beholder — I’d prefer that the answer is actually to make MORE porn, and to create more diversity that can better represent the complexity of humanity and the human sexual experience. There’s a danger when porn is limiting in gender and sexual acts — in an absence of other forms of explicit sex as eductation, a limited view starts to paint a portrait of what sex looks like, what people who have sex look like, etc… and a constrained example of sex negates MANY alternate and completely valid experiences of what sex is.


Do you have any recommendations for our reader?

Hayley Fingersmith:

Watch some of the queer porn staples: queerporn.tv, Crash Pad, and FTMFucker [author note: this isn’t a lesbian site, but is still definitely worth a look-see because it’s awesome]. Those sites can be a bit overwhelming—so. much. porn.—so it can be helpful to look at previews and bios and find some performers you really like (in style or attitude or just because they’re fucking gorgeous) and focus on their scenes.

Read more. For me, written erotica was a lot easier to tackle than video productions, and it helped me figure out what sort of stuff turned me on. There’s a lot of great erotica out there—the Best Lesbian Erotica collections are really good, and even mostly-terrible user sites like Literotica usually have a few gems.

Courtney Trouble:

My work (queerporn.tv, indiepornrevolution.com, courtneytrouble.com, etc) might be of interest to you as lesbian femme sex is my FAVORITE subject – my newest film Lesbian Curves (lesbiancurves.com) is all femme, all lesbian sex, and features babes of all sizes. My films Roulette Toronto, Bordello, or Seven Minutes in Heaven may also be titles to check out for femme-focused lesbian sex.

I’m not the only one making work you’ll probably love – check out crashpadseries.com, pinklabel.tv, the work of Nenna Joiner (Feelmore 510) [author note: try Tight Places], and Tobi Hill-Meyer. if you’re willing to try some straighter fare, films by Tristan Taormino, Belladonna, and Kimberly Kane are women-directed and don’t shy away from “ethically-made” rough sex, bdsm, romance, educational subjects, and fun things like role play, pegging, and even some guy-on-guy-on-girl stuff that I simply love, even as a mostly-femme-desiring porn watcher.

J-Bird:

Since you are new to watching porn, I recommend you watch with an open heart and make sure that the productions you are watching are

J-Bird via Crash Pad

J-Bird via Crash Pad

not bootlegged. Memberships can be pricey but companies, such as Crash Pad Series, have a way where you can help with transcribing behind the scenes interviews for membership access. There is also free access to things such as queerporntube.com where it is porn performers or amateurs submitting videos/clips that are not bootlegged. There are lots of different scenes in all of these queer porn production companies that range from “vanilla” to a bit more “hardcore”. If you are not use to watching porn, at all, I would recommend scoping through the sites, character profiles and such to read about what kind of scenes you are about to watch.

Pink and White Productions:

Pink & White Productions has created PinkLabel.tv, a fair-trade hub featuring works by independent and emerging adult filmmakers. There are over 16 studios featuring heterosexual, queer, feminist, alt, and works featuring a diverse assortment of performers — people of various sizes, abilities, race, age, kinks, genders, and sexual expressions, to name a few! Through purchasing films video on demand, you directly support the work of these studios. Our tagline for PinkLabel.tv is “Porn with Good Taste,” and we hope it will offer producers sustainable business and viewers a sampling of many kinds of porn that come highly recommended. The studios featured are known for ethical productions.

Maggie Mayhem:

A lot of the same names are out there like Crash Pad, Indie Porn Revolution, Madison Young, FTMFucker, WolfHudsonIsBad, Kimberly Kane, Sophia St. James, Nenna Joiner of Feelmore Entertainment, Maya Mayhem (no relation, lol!), and many others are out there.

Crash Pad and specifically Shine Louise Huston blows my mind with what they’ve accomplished. They hire ethically, fairly, and in the most incredible environment imaginable. It’s one of my favorite places to work. I work there and it’s like having your faith rewarded that yes, there are studios where performer’s rights and experiences are paramount and Shine is super talented with film and makes a quality product that is revolutionary in its chronicling of the bedrooms of activism.

Jiz Lee:

If you’re looking for cisgender femme-presenting lesbian women, you’ll find quite a few in queer porn. For example, CrashPadSeries.com has a diverse range of models, but quite a few are cisgender women. And if you’re open to watching trans lesbians in girl/girl scenes in queer porn, CrashPadSeries.com (directed by Shine Louise Houston) is one of the few sources. Also, a great deal of performers of color,

Jiz Lee via Crash Pad

Jiz Lee via Crash Pad

size, ability, and also kinks too. Another queer porn site is IndiePornRevolution.com, and QueerPorn.tv. A bunch of queer porn scenes are available VOD on PinkLabel.tv which means you can watch for as low as $4.99 and know that you’re directly supporting the work of the filmmakers. There are a few female directors who make lesbian porn for male-owned lesbian companies that could be highlighted, such as Madison Young, Jincey Lumpkin, and Lily Cade. And all three have their own websites so you can watch their work directly through their sites. For women in the industry on a more mainstream tip, you can check out the work of Belladonna, Bobbi Starr, and Kimberly Kane. For Kink and Fetish female directors, work by Princess Donna and Julie Simone is also really popular. For a list to browse more, check out links on my website (I can also make some recommendations if you contact me), and via Louise Lush AKA Ms. Naughty. Additionally, there are movies on HotMovies4Her.com and the gals who run the site have some great reviews and are happy to help — I think they’ve pretty much seen it all.


If you had to pick a favorite (and I know it’s difficult), what’s the one porn scene or movie you think everyone should see?

Hayley Fingersmith:

There’s this early scene of Stoya’s where she’s fucking another girl with a strap on; you can find it all over the Internet, I’m sure. It’s grainy, obviously shot in someone’s apartment, and I don’t know what movie it’s from or even who the other performer is. But for whatever reason, I think it’s hot as hell. I don’t know if I’d say that everyone must see it, I don’t know if it’ll even turn you on, but for whatever reason, it speaks to me. It says: “These two incredibly hot girls spend their Saturday nights the same way you do—with strap ons and other incredibly hot girls. And side note, this girl is good with a strap-on.” That scene is why I’m in porn. So: recommended.

Courtney Trouble:

I’m not gonna lie – I think everyone should see QueerPorn.TV. This website features so many different kinds of sex-positive existence, you can get lost in the trailers and porn star interviews for hours – and all of that content is free. The scenes you pay for (either via membership or through the handy and thrifty clip store) are bountiful, beautiful, and all from a feminist, pro-sex, pro-queer, political, personal, and artistic point of view. It’s hardcore porn – but you can sense in every moment that this porn is made with love. QueerPorn.TV is a great start for a queer woman looking to see herself and her community represented in porn, while also being introduced to other identities, sexualities, and communities she might enjoy just as much, if not more, than finding herself reflected back to her in pornography.

J-Bird:

When I first started watch queer porn, it was right when I moved to the bay. I had no idea queer porn existed!!! The first queer porn scene I’ve ever seen, I’ll never forget watching, was Crash Pad Series, Season 7 Episode 52: Dallas, Jiz Lee, and Vai. Hottest threesome action I will probably ever see. I can’t tell you the details… all I can say is be prepared to change your underpants afterwards…

Pink and White Productions:

We could recommend our first film, The Crash Pad, or we could share one of our director Shine Louise Houston’s favorite films, The Hole, a gay porn parody of The Ring (Ringu). If you can find this film — it’s a bit obscure — watch it!

Maggie Mayhem:

Favorite porn scenes: right now, one of my must-see scenes is the Unicorn Gangbang at FTMFucker. This one is hardcore. It’s actually dirty, there is *fucking* happening and it’s a gangbang. When people see that they can forget that it’s hot when your lust is so big you NEED a team of people to get you off right. On top of that, I loved that James eroticized the queer-awkwardness that runs alongside queer lust. Queer pornstars are usually awkward nerds and dorks. We ARE the ones who had lonely birthdays and a sense of total social isolation for seeing the world and ourselves differently. We imprinted on the experience of being alone and part of what we’re doing in porn is reiterating as many times as we can WE (and YOU, the viewer) ARE NOT ALONE. We’re learning, sometimes unexpectedly and on the fly of a guerrilla porn set, that our bodies are worthy of lust and admiration.

Jiz Lee:

You’re evil. You know that? That’s like asking if you could only have the same orgasm and only one way to get off, for the rest of your life, what way would you choose. (Although I guess that wouldn’t adhere to assexual and/or pre-orgasmic folks, but you get my drift. This is a hard question!)

If the fate of the world depended on my answer, I’d cowar and choose my first film, The Crash Pad, and specifically my scene with my partner at the time, Shawn AKA Syd Blakovich. It was my first porn performance and also a very special time in my life and moment in our relationship, so it holds a lot of weight for me, and I think that shows through in our performances. I wanted to be exhibishionist with our love, and that’s one way to do porn.


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Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 536 articles for us.