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M/m and gender equality in spanking porn

Posted at 16:19 on 18 Jan 2010 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: Fairtrade porn, Female gaze, Gender politics, M-M, Politics, rant

I saw the link to Indy's thought-provoking article on twitter this morning, but didn't have a chance to read it until I took a break from work at lunchtime. In the meantime, however, my brain was already firing up with my own thoughts on this topic - many of which you are already familiar with. Indy writes,

Most of the guys I know in the scene are utterly uninterested in M/M scenes of any kind, and would at a very minimum walk away if they saw one. The less tolerant among those men would be threatened by it and perhaps refuse to attend events sponsored by the organization. F/F scenes, though, are welcome, as these same men are quite happy to watch two women doing almost anything.

This question has been at the front of my mind lately. My original ambition for my new site was to publish high-quality M/m and M/mf spanking porn on the same site as all other orientations, in an attempt to appeal to the female and queer male audience which is so often invisibled by the industry. I have received a lot of strongly-worded advice from people who run their own sites, telling me that this will amount to a death sentence for my project unless the M/m material is partitioned off into its own site. Although it is my aim to produce female-gaze porn, realistically, the majority of paying customers are likely to still be male, and many of them will be put off for good by any whiff of M/m on a site they are browsing.

The tricky balance between idealism and realism is, until I launch and start seeing sales stats, purely speculative. However, my friends seemed likely enough to be correct that I started mentally preparing to separate my boysub material off into a separate site. However strong my ideal of a gender-egalitarian spanking site may be, if necessity dictates it become a gender-egalitarian network of sites instead, that's a compromise I can probably live with.

I am, however, acutely aware of the inequality and homophobia in this industry. I am currently trying to find a youngish, good looking male dominant actor who is willing to work with male subs, to help me realise some of my long-cherished M/m public school prefect fantasies. My first choice, of course, would be Tom - but topping, even on camera, is closely connected to his sexuality, and given he's straight, he's not comfortable working with another man, to my lasting regret.

Here's what I think:

  • Most spanking producers do not pay their male actors. I am a strong advocate of the idea that if you do not treat someone like a professional, you cannot expect professionalism from them (although you may get it anyway, if you have a good working relationship). Men are not paid for their work in spanking films because there is an expectation that they are motivated by personal gratification. Kinky men, statistically, have a far lower chance of finding a play partner than kinky women; men pay spanking professionals for sessions far more than women do. Appearing in a spanking film, it seems, is seen by many of an extension of the same trend. This attitude results in the perceived implication that a man spanking another man in porn must have personal reasons to do so - they must be sexually motivated.

    Or course, women often have personal/sexual motivations for appearing in porn, and everyone has different boundaries. But if most women only wanted to appear in films with people they fancied the industry would grind to a halt, and the women in question would be condemned for their unprofessionalism. There is a clear double standard here, and I think it's bollocks. Acting with someone doesn't mean you fancy them - that's why it's called acting.

    Also, I resent the implication that the men who have topped me on camera did so because it was the only way they'd get to spank me. That is really quite seriously creepy. I like to credit my toppy friends with a little more professionalism than that. I have this crazy idea that people make spanking porn because they are creatively motivated - they want to make something awesome. Most people get something personal out of it as well, but if sexual gratification is your only reason for being involved, you're going wrong somewhere.


  • Straight women are expected, throughout every sector of the adult industry, to act out sexual encounters with other women without this being seen to imply anything about their personal preferences. Why not men?


  • Female/female sex is included in anthologies of "straight" porn. In mainstream porn as in the rest of society, female queer experience is appropriated by straight men. I know when I'm out with a female partner, if we ever dare kiss in public we are likely to attract lecherous men asking if they can join in, or rudely taking photos on their cameras. Ironically, the same men who fetishise male-gaze lesbianism are usually opposed to equal rights and gay marriage.

    The reverse is true in some media, such as fanfiction, where mostly female authors write male/male sex for their own enjoyment. (Although it's uncertain whether this counts as 'appropriation' in the same way; firstly, appropriation implies a position of privilege, which is less clearcut between straight women and gay men than between straight men and gay women. Secondly, about 50% of fanfic writers identify as queer.) Fanfiction is still marginalised; the female gaze is not yet mainstream in visual erotica. While most women enjoy watching M/m, most porn does not yet cater to women.


  • As long as men do most of the buying, the market has no choice but to cater to them. Women are still mostly content to get their online porn for free - a trend no doubt affected by the high proportion of women who prefer written erotica, which is very hard to charge for online. I've heard of a few lesbian or female gaze sites which carefully catered to the demands of their female audience, but struggled when that audience proved unwilling in practice to cough up and pay for the kind of porn they wanted. This leaves sites with a choice between going under, or catering to men. A lot of men are still violently put off by M/m, due to embedded homophobia and lack of understanding in our society - which the porn industry contributes to by expecting men to react homophobically. There is no reason why straight men shouldn't enjoy M/m in the same way that straight women enjoy F/f - identifying as one participant in a non-sexual punishment scenario, or enjoying the scenario in the abstract - but our culture teaches men to close their minds at an early age.


  • One area of crossover which could appeal to both women and men is gay porn. However, in the spanking scene, M/m when produced by and for men often takes on an extreme macho style, with minimal reactions from the spankee. This instantly makes the content less appealing to many women, who are more likely to seek out emotional expression, intimacy and vulnerability in erotica. This means that the M/m content which is out there is unappealing to women, and no-one is producing M/m for women because not enough women are willing to pay for it, and not enough men are willing to do it.


  • Our culture teaches both men and women that looking at female bodies is erotic. Women are taught to find female bodies visually stimulating and desirable regardless of their sexual orientation (consider, for example, the use of female bodies in adverts directed at women). The idea that no-one likes looking at male bodies is a deeply rooted cultural prejudice. It is also clearly bollocks because hello, male bodies can be gorgeous and most women enjoy looking at them in the flesh.

Many progressive individuals are working to change these factors, from talking to people about their ideas, to developing new ways of producing erotica. However, we are still in a minority even within our mostly-liberal little scene. Social inertia is very powerful; even if we are all working together to challenge received ideology and lazy or ignorant industry standards, it is likely to be a couple of generations before we can see true gender equality in visual erotica.

(Many thanks to CP Services London for the images. And a point to whoever recognises the cutie with the freckles in the third picture...)

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