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Porn, criticism and dialogue

Posted at 01:00 on 14 Jan 2011 by Pandora / Blake

As some of you will have seen, this week has seen Kink.com come under scrutiny for the press release starting to be known as "Hymen-gate", in which the ceremonial deflowering of young model Nicki Blue was marketed using sexist and damaging language. It's been an enlightening conversation for all sorts of reasons. Here's the lowdown:

The offending press release, as reposted across the adult web.

Kink.com model Maggie Mayhem wrote a comprehensive and balanced critique of the press release, complete with educational material on vaginal anatomy and why these details are socially and ethically important. She has just published an inspiring follow-up post in which she credits Kink for responding quickly and positively to the criticism and talks about the ways in which small things can change the world.

The post on the Kink forums in which Nicki Blue announced her desire to experience her first vaginal penetration on video. It's interesting that Nicki seems to have initiated the problematic language about "taking her virginity" and "breaking her hymen" - either her forum post is deeply 'in character' of her virgin fantasy, or she could perhaps benefit from a little sex education herself.

Adele Haze explains why, although this isn't okay, it isn't surprising given Kink's track record with affiliate promos that are demeaning to women (which is weird, given this trend really isn't reflected in the scenes themselves).

Maybe Maimed roundly condemns Kink for their mode of porn-selling, if not their mode of porn-making; his post contains a number of links to other discussions of this issue, if you're interested.

This discussion has been fascinating for its revelations into Kink's workings. Like Maggie, they were one of the first BDSM websites I came across, and I always felt comfortable with the extremity of their scenarios because of their overt focus on consent, the enjoyment and limits of the models, and transparency. In the presentation of scenes on the site the promo text is usually "out of character" and praises the models' professionalism, courage, endurance, beauty and horniness. Even in the free previews you get a happy smiling post-scene shot, and the videos are supplemented by forum discussions and a lot of behind the scenes content. It's great to be reassured that this impression is upheld by outspoken feminist performers who have worked for them.

At the same time, the models who support them don't do so unconditionally. Being able to honestly and publicly critique a studio you hope to work for again is hell of a brave thing to do, and I'm full of respect not only for models like Maggie who are prepared to do so firmly and politely, but also for a studio that can listen, take the criticism on board and not take offence. That's got to be healthy, and it's the sort of dialogue I'd like to see between more models and producers in an open and respectful way.

This is why the internet has revolutionalised porn; because it facilitates exactly this sort of conversation. This is why blogging, online commentary and interaction between viewers, performers and producers will be instrumental to transforming the porn industry into the safe, respectful, thoughtful and sex-positive place we want it to be.

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Tags: Adele Haze, Fairtrade porn, Gender politics, Kinkcom, Maggie Mayhem, making a scene, Politics

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