The AVN award winning adult actress, Stoya, also known as Jessica Stoyadinovich, recently spoke on pornography being “pretty feminist” to HuffPost Live. According to Ryan Buxton, the author of this Redist, Stoya believes that in comparison to the Hollywood arena of entertainment, pornography can be far more feminist. He quoted her as saying,
It’s actually less of a rarity to see the lead female character be the most interesting thing in a production in porn than it is to see in Hollywood and independent [film] and television. That’s one of the things where typical porn actually is pretty feminist. The women are the stars. So if you’re going to focus a movie around your star and they’re female, it sort of inherently does tend to drag along a little more complexity.
Source: Stoya c/o HuffPost Live
Focus: Pretty Feminist?
Stoya makes a firm argument of pornography being “pretty feminist.” In pornography and other adult entertainment, the subject is sex, and producing quality content means making it visually appealing to your demographic. In many cases, notably heterosexual and lesbian entertainment, the focus is always on the female performer. Unlike her male counterpart, who can be little more than a stunt cock, the female performer is key to success. Her behaviors, mannerisms, appearance, and her words all contribute to the scene and its quality.
Sex-positive feminists, those who believe that sex positivity is empowering to women, would argue with Stoya. Sex positivity assesses that consensual and safe sex is a positive act. Female pornographic and adult entertainment performers, who engage in consensual and safe sex, would thus find it empowering to be the focus. Does that mean pornography is “pretty feminist?” Could there be another reason for this focus?
Male Gaze Theory
This theory is defined as a specific ‘lens’ through which we view visual pop culture. More specifically, it’s the idea that films and advertisements were created to please a heterosexual male audience.
According to strict male gaze theory, a female’s performance boils down to pleasing the male audience. This creates a power imbalance, where female performers need to submit to male expectations to succeed. Traditionally, this wouldn’t support the “pretty feminist” argument. It makes sense, though. Heterosexual men would rather focus on the female, rather than the male.
What Does This Mean?
In order to consistently produce quality content, the focus must be on pleasing the primary demographic. If that’s heterosexual men, then male gaze will certainly appear. Stoya is correct that women have a tougher time in Hollywood. She is also correct that women are more often the focus in adult entertainment. Does that mean that pornography is inherently anti-feminist? No. Is it “pretty feminist”? Compared to Hollywood, yes. It can be better, though.
Producing quality content while also empowering women is not only feasible, but key to its continued success. Despite the fact that women need to meet male expectations, they are still expressing themselves and are empowered. It’s important, however, to understand why females are the focus, and how the industry can change proactively. This could mean further empowering women in the industry while continuing to meet the demands of target demographics.
Only The First Step To “Pretty Feminist”
Pornography is growing stronger and getting bigger. As adult content evolves, becomes more appreciable, and is produced in higher quality (our affiliates at FinishesTheJob are using 4K cameras to film HD video,) there will be more room for the industry to change. Hopefully for the better. Considering women’s rights and feminism should be part of that. Stoya’s “pretty feminist” should be a goal. Less shame and stigma. Fair pay. Safer environments. Caring for female performers. All of these are important considerations. However, it’s ultimately up to the viewer to decide which production companies they want to support, and whether those companies are pushing for female empowerment.