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An interview with feminist porn veteran Tristan Taormino

With  over 15 years and countless movies and books under her belt, Tristan Taormino is a veteran of the feminist porn industry. Her latest project is “The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure” which she co-edited with a number of other heavy-hitters from the world of feminist porn. And although she’s happily been involved with the Feminist Porn Awards for years, this year she was at the helm of the first ever Feminist Porn Conference, an event organized to bring together performers, producers, academics, and activists to explore several facets of the industry. We caught up with her to talk all about feminist porn.

Shedoesthecity: How has feminist porn evolved since you first entered the industry?

Tristan Taormino: I made my first movie in 2000, and I would say the biggest change is just that there’s so much more feminist porn. There are more feminists producing, directing, performing in, and otherwise working in the adult industry.

SDTC: It seems like porn has become more violent in recent years. There’s more gagging, more choking, etc. What do you think has caused this shift?

TT: I don’t really know, it’s so hard to speculate. When gonzo porn first came out it was kind of a documentary style, but then it increasingly became known for its rougher, harder edged sex—and a lot of porn started going in that direction.  A lot of mainstream porn copies itself; people look around to see what others are doing and if people are successful, then they do it themselves. So for whatever reason, that became the trend. But with respect to all the different kinds of porn out there, I don’t know if we can make generalizations about any of it because it’s really all so different.

SDTC: A lot of women still think that porn isn’t for them because they’ve only seen mainstream porn as it’s presented for a male audience. How can feminist porn gain a bigger voice?

TT: I think it’s just a matter of education. One of the things that the Feminist Porn Awards has done is bring awareness to the concept of feminist porn and gained visibility for filmmakers who identify themselves as feminist pornographers. So it’s really a matter of educating the public and educating our viewers and our fans and our consumers. I hear from women all the time who say, “Oh porn, ew!” And I say, “Have you ever seen feminist porn?” Their eyes light up and their ears prick up and they say, “What’s that?” So I still think that there isn’t a mass awareness that there are feminists working in the porn industry, making a different kind of porn that might appeal to people who are turned off by certain kinds of mainstream porn.

SDTC: In terms of porn, what turns you on? What do you like to see in a movie?

TT: I like when there’s a real palpable connection and chemistry between the performers. It’s the moment when they make eye contact or there’s an energy between them and you can feel it, it jumps off the screen at you. That’s one of the things I really love about porn that turns me on; I wanna see a real connection between the performers. I also like little moments when everything isn’t beautiful and perfectly lit and choreographed. I like those moments when someone drops the lube bottle and someone else picks it up and they laugh or when they pour out too much lube or something funny happens. I think those moments of authentic, real sex really appeal to me as a viewer.

SDTC: What’s something that you think people would be surprised to learn about you?

TT:  This is a tricky question for me in particular because I have written extensively about my own life, both personal and professional, so there isn’t a whole lot that people don’t already know. But some people may not know that I’m the daughter of a gay man.

SDTC: And finally, just for fun, what’s your favourite cocktail?

TT: [Laughs] Well, I don’t really drink. My favourite cocktail is really a fresh squeezed lemonade with a little club soda, like a lemonade spritzer.

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