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Inside Toronto International Porn Fest: Talking Sex With GoodForHer’s Carlyle Jansen

GoodForHer founder and long-time sexual educator Carlyle Jansen launched the Toronto International Porn Fest as the Feminist Porn Awards in 2006. Since its inception, the event has evolved into a massive celebration of the diversity of bodies, desires, genders and sexualities. With panels, screenings and more, this five-day event honours the work of porn performers and sex workers and aims to de-stigmatize their work.

We chatted with Jansen this week.

 SDTC: In your work as a sex educator, have you noticed a shift in the way we approach sexuality?

CJ: People are as curious as they ever were and there is still a lot of misinformation, myths (e.g., orgasm during intercourse for women as ideal), as well as loads of healthy information out there. There is also ample online content to show “how sex is done” through porn, much of which perpetuates unrealistic expectations. It is sometimes hard to know how to weed through things to find information that is accurate, positive and inclusive.

  • There is still a fair bit of expectation and performative pressure. Now women feel they have to squirt in order to have the full sexual experience and impress their partners (and partners want to “make” their partners squirt); men are supposed to be multi-orgasmic.
  • We are talking a lot more about the range of “normal” (i.e., trans people, non-binary folks, poly relationships, kinky sex–thanks, 50 Shades–intersex folks, asexuals, those with low or high libidos, anal pleasure, using sex toys solo or with a partner. People can find online (or in-person) communities and be more comfortable being out and talking about it. The mainstream is slowly accepting the greater range of “normal.”
  • There is more emphasis placed now on pleasure and expecting pleasure as a goal (i.e., noticing and caring when a female partner does not orgasm and wanting to make that a reality). Unfortunately [with that comes] added pressure, but [it’s] generally coming from a good place.
  • People are reclaiming pleasure regardless of size, age and ability.
  • Consent and its specifics, as well as its grey areas, are much more openly discussed. People are more comfortable coming forward as survivors and also talking about violations. Many more steps on exploring and normalizing consent are coming.
  • The conversation about sex is not as closeted. There are more articles in the media about sex, consent, pleasure, medical challenges and relationship issues. People are still shy to discuss, but overall we are more open than we used to be.
  • Sex is seen more as an important part of a relationship (for those who deem it as such) and not just a frivolous thing done at the end of the day when everything else is complete.
  • People are recognizing the importance of talking about sex with kids (and the backlash against that).

What does sex positivity mean to you?

Sex positivity means being non-judgmental (including towards those who are judgmental) of one’s own and others’ sexual preferences and desires (and non-desires), orientation, sex, gender, relationship configuration, gender expression, safer sex choices and practices, sex work, porn choices, partner choices, infection status and history.

It also means thinking critically and taking into account that there are many pressures to conform and be “sexy” and fit in as a sexual person and thus choice is a complicated matter.

As an individual, it means educating myself on the many pressures that we all face around sex and reflecting as to whether my choice is completely of free will or not. Only I can make that call for myself.

Why was it important for you to include a panel discussion regarding sex workers & the #MeToo movement?

There has been an effort by the #MeToo movement to include the voices of marginalized folks such as youth, Black, Indigenous and trans folks; however, sex workers have been left out of many of these discussions. Many suggest that sex workers cannot be assaulted because of the nature and choice of their work. Sex workers also have a more complicated relationship with the police around reporting assault. Sex workers have unique concerns around assault that need to be voiced and supported by the #MeToo movement.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

I love meeting performers and directors, both new and returning. I am excited that we are offering so many screenings this year and curious to see the response. And I love seeing our yearly attendees who support us!

The Toronto International Porn Fest runs April 20-22. Get tickets and information here.

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