McSex book loves Jennifer’s movies despite disliking porn

Posted on May 7, 2008

By Jennifer Lyon Bell

Myrthe Hilkens's new book McSex decries the effect of porn on society and culture, but the book ends with one special chapter entitled "Good Porn" -- about the uplifting effects of the film's Jennifer makes, and the films Jennifer curates in her shows like "Pinched: Sex, Love, and Countercultures". There's a bigger point to be made here about how we define porn.

“Pornoficatie” is a hot word in the Dutch media right now. In line with Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise Of Raunch Culture,” Hilkens locates the source of the damage as porn. Namely, a monolithic idea of heteronormative misogynist porn, which Hilkens defines in McSex as what’s available cost-free on the tube sites.

 

There is surely some truth in that much of this porn is unethically made and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes about sexuality and pleasure. But defining porn this way doesn’t do anyone any favors; there is also a huge amount of mainstream porn that simply does its job to turn on the average movie consumer. Some of it is even pretty good.

 

I had an unusual chance to affect this book because of timing. I happened to meet Myrthe Hilkens for coffee shortly before an evening that I was preparing. This performance was an evening of erotic clips that I had woven into a performance called “Feminist Fantasies,” offered as part of a weekend at Melkweg called “Pinched: Sex, Love, and Countercultures” organized by the edgy and inspirational cultural programmer Marije Janssen. I hoped to show films that exploded myths behind the “un-feminism” of porn, and demonstrate that it was possible for porn to do so much: Depict genuine female desire, honor different body types, incorporate emotions including love relationships. I hope to generate discussion and dialogue, and show that erotic media can be — and already IS — so much more than what so many people assume.

 

I invited Myrthe to come, and much to my surprise, she did. I remember where she was sitting in the audience; I remember she was truly paying attention, and I remember that afterward she came up to me in amazement and said “I had no idea this existed. Thank you.”

 

And then when I received my copy of McSex months later, I was surprised to find that the entire last chapter of the book, Good Porn,  is centered on the films in my Feminist Fantasies performance. She’s entranced by my film “Headshot”, which I really appreciate since I am so humbly proud of the film and of star Chris Brinkhof’s gentle and sexy performance. She also seems to be moved by the films of Tony Comstock and Candida Royalle, and she goes on to say great things  about Erika Lust as well.

 

It’s an honor to have helped evolve an important commentator’s idea of what porn can be. Perhaps she honestly didn’t know; as a young writer, Hilkens’s entire definition of pornography is narrowly restricted to pirated movies on free tube sites. But I think it’s worth asking: Does it not advance our culture to pay attention and resources to the multitude of other porn that actually exists out there? Both the feminist/alternative porn and  the porn that’s pretty much mainstream but good-hearted and sexy?  It feels to me like by focusing entirely on pirated and unethical porn, we let it win. Let’s not let it win.

 

In any case, I’m grateful to Myrthe for including this thoughtful and progressive chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

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