Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category

Swedes debate ‘feminist’ porn

September 7, 2009


Film-maker Mia Engberg

A debate has been going on in Sweden for the last couple of weeks over the concept of feminist porn and whether or not it’s right for the state to be funding it, following the release on the 3rd of September (in cinemas and on DVD) of a new project by left-wing, feminist documentary film-maker Mia Engberg. Called ‘Dirty Diaries’ it includes 12 short erotic films directed by a number of different women and has a diverse range of content aimed especially at female viewers (website at Controversially the film received 500,000 kroner in state funding through the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) which has led to allegations of a waste of taxpayers money. According to Beatrice Fredriksson, a member of the Swedish right-wing Moderate Party’s youth league (and a self-declared “anti-feminist”):

“Most people would agree that the state should not fund pornography. And when it does, should it really only benefit women, all in the name of equality? If a man had sought and received similar funding for ‘regular’ porn, it wouldn’t have taken long before there was an outcry from supporters of equality between the sexes…

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective. For the state to decide that feminist porn is art but ‘regular’ porn is reprehensible is little more than paternalistic moralising and sends out all the wrong signals in the equality debate. Equality is an important issue, but it should never function as a cloak for state funding of ideologies that are somehow deemed correct in the eyes of the authorities.”

She also appears to claim, incorrectly, that it’s a purely lesbian film, saying that: “By labelling lesbian sex as feminist, it also contributes to the prejudiced notion that the equality debate is all about excluding men and privileging women… Lesbian porn is far from the solution to creating a porn market that appeals to more women. While it might very well broaden the market for people with different sexual orientations, it should not trade under the banner of feminism.”

As someone who supports radical feminist theories and the ideas behind the anti-porn/anti-sex industry movement, the concept of ‘feminist’ porn is something that I’m not particularly keen on (for completely different reasons from Beatrice Fredriksson of course). Especially when it’s often been done so badly in other countries – take for example ‘feminist’ Tristan Taormino in the USA who makes films for the huge mainstream porn company Vivid, has worked with notoriously vile misogynistic pornographers such as John Stagliano, seemingly makes no attempt to challenge the pro-patriarchal ideas and assumptions behind the capitalist sex industry (such as the traditional male gaze), and never misses the opportunity to defend the commercial use of women’s bodies.

Mia Engberg, by contrast though, would appear to have a lot more sympathy for the ideas which have emerged out of the radical feminist movement, recognising oppressive capitalist and patriarchal structures in society, condemning “sick beauty ideals” in the manifesto behind the film, and saying that mainstream porn holds little appeal to her and that noone should contribute towards an industry that “makes money out of women’s bodies” when being asked whether or not mainstream porn should also receive state funding. Her film, she says, is “not created with a profit motive or for the benefit of a male audience”. In her view:

“When commercial forces take over pictures of people then the pictures are often no longer true. This is true both for Hollywood films and for mainstream porn… Personally I’m a tired mother of a small child and I don’t think porn is so sexy. I can’t look at it without wondering about the circumstances in which it was produced. But I don’t like Hollywood films either. They lie about the realities.”

Opposition to the exploitative commercial sex industry is in my view immensely important and should be one of the top priorities of the feminist movement – because how can we possibly build an egalitarian society when women are constantly reduced to mindless, dehumanised sex objects existing to satisfy men and to make huge amounts of money for corporations and organised criminals? However at the same time as we fight against this some believe it’s also possible (and desirable) to promote alternative images of human sexuality to challenge the harmful ones which exist all around us and which exert enormous influence over our sexual imagination. This is perhaps especially important with regards to teenagers and young people who are trying to find out about sex and end up being bombarded with a disgusting array of misogynistic contempt on the internet and elsewhere.

From the comments by Mia Engberg and some of the other women involved in this particular project it would appear that they do desire radical change and see the film as potentially being a help in building towards their feminist goals. The film is of course almost certainly not without its shortcomings and many feminists will understandably question some of the motives behind it, as well as having doubts as to how effective it actually will be in terms of changing our society in a positive direction. Some don’t see the need for any sort of pornography and believe that the film could serve to justify or legitimise its existence more generally. Others think it will inevitably end up being objectifying towards the participants one way or the other. Whatever the case is though it’s good, I believe, that people in Sweden are discussing what true sexual liberation might involve and how this differs from the phoney pro-patriarchal type which is endlessly promoted through the media and the commercial sex industry.

Some of the articles on the film in English:

Publicly funded ‘feminist porn’ to premiere (The Local)
Feminist porn ‘challenges traditional gender roles’ by Mia Engberg (The Local)
‘Feminist’ porn film funded by taxpayers opens in Sweden (AFP)

and in Swedish

articles from the papers:

Porr för feminister? (Dagens Nyheter)
Kvinnor tar nye grepp på porren (Svenska Dagbladet)
Subversivt på sängkanten (Helsingborgs Dagblad)

interviews/articles with/by Mia Engberg:

Fler kvinnor borde göra porrfilm (Newsmill)
Kan porr vara feministisk? (Aftonbladet)
Feministisk porr vill skaka om (Dagens Nyheter)

and articles by some of the other women involved:

Porren är mitt vapen mot gud och kapitalismen
by Elin Magnusson (Newsmill)
Vi behöver fler kåta kvinnor i offentligheten by Marit Östberg (Newsmill)