This is the transcript of my paper given at Performing Porn, on July 13th 2013. I haven’t corrected it, but writing it gave lots of food for thought, as did meeting artists, academics and performers at at conference. I will edit and turn it into several articles in the near future.
More information about the vent here: Performing Porn – After the Computer became boring.
Performing Age in Femdom Fetish Porn
The subject of my talk is the performance and representation of older women in fetish femdom porn. I am currently writing a proposal for a Phd on female sexual dominance and its taboo, and the subject of ageing among femdom fetish performers) and taboo, would be part of my research. With this paper, I’d like to start a discussion on the performance of age, specifically older age, in femdom fetish. By older women in the adult industry, I am referring to female performers who appear to be, or who take on roles of women over the age of 40. I am going to focus on femdom fetish content because it’s the area I know best from my on first hand experience.
I have a background in the visual arts, specifically, video an performance, and also in the adult industry. I have an MA in visual arts from Goldsmiths College, but I have been appearing in femdom video and photos since 2002, first filming for other studios and also taking photos for my own websites as a professional dominatrix, and from 2010, I’ve been producing my own femdom fetish subscription members’s website, The Urban Chick Supremacy Cell:
Even when I started as a model for femdom photoshoots, video and websites, I was over the age found acceptable in much mainstream porn unless you are happy to be narrowly pigeonholed as a MILF or even GILF (I’m sure I don’t need to explain these terms to my learned colleagues). I have found that BDSM porn, in general, is more accepting of niches, of a wider scope of age, physicalities and presentation, than more mainstream porn that aims to appeal to an audience as wide as possible. Because much fetish deliberately works on the basis of exploring the more niche interests, and once you start digging, a lot of things come up. I am aware that I am making a huge dichotomy between mainstream and niche pornography. I know this is a massive reductionist vision. Perhaps I should just make a division between porn that seeks to appeal to the widest possible audience, normally for commercial and financial reasons, one size fits all, and porn that deliberately seeks to target a much smaller audience, regardless of the revenue. We could perhaps call it one size fits all vs boutique porn.
Independent femdom studios, normally ran by the female performer or performers themselves, tend to the idiosyncratic in how they view and present femininity, female sexuality and of course, physical presentation. The reason being that anyone with a camera and a laptop can start their on studio. Many older female dominant performers like me, started our own video, production companies as an extension of other adult businesses we were involved with, often professional domination. We didn’t audition for the part nor were judged suitable to arouse or titillate by other people’s standards.
I knew, when I decided to start making my own fetish porn at he grand age of 44, tht I had as much chance of being hired by a commercial studio, as I had of being on the cover of Vogue. So like other women I knew, I reinvented myself as a porn star because The technology Wa thee, on the tips of my fingers. I think that all the women I’m going to introduce you today, gave ourselves the part and called ourselves goddesses because we could, because we had the desire, the skills, a camera and a laptop. So there was no other gold standard of how we should look, talk, behave and act, than our own personal preferences. with no other external validation than our fans, both existing and potential. Our public appears after we put the product on the Internet.
What most of these independent or niche studios have in common, apart from the editorial control being in the hands of the woman or women who take part in it, is an abundance of older female roles that perform age, experience and command as qualities that are sexually arousing. There is, of course not a shortage of stereotypes and cliches even in the most independent of creators. It seems to me that sexual fantasy works very well when it taps into recognisable, well trodden scenarios, and recognisable figures. Into some kind of erotic folklore, I you wish. In this paper, I will focus on the range of roles and erotic figures available for ladies of a certain age, but also, how these performers themselves use their age, something that in much mainstream porn wold limit their range, and sexualize the figure of the older woman.
The notion of female dominance is often represented by certain figures of authority that have become staples in the iconography of female supremacy and where age is a crucial role play performance. In other cases, there is no justification as to why that woman on the screen is the age she is, no need to justify it through fantasy figures, labels or roles. The performer simply does her thing, with no mention or allusion to her age range. She doesn’t apologise and she doens’t give any explanations. She is a sexual subject and object, because she has chosen to be. (show: Sidonia) However, more often than not, female femdom fetish starss eembrace the stereotypes in the trade, as a vehicle to incorporate age positively in their performance:
Governess; Headmistress; spanking Auntie; CEO bitch; strict housewife in a “female led” household; cuckolding wife…and so on.
I’ll also show examples of fetish porn performers who have reinvented themselves as they age, creating fantasy erotic figures that draw strength and sex appeal from their age, rather than disappear from the industry. The strategies used by these professionals who don’t conform to no the normativity imposed by the larger industry and that have enabled them to have successful careers. It’s a chicken an egg situation: was there always a market for this, or has the appearance of independent, less normative, fetish porn stars, created it? I don’t have an answer for this question, but the demand is there.
There is a bit of an embarrassing silence surrounding the existence of this market in the media, starting form the surprise and myrth that concepts like MILF, GILF, or other allusions to porn performers of an “advanced age” elicits. Hard to speak seriously when you are being taken as bit of a joke. In a climate where these same media can’t stop scaremongering about a disturbing tendency to sexualise extreme female youth, with an emphasis on subservience and innocence as part and parcel of the package, the discussion of older women as sexualised objects or subjects is almost non-existent. I have made my mission to readdress the balance, starting form this paper today. It won’t be the last.
There is, I insist and I don’t need to go into detail, much talk about age in porn, as long as it is about the younger side of the spectrum. A widely spread horror at depictions of extreme youth not only in porn (barely legal label and websites, for example), but in the mainstream media as well. Rivers of ink and pixels have been written about it, however, we can’t deny that there is also a hypocritical naturalisation of this. It is assumed that extreme youth, innocence, purity, are sexy and even if it raises a moral outrage, it’s still talked about it in terms that imply it’s perfectly understood and justified.
Everybody understands why anyone, specially a man, would prefer a vey young woman. It may be frowned at, but it’s a desire that needs no justification. On the other hand, mentioning older female porn stars is invariably met with a mixture of incomprehensible disbelief and even as about of a joke and seen as a rarity, something exceptional, an unnatural aberration. It needs to be explained.
As an example I recently found this transcription of a recent BBC radio 4 program on the subject of the rape porn ban:
Do we know whether pornography harms people?
By Jo Fidgen – BBC Radio 4 Analysis 25th June 2013.
(I selected this text not because I’m going to discuss porn and harm today, but because it’s a classic example of this bafflement at the notion of older females in porn)
“(…) Ogi Ogas (…) and a colleague, Sai Gaddam, collected data from a billion web searches and online porn sites, (…).According to his data, most people looking for sexually explicit material online search for “youth”. The next most popular categories are “gay”, “MILFs”, “breasts”, and “cheating wives”.”(…) He was surprised by the popularity of so called “granny porn”. (…) “Women in their forties, in their fifties, even in their sixties are highly sought after,” he reveals. “In fact Britain is one of the countries that has the greatest level of popularity for granny porn.”
So there you go: neuro-scientists in grannyporn shocker!
(show image of Mistress Sapphire)
We live in a culture that is easily surprised and slightly put off, by the revelation of the existence of a porn market that sexualizes older women, as if it’s something incomprehensible and uncomfortable to deal with. It’s silenced, ignored, trivialized with the use of irony and even a slightly freak sideshow feel around it. Like something not to be taken as real, a serious turn on, but it’s more easily digestible when we turn it into a joke. Like sheep shagging.
At the same time, the prevalence and abundance of a cult of disturbingly young aged performers, both in porn, in lads’s mags and of course, advertising, and the hypocritical moral outcry about it, is designed by those who objet to porn, to horrify the general public into submission and acquiescence. By playing up the “barely legal” card, focusing on it to make it look as if that’s all the porn there is, as if people want to look at nothing but women who may even not be old enough to be looked at. Any other discourse around porn gets silenced. No other porn has any relevance, it’s all about sick perverts wanking over people who look too young. T
The penchant for tarring every sexual desire that doens’t conform to the norm in sex, as potentially child-harming, is constant. You’d be forgiven for thinking that for this reason, “grannyporn” should be welcomed with open arms as proof that you have no interest whatsoever in those barely legal sirens. But this is not the case. I have a theory about mainstream porn’s insistence on peddling a very narrow and repetitive ideal of sexual desirability and activities.
I believe that sexual preferences are subject to fashion and trends, like any other form of cultural product. Some people are very impervious to these trends just as some people are impervious to any social trends. But they are in a minority. One size fits all applies to the offer of porn, but also to the choices people make, grabbing what’s out there. There is, nobody tires to say it, a lot of porn on the Internet.
However, there is also a tendency to over saturate it with repetitive plots and identikit porn stars. This pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap mentality, acts like a screen to conceal any other form of pornography or sexual preference. This saturation acts, in fact, as a very effective form of censorship. After wading through website after website, one has to have very clear and stubborn sexual fantasies, not to abdicate and choose what’s so widely, and enticingly, being dangled at you, insistently, in bright colours and copious quantities, by the cartload.
You have to have very clear ideas of what you want, to be immune to the colour saturated, shiny, glossy, pneumatic, eye popping, screen grabbing images that mainstream porn so deftly saturates your screen with. After a while, whose crotch can resist it with unmovable stoicism? The subject throws the towel in and succumbs to be seduced by what’s so generously, relentlessly offered to him. This is a very successful way of concealing, that is censoring, any other alternatives. And even more successful at squashing any personal, more intricate, less articulate desires that humbly slumber in your imagination. Because who can resist it, when desire is so well articulated as it is in professional commercial porn? As we know, it leaves very little room to exercise our own imagination. It’s like a big ball of drain waste that blocks the pipes to our more personal, less commonplace fantasies and desires. By the time you’re finished with your sordid business of knocking one off as commanded, you have no desire to start delving into the more personal recesses of your erotic imagination. Then the cycle starts again…
As I once wrote in a blog entry, surrendering to the most hegemonic ideas of what is arousing, fulfills the task of reassuring masculinity. Non-normative desires question, first and foremost masculinity. This scares male porn viewers a lot. Few people want to be caught desiring something out of the norm. Even fewer people want to be consider “a weirdo” , that is, less than a man.
This is an extract from a blog entry I wrote some time ago, about my own thoughts when I started making my own porn content:
The Porn I Want To Make
“In case it needs mentioning, I support the production of porn. I defend pornography as another filmic genre with lots of potential. What I can’t support is the way much, much mainstream porn’s forms of production operate. It preys on the vulnerable, the ashamed and the sexually confused (not only the performers, but the viewers too); it abuses the sexual guilt in the latter, it uses it to make them surrender into submission to their one and only ideas of what’s desirable, what’s sexy, what’s sex. It portrays porn and its participants, both behind and in front of the screen, in negative, shameful, moralistic ways. I despair at the way mainstream porn discourages the viewer from pursuing any desire to explore their more personal fantasies than the hegemonic plots it invariably churns out, endlessly. (…) at the same time, it tells you: you’re ok. You have wanked to this hyperreal, cartoonesque idea of sex, of women’s bodies, and how to use them, so you are normal. You are one of the boys. The gods of normality have been appeased. All is well with you.”
In contrast to much more commercial, one size fits all porn, Femdom fetish content, at least in theory and on the surface, subverts the power exchange by having the woman become the subject, active and aggressive artifice who orders and commands her own pleasure and desires, and those of others. Of course, this recipe, because it’s nothing but a recipe, a cliché, a convention. I’m not fooling myself that in commercial femdom porn, and that’s what I make and what I know best, our market is male and afraid of being found out as an emasculated deviant.
I see in much Femdom porn a mixture of concession to our public, and a desire also of expanding our horizons and those of our public, with new notions of female desirability. In some of the visual examples I’m going to show now and comment on, the women who perform have created new archetypes and roles. Others take advantage of the ones already in existence and validated by their own tradition. Femdom fetish porn offers, at least in theory, a space where being female, being sexually in charge and equally available, but older, is a sexual option and a commodity that is welcomed by some female femdom performers and producers, as an opportunity to explore their own subjectivity. It explores our viewers’ own desires too, because we often don’t know what we want until we see it. I welcome it of course, discovering that the widespread Nuts Magazine ideal of maleness is far from being universal and that a woman’s entitlement to be sexually active and desirable doesn’t end at 25. Or that your only role is that of MILF, an ugly, problematic and of course, inaccurate term. I am not even a mother (let alone a grandmother).
WEBSITES AND PHOTOS TO SHOW
Let’s see with real examples, how the women who perform in femdom fetish videos, eroticises (should i rather say, sexualize? And negotiate age. Female Femdom roles:
Headmistresses and Auntie figures in spanking porn
These figures are popular in setting that are more often than not domestic or everyday places: a home, a school, a nursery. They wear normal everyday clothes too, maybe an old fashion headmistress gown, because fetish has a penchant for nostalgia.
Nanny, governess, nurse
They control vulnerable subjects: babies (as in adult babies); wayward children; sick patients.(images)
Aristocratic ladies with nobility titles
(popular in the Continent, specially Germanic countries and for some reason, Spain)-> OWK’S They go back to Wanda in Venus in Furs.
Military regimes (TEM, OWK’S…) Www.owk.com
… And of course, the titles normally given to dominant ladies: Mistress (with a capital M); Lady; Queen; Goddess…
Photos and examples
The English Mansion Run by Mistress Sidonia Von Bork, this is probably the most popular and successful Femdom video website in UK.
The Anna List Clinic
A lady who deliberately shuns many stereotypes of what’s sexy, she specializes in medical play in her fictional, fetish Anna List Clinic. A commanding doctor figure who imposes her rule and treatment on her patients.
Lady Governa, aka Lady Sharimara Raj
is an example of a rather unusual, personal take on femdom. Of anglo-Indian heritage, this lady and friend has two separate identities:
Lady Governa, English Governess and nanny “Governess of The District Reformatory & Doll House for the Confinement & Correction”
Lady Sharimara Raj, Persian Goddess and temptress. “Indo-Persian Goddess Worship“
I once asked her how she’d come up with these tow roles, she replied: oh, I was fed up with spending my days in the nursery, changing nappies. I needed some glamour and old fashioned sexiness!
And admirers’ replies on her blog: “you are hot, you know how to dress to get a man. In love with your style and would worship you. Hope to see many more beautiful pictures like these.”
Adapting to an ageing body and identity in porn:
Lady Sonia, Aka Sonia, England’s Hottest Trophy Wife
Her website reads: “The website of England’s most famous unfaithful trophy wife”. This femdom performer is one of the first people who made me start thinking about how porn performers age and what they do about it. She started as a more conventional dominatrix, with all the tropes: rubber, leather, dungeons, etc. As she matured, instead of retiring she reinvented herself as an olde,r, mature, suburban wife and cuckoldress,, complete with twin set and pearls. Thus, she carried on being a sex icon, in her own terms, terms that embraced and maximized her age and experience.
I like to refer about her affectionately as “Sonia, Tory Hot Wife” :)
Actually, she’s been abandoning her femdom persona a lot of late. Last year, her webiste read “Sonia, English MILF wife and Cuckoldress” - now she’s merely a trophy wife. Lady Sonia makes more concessions to mainstream porn: more sex, less D/s (although her online marriage is a cuckolding one); words like MILF, use of younger, pneumatic “friends”.