In 2004 I started working for a sex positive group of alternative erotic websites. I worked for ishotmyself.com a sexually explicit nude photographic site where you take the photos yourself at arms length or even at legs length taking the picture with your toe. I then shot for beautifulagony.com a site that films only peoples faces as they orgasm. Then I shot for and hosted ifeelmyself.com an explicit site that celebrates female orgasm by primarily masturbation.
Working on those sites did not degrade me. It brought me out of the shame about sex that had been thrust upon me as a teen. It resolved ALL of my body hatred. It gave me the confidence not to have breast surgery and not to feel I must shave and/or wax off every last hair on my body save my head and eyebrows to be accepted as sexy. It gave me the opportunity to meet women who were fighting stigma against sexual women and claiming their right to pleasure. It brought me to feminism, specifically sex positive feminism. A woman I shot a double masturbation shoot with gave me a book on Betty Dodson. I had a feminist hero.
I became frustrated with the constraints of those sites and started my own website. http://www.liandradahl.com/ I started it because I wanted to see real sex, real couples, real bodies, all gender identities and sexualities. I started it because I wanted the sole focus to be about the sexual reality for those contributing and shifted away from those who paid to support it. I started it because I see the creation of sexual content as politically and socially important. I started it because there is nothing morally wrong with having sex, having sex on camera, having sex for money, or watching people having sex in person or through a screen and masturbating to it. Provided it is adult and consensual it is no ones business to decide on it but those involved.
Last year I shot a documentary with my feminist hero Betty Dodson in New York City. I spent a week with her for filming. I had never before sat with a woman of 83 and have her talk candidly about sex, to have her impart her sexual experience and wisdom to the next generation. To have her discuss how her sexuality has changed over the eight decades she has been nurturing it and the four decades she has been nurturing and educating other women who are desperately seeking orgasms. It felt like a right of passage to be there. It felt like a missing piece. That my mother, my aunts and my grandmother should have been able to talk to me that freely about sex but they had never breathed a word, apart from to call me a slut when I found it on my own.
Women’s bodies and women’s sexualities are a political battleground. Our sexual rights are always being debated and derided especially in the area of reproduction or the choice not to. However, our right to sell sex for money, an age-old female dominated profession, is also ensconced in shame and legal shackles. Those social and legal constraints are all related to the oppression of female sexuality and it is equally important to combat it and support women who have chosen those professions.
There is nothing morally wrong with the exchange of sex for money. A prostitute is as deserving of respect as anyone who provides for your body or it’s needs, like a chef, or a massage therapist. A porn star is comparable to a boxer. The juxtaposition of these latter two professionals is one I have made many times before and I will continue to make it. The comparison embodies and illuminates our cultural mores that embrace and respect professional violence but shame, stigmatise and will even criminalise professional sex. It is the hypocritical and impractical cultural attitudes towards sex that makes professional sex unregulated and thus a higher risk and potentially unsafe.
Controlling female sexuality is a vast portion of what a restrictive patriarchal culture was trying to achieve. Disappointingly, many women are often keen to partake in slut-shaming and the repression of other women’s sexuality themselves. On many occasions feminists judge other women for working in the sex industry. They dismiss our positive stories and experiences as “Stockholm syndrome”. Feminism for me is about fighting for equality but that equality will be diverse. Feminism for me is about equal opportunity and the right to self-determination. Feminism for me is about fighting to have women’s choices, bodies, professions, roles and rights to be respected and protected.
I make porn based on my credo of freedom of expression and sex positivity. I want to make porn that shows real sex and real sexual and emotional connections. I want to reclaim the visual enjoyment of sex from the dreadful mainstream porn debacle. I also make porn to go to battle against the ‘victim mentality’ of some feminist thought regarding the sex industry. That attitude is often repressive and doesn’t recognize the autonomy of the women in the industry, or their sexuality, as equal to men’s. Such a line of thought sees these women, indeed all women, as a mere sexual objects (just like the kind of porn they criticise) that can only be exploited by the industry. They refuse to acknowledge or respect the growing number of women thriving in it, who may be leading and defining the sex industry someday very soon. There have been, and still are, many male dominated professions where the working conditions for women are prejudicially hard and the opportunities for women to get to the highest levels in that career are few and resented or dismissed. Yet it is only in the sex industry that this line of anti-porn feminist thought asks you to admit defeat by claiming women can never be anything but victims. As though women cannot be sexually active beings, voyeurs and consumers of porn, not to mention producers and willing empowered participants in the industry. It also fails to recognise the real sexual pleasure in being watched in a public domain. Well I am a mother of a daughter, a woman, a feminist and one of the most empowering things I ever did was to make porn. Its effect on me was almost equal to that of becoming a mother. It helped me accept and love my body from every angle, it improved my sexual confidence and it blasted away those last dregs of residual shame this culture tries to instil. Sex brought me to feminism and I bring my feminism to sex.