Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sex Positive, Pornography, & Puerto Ricans!

I wrote about being at the Left Forum and on a panel on The Culture Wars and Sexuality this past weekend. A question arose, but it was unfortunately only directed to one person on the panel, Betty Dodson. The question was about the Feminist Sex Wars and pornography and if there could ever be a space for pornography, when it objectifies women, in a sex positive space.

As a woman of Color, a Latina, someone who identifies as a feminist, and sex positive, I admit that I like pornography. I understand a gendered analysis about how pornography objectifies women, and I think pornography, imagery, gender, and sexual expression is so much more complicated than one single issue. I think one of the reasons I feel this way is because I was exposed to pornography in a very specific way. I've also been a part of creating and critiquing pornography from numerous stances. When I was on the panel for a Deep Throat discussion at UM, I was the only woman of Color who discussed the issue of consent being rarely discussed with women of Color beingin the industry. When I teach about pornography I usually send my students to this PBS Frontline documentary: American Porn and the data presented by Violet Blue really demonstrates who is consuming pornography and paying for it, and it's not who you would think it would be!

My first encounters with pornography were with Vanessa del Rio. Not only was Vanessa one of the first women of Color in pornography, but also she was the first one I ever saw. Finding out that she was Puerto Rican only made me closer to her and what she represented. I found and still find pride in her as a Latina. She was powerful. I remember even today watching her on the screen and thinking to myself “I want to be able to walk in a room and be just as powerful and know I can devour anyone in the room.” I still feel this way today. There is something so strong about her presence and about how she represents herself, even if she isn’t behind the camera, she controls her image in ways I have yet to see many female porn stars control.

When Vanessa published her limited release book 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, I instantly wanted to own it, but the price tag was pretty high. Thanks to some connections I was able to get my hands on a digital copy that I’m still excited about owning.

I think impressions of pornography really can depend on how someone was exposed to the genre. If you were raised in a space where pornography was considered negative and abnormal, then it may be possible that your ideas of pornography may be influenced by such ideas. If you had never been exposed to pornography or desired to watch it and read anti-pornography material without understanding some other viewpoints, then some people may have a particular view of the genre. If you had a pleasant experience like I did with pornography then you may enjoy it more than some folks, even defend its existence.

At the end of the day, I am so thankful for Vanessa del Rio for not just being in pornography, but for always controlling how she represents herself and for being true to her identity, her sexuality, and her body. I hope that in some ways we can all achieve such comfort with who we are and with our choices in our lives. She identifies as a feminist and has a lot to say like in this recent interview she did with my friend Rob Perez.

Vanessa has a YouTube channel, and I found a video she posted about her work on her book. The video is posted below and is not safe for work (NSFW).



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