A friend of mine called me up, a few years ago now, to inform me that she’d just read the hottest piece of erotica she’d  ever come across.  She told me she’d have to read it to me some time, and that she wanted to share the moment.  Which was lovely, I’m sure, but I didn’t quite understand why she’d chosen me as the person with-whom she wanted to share it.

 

And then she said this:

 

“Thank you.”

 

My porn-making, sex-working, kinky, poly pal thanked me for introducing her to the world of written erotica.

 

I just about cried.

No, really.  I just about cried, because this really was an enormously big deal.

 

I know that, in some branches of feminism, porn has a really bad reputation.  I know because I used to be an anti-porn feminist.  Back then, I was extremely uncomfortable with a genre that I understood only in terms of a “suck and f*ck” formula where women were orifices and not much else.  It didn’t help that my understanding of my own sexuality, as a woman, was the simplistic, horrible and agency-free idea that either I either had to be frigid OR I had to fuck anyone who propositioned me, whether I wanted them or not.  From my then-perspective, porn looked like every nightmare imaginable come true.

 

And then I started writing it.

 

Of course, I didn’t call it “porn”.  I called it “femslash fan fiction” and it was all very safe and all very consensual and all very women-focused and all very… explicit.

But heaven forbid that I call it porn.  At least at first.  For a long time, I was definitely distinguishing between “porn” (which made me sick) and “erotica” (which turned me on).  But those distinctions only work inside one’s own head and, sometimes, not even then.  Sometimes the things that infuriated me as a feminist (such as our culture’s tendency to eroticize violence against women) were the same things that, as a queer woman with a latent sadistic streak, turned me on tremendously.

 

Eventually, I realized that those definitions weren’t working anymore and, around the same time, I went out and bought my first erotica anthology.  Or pornography anthology.  Either way, when I finally picked up an actual book of the stuff, I was able to go through and sample a huge variety of different ways of getting off.

 

I read them.  I got wet.  I got off.  I got really embarrassed by what turned me on.

 

But there was no-one there to criticize me!

 

It was just me, my left hand, and my copy of Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica.  No-one to tell me that I was a very, very BAD would-be-PhD for being seriously turned on by the story about the professor who was screwing her student/submissive during office hours.  No-one to tell me I was too sentimental for loving the classic hippie-dyke love story or the one about the bi-poly triad raising kids together.  No-one to tell me that I liked sex too much when I read through half the book in one sitting, or to tell me that I didn’t like sex enough because I wasn’t off trying to have it with my then-partner instead of sitting in the bath wondering if maybe it was time to get a vibrator.

 

That was my turning point, right there, when it dawned on me that porn is, in fact, a wonderful, no-pressure, self-focused way of learning your turn-ons; a way of exposing yourself to your own, personal sexuality without having to make yourself vulnerable (or more vulnerable than your comfortable with) and without having to worry about compromising your own desires in order to please (or avoid scaring off) a partner.

 

In case you missed the memo?  I’m not an anti-porn feminist anymore.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

 

– Cheers,

– Ms. Syren