Kinky feminist: Turning it on

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I don’t think I’ve ever talked about porn with another queer women without the subject of fingernails coming up. That is, usually, long fake fingernails, painted bright pink, and worn by female actors in same-sex porn. Obviously, this is not always the case, but it happens often enough to be a common point of reference when detailing the ways in which visual pornography is rarely made with women in mind, and certainly not queer women. Not many of us are keen on the idea of being fingered by an inch long, sharp piece of plastic — even the varnish can be a bit of a risk, if you don’t want to spend half an hour picking glittery flakes out of your pubes. 

For the most part, these videos pander to fantasies of the heterosexual man. These aren’t women having sex with each other for their own enjoyment; they aren’t even necessarily queer themselves. In fact, in another setting, they might be the male viewer’s ideal girlfriend or wife. The act of having sex with another woman becomes an act for him, the viewer — one that she performs because he likes it, and one she would also cease to partake in if he would prefer her to himself. 

Generally, despite being a bisexual women, I prefer porn that only has men in it — a preference that I share with several female friends, both straight and queer. For me, this at first raised some worrying questions about the fetishisation of gay men — something that can certainly be seen to happen, even in nonsexual settings, from phenomenons like the ‘gay best friend’ trend. But after giving it more thought, I realised that gay porn is one of the few categories that doesn’t cater to the straight man; and it cannot be a coincidence that this distinction coincides with female viewership. Gay porn still isn’t for women, but it doesn’t alienate us in the same way. Here, at least, we are not objects for male consumption.

Target audiences change, however, when moving away from porn and towards sex toys — those other products designed to aid and improve our sex lives. This is not something I noticed until one of my friends, who is gay, told me he wanted to buy a sex toy, and I recommended Lovehoney, a popular online store. After having a look, his verdict was that despite there being a range of products that cater to most, on the whole it is not a shop for men who have sex with other men. Since returning to the site to see if I could figure out what he meant, I have found myself not only agreeing, but further realising that Lovehoney is not really a site for men at all. ‘Sex Toys For Men’ is its own section, clearly suggesting that everything else — the lingerie, vibrators, and dildos — is targeted at women.

I cannot say that I felt many pangs over this — I am all for encouraging female masturbation, and it is nice that there is some kind of alternative to porn. But enough issues arise to cause me discomfort, from the fact that sex toys are less readily available than porn, to the providing of alternative ways to get off — particularly for women — equalling further wiggle room for the continued production of unethical porn.

This does not mean that I have any plans whatsoever to throw out my sex toys, or that I think there is anything wrong with owning and using them. What I do hope to get rid of are notions that it is only women who want to buy them; that only straight men are interested in porn; and that women are simply means to a man’s pleasurable ends.

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