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Dylan Ryan is a porn star, writer, social worker, performance artist, and self-professed gender and sexuality geek living in San Francisco, California. Dylan holds a double bachelors degree and recently completed a masters in social work from a Canadian university where she studied the rise of feminist pornography and the intersections between sex work and social work. A yoga instructor and amateur filmmaker in her spare time, Dylan hopes to continue her academic career and to become Dylan Ryan, PhD. I n 2004, I was working at a popular sex toy retailer in San Francisco. Twenty-three years old, I was a recent graduate from a state university where I had studied English Literature and flung myself headfirst into the eclectic and radically open-minded culture of my adopted city. Working at Good Vibrations, I was surrounded by sexuality, from sex toys to fellow employees who were educated and articulate about sex. The shop had shelves of various kinds of porn films, available for rental and purchase. After six months, I had consumed a fair amount of porn and was used to talking about it with my colleagues and customers . Looking back on that time, I recall watching porn and thinking that I had something to offer to it. With very few exceptions, the porn I had seen felt empty, inauthentic, and not representative of my sexuality and the kind of sex I was having. I honestly thought that I could change the movies for the better. Many women give up on porn after one or more times out of a sense of alienation, revulsion, lack of arousal, shame, or any mix of these emotions . In the large majority of porn films, “particular female aesthetics are promoted: female actors often have long hair, are thin, often Caucasian , between their teens and thirties, have breast implants and wear high heels and plenty of make-up.”1 This “ideal” of femaleness and femininity doesn’t fit the broad spectrum of bodies and identities of “real” Fucking Feminism Dylan Ryan women, a disjuncture that reinforces women’s alienation from pornographic images. It is not hard, given this, to see why many women, like myself, would not only not identify with women in porn but feel that they fall short by comparison. Adding body dysmorphia to all the other complicated intersections between women and pornography—including preexisting ideas about performer agency, choice, and social shame—the resulting experience could complicate a woman’s interaction with porn so as to adversely affect her self-image.2 My engagement with porn was not one challenged by shame. I respected the women who I saw in the films and had little to no preconceived judgments about them, but I would find myself critiquing them as performers and considering what I would do differently and better. I had experienced sex in my personal life as a mostly positive, enjoyable, and liberating experience. I wanted to see that experience in the porn I was consuming. Like many female viewers, I had difficulty relating to the women in these films and their sexual presentations. Their bodies looked different from mine, and they seemed to embody a sexuality that was foreign to me, one of extreme femininity: vulnerable but hypersexual , passive but sexually desiring, ready for any sex act but without the impetus to make it happen. It seemed as if sex was happening “to” these women rather than with them or because of their choices or motivations. I didn’t imagine that the actresses hated having sex, but rather that they were performing in a venue that discouraged their personal expression. I wanted to know what they looked like when they had sex in their real lives, and I wanted to see that onscreen. In addition to mainstream porn, I was exposed to images of some of the scions of feminist pornography including Annie Sprinkle and Nina Hartley. I watched Nina Hartley’s films and felt admiration for her clear and frank way of talking about sex. I loved that she was completely present and aware of herself and her presentation. The films Nina, Annie, and others made represented a sexuality that was open, honest, and without shame; they showcased sex that was fun and consensual. They had a sexual agency that I found arousing. It was the first time that I saw sex that resonated with me and that I wanted to emulate. Even with these films though, I still had issues with the bodies: the differences between...


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MARC Record
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