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Book empowering women over porn

Date

Sarah Homewood

It's okay to consume porn.

That's the message a group of female students heard yesterday at a conference workshop held at the ANU.

Now in its 25th year, the Network of Woman Students Association is holding its annual conference, and yesterday the conversation turned to female sexuality and pornography. To protect those taking part, the discussion was held in a ''safe environment'', with no media allowed to attend.

But the leader of the workshop, a sexual educator who has asked to remain anonymous, explained there's a whole genre of feminist pornography which aspires to several key ideals.

''The acts depict safer sex,'' she said. ''Explicit consent is negotiated and given, they do not prioritise one person's desire over another, or one body type over another … you see quite diverse encounters and individuals in the pornography.''

And thanks to the wonders of the web feminist porn is also more widely available now, she said.

''Now porn is largely distributed on the internet that's given a lot more opportunity for feminist porn to be made and distributed not just kept within niche activist groups,'' she said. ''Even I was surprised when I looked on the internet whilst doing some research for this workshop, the plethora of explicitly feminist porn.''

Currently causing a media sensation is Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, an erotic novel pitched at women, exploring taboo themes including bondage and sadism. Since its release last year the book has sold an estimated 20 million copies in 37 countries.

It's been credited with reigniting the conversation about female sexuality, and many argue it is helping to normalise porn for women.

And this can only be a good thing, according to the NOWSA conference presenter.

''When you are dealing with things like kink and BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) it is very possible for people to feel very isolated and to end up with a lot of shame,'' she said.

''I think that anything that enables people to feel okay and to claim that back is important.''

The presenter said pornography in its purist form, had the power to spread a positive message.

''I believe in the power of pornography to be many, many things, and for all that it has the potential to perpetuate misogyny, racism and sexism, it also has the potential to challenge them in a really profound way.''

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