Tristan Taormino is presenting Sex Educator Boot Camp with Tristan Taormino, Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters, The Politics of Producing Pleasure: Feminist Porn in Industry and Academe and the Opening Keynote Plenary Address: Sparking Communication in Sexuality, Activism and Acceptance. She is also recording Sex Out Loud with Tristan Taormino live at CatalystCon West. Check out Tristan’s bio here.
How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
I am committed to educating and empowering people around their sexuality, and I do so through several different mediums: my books, lectures and workshops, my radio show Sex Out Loud, and my feminist porn movies.
Who or what was a catalyst for you?
For sex education, there are so many people who paved the way for what I do today: Betty Dodson, Jack Morin, Carol Queen, and Nina Hartley immediately come to mind. In the arena of porn, one of the very first porn films I saw was How to Female Ejaculate starring Deborah Sundahl and produced by Fatale Media. Fatale Media (which was made up of Sundahl, Nan Kinney, Susie Bright, and the folks at On Our Backs) produced some of the earliest feminist porn, and that film showed me that it was possible to make revolutionary, educational porn.
What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
Abstinence-only sex education is still a dominant model in schools; not only has it been proven ineffective, it’s very disempowering to withhold information and give misinformation to young people about sex. The lack of comprehensive sex education is the U.S. is appalling. The campaign by the right wing to pass anti-choice legislation throughout the country is an ongoing problem. When women do not have control over our own bodies and health, we cannot be equal. As a feminist pornographer, one of the biggest challenges I face is the rhetoric of anti-porn feminists like Gail Dines. Dines gets a lot of air time arguing about how awful all porn is; she does not allow for the possibilities of alternatives nor will she listen to sex workers who don’t fit into a victimization narrative.
What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?
Quite frankly, it’s been a rough year for sexuality. If I had to point to some glimmers of hope, I’d say that the landmark Supreme Court decisions striking down DOMA and Prop 8 have really propelled the GLBT rights movement. I also think that the increased public discussions about sluts and slut-shaming have been productive, and I hope they continue because they have the opportunity to affect real change in the way our society represents and seeks to control women’s sexuality.
Why do you feel it is important to bring your pre-conference workshops, Sex Educator Boot Camp with Tristan Taormino, to CatalystCon West?
I feel very passionate about my Sex Educator Boot Camps. As I developed a career as a sex educator, I had very few role models. There are plenty of people who have incredible ideas and are amazing thinkers, but there are few people out there teaching business and marketing skills to the next generation of sex educators. It’s so important to me to pay it forward and share my knowledge and experience to help the sex educator community learn how to create sustainable businesses.
Why do you feel it is important to bring the topics of your sessions, Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters and The Politics of Producing Pleasure: Feminist Porn in Industry and Academe, to CatalystCon West?
Since the publication of The Feminist Porn Book, there has been a huge increase in curiosity and awareness about feminist porn. I feel really lucky to be a part of two different presentations about feminist porn at CatalystCon West. Feminist Porn 101 is really a primer for folks about the history and context of it and The Politics of Producing Pleasure puts porn scholars and porn producers and performers in conversation with one another to discuss feminist porn as a philosophy, a practice, a movement, and an industry. These are such vital discussions to have, especially right now. The challenges we face in feminist porn—activism, accessibility, visibility, censorship, sustainability—are core issues that I think lots of people at CatalystCon West are interested in.
Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.
I am severely allergic to perfume and cologne—if someone’s wearing it, I usually cannot even hug them.