Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Stewart M. Hoover

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Skewes

Third Advisor

Andrew Calabrese

Fourth Advisor

Janet Jacobs

Fifth Advisor

Robert Buffington


Over the last thirty years, feminist pornography has steadily grown as a filmic genre that stands in opposition to the formulaic sexual discourse produced by the mainstream pornography industry. This emergent genre, known for its resistive interest in constructing diverse portrayals of female sexuality, operates at various controversial intersections—including feminism and pornography—and is slowly beginning to penetrate popular culture. This dissertation aims to account for a descriptive gap in porn studies and feminist media studies literature, and most importantly, works to theorize the cultural impact of this genre as a discursive attempt to mediate female sexuality within conventional constraints. Using a feminist/critical cultural studies framework, this qualitative study investigates negotiation and nuance through interviews with feminist directors of feminist pornography, interviews with female performers that work with both feminist and mainstream pornography directors, and focus groups with self-selected consumers in New York City and San Francisco. In general, this data reveals modes of developed spectatorship and media accounts that point toward normative viewing practices (i.e., online viewing) and negotiated reading patterns. Orientations toward feminism—as individually negotiated on the production set and during consumption—proved to be the driving force behind the praxis and pleasure situated within this genre. The enactment of consent, communication, and safety works as the core of this project, and sex positivity and third wave feminist discourse dictate the majority of performance and meaning. This dissertation concludes with a theoretical reflection on the cultural contribution of feminist pornography, and argues that production and consumption processes form a feminist performative heterotopia that offers a space for the negotiation of female sexual subjectivity.