Berlin is in the news for more than one reason these days. While Germans and the international community got together to celebrate 20 years of the end of the Cold War at the city’s most significant symbol, the Brandenburg Gate, history of a sexier sort was being written in the streets and on the screens of Berlin.
A few days before this much publicised socio-political event, another revolution – of a more feminine sort – took place at the Berlin Pornography Festival. A prize for ‘feminist porn’ was given out for the first time, and more than half the entries were of porn films made by women for women. That means fake breasts and dubbed moaning are out, and focus on women’s orgasms is in.
Europe is no stranger to addressing female sexual needs. A visit to Berlin’s Museum of Erotica is any woman’s delight. From lingerie of all shapes and contraptions (plus-sizes aplenty) to vibrating dildos that are made with material that is ‘easy on your insides’, to mild, clever packaging that does not mention the word ‘sex toy’ anywhere – every concern is addressed. The staff are all women, and so are a majority of the customers, going through porn CDs and vibrating ‘eggs’ as if through grocery shelves, comparing prices, sizes and functions. Once in a while a young giggle goes up through an aisle of gels, anal balls and spiky condoms, but on the whole, it’s any other mundane store in Berlin.
So the fact that women are the fastest growing segment of sex-toys consumers comes as no surprise. But that women’s needs are being more directly addressed through a hitherto entirely male terrain – video pornography – is a tantalizing trend. Laura Meritt, owner of a sex store for women in Berlin, has initiated a ‘PorYes’ label (like a regulatory mark) on all porn films that show women as active subjects and not passive objects of the process. The PorYes label will also signal “proper working conditions” for actresses, more women in the director’s chair and priority given to safe sex, she says. (Meritt is also responsible for the oyster shape of the Feminist Porn trophy.)
It’s definitely a long step from the hilarious, if unsexy, Porn for Women book series, which had pictures of good-looking hunks doing housework, looking after babies and actually reading instructions before setting up a DVD player. While it does make you laugh, you can’t call it pornography in the real sense. On the other hand, what turns women on is not necessarily sentimental tosh either. "Porn made by a woman, for women, does not mean it will be boring," Meritt asserts.
Having women in the filmmaking seat may be a sign of better things for women porn lovers – naked men masturbating (as available on most ‘porn for women’ websites) is not really every woman’s sexual fantasy. Give us realistic, passionate couples instead. Thankfully, if Berlin 2009 is anything to go by, it’s going to quite a turn-on ahead.