So last month, thanks to some articles about the stir it was causing by advertising for contributers at Melbourne Uni, I became aware of a website called feck. Basically it is a website where women (and sometimes men) can contribute sexual photos and videos of themselves, they get paid a fee for doing so and then can go on to earn extra money if their photos/videos generate lots of hits. Sounds pretty run of the mill but Feck prides itself on being different from other soft porn sites by “maintaining an emphasis on quality, participation, and subverting the stereotypes which dominate mainstream porn.” I am all for all of the above but from what I can see Feck is enforcing at least as many stereotypes than it subverts and their emphasis on ethics and being liberating seems to be more of a (clever) marketing technique than anything else.
Off the Feck website “We don’t like contemporary porn; not because it’s immoral, or exploitative, or unhealthy (although some of it is) – it’s just that most of it is badly made, often degrading to the women (and men) involved, and also to human sexuality in general.” Really? What does this say about the countless people who enjoy mainstream porn? Is there something wrong with their sexuality? Isn’t it up to the participants to decide if it is degrading or not and how can something consensual be degrading to sexuality in general? Just because the people behind Feck don’t seem to find contemporary porn to be in their tastes doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the sexuality of people who choose to participate in or consume it.
Another thing Feck prides itself on is celebrating a diverse range of shapes and sizes but when I browsed through their site I was struck by how nearly all the photos were of young, thin, stereotypically attractive (although with a more ‘alternative style, you know bright hair, unisex glasses etc than a lot of porn) and white women. Admittedly I am too cheap to pay for a subscription so I am only basing this on the photos you can see without subscribing but to be honest I have seen more diversity on pornhub. I hope I am wrong, I hope that if I had paid I would have discovered a website celebrating diversity but I’m too cynical to really believe this. It would be interesting to see which contributors get the most hits and so are the highest earning.
The Feck site is full of testimonials from participants about how liberating and positive their experience with Feck was. There are a couple of things I would like to address about this. For starters, Feck is a business advertising for people to participate so of course they are going to have testimonials about how great and fun it is, it would crappy pr to include testimonials that were anything but glowing. I take issue with the things that are implied about the experiences of women in contemporary porn (and really the sex industry), especially considering the demographic that Feck seems to be aimed at and attract compared to the demographic that most porn and sex workers come from, or are at least assumed to come from.
There is this assumption, and not just from Feck, that women who work in the porn or the sex industry in general are exploited, wouldn’t be doing it if they had any other options or have internalised misogyny and so don’t see how harmful and sexist it is (I’ve been accused of all three) and that most come from disadvantaged backgrounds and it is true many do. Where as Feck seems to be aimed at a more “affluent” demographic, they even boast of the many professionals who have contributed to their sites. Of course this is a massive oversimplification but Feck’s selling point about how it is more liberating than other porn relies on oversimplifications about the women in porn. I find it really classist to assume that uni students and professionals are better able to make an informed decision to engage in sex work than other women. The first time I got into sex work I was young and had nowhere to live, this time around I did it so I can afford rent while still studying as a sole parent but because I am doing it for material reasons and not because I get sexual pleasure from my work my agency is constantly called into question, which is why attitudes like the above really piss me off. Poor, marginalised women are still capable of making informed choices, even if their choices are more limited and it is patronising to not respect their choices, especially if you respect it when more privileged women make the same choice.
Feck says that contributors do it for themselves and not for the money, which is $250 for a portfolio and then further money if you gender lots of hits. There are two problems with this, the first being the assertion that it is more ethical because they participants don’t need the money. What about providing jobs and an income to people, isn’t that important? It implies that for porn to be ethical the participants can only be doing it as a hobby and not as a job. Why is this standard not applied to other industries? The second problem is that no matter what they website says there are almost certainly people who do do it for the money. $250 may not be much for a portfolio of naked photos but to a struggling student it can be the difference between making rent and having food for the fortnight or not. I don’t have a problem with people contributing out of financial need, it is why most of us work in the jobs we do, but Feck is built on the selling point that people contribute because they really do want people using their photos and videos for sexual pleasure and not because they just want the money. I also have friends who do mainstream nude modelling because they really do like doing it, just because their photos may be in mainsteam sites doesn’t mean they are being exploited and just because someone’s photo is on Feck doesn’t mean they didn’t do it purely for the money.
Despite the above I don’t actually have a problem with Feck, it isn’t something that I would ever pay money for and I find the whole thing kind of pretentious but there are obviously people who do like it. I just think it should be called for what it is and not heralded as some new, liberating feminist form of soft porn, especially when doing so involves denying the agency of those in the rest of the industry and referring to them as being degraded. Also there are plenty of feminsit porn sites run by women, where as Feck is run by a man.