"Porn Work, Feminist Critique, and the Market for Authenticity"
by Berg, Heather (2017)
This article argues that feminist critiques of pornography—conversations initiated in the feminist “sex wars”—merge with post-Fordist work ethics to make the performance of authenticity a central component of porn work. Echoing antiporn feminist critiques that posit commercial sexuality as a danger and authentic sexuality its cure, porn managers describe authentic desire—in contrast to economic motivation—as a key feature of what makes a good worker. In turn, workers describe conjuring authenticity as central to the work of porn. Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork and in interviews with workers and managers in the US porn industry, this article explores authenticity at the point of production. It investigates the emotional management strategies workers deploy in manufacturing authenticity, including workers’ strategies for negotiating work-life boundaries, relationships with coworkers, and the politics of payment in a work atmosphere in which part of the job is performing leisure. The demands of authenticity are particularly high in feminist and amateur porn, two genres explicitly marketed as “less manufactured” and ostensibly organized around greater worker control over production practices. But worker control as it exists in “less manufactured” productions can create new areas of strain, even as it alleviates others. Workers laboring “authentically” tend to give more time and energy for less pay. In contrast, workers in mainstream porn describe playing a role (defined as separate from the self) for a defined wage as something that protects them from emotional strain.
KeywordsPornography, Women, Feminist Theory, Sex Work
ThemesWomen and Work, Sex Work
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