Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online platforms like Pornhub have reported a significant increase in web traffic. A revival of a discourse that claims that online porn consumption leads to harmful effects on mental health and sexual health pokes its head. However, plenty of studies conducted over the years to prove these causal links between pornography and damaging behaviour haven’t achieved conclusive findings. Furthermore, there isn’t a clear definition of what is considered “pornography” or “harm” in these very disparate and methodologically limited studies.
In contrast with this stigmatised view of porn on the internet, online recommendation lists of “enjoyable” porn sites, which is to say, free of violence and sexism, have begun to emerge. These alternatives are sometimes described as porn “for women”, “feminist porn” or even “ethical porn”. In these descriptions there tends to be an association between better film quality, ethical practices and a feminist aesthetic with high production standards and costs, which is presented as a justification for paid access. On the other hand, free-of-charge mainstream platforms like Pornhub, XVideos and others are perceived as responsible for promoting or disseminating "hard porn" that objectifies women and tends to be increasingly violent.
One of these online feminist porn lists I stumbled upon presented a slightly different recommendation: the Reddit forum r/chickflixxx, a place for women to confer about and share porn/erotica. The name of this community, "chickflixxx" is a combination of the slang term "chick flick" (a romantic film genre supposedly "for women") and triple X (generally used to identify adult content).
In this community, people share porn videos available on mainstream platforms, as well as video extracts from porn sites “for women” like erikalust.com or bellesa.co. However, what makes this subreddit unique are the comments. Participants describe what they like about the scenes and why they are valuable and worth sharing; not only highlighting what they find hot, but why. A space for personal interpretation and conversation unfolds and that is not at all common in the realm of pornography.
The digital ethnographic analysis I conducted for some time in this community led me to ask myself how porn takes shape based on the audience's perspective, and the practice of sharing and commenting on available online content.
Continue reading at GenderIT.org.