LGBTQ+ fetishization, and what it says about our society


#1

Warning: NSFW subject matter. And some of the linked articles may use problematic language.

I’m sure there’s a way to delicately write about this; but I’m not sure how so I’m just gonna jump in and try to be as respectful as possible.

Trans porn is popular, and only growing more so (according to what little data on this is public). That’s probably not surprising to most people. What might be surprising and/or worrying is where porn starring Trans people seems to be the most popular. And the why is…complicated to say the least. What got me thinking about all this is something that is by no means “new” in any sense of the word, but is seemingly entering the mainstream; or just having some new-found memetic popularity (for various reasons)…“Traps” (which isn’t to imply that feminine men [gay or otherwise] or crossdressers are Trans, only that these topics aren’t mutually exclusive in this context). Again, not a new concept. I bring it up because I’ve been seeing it people use it a lot lately (outside of 4Chan) as an adjective to describe a type of person they’re physically attracted to.

What does all this mean though? What does it say about a place where those in power are actively trying to deny Trans people basic human rights; but a significant number of people in said place find Trans people very desirable (physically at least)? Is that not literally dehumanization?

And I feel like this needs to be addressed, the reason this thread is titled what it is, and not “Trans, Traps, and society” (other than how bad that sounds); is because I want people who know way more than me about this sort of thing to give their thoughts about dehumanizing LGBTQ+ people, all while being attracted to them. Because this issue certainly isn’t just a Trans one. And it definitely extends to other media-mediums than porn.


#2

I feel this topic deeply in reasons I won’t explain. I think you bring up a very good point about the fetishization of (mostly) trans women. There’s allot of horrid slang that’s attached to trans porn, and I think that it does a great deal to dehumanize, and sexual trans women. I also think sites like Kink, are trying to change that. They give the sexual power to the Women in all of their videos. It’s horrid to me that allot of men have fantasies about being with a Trans-women, yet still seek to take away their rights, and call them nasty words.


#3

Erm… I’d search for Chelsea Poe’s writing/activism on the topic (among others) because Kink and the other major sites do not have a good record on labour rights/pay and specifically an issue with forcing trans performers off hormones to top (which can be dangerous) and only signing trans performers for specifically trans-fetish shoots. There are huge systemic issues (access to work, landlord discrimination) which makes sex work a queer/trans issue but also the main employers have some specific problems which haven’t been addressed enough.


#4

I’d love to read that because I’ve always kind of blindly held them up as the standard. Porn is a nasty industry and I am always disappointed when I find out how they treat actresses, and actors.


#5

Yeah the problems comes from how the many porn isn’t humanizing the characters and are just there for sex. However, there also a rise in humanizing the characters in the right way that lead into sex (As someone who reads hentai in different forms). Best we can do is to not use porn as a complete example.


#6

I came out to my sister last year, and as a part of a very long discussion, she encouraged me to (okay, I’ll expand, I also explained being essentially asexual,) she asked if I’d ever watched porn, and after some discussion encouraged me to look into/watch some porn, and I explored a bit, and found the description offered by… I think it was pornhub? May have been a different, but in-network site, found the most… de-humanizing, alienating, just… stare-into-space, existential crisis I think I’ve encountered in some time… There was a description, of what is still labeled “shemale” which was emotionally, and… existentially crushing.

The very description of trans women in porn was… fetishization(sp?) of… people who weren’t being described as people. As animals. Exotic. Slowly building up to going back to take a screenshot, but… I’m just not in a good emotional place to do so. It’s disgusting. It’s alienating. It’s… still fucking bad. I think everywhere?

As Metalsnakezero notes, porn is probably not the best gauge for where we’re at as a society/civilization, but as a litmus test, it could not fail harder.


#7

I think part of the problem with the continued dehumanization of trans women stems from porn though. Because I see these men who are attracted to trans women, go to sites like this, read the titles, hear the terms, see how the industry depicts, trans women, and translates that into other mediums. I don’t think porn is the only cause of the issue, but I think the fetishization, and continued exclusion politics may have roots there.


#8

Fetishes in general are often a way for people to embrace the things they’re ashamed of, and for a homophobic man, there’s just not that much more shameful than being attracted to a person with a penis (as nearly all trans porn actresses have) They’ve been taught that they should be disgusted by bodies like ours… but they’re not. It’s a dirty little secret for straight boys to have, and the dehumanizing slurs are a form of easy compartmentalization. You may get off to us, but as long as you keep our humanity at a comfortable distance to reassert your heterosexuality, you don’t have to think about how maybe your decades of deeply ingrained political beliefs and understanding of gender and sexuality might be wrong.

Whoops, that’s a bit of a rant, but yeah, the source of fetishization of trans women comes from wider cultural attitudes about sexuality and gender.


#9

I’m going to have to go sex work activist here and say this, while it may be an engaging story of cause and effect, is very much a fantastical tale birthed from both SWEFs and puritanical/prudish politics.

We live in a world where the place I can pee is a hotly debated topic filled with mainstream politicians and feminists who are convinced that there is no such thing as transphobia or even trans people and their extremely powerful hate is just normal. This is the climate. This is what I get when I open a great many textbooks, especially feminist ones (Greer, to name but one). This is what I get when Jesse Singal decides to have another go at defending child abuse because he hates trans people that much and refuses to listen to any of us. Mainstream media is Silence of the Lambs.

Porn reflects the issues of our society. Porn is often racist, sexist, transphobic etc. It is all this because it reflects our society; it is not the singular force of popular culture that shapes it. It is not the very laws of the land which shape our concepts of morality. It is not the major cultural criticism bastions like feminism or other academic pursuits. Porn is just a slice of media many people consume, erotica is what some people tell themselves they enjoy to avoid admitting they also engage in the consumption of porn. Some people don’t, and that’s cool too. But pay for it damn it, this is the work of people who need food shelter etc just as badly as you so stop stealing that content while your legislators fund police to come and raid our homes and take our earnings.

We don’t expect most media to only show legal, moral activity at all times. We realise the misguided censorship of things like the codes that once restricted media are wrong and counter-productive. We understand that normalisation is a subtle process and that you don’t go around shooting actual people because you saw someone solve a problem with a gun on TV or read a book about it. Because we have education, we provide people with the tools to understand the law and social expectations which means they know what fiction is and where it doesn’t match reality. But there is one area of media where we are paranoid about deviant influence - yes, porn. The same legislators and pastors who are telling you all about the evils of porn are also saying how sex and relationship education is also evil - it’s puritanical nonsense that is attempting to suppress both media and the education that contextualises the fictional nature of the media, the essential tools needed to be able to understand the media we consume. It is not a coincidence that those same people also rally against all-ages LGBT content. Suppression of queer people and suppression of sexuality are the same reactionary instinct. It is nothing more than Right-wing reactionary censorship, even if you wrap it in a feminist bow.


#10

I’d really like for you to expand upon this a bit if you can? Just in this sense: I have absolutely read plenty of great pornographic work (mostly by western queer artists) that has good characterization and feels great in terms of humanizing the people involved, and I personally love what feels like effortless inclusion of nonbinary characters, etc., but do you think there is a way forward in more conventional, filmed porn? That is definitely the larger, more popular area of porn right now, but do you think that has to change for this to get better, or can the content itself change?


#11

Yeah I don’t think it’ll work with conventional, filmed porn since the works that does it right are made by small groups or a single person works where they are being personal about it where from what I seen of most porn is too broad of a brush. In order for it to change the audience needs to tell the bigger film makers to do a better job at depicting the LGBTQ characters but I think at audience is either doing their own works or look for it in small works.


#12

I think I agree with you, but I want to make sure I understand your points.

Are you saying there are good representations of trans people in pornography, and they are made by small groups and individuals?

Are you then saying that larger studios should begin being more positive with trans representation in porn?

Or, am I misunderstanding entirely?

I hadn’t looked at trans sections of porn sites before, so I took a look. Even the sites that have sections specifically for trans (even marked as trans) sub-categorize everything shemale. Even when using the search term trans, you get almost all videos that have shemale or tranny in the title. I didn’t see any mention of trap, but I also didn’t look very deeply, nor did I use that as a search term.


#13

There are certainly trans performers and producers producing positive trans porn outside of the major companies. The above noted Chelsea Poe for one, often with TroubleFilms, (pretty sure this isn’t a forum where we should be linking to porn stores, even the more business-like sites of independent producers, so I’m going to avoid that) and also lots of others who have been interviewed at TransEthics.

Basically if you’re looking at Tube sites then you’re looking at a single company who control a significant chunk of mainstream porn production and stolen porn. So you’re looking at a warez page full of ripped movies and judging the quality of the media from that pool of piracy (made slightly more complex by a production company owning those sites and so also using them to advertise their own mainstream productions but mainly it’s user-uploaded piracy). You really should be looking for production that’ll be flagged “feminist porn” or “queer porn” (there’s a whole barrel of issues there with pay and branding but outside the scope of this topic), independent producers who run storefronts (or use some of the independent aggregator sites often branded with “amateur” labels) selling you content, not piracy sites. Stuff which often advertises/connects with an audience via Tumblr.


#14

I’m glad that stuff exists, and I would support it if I had like. Any money. But that doesn’t really eliminate the issue that mainstream porn, the porn most people know exists, is super super transphobic and bad.

And thaTs not to say it’s “porn’s” fault as an industry. Lord knows no other fucking media type has its shit together. But as a trans women I think it’s worth being critical. And I think my feelings of anger that people have to go out of their way to find stuff that isn’t transphobic is valid.


#15

“Trap” generally brings up the same content as the other related terms, and some “original” content.


#16

That totally valid.

But also sex work is disproportionately work done by trans women, and which is extremely heavily policed. Whorephobia, weaponising hatred of sex workers, is a major force that is entirely supported by mainstream transmisogynistic carceral viewpoints and it really is a fringe position that “porn could be better” when it’s almost uniquely undefended by US 1st amendment protections for media (ie the main position against porn isn’t the criticism of say, an analysis of any other media, but is more “ban this sick filth” with no consideration for those who rely on that work for survival). As I linked to at the top, this topic is absolutely an area where activists who are both sex workers and trans have been actively engaged for years in criticising from the inside (a position of overlapping oppressions) and building alternatives (because porn is not a monolithic industry).

There is a related discussion in terms of drawn pornographic content, so moving outside of sex work. This is an area where a lot of artists are trans. And they are bombarded with bile for daring to produce art about their own fantasies and experiences. Lots of cis people do use this as a way to condemn trans artists and rally against their right to earn via independent production that gets around systemic blocks to employment. My concern is that our criticism is weaponised to attack survival work of trans workers because this is a pattern I’ve seen over and over. I hope it makes sense why I’m particularly measured in any criticisms I make.


#17

That’s totally fair, and you clearly know more about this topic than me.


#18

Very valid. I would wager, though I have no proof, that Tube sites are where the majority of people consume their pornography, thus I looked to it for a quick survey of what is most available. I guess what I was really looking at was the state of conventional porn along with whatever amateur and pirated material ended up in the results.

I appreciate the points to where to find more ethically produced material. It is always good to reiterate the virtues of paying for the porn you want to see in the world.


#19

Coming from someone who gets her share of harassing comments from people who think either A: I’m just a fetish to them
Or B: I’m a prostitute, it’s really upsetting seeing the way other trans women are treated and seen in pornographic content :confused: It also doesn’t help that we’ve had 20 years of shows like maury and jerry springer with their “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IS A MAN?!?!?!” dehumanizing garbage. I wish there was an easy answer, but the way it is right now, I don’t have much hope they many people will come around any time soon.

Especially since we have a vice president and an administration that’s pushing back on LGBTQ rights in general. I feel kind of lost as to what to do at the moment about any of this :frowning:


#20

Ye, it’s an issue that this is probably true (and a brief history of the tube sites is worth knowing). Basically it doesn’t matter what games are on Steam or PSN, because it’s just the selection that’s on WareZ.ru that most people see (to sweep the analogy to games), who got rich on advertising to buy several publishers. And obviously that’s not funding the industry so it’s a major issue with what is “mainstream” vs what is actually commercial. Even within the actual commercial side then it’s not great and some of the major producers have clear issues (as noted as soon as someone mentioned Kink but would have come up as quickly if it had been Grooby etc who was mentioned - the indies/queer/feminist porn scene also have a list of concerns from people who have worked with them). But really we should talk about the commercial side, actual stores, because that’s where the real titles are, the actual produced media, not someone writing “Half-Life 3 REEL LAEK” on a virus (or whatever the uploader or ad copy writer decided would get clicks with pirated material).

If anyone wants to get to know a bit more about any of this stuff then there are some good places but the first call should probably be

Edit to add a key piece: One of the core things to track in all this is who is putting their name to anti-sex worker and anti-trans briefs. The venn diagram between Sex Worker Excluding Feminism and Trans Woman Excluding Feminism is close to a circle. The hard-Right and puritanical religious allies of that crowd are also going to be at the forefront if you look at briefs regarding legislation blocking abortion access (“so feminist, wow!”). There is an imperative, as queer women, to consider sex workers as not just disproportionately queer survival workers but also women who are being attacked by the same regressive groups (even if it’s not something you have personal experience with).