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Study Explores Authenticity and Bisexuality in US Adult Video Industry

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A study by Jennifer Moorman examines the intricate dynamics of authenticity and “compulsory bisexuality” within the US adult video industry. Published in the journal Porn Studies, the article delves into the widespread phenomenon of female bisexuality in mainstream adult films, analysing the interplay between industry practices, audience perceptions, and the authenticity of performers’ sexual identities​​.

Moorman’s research highlights the pervasive presence of girl-on-girl scenes in mainstream pornography, which often targets a heterosexual male audience. Many lesbian, bisexual, feminist, and queer spectators and academics typically view these scenes as being unauthentic. This perceived inauthenticity is linked to the industry’s emphasis on performative bisexuality, where actresses are expected to engage in same-sex scenes regardless of their personal sexual orientation. The portrayal of female bisexuality in mainstream porn is contrasted with the taboo surrounding male same-sex content, further underscoring the industry’s gendered biases​​.

The study argues that the portrayal of bisexuality in adult video is more diverse and complex than commonly perceived. Moorman draws comparisons between mainstream adult media and alternative forms of lesbian, dyke, and queer pornography, suggesting that girl-on-girl scenes in mainstream porn can also represent a form of queer creative labour. She posits that these scenes should not be dismissed outright as merely serving the heterosexual male gaze, but rather recognised for their potential to express or evoke bisexual and queer desires​​.

Moorman examines the industry’s production practices and the marketing of authenticity. In mainstream porn, authenticity is often linked to the performance of sex acts rather than the performers’ actual sexual identities. Conversely, in the subgenre of “lesbian” porn, studios sometimes market their content based on the supposed authentic lesbianism or bisexuality of their actresses, despite primarily catering to a straight male audience. This marketing strategy reflects broader industry trends where authenticity is commodified and utilised as a branding tool​​.

Dyke and queer porn, as explored in the study, strive to depict authentic representations of queer sexuality. These genres aim to showcase a diverse range of bodies, sex acts, and sexual identities, often positioning themselves in opposition to mainstream porn’s misrepresentations. However, Moorman cautions against idealising dyke and queer porn as inherently more ethical or authentic. She notes that many performers and directors in these genres also work in mainstream porn, challenging the binary distinctions between these production cultures​​.

The study includes several case studies to illustrate the varying representations of female bisexuality in US adult video. One notable example is Annie Sprinkle’s Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle, a film from the so-called “Golden Age” of porn. Despite Sprinkle’s identity as a queer woman, the movie catered to what was presumably a straight male audience. Yet, some scenes in the film, particularly those involving all-woman orgies, exhibit a queer aesthetic that challenges straightforward categorisations of authenticity and inauthenticity​​.

In contrast, the work of Dan O’Connell and his company, Girlfriends Films, is examined. O’Connell, a straight white man, has been a prominent producer of “lesbian” porn, often marketing his films based on the genuine lesbian or bisexual identities of his actresses. Despite his success and the recognition of his films within the mainstream industry, O’Connell’s work raises questions about the commodification and exploitation of queer women’s sexuality for profit​​.

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