A conversation with Louisa Achille about The Naked Feminist
The Interviewer: Laura Nathan,
The Interviewee: Louisa Achille, Director, The Naked Feminist
What inspired you to make The Naked Feminist?
I became inspired to make The Naked Feminist after reading a
magazine article on the famous porn star, Nina Hartley, declaring her
feminist sensibilities and strengths as a sex entertainer and educator
— a career spanning over 17 years. I wanted to know if Nina was a rare
exception in this male dominated industry.
Feminism? is a somewhat contentious term that different people
define in different ways. From your film, I get the sense that you
define it in terms of being empowered and in control of oneself. Would
you say that’s a pretty accurate characterization of your definition?
I think feminism for many women means different things, but for me it is
essentially about choice and giving women a voice. I think once a woman
has her voice and can make choices for herself, then empowerment,
self-identity, and courage will follow.
Why did you choose the particular actresses you used in your film?
They seem like a fairly close-knit group, which I found very
interesting. It made the pornography film industry seem much smaller
than I imagined.
It was important for me to interview women who had a number of years
experience in the industry so I could gauge the progress (or lack of
progress) women had made in the adult entertainment industry.
Once I met Jane Hamilton and read about CLUB 90, I became completely
inspired by this group of renegade female sex performers. They had
created the first porn star support group for women. They have not only
created a strong sisterhood amongst themselves, but [they] also have
become incredible mentors and role models to other women in the
industry. I consider these women to be the first feminists in the
industry, and of course their voices are a crucial element in a film
depicting feminist sensibilities within the world of adult
entertainment. [Like Jane Hamilton,] Nina Hartley, Sharon Mitchell and
Christi Lake … [have] all made incredible strides within the industry
– Nina as a sex radical, performer, educator and mentor, Sharon
co-founding the first medical clinic devoted to the health and emotional
needs of people in the industry, and Christi through her political
activism and entrepreneurial insight.
All industries are much smaller and [more] tightly knit than they seem,
and this is fairly evident once you start working within mainstream
Hollywood and similarly with the adult entertainment industry —
especially within the same country. However, I think it is even more so
with the adult entertainment industry as the people within that industry
have been under attack from legislators, the government, and the public
far more than any other industry and thus have banded together to fight
for freedom of speech and other essential rights such as freedom of
The adult entertainment industry is also an industry where the
performers, especially the women, are breaking one of the biggest taboo
a woman can break — that is having sex on camera for money … Since
only a small percentage of women enter into this occupation, they are
going to get to know each other and some will form bonds.
There is a peculiar absence of men in your film — aside from
Seymour Butts — even though men are an integral component of the porn
industry as both producers and consumers. The absence of men in The
Naked Feminist seems to be a smart stylistic move to depict women as
the agents of the porn industry and their stories. Did you consider
interviewing other men besides Seymour, and if so, why are they not
included in the edited version of the film? If not, why? And what is so
special about Seymour that caused him to make the cut?
I interviewed a number of men — journalists, directors, writers, and
performers in the adult entertainment industry, and they were included
in every cut except for my final cut … I made this film to give women
in the industry a voice, and I didn’t want to lose sight of that.
Thus, if a woman spoke about a similar experience or point of view as a
man [I interviewed], I chose to keep in the woman’s voice. This film
is about [the women in the pornography industry] and their experiences,
not the men’s. Even though I do consider [the men’s] viewpoints and
experiences to also be incredibly valid, they essentially didn’t
belong in this film.
Seymour Butts has one big specialty in my opinion. No, only joking. The
reason I was so interested in keeping Seymour in the film was because of
his huge female fan base. Even though his main target audience is men,
he has all these women that love him and his porn films. When you go to
the big adult entertainment conventions it is always astounding to see
the number of women — of all ages and nationalities — waiting to get
autographs from him. It was nice to illustrate this role reversal and
disprove the right wing feminist mantra that no women like pornography.
I noticed that The Naked Feminist doesn’t explicitly address
homosexuality and lesbian erotica. However, from what I have read, queer
porn is particularly important for women and men who are questioning
their sexuality or who are insecure about being involved with members of
the same sex. Do you think there is any particular reason why your film
ended up having a heterosexual slant?
I don’t think The Naked Feminist explicitly addresses
heterosexual erotica either, but you are right, that it is the main
genre of pornography that is delved into. That is mainly because
heterosexual pornography is the most popular and most historic type of
pornography out there. But this was not at all intentional. I did not
look at sexual orientation when I made this film. I was more interested
in the female sexual pioneers and entrepreneurs who had made an impact
on the industry and made working conditions for women better or who were
making strides in today’s mainstream porn world. There are so many
sub-genres in pornography and I am sure that many women and men are
empowered by the different types. However, that discussion is, I
believe, for another film. However, I would like to add that many of the
women interviewed are gay, bisexual, polysexual and heterosexual. A
wonderful mix really.
Your documentary argues that some pornography is in fact misogynistic
and that such films are not the type of porn that the women you
interviewed condone. How can one differentiate between misogynistic and
non-misogynistic porn? The presence of violence? Consent (or the lack
thereof)? Women both in front of and behind the camera? Or just the gut
reaction of women involved in the film?
Subjectivity, taste, and consent will always creep into discussions
regarding pornography and especially pornography and misogyny. I don’t
think there is one exact definition of misogynist porn, and I don’t
think there is a sub-genre [that] supports it. However, when I was
making this film, I did encounter a disturbing trend in the industry to
push the boundaries of sexual violence towards women as far as possible.
I think this is mainly a knee-jerk shock tactic to gain notoriety in the
business, and it might possibly exist as a backlash against the positive
strides that women have made in the industry. I don’t believe that the
companies making this stuff represent the industry as a whole. However,
the fact that this type of material (e.g. women being beaten to a pulp
whilst being gang raped, made to vomit whilst giving oral [sex] and
[being] punched around the head) is being produced saddens me, and in my
opinion, it is misogynist as it is illustrating a hatred towards women.
Do you sense some urgency to disrupt the taboo associated with
pornography in general, or is your goal merely to enable the women you
interviewed to speak their stories and perspectives? What is it that you
seek to contribute to the ongoing dialogue regarding sex and sexuality
in Western culture (if anything)?
I made The Naked Feminist to give the women in pornography a
voice. To me, the film is less about breaking down the taboo associated
with pornography and more about breaking down the taboo associated with
women who chose to be sexual educators and entertainers. When a man
chooses to work in pornography, he is rarely viewed as being exploited
or objectified. In reality the money shot and the penis are the most
objectified aspects of the genre. I really think it is time to get rid
of this antiquated double standard.
What, if anything, do you hope to contribute to the independent film
industry with The Naked Feminist? Is there anything you hope
other filmmakers (adult entertainment or otherwise) will take from
seeing your film? Is there anything you hope viewers will take from
I would like to contribute tolerance and acceptance to the [feminist]
movement. It would be nice if some of the dominant women’s groups
would accept these women’s choices, help them to change the system,
and make it safer for women instead of denying them their voice and