Porn Star Stereotyping

For Elise Dawson, flipping through a skin-mag with her mom over her shoulder was the start of a very comfortable sexual lifestyle, which has now transitioned to producing porn.

“I have enjoyed porn since flipping through my first Penthouse magazine with my mom at age 11,” said Dawson. “I had discovered it hidden in my father’s golf magazines and I was fascinated with this lesbian hiking feature.

“My mom found me looking at it and we looked at it together. She was very careful to explain that it wasn’t a shameful thing, it was just something people liked to look at, no big deal,” she said.

Dawson is in her fourth year at the University of Manitoba School of Art, dividing her life between art school, her job as a “bitchy barista,” contributing to local art magazine Chesterfield, volunteering at a feminist art mentoring program and still making time for her boyfriend Taylor and their girlfriend, Ayla.

But her focus in the last year has been exploring masculinity in film. She aims to create positive role models for feminist men, and in doing so has produced works that toe the line between art and pornography.

“There’s no such thing as art porn,” said Dawson. “Pornography is defined as the portrayal of sex without ‘artistic merit’ but I have always been interested in pushing boundaries, upsetting the standard.”

With many of the paintings in the Western canon studied by young art students originally created to titilate, the line between art and porn is all the more constructed and convoluted. So Dawson unpacks these constructs, empowering all bodies involved.

Her film CONFETTI, co-created with Lasha Mowchun and Emily Sirota, aims to break down the stereotypes seen repeatedly in conventional porn. Lasha takes on a bio-drag (a women who dresses up as a drag queer) persona while Emily adopts her own drag king character, and the “fuck-sequence” that ensues is followed by a costume-free, strobe-light scene which Dawson describes as “romance.”

It ends with Emily and Lasha changing costumes, to drive home the point of how constructed their sexuality is. The film remains a performance, only seen on small screenings and projected onto Lasha’s naked back, according to Dawson.

“Queer art should bring attention to itself,” said Dawson. But, she points out, “I don’t have a good argument for why my art is queer. I fuck girls and boys confidently, so I guess that makes me queer. My gender feels more fluid—my sex is female but I have always felt very, so-called, male-minded, Scorpio-sex driven. I take charge, I’m the leader people look to.

“Lately I am femme but before I was soft butch. Ha, it’s a construction. I’m only femme lately because I realized some fashionistas are feminist and I want to emulate them,” she said.

“I have always felt an intense confidence in my sexuality and I wish everybody would feel that way.”