Is Porn Empowering for Women? Some Words on Montana Fishburne

by on August 2, 2010

I am not an anti-porn feminist. I am sex-positive, extremely outspoken, and enjoy tackling issues of gender & sexuality on the web and in the classroom. I’d like to have an honest conversation about an interview that I saw with Montana Fishburne (Lawrence Fishburne’s daughter) and Brian Pumper announcing her new porn star career. When I heard about the interview, I happened to be driving and actually was looking forward to hearing what the young woman had to say. Unlike most, I actually consider sex work a career and believe that women should have the agency to choose it without nose-snubbing judgment. Many women, not “victims,” pursue these careers and that’s their prerogative. It’s not mine or your body, so get over it!

Now that everyone is clear on my intellectual stance, the real reason that I want to discuss this interview is because Brian Pumper’s voice impersonation of female porn stars and clear domination over Montana made me want to vomit. It’s one thing for Montana to announce her entry into porn, her love for sex, and enjoyment in performing it. However, anyone who watches the video clearly can see that’s not the case. In fact, I didn’t see the point of Brian Pumper being in it at all. It gave me a creepy, pimp feel when he was talking about the porn videos that he directed and the “compliments” that he gave female porn stars when they “performed” well. In his best female voice, he mocks some of these women’s responses, making them seem extremely shy, weak, and flattered by his praise. Even when he describes the sex, both oral and intercourse, he discusses these women almost like they’re beastly animals.

I didn’t get the sense that he was about empowering women in their sexuality through the use of porn and, for that, I hope Montana Fishburne or “Chip D,” her new adult name, wises up and gets a new mentor. She’s very young, 18 years old to be exact, and while I don’t believe in judging intelligence by age, there is a lacking wisdom factor. There’s nothing wrong with being a porn star, video vixen, model, or whatever career you choose. Just do it on your own terms, where it’s financially benefiting you THE MOST, and be about the empowerment of other women, whether sexually or just in general. Don’t do it to role play as some thirsty male porn director’s shy puppet.

If we look at the history of porn, many anti-porn feminists have argued that the majority of women in the porn industry are subject to degrading roles in these videos. I think the term “degrading” is relative depending on the woman participating. She may not interpret her performance that way. My stance remains that so long as the woman is educated and informed about the power of her sexuality, she is free to use it in whatever way she chooses. In this circumstance, I think Montana needs some sex-positive women in her life to make sure she understands the risks of the industry and the importance of putting your pleasure first, even in business. Everyone wants to enjoy their job, right?

In a recent interview, Gail Dines, a noted anti-porn feminist takes a different stance, not so much focusing on the role play aspect, but drawing on questions of capitalism and the porn industry’s incredible profits.

Many people have outdated ideas that porn is pictures of naked women wearing coy smiles and not much else, or of people having hot sex. Today’s mainstream Internet porn is brutal and cruel, with body-punishing sex acts that debase and dehumanize women…

The industry frames the work as a choice, because otherwise that would ruin porn. Choice is built into the way men enjoy porn. Men I interviewed are convinced the women in porn really choose this and enjoy their job.Increasingly, women are drawn to porn by the glamorization of the industry. Some women have made porn work for them—Sasha Grey, Jenna Jameson. Jenna Jameson was on Oprah, who was gushing about her. Oprah went to her house and showed the audience Jameson’s expensive cars and private art collection. This looks attractive to women with limited resources. Capitalism can only succeed if there are people around who will do the shit work. Women with law degrees are not lining up to do porn. The vast majority of women doing porn don’t make it and don’t get famous. They end up in low paid work as well as the brothels of Nevada.

We need a world where women have real options to make a living. This is a class issue and a race issue. To talk about choice is to ignore how people are constrained by their social and economic situations.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Gail Dines interview on Ms. Magazine

Gail speaks of a world where women should have “real “options to make a living, complaining that people are constrained by their social and economic situations. Like every entertainment industry, the majority of aspirants do not make it -  porn is no different. While it is true that many former female porn stars have lead successful, lucrative careers, some women actually enjoy sex and want to make a living off that experience, despite never being Jenna Jameson famous. Not all female porn stars are “forced” into the industry for fiscal survival. As the daughter of a noted actor, clearly Montana did not lack for money and, under Gail’s analysis, she shouldn’t be a porn star. Sexuality is not that simple and there are multiple paths that lead women to sex work. It has been cliched for too long as purely a sign of victimization. Lastly, men are not the only ones consuming porn, creating a 3,000 dollar spent-per-second industry online. Women are watching porn too! *GASP*

For the women who are comfortable with their sexuality and able to openly discuss female consumption porn without throwing judgment, I’d be curious to know how you feel about Montana’s (or really Brian Pumper’s) interview below. It may just be me, but she seems rather lost.

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  • http://arielleloren.com/2010/08/a-different-stance-on-montana-fishburnes-entrance-into-the-adult-film-industry.html A Different Stance on Montana Fishburne’s Entrance into the Adult Film Industry | Arielle Loren

    [...] reading on Zora&Alice Tags: anti-porn feminism, Arielle Loren, Brian Pumper, Lawrence Fishburne daughter, Montana [...]

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=844254 Daé Lovely

    you picked up on what many of my friends and myself picked up on -he seemed like he was pimping her out in the vid. she barely said anything. he was doing all of the talking. and the thing that gets me the most is that she seems so comfortable with him. i have a hard time believing that she just started dealing with his production agency at 18 — had to have been practicing before being legal (let me find out when her bday is). Anyway, Montana said that she just wants to be famous. She doesn't seem to care about being sexually liberated or anything like that.

  • http://twitter.com/arielleloren Arielle Loren

    agreed. from watching the video, it seemed like they had been working together for AWHILE. hmmmmm lol. im not exactly sure what she wants…”famous” how? a porn career? singing career? acting career? i'd be curious to know more which is WHY Brian Pumper should've just taken himself out the video and let the girl talk! *ridiculous*

  • http://nunezdaughter.wordpress.com Kismet4

    Thanks for the post Arielle. When I first saw the video, I only saw the edited clip on TMZ. And my first thought was that she looked a bit high–and I'm not referring to anything positive or negative in her appearance. I mean, she looked a bit in over her head and overwhelmed and out of it. Now, seeing the entire video…I'm really impressed with your analysis of her especially as someone else who is pro-sex work. Because she is young and understanding Brian Pumper as someone playing a pimp role…well just as when I first saw the clip, I'm a little afraid for her and wish her the best.

    It would be wonderful if she did find a mentor who is in the industry on her own terms and I hope that my first impression is untrue and she is able to make a break on her own terms into whatever it is that makes her happy.

  • http://nunezdaughter.wordpress.com Kismet4

    Thanks for the post Arielle. When I first saw the video, I only saw the edited clip on TMZ. And my first thought was that she looked a bit high–and I'm not referring to anything positive or negative in her appearance. I mean, she looked a bit in over her head and overwhelmed and out of it. Now, seeing the entire video…I'm really impressed with your analysis of her especially as someone else who is pro-sex work. Because she is young and understanding Brian Pumper as someone playing a pimp role…well just as when I first saw the clip, I'm a little afraid for her and wish her the best.

    It would be wonderful if she did find a mentor who is in the industry on her own terms and I hope that my first impression is untrue and she is able to make a break on her own terms into whatever it is that makes her happy.

  • http://twitter.com/arielleloren Arielle Loren

    glad you enjoyed it :-) i think its important that more discourse be brought to the web about the paths to sex work being diverse. Not everyone is dragged into it and I do believe that it is a legit career choice. to each his or her own :-)

  • http://twitter.com/TheFreedomTweet FreedomTweet

    Hi Arielle,

    Very interesting piece! I'm glad to see Sisters having intellectual dialogue around the Montana Fishburne & Brian P commentary. It warrants evaluation & discussion.

    However, I'll honestly say my perspective differs from yours — while I don't consider myself an anti-porn feminist, I wouldn't consider myself to be pro-sex work either.

    Could be the age factor — 44 yrs, or the Mother in me, or just the wisdom yielded from being a woman who made many mistakes as a young girl, but what I see in this dynamic is more historical trauma & conditioning, than intellectual decision making.

    I know women choose sex-work for a number of reasons & enter into the industry via various channels. I also agree that adults have a right to do what they choose with their body.

    But as hard as we may try to reason with intellect, life gets down to a spiritual experience; life is organic.

    There are core reasons for the easy cultural exploitation of black women, the challenges we face in relationships with black men, the reason why Montana appears subjugated & somewhat stunned, the reason why Brian can speak of her & others with no regard to their womanhood or place as his natural counterpart.

    An empowered, grounded, self-loving, self-valuing & spiritually balanced woman manifests herself in a certain way, just as one who is absent of those qualities manifests herself in a different way.

    Yes, make the choices you will (or must) but be honest about what the choices reflect about your core being.

    Neither Montana or Brian is empowered, they are just manifesting a historical trauma a long time in the making. They are both deeply troubled & broken.

    I posted too via my blog ~ http://freedomtweet.net/?p=413.

    A different perspective yes but still with love.

    Luckie.

  • 1meccanism

    i'll have to come back to this post when i'm at home and can actually view with sound (sorry, at work now. LOL) but i mean her body language alone suggests that Brian Pumper is clearly the one in charge here. She looks tired, drained, and slightly nervous (hand-clasping). i certainly hope that this isn't a matter of her being pimped.

    i've been following the sound bites from a number of people. largely it has been men who have said things like “oh, i feel so bad for Larry Fishburne” and “oh, thank god that's not my daughter”, etc. etc. for me as a woman who is pro-porn (mutually consenting, legitimate porn), my thinking is all porn features someone's daughter. to me it's like saying porn is ok to peruse fellas until my daughter is in one. what? are you serious? the underlying hypocrisy there is maddening. i mean do you feel this way when you're watching Big Wet Black Booties 4 for the third time?

    the one question i would raise is how is the relationship between daughter and a-list actor father so disconnected that she would feel that porn is the one way for her to get attention/fame as opposed to her dad securing a role for her in a mainstream film? am i the only one raising questions about that?

    gosh, i hope this all makes sense. trying to respond while at work is harrowing to say the least LOL.

    I

  • http://twitter.com/arielleloren Arielle Loren

    Luckie, I really appreciate your comment. And agree I agree with you almost entirely.

    I'm glad that you got the point of women entering sex work for various reasons. I would agree with you in saying that, yes, Montana is not empowered in this circumstance. I believe that empowerment starts from within and that after it manifests, one should only work with others who are dedicated to continuing that empowerment. My main concern is that “sex work” or “porn” have become “dirty” words in the imaginations of black women. Often, many of us judgment on young women in the industry, which is wrong, or simply saying that they are misguided. The reason that I identify as sex-positive is that I truly believe people have the liberty to do as they please with their sexuality. I also realize that there is a double standard where another woman may put her nose up at a porn star, but be the first to watch a porn video in secret or even tape a “private video” with her significant other. I'm big on honesty and until we, as black women or women in general, start having open conversations about sexuality, I will be writing on this issue for a very long time.

    Montana needs open, sexually empowered female mentors, but not the ones that cast judgment on sex work or women “selling” their sexuality. She obviously has an interest in this field, but she needs to be aware of the realities that come with the choice. I also get the feel that this is not where she wants her career to end and that she sees this as a gateway. Right now, she is being swindled, clearly we all see it. I won't even comment on Brian Pumper, I could write another whole article on men and pimping. I wouldn't even classify that as a historical trauma, I'd attribute it to greed and selfishness.

    I also enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for stopping by!

    Arielle

  • http://twitter.com/arielleloren Arielle Loren

    I,

    Thank you for the comment! I found myself chuckling because I couldn't agree more. In fact, I just wrote Luckie back in the comment below talking about a similar double standard between women. Many women watch porn but will be first to be anti-sex work or nose snub the career of a porn star. This is why I am sex-positive and while I may not want to be a sex worker, I believe women have the liberty, power, and choice to pursue it without judgment or automatic classification as a misguided “victim.” In this circumstance, I would say that Montana is misguided. And I do find it interesting that she claimed in a recent article to have a close relationship with her father (even though she didn't tell him about her new career path). Supposedly, they talked prior to this incident almost every week! I also know that young people like to be autonomous. Maybe she wants to make her own way, on her terms. My main concern is that if she wants to pursue this as a career, or any other venture within the entertainment industry, you have to watch the people you keep close to you. Brian Pumper is not ethical, and its not because he's a porn star or porn director. He is unethical because he is taking advantage of her brand equity and lack of knowledge on business in the industry.

    Also, to the men who don't see a problem with that entire pimp-naive young woman set up, that's ashame. Just like you wouldn't want any woman you care about to be swindled, she doesn't deserve to be swindled either. It's as simple is that, daughter or not.

  • http://twitter.com/TheFreedomTweet FreedomTweet

    Arielle, thanks for your reply. So refreshing to see constructive dialogue happening around this. I applaud Z&A for driving the discussion.

    I'm definitely sex-positive & can view sex work without an attached judgment or double-standard. I too know it happens — women standing against porn in public & embracing it in private. For me, the matter is too dense to be broad-stroked by a single analysis.

    I also don't immediately see every woman engaged in sex work as a “victim” but recognize there are many victims out there engaging in sex work. For example, Atlanta leads the country on child sex trafficking; some 500 girls are sold here per month to service some 7200 men. Are they victims? Yes.

    There are so many underlying reasons why we choose the paths we do that are personal, cultural & historical. That's what I see when I look at Montana, Brian & the public reaction.

    Just because a girl/woman can acknowledge that she's being exploited and/or accept its conditions doesn't make her empowered. It makes her informed. Empowerment comes from a much deeper place in self & like all things, produces its own Chi.

    I love approaching sexuality honestly but when we do, and layer in transparency too, a deeper, more complex issue surfaces. To heal it, we have to return to the core with how it began in the first place.

    Keep doing what you do Sister!:-)

    Luckie.

  • http://twitter.com/SasaShehu Sarauniya Shehu

    Great article. I'm glad to see an article that thinks through this issue clearly and not just “Porn is wrong and degrades women… it's just nasty etc.”

    I don't have any issues about women working in the porn industry… It's Montana Fisburne's reasons for doing so that bother me. I've seen quotes- not sure if they're true or not- where she said: “I’ve watched how successful Kim Kardashian became and I think a lot of it was due to the release of her sex tape”. This is extremely worrying… that she a) looks up to Kim Kardashian as a role model and b) feels that this industry is the only way that she can become successful. THAT is definitely something that needs to be focused on… as someone in a similar age group as Montana, I know a few of my college-peers who think this way as well.

    P.S. I never looked at the whole Brian Pumper thing… but looking at the video again, the body language has definitely got me worried…

  • Arielle Loren

    Thanks for your comment Sarauniya! I'd agree that if Montana saw this as her only path to success, that's problematic. There are many paths to success, but it's hard for me to believe that she felt this was her only option to enter the entertainment industry. Her dad is a noted actor that “made it” the traditional way. How could you miss what's right in front of you???? lol

    Addressing your other comment…as much as we may all hate to admit it, Kim Kardashian is more than just a pretty face and body in Ray J's sex tape now. She has expanded her brand to television, business, and several other fields. While I personally wouldn't have chosen the path she did to her success, I can't knock her hustle and I'm not sure that I can knock Montana for looking up to her. Would I prefer that she had other role models, well, yes…but I can see why she looks up to Kim. Pretty face, check. Pretty body, check. Ballin business woman, check. Celebrity status, check. The list goes on…I think the question becomes: is there ever a “proper” way to enter the entertainment industry? Even if it wasn't through pornography, there are all sorts of backdoor deals (involving some people's behinds lol) that allow people to reach a certain threshold of fame. The people who work in the entertainment industry will tell you that all is not what appears to be seen.

    I think this goes back to my main point of everyone having a different path, but I really remain concerned about Montana linking up with Brian Pumper. He, on the other hand, disgusts me, literally. There is nothing acceptable in what he is doing. Unfortunately, he is not the first man in the industry to capitalize unfairly of a young woman's sex appeal and personal brand. It happens all the time…I mean just take a look at some of the major industry moguls *cough* Diddy. No comment.

  • http://twitter.com/ms_celeste ms_celeste

    One of the most compelling points of this article is the idea that there are diverse paths that lead to a career as a sex worker. Montana's presumed access to money is not enough in my book to make her the face of diversity in the sex work industry. Especially since she is rumored to have a very unstable family life (which is such a porn cliche). Besides, she is only using porn to help her to become famous like her friend Kim Kardashian. By the way, can celebutantes who “leak” sex tapes as a marketing strategy be considered sex workers?

    Thank you for the article Arielle

  • http://twitter.com/arielleloren Arielle Loren

    @ms_celeste definitely valid points :) i would not say Montana is the face of diversity for sex work, but rather i would caution her skeptics from automatically throwing her to the victimization category. she did state that she always wanted to do porn and plans to release another tape even with her other aspirations in mind.

    to answer your question though, i do consider porn stars sex workers and unlike kim kardashian who had her tape “leaked” Montana entered this industry knowingly. she is a sex worker and i call her that with no stigma attached. we could debate the definition of a “sex worker” all day though because if its on the basis of women getting paid to perform sex, some high profile, married women can be thrown into that category too lol

    sexuality remains complicated :) thanks for your comment1

  • http://twitter.com/SasaShehu Sarauniya Shehu

    Very true… I do admit that Kim Kardashian is “not just a pretty face” but to emulate THIS particular element of her career is very worrying. Maybe saying “I can see that she’s very clever as an entrepreneur, so I will do XYZ” because, as you pointed out, Kim Kardashian isn’t JUST famous for thats sex tape. But that’s if Montana even said that quote… I’m not sure if it’s completely accurate.

    And yes, I am really concerned about Brian Pumper: the more I watch that video the more I am, as you said, literally disgusted.

  • http://arielleloren.com/2010/09/gender-performance-sex-work-queer-black-men-kicking-ass.html Gender Performance, Sex Work, & Queer Black Men Kicking Ass | Arielle Loren

    [...] porn, prostitution, or whatever specific form. I also wrote a piece awhile back on Zora&Alice defending Montana Fishburne’s entry into the porno industry. I do think that the media has yet to see a complex plethora of characters representing the field of [...]

  • Anonymous

    I only believed that Montana had cheated her father by played such porn role. Laurence never though that Montana would make with such porn actress who get rid to Montana.
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  • Guest

    I have a huge collection of Montana Fishburne porn movies. She fucked very badly by the man in that movies. She has a good body shape and lusty pussy.

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