Mums Make Porn, Episode 1: Review

I really, really wanted to like Mums Make Porn.

The premise is promising: five mums, all with different backgrounds, band together to create a porn film that reflects their own values, showcases consent and depicts sex in a light that they’d be happy for their children to absorb. I was tentatively excited about it.

Now, I tentatively hate it.

At the time of writing, only the first episode has been aired, so it’s the only one I’ve watched. In this first episode, mums Emma, Anita, Jane, Sarah and Sarah-Louise meet for the first time, watch some cliché PornHub slush, start to brainstorm their ideas for their own pornographic production, visit a couple of porn sets and say a lot of things that made me so angry I felt nauseous. You know, standard documentary fare.

From the outset, porn is depicted as an evil and abusive monolith. There is no mention of the porn that already exists which does exactly what these mums hope to do: depict consent, communication, intimacy and women actually, genuinely enjoying themselves. I began to feel a bit insulted on behalf of all the feminist porn producers and stars out there, but I resigned myself to this being the “angle” of the show and pressed on. One of the porn sets they visit, wherein a Domme named Zara films a scene with a nice-looking boy named Sam, does actually seem to feature a woman enjoying herself and some communication regarding consent, and to be fair, the mum who’s watching, Emma, responds quite positively to the whole affair. (There was even a very sweet little moment where Emma helps Zara with her lingerie.) Unfortunately, this seems to be the absolute peak of positivity regarding porn, and does not set the tone for the rest of the episode.

Three of the other mums visit a set where a clip creator (and “mum of two” – we’ll come back to that) is filming a scene for the cheating girlfriend genre with her real-life boyfriend. They fuck, they talk dirty about her fictional boyfriend, they stop when his cock goes soft, they continue, you can fill in the blanks. And then the three mums go outside because Sarah-Louise needs to puke into a bush.

I don’t want to be unkind. People are squicked by what they’re squicked by, and she is apparently viscerally disgusted by the sight of the male performer’s cum. However, this woman has had six children. How did they get into her womb? I’m reluctant to suggest that the vomiting is theatrical, but there’s clearly some kind of separation in Sarah-Louise’s mind between nice, private cum and dirty evil porn cum.

It’s also Sarah-Louise who says that porn “does not represent normal women.” I assume that she means it doesn’t represent statistically average women, or all women, but indirectly calling the women who appear in porn abnormal is, um, not my favourite thing. The word “normal” gets thrown around a lot, and never in a way that I appreciate. One of the mums (I forget which) mentions that porn is causing young people to think “threesomes, foursomes, fivesomes are normal.” In my world, they are! When I was in a triad, I had threesomes so often I once forgot the term “partnered sex” and accidentally called it “1v1 sex” instead. I think by “normal”, they mean “common”, “frequent” or “easy to organise”, but still, I was unimpressed.

Another thing which mystified me throughout the entire episode was the mums’ assertion that what’s happening in porn “isn’t real”. I understand what they mean – that porn is performative, that there are tricks and clever editing involved in making it look the way it does, that the kind of sex represented in porn isn’t as common outside of it and that there’s usually some conversation beforehand – but the fact of the matter is that people do have sex like that. People do get double penetrated, they do get bukkake’d, they do get the shit beaten out of them, and all sorts more besides. And again – and I feel I cannot stress this enough – if they’re looking for representations of sex that they deem “real”, that looks more like the sex they have, that literally already exists.

You know what else already exists? Mums who make porn! The voiceover literally introduces the clip creator whose set the mums visit as “Roxy, mum of two”. Mums direct, produce and feature in porn all the time. (Has anyone told them what the M in MILF stands for?) I wonder how much of the choice to title the series Mums Make Porn was to make it as eye-catching as possible, and how much of it was influenced by the fact that these mums, and the documentary, seem not to understand that a lot of the women involved in porn are there on purpose, and that they actively contribute to the making of the porn. The only way I can comprehend perceiving mums making porn as a novel concept is if we assume that the women (including mums) who are in porn have no agency, and are just there as objects – which is not a terribly feminist assumption to make.

There was also, throughout the whole thing, an emphasis on the ease with which people (especially young people) can access hardcore porn. Now, I understand that porn is not an educational resource and that mainstream porn in particular portrays a very narrow, very misogynistic view of what sex can look like, but I truly don’t believe that making it harder to access will help anyone. What will help is conversations with kids from an early-ish age about consent, being kind to other people, the fact that different things make different people feel good, the fact that porn is performative and is not, statistically speaking, representative of every sex-haver on the planet, and the fact that there exists a much wider range of it than whatever you stumbled onto on the front page of PornHub.

The other problem with emphasising how easy it is to access hardcore porn is that it sort of kind of implies that if you’re into some weird shit (as I am, and as I assume some of my readers may be too) then you should have to work hard to view it, or else not view it at all. I fucking hate TikTok, but the fact that it’s advertised to me and is only ever two clicks away is not the problem – it’s how the internet works. It’s also great for people who enjoy TikTok! People can enjoy things! And, since the legal viewing age for porn is 18, it shouldn’t matter whether the weird, kinky and even the misogynistic stuff is easier to access than the nice, loving, intimate stuff – if you’re following the letter of the law, you shouldn’t be allowing your resident young person to view any kind of porn at all. And if you are allowing them to view porn, you should be talking to them about it, regardless of its contents, because it is just always going to look different to how one navigates sex in the real world. It’s usually better lit, for one thing.

There were some bright spots throughout episode 1 – primarily in the form of Anita, who talks openly about enjoying porn from many genres and who doesn’t express any disgust when watching consenting adults fucking. And I suppose it has opened up a dialogue between some of these mums and their teenagers, although it’s not my favourite thing when Sarah responds to her 16-year-old daughter having accidentally seen some pornographic adverts by saying, “There’s a lot of vile stuff out there. Vile.” rather than asking her any questions about it, and then goes on to repeat the insistence that porn is “not real”.

There’s no neat takeaway here because there’s just so much cultural bullshit to unpack and we’re only on episode 1. I am, I guess, glad that this is facilitating conversations about porn and our cultural perceptions of it, both between these mums and their kids and in the wider world, but I wish that we could have these conversations without dismissing the agency of women who do porn, subtly shaming people with weird kinks and ignoring the vast body of feminist, queer, and otherwise loving, intimate and consent-driven porn that people are working so fucking hard to produce.

Shall I review episode 2? (Update: I did!)

What Should I Do With My Body Hair?!

Image is a close up of a white person's skin with dark brown curly hairs growing out of it. It is unclear what body part the image is of.

I grow a lot of body hair.

Not a truly atypical amount for an assigned female, estrogen-influenced person’s body, just kind of… a lot. My hair is thick and dark, so it’s noticeable as soon as it grows in – on my legs, under my arms, along my forearms, between my tits, in a trail down to my mons pubis, and all over my pubic area itself. These are all very typical places for an adult mammal such as myself to sprout hair.

The conundrum is whether I should keep it.

The obvious answer, the one that everybody I ask defaults to, is that it’s my choice, and I should do whatever makes me most comfortable. But therein lies the problem – what makes me most comfortable is changeable and confusing. There are so many components to my comfort that it’s almost indecipherable, and I’m easily overwhelmed – so I figured I’d break down these components in a blog post, partly so that people in similar tangles can come to their own conclusion about their own hair, and partly as therapy for me.

First of all, there’s the gender thing. My gender is… unpredictable. Sometimes I’ll have a masculine-of-centre phase so long, so intense and so dysphoria-laden that I’ll genuinely consider medically changing my body through HRT or surgery… but then the pendulum will swing and I’ll find myself watching hours of makeup tutorials, dressing exclusively in skirts and contemplating growing my hair back out to shoulder length.  Equally, sometimes I’m just indifferent to gender and I simply want to do whatever is most convenient. As far as I can tell, my genderswings (y’know, like moodswings, but trans) aren’t linked to any environmental factors (though my masc phases sometimes coincide with lower mood, but that may well be because the low mood is caused by the dysphoria that accompanies my masculinity). There is no way for me to anticipate them, so I just have to maintain a level of androgyny that can be accessorised with to match my moods. Of course, body hair isn’t inherently gendered, but it’s perceived by other people as masculine and it feels masculine to me – so when I run into a masc phase the day after I’ve shaved my pits bare, I’m disgruntled. Luckily, my body hair grows fairly quickly, so as long as a masc phase lasts longer than a few days, I can revel in my hairy armpits for at least a little while.

That is, until the sensory side of it becomes unbearable. Autistic people can be acutely sensitive to particular stimuli – and, in my case, I’m hypersensitive to some tactile inputs. It’s not usually the hair that bothers me, though. I barely register my leg and arm hair, noticing them more by sight than by feel. The two big problems I have are my pits and my pubes. I use stick antiperspirant almost exclusively (due to my lack of proprioception making it inevitable that I’ll get spray deodorant in my eyes or mouth, as well as having lived with an asthmatic mum and then an asthmatic housemate for most of my deodorant-wearing life) and when you apply that stuff to a hairy armpit, it takes an age to dry, and feels slick and slimy for a ridiculously long time. Application to a bare pit, on the other hand, means that it dries in moments, as well as getting all over the actual skin I’m trying to deodorise, so I don’t have to deal with sweaty pits either. (For the record, I like other people’s sweaty armpits just fine, especially if I’m being sorta headlocked into them – but my own sweaty pits give me the bad autism somethin’ awful.)

Meanwhile, the pubes issue is rooted in a deep hatred for the way that menstrual blood interacts with hair, but is also complicated by vaginal discharge, lube and other people’s sexual fluids whenever those things enter the region. I hate having wet and/or clumped-together hair anywhere, but I have some particularly vivid memories of my labia literally being tangled together by menses-soaked pubes back when I used pads (and had heavy, birth-control-free fourteen-year-old periods, rather than the more manageable ones I have now), so now I keep my pubes trimmed out of habit and fear.

The third and final component of this conundrum is the feminist one. I’ve spent this evening researching criticisms of neoliberal, uncritically choice-oriented feminisms for a module I’m doing at uni, and it solidified what I’ve felt for a long while: that blindly advocating for personal choice in all matters is a woefully lacking feminist strategy, since all our choices are going to be influenced by patriarchal bullshit. To painstakingly remove all my pubic hair in an emulation of porn performers’ genitals (which are, as I understand it, hairless for cinematic convenience more than anything else) and insist that I’m doing it solely for myself, without pausing to consider why I think that emulating porn produced by cishet men counts as an act of self-care… it would be naive at best and wilfully ignorant and apolitical at worst. So instead, I have spent many, many hours agonising over what I should do with my body hair, well aware that I’m taking into account my own aesthetic preferences (influenced by pop culture, porn and patriarchy) and those of others (including people who don’t even see my genitals any more!) alongside the factors I deem more “legitimate” like transness and autism. Then I get myself into a spin about why I don’t prioritise my aesthetic preferences (regardless of where they come from) and whether disregarding what I want to spite the patriarchy is still letting the bastards win, and, and…

And it barely matters. It’s a few square inches of hair that always grows back. The people who get to see my genitals are ones who already understand and respect my feminist principles and who understand that free choice under patriarchy is virtually impossible, so, while we should all be as self-aware as we can, we should also be kind to ourselves and to each other, and save our energy for things that have more real-world consequences than “I have once again had to dredge pubes out of the shower drain in order to prevent overflow”. At the end of the day, in this case, I really should do what makes me feel best – and if that means spending a few minutes before each shower doing a little introspection, feeling around for my confused and abstract gender, and prioritising my sensory needs over the bold statement I could make with my underarm hair, then I think I’m okay with that. I don’t need to have a fixed body hair policy.

I just need to be self-aware, and to be kind to myself.