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!)