Review: Mums Make Porn Episodes 2 & 3

I’m going to start by begrudgingly acknowledging that episodes 2 and 3 of Channel 4’s three-episode docuseries, Mums Make Porn, did address some of the criticisms I leveled at it in my review of the first episode. To my overwhelming relief, they discovered the work of Erika Lust (whose name the subtitles just could not spell correctly, much to my chagrin as a freelance captioner) about halfway through episode 2. They visited a set of hers and waxed lyrical about how much “better” her porn was than the stuff they’d seen thus far – “better”, in this context, meaning “more closely aligned with their own values” and also “produced with a bigger budget”. This is not to say that I don’t love and respect Erika Lust’s work – I really fucking do – but it was always placed at odds with mainstream porn, and was described more than once as more “intelligent”. I’m not sure what, exactly, they mean by that, but as a developmentally-disabled person who enjoys a bit of plotless, carnal, seemingly “unintelligent” porn, I didn’t love it as a piece of terminology.

What I did love was the fact that Anita, mum-of-four and my sole source of solace throughout this series, finally spoke up during a roundtable discussion and articulated what I’d been thinking throughout all of episode 1 – that the other mums’ continued assertion that what mainstream porn depicts isn’t “normal” is insulting to the people who do do those things. Unfortunately, after apologising, mums Sarah and Sarah-Louise continued to use a lot of the “normal” and “real” rhetoric that I criticised last time, but Emma (another fave of mine) didn’t bring those words into play again. Like the aforementioned discovery of Erika Lust, this came as a huge relief to me, a kinky weirdo who literally has “unintelligent” porn sex for funsies all the time.

Another relief was Jane’s departure from Mums Make Porn. That sounds unkind, but I wasn’t relieved because I disliked her – I was relieved because she was obviously so viscerally uncomfortable with the whole thing that watching her suffer through it would have been painful and joyless. She sought advice from her reverend, who said some unfortunate things about “dysfunctional sex” and the fact that fucking “is not a spectator sport” (I beg to differ), but who ultimately seemed to give her the validation she needed to walk away from something that she just couldn’t participate in enthusiastically. Consent is important in non-sexual settings too, and I just couldn’t imagine that Jane was actively, mindfully consenting to see some of the things she’d had to see during the research phase of the project. Her values might be wildly different from mine, but she seems like a nice lady and I was glad to see her walk away from what must have been a truly horrible experience.

Episode 2 continues with the mums interviewing prospective cast members, and I cringed the whole way through. I would be mortified to turn up to a job interview as under-educated as some of the mums were on sex, porn and kink terminology, let alone to host an interview whilst so under-prepared. Nonetheless, the interviews proceed, the interviewees patiently explain terms like “shibari” to the mums, and they finally settle on… the candidate who would be the most mainstream in any other field. I’m sure Daisy is perfectly nice, but the fact that they picked an eloquent, educated, middle-class, able-bodied white cis girl whose pornographic filmography didn’t feature any of the things they personally disapproved of struck me as a bit impotent. They spend the whole series talking about challenging the industry, but all their performers are cis, able-bodied and what they term to be “intelligent”. I will give them props for hiring a plus-size lady and two actors of colour, but they could have gone further with the “diversity” they kept promising us and they did not.

Episode 3, for the most part, managed not to elicit any new criticisms from me in terms of rhetoric and so on, but it did further showcase their lack of education and preparedness in two distinct ways. The first: whilst shooting their first scene, with girl/girl couple Heidi and Katana, they have the actors for their second scene, Romeo and Daisy, just… waiting around. For ages. In dressing gowns. I appreciate that maybe they only had their filming space booked for one day, but could they not have scheduled it a little bit better so that Romeo and Daisy could have made better use of their mornings?

The other, more irksome thing I noticed was that they kept talking about portraying safe sex, but that only seemed to appear in the form of condoms and lube. And I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the full film, but there was nary a dental dam nor glove in sight (except the gloves that Emma wore to clean the dildos) and no discussion of whether they should be included at all. The toys didn’t seem to be condom’d either, and I spotted at least one utensil of the jelly variety. The inclusion of condoms and lube in porn isn’t quite as radical as they seem to think it is, especially not when paired with those oversights, but I suppose it’s cool that they thought of it at all.

(It’s also cool that they thought about showcasing consent, but less cool that there was a whole uncomfortable scene in which a delivery man arrives at Sarah-Louise’s house and she makes a few jokes about his “package”. I really hope this was scripted, but since the bloke’s face was blurred and he didn’t joke along with her, I imagine it wasn’t.)

The theme of the whole series seems to be criticising mainstream pornography and then not quite following through on the promise to deliver the opposite. I think this can be adequately summed up by the fact that all the mums talk about wanting to portray diverse bodies (but not disabled or trans ones!) in a positive light, but Sarah-Louise ends up making a statement about wanting to see porn where “the bits don’t look quite right”. I think what she means is that she wants to see more genitals that are hairy, asymmetrical, coloured differently to the rest of the performers’ skin, featuring more prominent labia minora and so on… but it comes across as judgey.

And on the topic of coming across as judgey, one key aspect of the series I neglected to mention last time is the clips of various teenagers, some alone and some with a pal, sitting in front of some exposed brick wall and being asked leading questions to produce soundbites about mainstream pornography. I didn’t mention this in my previous review because I thought it’d be unfair to criticise kids who (presumably) haven’t engaged with much feminist or sex-positive discourse and who are (definitely) being asked pointed questions about material they don’t even look old enough to legally explore and critically reflect on. I think that, as with recruiting Jane for this project in spite of her obvious discomfort around sex and porn in order to generate conflict, Channel 4 acted irresponsibly in enlisting these teenagers to feed their narrative that mainstream porn is bad and damages children, and their desire to create good TV seems to have overwhelmed their desire to behave ethically or do any real research.

Did I hate Mums Make Porn? Sometimes. Sometimes it exasperated me so thoroughly that I mashed barely-comprehensible notes into a Google doc, such as, “Weeeird reaction to trans porn – trans people fuck!!!” and, “sarah-louise.. No”. But it did feature a few redeeming moments like Anita being brave enough to tell the other mums they made her feel judged, Emma cleaning dildos in her nice mumsy jumper, Erika Lust being her delightful self and the mums’ daughters expressing genuine excitement and pride at the final screening of Fourplay. 

Should you watch it? Maybe, if you like yelling at your TV a lot. Should I go and knit until I calm down about the whole self-contradictory, poorly-researched and self-serving goddamn series?

Fucking definitely.

Why I Don’t Review Sex Toys (Yet)

Image is of a white hand (Morgan's) holding a box with a picture of the blue Fun Factory Stronic self-thrusting dildo on it.

Content note: this post refers briefly to my experience of being sexually groomed and the subsequent dissociation and trauma I experience. If that’s a bit heavy for you, join me next week for some thoughts on eye contact during sex, and take care of yourself in the meantime ♥

You might have noticed that I tackle a fairly broad range of sex- and kink-related topics on this li’l blog of mine, including detailed discussions of the things I’m into and the reasons I’m into them. You might also have noticed that I am a big user of sex toys, since they feature in a lot of my Smut Saturdays pieces and in some of my other essays too. Surely, then, the next logical step would be to write in-depth pieces on my enjoyment (or dislike) of specific sex toys, right?

Well, much like any other question that starts with, “Why do you…” or, “Why don’t you…”, the answer to this one is twofold: it’s the trauma, and the good ol’ autism.

Let’s get the trauma bit out of the way first. I don’t wank much. My first experiences of enjoyable masturbation were in a grooming context, wherein I was being instructed by someone a lot older than me on technique and fantasies. Six years on, I still find my own arousal unsettling when it isn’t “justified” by a partner’s presence and arousal of matching intensity, and trying to get off without anybody’s permission feels dangerous and unfamiliar. Even with awesome porn, if I’m touching myself while I’m alone, I feel unbearably self-conscious and will often dissociate. As you can imagine, this does not make for very good dildo data.

I could, of course, circumvent this by only testing toys in the presence of a partner – which would also yield more data in terms of how a toy can be used by two or more people. However, I’m depressed and anxious, and both of my partners are busy people, so I don’t want to put pressure on the sexual encounters we do manage to have by making them into research projects; nor do I want to put pressure on my partners themselves by bestowing upon them a responsibility to get sexy with me for the sake of my blog when we’d rather be watching Masterchef or snuggling in silence after a busy, hard day.

The only viable solution to this problem, in my eyes, is continued therapy, gentle experimentation, and lots and lots of time to keep recovering. If I ever do manage to produce a review of a toy, y’all should know it’ll be the product of a huge amount of psychological labour, support on my partners’ parts and way more time testing than the average reviewer probably spends.

With that out of the way, here’s my next point: the autism. Being autistic doesn’t automatically preclude a person from reviewing sex toys by any means, and it might even be an advantage to some, since autism can involve, among other things, heightened sensory experiences and a meticulousness that your neurotypical friends will envy during Deadline Week at uni. Unfortunately, my autism also involves a lack of cognitive empathy.

“But Morgan!” you cry, probably gripping your laptop or tablet screen in dismay. “You’re super empathetic! What are you talking about?!”

You’d be right, my dear fictional and overreacting reader. I have buckets of affective empathy, which is the one that makes you cry at videos of raccoons dissolving their own candy floss or bitterly despise your friends’ trash exes – in slightly more technical terms, affective empathy is the type of empathy that causes you to experience the same emotions that people around you are experiencing, and it’s the type I have way too much of.

Cognitive empathy, though, is the kind of empathy that helps you to understand how other people are feeling in the first instance – and I fucking suck at it. Once someone has very clearly signalled their emotions to me, I’m balls-deep in those emotions with them, but they have to be very, very clear signals. As a default, I assume that everybody is fundamentally like me, so I’m surprised to learn that people are straight, or that they like pasta, because I’m a pasta-hating double queer. In terms of sex toy stuff, I’m surprised to learn that some people like very direct clitoral stimulation or that they might dislike intense A-spot stim – and I tend to forget that information even once I’ve learned it. I worry that my lack of cognitive empathy would make my reviews effectively useless to anyone whose preferences didn’t align exactly with my own.

I also worry that my heightened sensory experiences would skew my reviews in a distinctly unhelpful way. Not only do I enjoy things more intensely than some neurotypical folk might, I also find some things unbearable that barely register for allistic folk. I am intensely bothered by certain textures, so I might slate a toy or a lube for a texture that 99% of the population would enjoy (or be neutral on). I’m also sensitive to noise, so my perception of the noise levels produced by a particular vibe might be wildly inaccurate and totally useless to somebody living in a block of flats with very thin walls.

I know that a lot of these problems could be mitigated by understanding and making clear to my readership that my reactions to stimuli aren’t representative and that I’m just describing my own experiences, but I’d hate to lead someone astray with my autistic fussiness and turn them away from a toy that they otherwise might have loved. I suppose, in a sense, this isn’t so much a problem with my autism as it is a problem with my own confidence in my writing; hopefully, over time, I’ll develop enough nuance to accurately and honestly review toys in a way that’s helpful for autistic and allistic folks alike.

Oh, and one final point: I’m broke as shit. Sex toys can be expensive, especially if you limit yourself to only reviewing body-safe ones, and I’m living off my student loan and the Amazon gift cards my uni sometimes gives me for participating in surveys. If any manufacturers or brands want to help mitigate that factor, since it’s the easiest one to contend with, you can reach me at – which is also one of the many places you can reach me if you’re a reader and you want to share your thoughts on the art of reviewing toys.

My Cervical Erosion Adventure, Part 1 – In Which Sex Ed Failed Me Tremendously

Stock photo of a red telephone with a red telephone wire on a plain white background.

Content note: This post refers briefly to blood and even more briefly to sexual assault. It also briefly describes a positive experience in a medical setting. If any of those things are hard for you, feel free to give this one a miss – you are the priority ♥

I had one of the best secondary school sex and relationships education experiences out of all of my peers. I know this because I spent a significant chunk of my time at sixth form educating my peers about safer sex, since, whilst they were being shown shame-inducing close-ups of oozing genital warts, my cohort were rolling condoms onto a model penis and discussing things like peer pressure and the relationship between booze and consent. I was the resident Sex Friend, who answered questions unabashedly (sometimes with diagrams) and collected free condoms on others’ behalves.

I was also living with and ignoring cervical erosion (sometimes called cervical ectopy) for about four years.

I was starting to investigate the sex positivity movement online. I had heard time and time again that penetrative vaginal sex isn’t supposed to involve the painful tearing that pop culture suggests it is, not even when you’re doing it for the first time – but I had somehow autistically assumed that painless bleeding was fine. I knew something funky was going on with my connective tissue, so I assumed that I was sometimes experiencing small tears in my vaginal canal when I was getting dicked down, and that’s where the blood was coming from.

Reader, I carried this assumption with me for four years.

The thing is that the sex positivity movement was trying to convince its audience that sex is awesome (which is very frequently is) and that’s it’s nothing to be afraid of (which is usually the case). I think it was for that reason that nobody I read or watched or listened to discussed vaginal tearing in-depth; they just advised their audiences to avoid it.

In part, I was embarrassed to mention it to anybody because I thought it was a result of user error. I like deep, rough fuckin’, often with minimal foreplay (mostly due to impatience and my wildly unpredictable sex drive meaning that I seize every opportunity to get my nut out). I was noticing mild-to-moderate discomfort as I was initially being penetrated, and then I was carrying on regardless. Some traumatised part of me was convinced that I would be ‘in trouble’ if I admitted that I was being, ahem, less-than-gentle with my vagina, and so I just mopped up blood-streaked cum (mine and/or others’) in private and tried to put it out of my mind.

The only reason I spoke to a doctor about it at all was because I mentioned it to my mum during one of our many discussions about the symptoms we have in common, since she has similarly fucky joints and similarly fucky connective tissue. I brought it into the conversation offhandedly (“And do you get, y’know, bleeding after sex?”) but as soon as I’d said it, my mum was very obviously surprised – and alarmed. She all but insisted I mention it to my GP, who took one look at the section of my notes specifying I was on oral hormonal birth control and started drawing me a diagram of my cervix on the first piece of scrap paper he could find.

He explained that it was quite common for people in my age bracket, especially those using hormonal contraception, to experience cervical ectropion – wherein some of the cells that are meant to be on the insides of the cervix creep out of the neck and sit outside, on the wall of the vaginal canal. At least, that’s how I understood it – and I understood, too, that raw tissue on the inside of a warm, wet tunnel like the vagina was a recipe for infection. Luckily, he said it could be “very easily treated” (but didn’t specify how, exactly) and he referred me to my local gynaecologist (or, as I lovingly refer to them, the Vag Mechanic) to double-check with a speculum that that’s all it was, advised me to have gentler sex, and sent me on my way.

Next week, I’ll be writing about how it got treated and what the nice ladies at the Vag Mechanic could have done better, but this week it felt especially important to talk frankly about living in our patriarchal, sex-shaming culture when you have a vagina. In spite of how much more knowledgeable I was than my peers and in spite of my continual pursuit of sex- and kink-related facts, I was so disconnected from my body that I ignored it randomly bleeding for four whole years.

I was so alienated from my vagina & cervix that some inside bits were on the outside and I didn’t even Google it.

Dealing with the acute trauma of having been assaulted and the chronic trauma of living in this hellscape of a society will take time, but I’m slowly learning to know my body, and I’m hoping that learning to like it will come next.