Feminist Tentacle Porn

Maybe you've heard of a famous and celebrated Japanese wood-cut from 1814 entitled The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife. It sticks in the mind possibly because it features a young lady engaged in a sexual act with a pair of voracious Octopuses, one of whom is perched upon her vagina performing oral sex, the other of which is pretty much sucking her nipple. The subtitles accompanying the image are also pretty graphic (“LARGE OCTOPUS: My wish comes true at last, this day of days; finally I have you in my grasp! Your “bobo” is ripe and full, how wonderful! Superior to all others! To suck and suck and suck some more. After we do it masterfully, I’ll guide you to the Dragon Palace of the Sea God and envelop you. “Zuu sufu sufu chyu chyu chyu tsu zuu fufufuuu…”) In a way, this sets the shape of tentacle porn to come. It's a genre that's known for both its graphic nature, instances of sadism and often downright bizzarre scenarios. This could not be further from the work of Åssie Enoch of Lo Fi Cherry Porno Pics, a feminist porn production company based in Berlin. Although her work enters into a dialogue with these prior works, she illustrates sexual scenarios of an entirely different nature. Instead of a narrative of domination, exploitation and degradation, she creates pornography which aims to empower as well as arouse.

When the words “feminist porn” are uttered, tentacle hentai, which basically involves large phallic tentacles probing female orifices with or without invitation, isn't always the first genre of pornography to spring to mind. And yet Enoch has found it to be the appropriate medium for her exploration and portrayal of female sexuality. For example, her pornographical works include “Space Labia”, in which two girls meet one another in a dentist's waiting room and realize that they share a secret – they're both tentacled aliens. They then proceed to discover one another's bodies and sensuality in a way which is both humorous and turns conventional heteronormative porn narratives upside down. Her work is a playful provocation aimed at porn which reinforces negative narratives of the primacy of masculine sexual satisfaction with female pleasure merely a secondary byproduct. In place of this, her work explores female sexuality – and indeed female sexual organs – as an active entity; in place of the vapid vessel of the female orifice which permeates so much mainstream tentacle pornography, her feminine sexual agents are active participants in their own pursuit of pleasure. In a 2013 work entitled “The Return of the Hymen”, Enoch produced an installation piece in which audience members were invited to peer through her used panties and watch a 40 second long video clip portraying the hymen as a part of the female anatomy which, rather than being broken upon the first instance of intercourse, is portrayed as active, as she puts it: “It is in fact self-repairing and elastic, it is not in any constant state of demolition. The piece tries to illustrate a sexually active hymen. One that enjoys to wrap itself around your finger or penis or whatever. Something that tears itself apart for the joy of it, just to close itself back up again. A hymen that does not break, but swallows you and spits you out.” There's something very evocative about this approach – taking an organ which is typically understood as being fragile, subject to destruction as a side effect of sexual intercourse, and instead representing it as capable of pursuing its own motivations and needs. It subverts typical ideas of female sex organs and replaces the 'void' space between the legs with something excited, sensual and tactile.

Enoch states, of the Tentacle porn genre, that “tentacle porn indulges in hunger, multiple penetrations, fluids and kitsch. It has the possibility to liberate sexuality from ideas about expectations on bodies, looks, gender and also to go against any pre-determined duties of certain body parts.”

In her work, she has taken these elements of tentacle porn which can be interpreted as exciting, fun, sexy and liberating, and used them to provide a counternarrative in discourse with the aspects of other examples of the genre which don't support such a positive sexuality.  Interestingly, it's not only the negative misogyny of dull and boring mainstream pornography (“yeah! suck my dick good, bitch!”) which Enoch is challenging – she also states in her manifesto, that she finds it problematic that so much pornography consists of repeating narratives – a bad thing, regardless of whether those narratives are inherently misogynist or not. When something becomes familiar and is repeated over and over, it allows people to disengage. The audience are expected to behave like dogs responding to Pavlov's bell, and the orgasm becomes like a reflex action, rather than an expression of ecstasy. A lot of mainstream porn, then, becomes something which encourages people to shut off from and anaesthetize rather than to explore their sexuality. Pornography like Enoch's, strange as some may find it, is the antithesis of this. The power of the weird is to shock us out of our stupor – the strange and unexpected makes us question the nature of what we normally take for granted as normal.

Yet despite all of this intellectual analysis, what is most striking about her work is the playfulness. Often, creators who venture into the world of “art-porn” try to distance their work from the original intention and aim of pornography – which is, ultimately, to provide sexual pleasure for its audiences. This leads to instances of oft-pretentious blabbery from artists who present their work as 'erotica' rather than pornography, as if calling a spade a spade somehow devalues its purpose as a tool for digging. Enoch rejects this – although her work is highly sophisticated in terms of its themes and theory, it also doesn't take itself too seriously –  well, it would be hard to, really, when you're playing a frisky tentacled space alien sex-bomb. And she is adamant about her work as material for arousal, not just an exploration of lofty academic concepts. “I want people to have an orgasm to my films,” she states, directly.

The pornography industry, as any other industry in late capitalist society, is a behemoth of exploitation and of the propagation of existing, often damaging cultural narratives.  Pornography as industry also has the specific danger which arises from the fact that the narratives and tropes which are replicated tap into a very deep and powerful aspect of the human psyche – how we explore and indulge our fantasies and our interactions with one another at a very deep and primal level, and how discourses of power are played out sexually. But to challenge these dominant narratives, it makes no sense to try and ignore or deny even the most bizzarre of desires – as any fan of Freud knows, repression never leads to much good.

The playful approach of artists like Enoch and others in the alternative-porn industry can be a very powerful and tool for reclamation and rewriting of sexual narratives. Providing an alternative which is both clever and sexy, we can take the tropes of opression and, through experimentation and enlightened discourse, build a new playground in which to indulge our sexual fantasies with eyes – and legs – wide open. So instead of feeding our tentacled demons, we can rehabilitate them and allow them to flourish as the sexy little fuckers that they are.

Words by Philippa Dee