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Journal of Lesbian Studies

Volume 17, Issue 3-4, 2013

Special Issue: Revolting Bodies: Desiring Lesbians Special Issue

Remediating Politics: Brand(ed) New Sexualities and Real Bodies Online

Remediating Politics: Brand(ed) New Sexualities and Real Bodies Online

DOI:
10.1080/10894160.2013.731865
Aristea Fotopouloua

pages 253-266


Publishing models and article dates explained
Published online: 15 Jul 2013

Abstract

This article suggests that, in a world emerging in and through mediation, branded sex bloggers and portals become (re)mediators of queer and feminist politics. It examines the websites of two porn production companies, Nofauxxx and Furry Girl, and analyses how they respond to older media forms, re-articulate long-standing debates about pornography in new mediated environments, and re-signify the pornographic object. Key in this process is the circulation of “authenticity,” “real bodies,” and “diversity” discourses. Through this circulation, sex blogger/brand portals mediate models of queer and feminist political engagement entrenched with notions of digital networks and free markets more generally.

KEYWORDS

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This article suggests that, in a world emerging in and through mediation, branded sex bloggers and portals become (re)mediators of queer and feminist politics. It examines the websites of two porn production companies, Nofauxxx and Furry Girl, and analyses how they respond to older media forms, re-articulate long-standing debates about pornography in new mediated environments, and re-signify the pornographic object. Key in this process is the circulation of “authenticity,” “real bodies,” and “diversity” discourses. Through this circulation, sex blogger/brand portals mediate models of queer and feminist political engagement entrenched with notions of digital networks and free markets more generally.

KEYWORDS

There is abundance of porn-related production today, including radical sex weblogs and production companies run by women, especially U.S.-based bloggers who, in some cases, have worked in the sex industry and consider themselves to be sex educators. It is also the case that significant traffic moves between the academy (feminism and queer studies), art-porn, sex weblogs, online amateur porn networks and commercial porn, and Internet studies. For example, Violet Blue writes the weblog Open Source Sex, with allegedly four million readers a month, “for the intersection of technology and sex, and the free-flowing information exchange of the open source software movement” (Violet Blue, 201143. Violet, Blue. 2011. Open source sex. [blog] Available at: http://www.tinynibbles.com/about [Accessed 10 January 2011]

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). This osmosis between worlds of meaning and words of doing, worlds of reading a sexual text and worlds of producing a text—or even becoming one—in online spaces opens up questions about what kinds of political subjectivities emerge in this context, how the meaning of porn consumption changes and how Internet media are part of this process.
Pornography has been long contested by feminists, in terms of representation, symbols, and meanings. As media products become part of our everyday environments however, and as the Internet develops hand in hand with the porn industry (Paasonen, 201029. Paasonen, S. 2010. Labors of love: Netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism. New Media & Society, 12: 297–1312.
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), issues of representation and interpretation become less pertinent in processes of mediation (Lash and Lury, 200717. Lash, S. and Lury, C. 2007. Global culture industry: the mediation of things, Cambridge: Polity.

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). This article seeks to explore the role of digital media in contemporary queer and feminist politics through the frameworks of “mediation” and “remediation,” by analyzing the discourses employed in two porn websites. My concern is not with the representation of genderqueer bodies in a new medium—the Internet in the Web 2.0 era—but with the ways in which queer and feminist sexual politics and codes become themselves branded, commodified, material objects in online porn culture. At the same time, I am concerned with the kinds of political engagement that can potentially take form in this context.
The chain of texts and new genres appearing in networked porn culture are significant for the circulation of symbols about genderqueer and women's bodies in our everyday life. In order to understand then what kinds of political subjectivities and what forms of political participation are enabled in relation to this circulation, it is necessary to ask how social meanings about queer and feminism are mediated in these sites—taking mediation to describe, as Roger Silverstone (200235. Silverstone, R. 2002. Complicity and collusion in the mediation of everyday life. New Literary History, 33: 761–780.
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: 762) put it:
the fundamentally, but unevenly, dialectical process in which institutionalized media of communication (the press, broadcast radio and television, and increasingly the world wide web), are involved in the general circulation of symbols in social life.
Mediation here offers a way of thinking how digital media transform the social and symbolic spaces where various groups and individuals find themselves doing politics, and therefore shape social relations and everyday practices (Livingstone 200918. Livingstone, S. 2009. On the mediation of everything: ICA Presidential Address 2008. Journal of Communication, 59: 1–18.
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). At the same time it refers to the ways in which people's everyday uses changes communication technologies. Media theorists Scott Lash and Celia Lury (200717. Lash, S. and Lury, C. 2007. Global culture industry: the mediation of things, Cambridge: Polity.

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) have thought mediation in a different way: for them mediation is a process significantly different in our media saturated environments after the 1970s—what they call the “global culture industry.” They describe a process whereby the media are becoming things and/or acquire operationality—a process in which they get exchange value and use value, beyond their initial cultural value. Lash and Lury's critique is particularly relevant here because my interest is with the ways in which commercial bloggers integrate queer politics into branded sexualities and subsequently transform political values into commercial value.
The ensuing analysis attends to two websites of queer and women-owned alternative commercial porn production companies, which appropriate sexual and feminist politics in some way. My focus is on discources of authenticity, particularly “real” bodies and queer visibility on these websites. Certainly pornographic texts have always had exchange value in the online porn industry. In this article however, what is investigated is not the pornographic content after activating a membership to the website. An examination of the visual content offered by porn websites alongside audience analysis could complement this study, but are beyond the scope of this article. Here I am concerned with the branding discourse prior to registration, as this is voiced by the producers in interviews or the Frequently Asked Questions and Mission Statement sections of the websites. This branding discourse is here understood to not only constitute a structure of address to the user/consumer but furthermore, to certain political subjectivities. My argument is that because Internet sites have entered into a relationship between pornography consumers and sexuality politics, the cultural meanings of both these politics and of consuming porn are changing. These shifts occurring because of mediation are of particular importance for queer and feminist politics.
The Internet from its early days to recent times of “Web 2.0” technologies 1 has fundamentally transformed media economies, in terms of content generation and distribution—including porn (Paasonen, 201029. Paasonen, S. 2010. Labors of love: Netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism. New Media & Society, 12: 297–1312.
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). Growing technological convergence has made it possible for companies to distribute pornographic material in different formats, online and offline (Paasonen, Nikunen, and Saarenmaa, 200730. Paasonen, S., Nikunen, K. and Saarenmaa, L. 2007. Pornification: Sex and sexuality in media culture, Oxford: Berg.

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). In this context of distribution transformations, new claims are being made about Web 2.0, porn, and politics more generally. For instance, David Slayden (201036. Slayden, D. 2010. “Debbie does Dallas again and again: Pornography, technology, and market innovation”. In porn.com: Making sense of online pornography, Edited by: Attwood, F. New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles: Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, Peter Lang—International Academic Publishers.

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) has traced pornographic commercial production alongside advancements in technologies like 3G, DVD, and Web 2.0, and noted how these developments consequently make the Internet accessible to amateur porn producers. For Slayden, the proliferation of user-generated and alternative porn constitutes a field where consumer tastes and demands change too quickly for the commercial porn industry to catch up with and, in this sense, signals a democratizing “power of consumers” (2010: 66). And Katrien Jacobs (200716. Jacobs, K. 2007. Netporn: DIY web culture and sexual politics, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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), approaching the exchange of links and pornographic content online through a gift paradigm, argues that home-made porn production, amateur, and peer-to-peer (P2P) porn exchange constitute activist practices and create non-commercial counter sub-cultures.
Production and distribution changes are thus today central in debates about the politics of porn and media technologies. However, other empirical and critical projects studying networked spaces (Coté and Pybus, 20078. Coté, M. and Pybus, J. 2007. Learning to Immaterial Labour 2.0: MySpace and Social Networks. ephemera theory & politics in organization, 7: 88–106.

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; Dean, 201011. Dean, J. 2010. Affective networks. MediaTropes, 2(2): 19–44.

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), and netporn amateur production in Web 2.0 platforms (Attwood, 20102. Attwood, F. 2010. Porn.com: Making sense of online pornography, New York: Peter Lang.

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; Mowlabocus, 201025. Mowlabocus, S. 2010. “Porn 2.0? Technology, social practice, and the new online porn industry”. In Porn.com: Making sense of online pornography, Edited by: Attwood, F. Oxford: Peter Lang.

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) have attended to the forms of labor signposted by these practices. For instance, Sharif Mowlabocus (201025. Mowlabocus, S. 2010. “Porn 2.0? Technology, social practice, and the new online porn industry”. In Porn.com: Making sense of online pornography, Edited by: Attwood, F. Oxford: Peter Lang.

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) in an analysis of Xtube highlighted the user subjectivities emerging through such online laboring practices and assessed questions of user authenticity. My discussion builds on this scholarship as it considers queer online porn production to be a form of labor and a site of value extraction, guided by the making of scarcity and abundance. At the same time it is a site of “soft control” (Terranova, 200438. Terranova, T. 2004. Network culture: politics for the information age, London: Pluto Press.

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), or types of control suitable for the creativity and fluidity that characterizes online production. In this sense, gift economy approaches to amateur and realcore practices accentuate the autonomy of exchange cultures and disregard the association of such cultures (and freeware/shareware strategies of companies) with the economic thriving of capitalism as a whole. Although the corpus of scholarly work revolving around affective labor and networks offers innovative understandings of porn labor and porn content, here my scope is not to compare the rhetoric used by the producer to the actual practices of porn production and content.
There is something distinct about digital network media and our perceptions of technologies and reality, which is rather my interest here. The new kinds of political subjectivities offered through genderqueer and alternative porn online are medium-specific and linked to our changing perceptions of reality, humanity, and technology. Richard Grusin and Jay David Bolter have developed the concept of “remediation” (1999) to explain how new media forms seem to hide the medium in a way that the experience from one setting or reality to another appears unmediated. New(er) media recreate older media forms in a process that involves “immediacy” and “hypermediacy.” “Immediacy” refers to the logic of making the medium disappear so that the experience from one setting or reality to that of the audience appears unmediated. At the same time, digital cultural texts integrate other multiple texts and create a condition of “hypermediacy” or, as Grusin and Bolter (199914. Grusin, J. and Bolter, D. 1999. Remediation: Understanding new media, Cambridge: Mass., MIT Press.

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: 47) put it, “refuse to leave us alone.” What “remediation” offers here as a linguistic and theoretical term beyond that of “mediation” is a consideration of the ontology of the media as agents and as mediators between users, everyday practices and institutions, for instance queer and feminist offline networks of friendship and politics. As Eugene Thacker (200439. Thacker, E. 2004. Biomedia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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) observed in an engagement with Grusin and Bolter, “remediation” implies the capability of digital forms to encode and “transcode” (as Lev Manovich, 200120. Manovich, L. 2001. The language of new media, Cambridge: Mass., MIT Press.

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later put it) other media objects. For Thacker, the question was how far the human body can be remediated. If it is the communication of senses and desires that digital porn culture seeks to undertake, and if, as Grusin and Bolter argue, the body is already a mediation, how about the queer pornographic body? In what follows, I employ the concept of remediation to analyse the discourse of authenticity beyond issues of representation and user control. I suggest that genderqueer and women's porn is permeated by the logic of making the medium disappear—strangely enough by appealing to “reality.” Remediation in this case is primarily employed to address how central but invisible the medium is for the constitution of the queer political subjectivities offered by these types of online porn.
The websites under scrutiny are those of production companies nofauxxx.com (from now on Nofauxxx) and Furry Girl. Nofauxxx is appealing as a research site especially since it has recently been considered as a “business with a sexually correct spin” (emphasis in the original) (Pasquinelli, 201029. Paasonen, S. 2010. Labors of love: Netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism. New Media & Society, 12: 297–1312.
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: 4) that destabilizes gender binaries (Jacobs, 200716. Jacobs, K. 2007. Netporn: DIY web culture and sexual politics, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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). Although imagery is not my concern here, the visual style of Nofauxxx made it interesting for two reasons: firstly, its upbeat Web graphics differentiated it from many websites of dyke porn or women-owned production companies, which seem to still follow a 1990s Web aesthetic. Secondly, the website featured “alternative” models of punk, emo, and other subcultural styles, with characteristic piercings and tattoos. This “alternative” style raised for me the question of whether Nofauxxx is a variation of a heterosexual generic “alternative” website in which “queer” is plainly an additional niche consumer category or indeed “alternative” queer porn, in other words changing what has become the norm in lesbian and dyke porn. On the other hand, Furry Girl is a cis woman-owned production company, not explicitly queer, which stands out for different reasons. While most sex weblogs are “geeky” and techno-oriented, Furry Girl seems to target vegan, naturist, and eco-friendly audiences. This made it a good place to potentially trace rhetoric other than that of personal empowerment through technologies and sexual expression.
Nofauxxx belongs in the growing field of female-to-male (FTM) and gender-queer pornography that has been thought to involve “a variety of ethnicities, body sizes and cultural expressions, the unifying element being their sexplicit transmasculine content” (Waxman, 200646. Waxman, T. 2006. GenderFluXXXors Uncoded: An FTM Supornova performance Interview with Katrien Jacobs. Sexxchange Salon, Hong Kong, [online] Available at: http://www.tobaron.com/genderfluxxxors.html [Accessed 17 July 2011]

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:1). Courtney Trouble, the creator of the Nofauxxx company, presents herself as a “queer feminist pornographer/photographer” (2009) and the website features “performers of all genders, sizes, races, sexual orientations.” On the front Web page, the project announces “alternative girls, hot boys, transfolk, gender queers, and real life couples” (Nofauxxx, 201126. Nofauxxx. 2011. online, Available at: <http://nofauxxx.com/tour-2> [Accessed 16 August 2011]

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).
The company's emphasis on “making porn that's refreshing, real, and authentic” (Nofauxxx, 201126. Nofauxxx. 2011. online, Available at: <http://nofauxxx.com/tour-2> [Accessed 16 August 2011]

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) according to the website, points to the alternative character of the platform, in relation not only to what is shown, but also to production practices. In this regard, audiences are considered to be familiar with mainstream porn genre conventions, in terms of iconography, themes, narratives, and style. In heterosexual porn for instance these conventions include bodies enhanced by plastic surgery, maximum visibility of genitalia, and male ejaculation as evidence of pleasure. Respectively, in lesbian and dyke porn, as Heather Butler (20047. Butler, H. 2004. “What do you call a lesbian with long fingers? The development of lesbian and dyke pornography”. In Porn studies, Edited by: Williams, L. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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) notes, the “authentic” butch (and the butch/femme dyad) has been a prominent figure since the 1960s, and has served to legitimize lesbian porn (and sexuality) as distinct to heterosexual. However, Nofauxxx promises to transgress these generic boundaries of both dyke and hetero porn, beyond the introduction of new iconographic signifiers—beyond representation.
It additionally claims to challenge the norms of the pornographic industry by inviting users to become producers and adopts a revolutionary rhetoric for that purpose. For example, a persistent effort to imbue political breadth in the website is apparent in naming the membership link “Join the Revolution.” Seeking to contend that becoming a porn producer is emancipatory, in an interview to Ssspread Magazine, the owner of Nofauxxx provides a personal narrative.
By 2003 I had been working as a phone sex operator full time for a few years and was feeling a burnout associated with being men's fantasies all day. I thought that working on my own fantasies and my own body as a source of fantasy would be a great way to work through those emotions. The photos of my friends and myself ended up being the first incarnation of NoFauxxx.com (Trouble cited in Plato, 2009).
In this narration, conditions of work characteristic in neo-liberalism (Gregg 2008) e.g., the blurring between producer and consumer; commercial relationships and friendship; working time with leisure time are translated specifically for the context of online porn companies This revolutionary tone appears to span across websites, blogs, and magazines, in creating Trouble's brand persona as a “queer porn icon” (Trouble, 201041. Trouble, C. 2010. Courtney Trouble: Queer Porn Icon. [online] Available at: http://courtneytrouble.com/about [Accessed 17 July 2010]

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). The extent to which the marketing strategies of the website correspond to the actual conditions of labor are beyond the purposes of this study. It may nevertheless be useful to note the case of SuicideGirls.com here. SuicideGirls.com is an allegedly post-feminist production company, which claimed to empower women models through their work (see also Magnet, 200721. Magnet, S. 2007. Feminist sexualities, race and the internet: An investigation of suicidegirls.com. New Media Society, 9: 577–602.
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). However, it has been reported that 40 models have exited the man-owned company due to its exploitative and misogynistic attitudes (McCabe, 200523. McCabe, J. 2005. Suicide Girls’ exodus. F-Word [blog] 23 November. Available at: http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2005/11/suicide_girls_e [Accessed 3 August 2011]

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). We may also consider the wider neo-liberal frame within which sex labor (alongside “care”) operates and how women and other vulnerable social groups are pulled into “flexible” work, and the long contribution of socialist feminist critique in this field (see Weeks, 200747. Weeks, K. 2007. Life within and against work: Affective labour, feminist critique and post-Fordist politics. Ephemera, 7: 233–249.

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).
To return to discourses of revolution however, the idealization of queer sexual pleasure as inherently revolutionary has often characterized queer studies (Berlant and Warner, 19985. Berlant, L. and Warner, M. 1998. Sex in public. Critical Inquiry, 24: 547–566.
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). Sarah Ahmed (20041. Ahmed, S. 2004. The cultural politics of emotion, New York: Routledge.

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) has noted that queer social life has often been presented as uncharted territory, in ways reminiscent of the pleasures of colonialism. At the same time, the Internet has frequently been declared to be a queer liberation front: “Breaking into cyberspace parallels breaking out of the closet, and queer space opens up as invitingly as does screen space” (Marchetti, 200122. Marchetti, G. 2001. Cinema frames, videoscapes, and cyberspace: Exploring Shu Lea Cheang's Fresh Kill. positions: east asia cultures critique, 9: 401–422.
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: 413). Further, popular myths about the Internet and its history—namely as an information system built as part of the cold war—have a performative force (Bassett, 20073. Bassett, C. 2007. Of distance and closeness: The work of Roger Silverstone. New Media & Society, 9: 42–48.
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: 138). Indeed in the mission pages of Nofauxxx audiences are invited to glimpse into unknown bodies and receive exotic pleasures. The all-inclusive casting plays a central role in this branding strategy:
We draw from many sources to create a community of varied identities. We do not take gender, size, race, or any other consideration into consideration when choosing our models. We do not have quotas or any ideals about what a porn star should look like. Additionally, we do not separate the girls from the boys on our site, as many of our models fall somewhere in between. (Nofauxxx: Mission, 2011)
What then Nofauxxx markets as proof of authenticity, and as a political project of including marginalized sexual and “race” identities, performatively produces these identities and concurrently legitimizes them as pornographic objects. In this way, Nofauxxx becomes the author and the brand that responds, through its media production, to the porn industry as if the inequalities that characterize it are indeed the inequalities and issues of queer politics—in other words, as if the media world is the world we inhabit—the social, political, and cultural world. Celia Lury (200619. Lury, C. 2006. “Contemplating a self-portrait as a pharmacist”: A trade mark style of doing art and science”. In Inventive life: approaches to the new vitalism, Edited by: Fraser, M., Kember, S. and Lury, C. London: SAGE.

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), in an exploration of how the artist Damien Hirst consciously became a brand name, suggested that the emergence of a brand signifies the transformation of the author function precisely because all media are nowadays meta-media. Nofauxxx, in this sense, becomes the brand that answers to the demands of a world emerging in mediation, “a world that increasingly comes into existence as media” (Lury, 200619. Lury, C. 2006. “Contemplating a self-portrait as a pharmacist”: A trade mark style of doing art and science”. In Inventive life: approaches to the new vitalism, Edited by: Fraser, M., Kember, S. and Lury, C. London: SAGE.

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: 94).
In a similar way, Furry Girl is a porn blogger persona/portal/brand who is part of a network of alternative netporn producers like Anna the Nerd and sex-columnists and bloggers like Audacia Ray of Waking Vixen, Violet Blue of Open Source Sex, and Melissa Gira Grant of sexerati. These medium-specific brands combine “geeky” identities, in that they address topics such as the Internet and new media technologies in combination with sexual politics, feminist politics, and porn production. Stylistically less elaborate than Nofauxxx, the website VegPorn: Titillating Tofu Eaters and other sites by Furry Girl are examples of emergent subjectivities that integrate feminist themes and entrepreneurial practices in what seems to be a response to dominant digital culture. Key in the branding of the Furry Girl website is how the producer is “an amateur gal with a full bush, fuzzy legs, and hairy pits” who runs a “homemade porn site” (Furry Girl, 2010). At the same time, the author keeps a sexual politics blog at Feminisnt.com and multiple other sites oriented toward specific sexual “tastes.” 2
A pornographer, sex worker, atheist, and former “sex-positive feminist” who grew tired of trying to shoehorn my life into a feminist analysis. I have liberated myself from women's liberation, and it feels glorious. I’m now sharing my observations as a politically-minded smut peddler, ethical slut, and staunch sceptic. I despise people who project their insecurities onto others, or force sex workers into only two roles: helpless victims and evil patriarchy-colluders. (Furry Girl, 2010)
Furry Girl's VegPorn website foregrounds the variety of human bodies featured. As it states, it is: “the first and only adult site made by and for plant-eaters! This is a very unique site in that the theme isn't based on size, age, weight, colour, etc, it's based on lifestyle/ethical choices” (VegPorn, 2009).
Likewise, in the About me page of Trouble's personal website she notes:
She has successfully mixed her lo-fi, do-it-yourself indie-art aesthetic with an accessible, understandable, yet female-forward porn formula that the average porn consumer (whoever that is!) as well as the subversive, political, and inquisitive crowd can enjoy (Trouble, 2009).
Clearly, Furry Girl and Nofauxxx seek to denounce low-value connotations of porn, as commercial porn producers who have entered the Internet generally have attempted to do (Cronin and Davenport, 20019. Cronin, B. and Davenport, E. 2001. “E-rogenous zones: Positioning pornography in digital economy”. In The new media and cybercultures anthology, Edited by: Nayar, P. K. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

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). Trouble (2009), by additionally addressing audiences who perceive porn as having cultural and political value—“the subversive, political, and inquisitive crowd”—constructs the ideal consumer group for these non-normative productions. The “real” and political character of the production that Courtney Trouble proposes here essentially refers to a move from lesbian sex productions to FTM, or in her words, what “queer folk” like and do. From this narration, it also stems that Trouble promotes the company as an active component of a queer community whose lifestyle includes queer and trans politics. In other words this address to “queer folk” interpellates a niche notably different to that of the lesbian and gay mainstream consumer—and advises what politics involves for them. What is different in this case from the mainstream address of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) consumers in cultural places such as the theater, clubs, or books today is the appropriation of political values that emerged with queer theory and the trans movement. “Queer folk” in Trouble's address is thus not just LGBT-identified consumers, but porn users of a specific political and cultural capital, which is what differentiates them from users of other dyke and lesbian porn websites. 3 At the same time, using the website becomes the means for acquiring this capital, for those LGBT-identified audiences for whom FTM bodies are indeed unknown and “exotic” pleasures. The promise of “inclusion” thus works both ways here—equally for producers and consumers.
When I started NoFauxxx.Com, one of my main goals was to create an all-inclusive community, where anyone would feel comfortable expressing their desires through film. (Trouble, in Plato, 2009)
Being included, being able to express oneself and participate arguably signals “interactivity”—the model of engagement and citizenship in digital media environments—and not a property of the digital media artefact or a possibility offered by the technology (O’Riordan, 201027. O’Riordan, K. 2010. The genome incorporated: Constructing biodigital identity, Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

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: 16–18). Nofauxxx then not only mediates queer politics and incorporates them in a specific medium; it does so by merging two models of engagement: one that suggests modes of being in digital environments, and one that conveys modes of performing specifically queer politics in such environments.
Ultimately however, and although “queer folk” are addressed as part of a civil society and as the “political” and “inquisitive crowd,” their interaction with the brand's website is in essence the interaction of niche consumers, whose participation is notably limited by membership costs. Since categories of sexual taste have exponentially multiplied, politics and revolt are plainly a matter of more “choice.” To create this niche, the emphasis on variety, diversity, authenticity, abundance of choices, and products mobilizes a process of making artificial scarcity. The concepts of scarcity (and abundance) relates to the needs and the satisfaction of those needs in a given society. In Marxist theory, capitalist economic process artificially reproduces scarcity and at the same time creates needs (see Panayotakis, 200331. Panayotakis, C. 2003. Capitalism's “dialectic of scarcity” and the emancipatory project. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 14(1): 88–107.
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) while it legitimizes certain practices of extraction. Although scarcity as a concept tends to be used primarily in connection to raw natural material resources and the global environmental distortions and inequalities in capital distribution caused by this extraction (Sassen, 201134. Sassen, S. 2011. Fabricating scarcity. Scarcity exchanges. University of Westminster. Backdoor Broadcasting Academic Podcasts [online podcast] 13 June. Available at: http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2011/06/saskia-sassen-fabricating-scarcity/ [Accessed 23 June 2011]

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), it is relevant to digital products and their cost in the “creative” industries, not least because of digital replicability. Thus, for example, the open source and freeware movement responds to the supply restrictions posed by copyright legislation and comes in direct conflict with intellectual property right holders (Berry, 20086. Berry, D. M. 2008. Copy, rip, burn: The politics of copyleft and open source., London: Pluto Press.

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). By building on the premise that code can be infinitely copied, reviewed, and altered, it frees programmers from labor. For instance, Richard Stallman's GNU Manifesto (1993) argued that
[a]rrangements to make people pay for using a program, including licensing of copies, always incur a tremendous cost to society […] only a police state can force everyone to obey them.[…] Copying all or parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as breathing, and as productive. It ought to be as free.
Online businesses constantly try to adopt open source modes of working in order to harness user free labor and make easy profit through subscriptions, social networking, and so on (Berry, 20086. Berry, D. M. 2008. Copy, rip, burn: The politics of copyleft and open source., London: Pluto Press.

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: 7). To approach open source and freeware practices critically in another way, we could also consider how such practices are integral to what Jodie Dean (200910. Dean, J. 2009. Democracy and other neoliberal fantasies: Communicative capitalism & left politics, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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) theorizes as the fantasy of digital abundance. The fantasy that informational abundance is democratizing, argues Dean (200910. Dean, J. 2009. Democracy and other neoliberal fantasies: Communicative capitalism & left politics, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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), is what drives neo-liberal subjects today. The abundance of information and sexuality in Nofauxxx and Furry Girl are promised as the visibility of trans bodies, body hair, and menstrual blood. This digitally mediated glimpse into the scarce, hidden, untold characteristics of “real” queer sexual practices problematically fuses online porn commerce, queer politics, and Internet myths. When this fantasy of sexual and informational abundance is combined with that of disembodied information (Hayles, 199915. Hayles, N. K. 1999. How we became posthuman virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics, Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press.
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), a complex understanding of the (laboring) bodies of sex workers emerges. For example, there is a promise to allow for transparent and hence more ethical working conditions in porn production and an opening to the “human,” material lived and embodied dimensions of labor. In this complex over-layering of fantasies of “real” and authentic bodies in queer porn websites, the human, laboring body oddly vanishes only to be re-introduced.
“Real” (and not virtual or fantasy) in pornographic discourse principally signifies different-to-porn-stereotypes. Since the early days of the Internet, realcore pornography has been produced and exchanged online by amateurs and particularly within bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism (BDSM) and fetish communities, who this way surpassed commercial porn imperatives (Messina, 200924. Messina, S. 2009. Realcore, the digital porno revolution. online, Available at: http://www.sergiomessina.com/realcore/index.php [Accessed 10 August 2011]

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). In scholarly work, the real/virtual binary as is played out in assumptions of fluidity and performativity in queer studies has been criticised early on (see Wakeford, 199744. Wakeford, N. 1997. “Cyberqueer”. In The lesbian and gay studies reader, Edited by: Munt, S. and Medhurst, A. London: Cassell.

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; O’Riordan and Phillips, 200728. O’Riordan, K. and Phillips, D. J. 2007. Queer online: Media technology & sexuality, New York: Peter Lang.

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). And the blurring between “real” and “representation” has had (and still has) a prominent place in porn studies (Attwood, 20102. Attwood, F. 2010. Porn.com: Making sense of online pornography, New York: Peter Lang.

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). In queer porn platforms like NoFauxxx these same debates seem to be re-articulated but now as meta-concerns; in other words, with an obvious awareness of both the particularities of networked media environments (their hypermediacy) and the significance of queer theory for middle-class LGBTQ identified people. So in the case of online alternative queer and women produced porn, the reference to earlier media forms and genres responds to the ways in which queer and women's bodies have been traditionally represented in pornographic texts.
However, what is of interest here is how this remediation predicates new forms of digital porn production to be better, somehow more “human,” more political and ultimately un-mediated, as if queer subjects are supposed to exist in and through these media. Let me clarify this point. Genderqueer and women-produced porn websites indeed make a claim about the medium and its capacity to convey “reality” and “authenticity”—but they do this alongside a claim about how this capacity enables sexuality politics. In its claim of real bodies and digitally enabled reality, the discourse around digitally mediated porn seems to re-signify the pornographic object. In particular, authenticity discourses say something about the queer pornographic body, and particularly the trans porn body (which is the scarcity factor for these websites). They connote that these bodies have some inherently, non-commercial and un-mediated qualities, qualities that heterosexual bodies (and porn produced by and for these bodies) lack. By this I mean that, by branding queer identity and trans bodies as the authentic identities of contemporary non-heterosexual porn, these websites mark a shift not only in regards to LGBTQ sexualities and how they are represented, but also a shift in queer politics and their scope. This re-signification of the pornographic body in online genderqueer and women-produced porn websites serves as an invitation for publics (Warner 2002) to engage in a embodied specific manner, different from previous ways of doing politics: through membership on the website, so as digitally mediated porn consumers, and as politically engaged consumers/producers. In this case, ideas and expectations about the digital are aligned with understandings of embodiment and sexual politics.
In this article, I have considered how the queer porn blogger/brands Nofauxxx and Furry Girl seem to respond to a request for a mediated LGBTQ community that is diverse and inclusive—one that exists and emerges through its relation to network porn media and informational abundance. This request for mediation conveys a model of engagement tied to both understandings of queer (that of visibility) and to understandings of the digital (as interactivity). I have noted how the former is particularly problematic since it constructs the trans-body as a new “other.” Through the emphasis on queer visibility, revolt, and authenticity, sexuality is constructed both as a disciplinary site and a site for value extraction—one that creates new needs and desires for politically sensitive lesbian consumers in neo-liberal societies.
The latter, the response to the digital, links to a framing, prevalent in the websites, of porn production as un-mediated. The claim that the medium, by allowing “reality” and “authenticity,” revolutionizes porn practice and production is tightly woven into the model of queer and feminist politics communicated by the websites. Aside then from re-signifying the pornographic object and its embodied aspects, these queer blogger/brand portals re-stage older debates in sexual politics about pornography in a new mediated environment and mediate models of queer political engagement entrenched with notions of digital networks more generally.

Notes

1. “Web 2.0” is a term that usually refers to wikis, social networking platforms, weblogs, and other user-generated content. It is, however, not unproblematic. As Caroline Bassett (20084. Bassett, C. 2008. New maps for old?: The cultural stakes of “2.0.”. Fibreculture Journal, Available at: http://journal_fibreculture.org/issue13/issue13_bassett

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) has argued, it is both a descriptive and a performative model, in the sense that it guides certain ways of mapping contemporary convergence.
2. Other sites by FurryGirl include Cocksexual: Strapons, EroticRed: Menstruation, and the store The Sensual Vegan.
3. This is not to say that NoFauxxx offers something radically different—other sites like the Crash Pad Series, featuring primarily dykes but increasingly “today's blurred gender lines and fluid sexualities,” follow similar marketing tactics.

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