There are many things I have wanted to be in my life.  A lawyer, an actress, a high-powered CEO of a communications agency, and at one point in time I briefly considered making porn. (I’ve also considered opening a brothel which would service women only, but that’s a subject for another article).

I’m an African feminist so clearly any porn that I make would have to reflect that political standpoint. My relationship with porn has gone through many cycles. I don’t recall watching any ‘blue films’ (as we used to call porn in Ghana) during my teens. In my first ‘serious’ relationship in my early to mid 20s my partner and I tried to jazz up our sex life by watching porn. Specifically we watched what is usually classified as ‘Black porn’, which tends to feature Black British/Black American/Mixed Race women. Somehow that didn’t bring the excitement we were seeking, and we eventually threw away our stack of porn. Probably part of our inability to enjoy the porn was because I couldn’t switch off my brain from what I was studying during my Masters in Gender. At the most inopportune moments I would blurt out comments like, “Do you think she is really consenting to that?” and “How do we know that woman wasn’t trafficked?” What got to me the most were the frequent cum shots on a woman’s face. “Eugh, there is no way she can be enjoying that.”  Then I read Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon and stopped watching porn for ages.

“Have you seen Twi porn?”
My next significant encounter with porn was a while after significant relationship number 1 had ended. I visited one of my best male buddies, and somehow during the conversation the subject of porn came up. “Hey, have you seen *Twi  porn before?” he asked. “You’re joking” was my response. Twi porn? Could there be a greater oxymoron? He put in a DVD and yes; it was a porn film with a heterosexual Ghanaian couple that spoke Twi throughout. We laughed so hard during the film, and not in an erotic, oh this is so tantalising kind of laugh. In terms of the plot (yes there was an actual plot), the film was not at all radical, it was your standard woman walks into a man’s room, he starts chatting her up, somehow she is bowled over by his lyrics and before you know it they are going at it all hot and heavy where the sexual acts seemed designed to only please the man. I remember making a comment along the lines of, “Look, she doesn’t even seem to be having a good time.” But that film stuck with me. I had never even thought about the fact that porn could be produced in different African languages. We watched the film all the way through to the credits. The production company was based in the U.S. “Aha” we exclaimed. **“They should try making a porn film in Ghana and then they’ll see .”

Feminist porn
A few more years passed and I became more and more curious about exploring my own sexuality. On my travels I would make a point of visiting sex shops and would spend time browsing through the range of sex toys. Sometimes I would stop momentarily in front of the videos but somehow felt too intimidated to stop, pick up a cover, turn it over and read the blurb. Around the same period I started to hear about ‘feminist porn’. Apparently not all feminists thought porn necessarily resulted in violence against women. The sex workers movement was also growing, and at more and more conferences I would see sex workers advocating, ‘nothing for us without us’, and running panels where some workers talked about the choices they had made to engage in sex work. I started to imagine that, ‘okay, some of the porn out there could very possibly be feminist porn where the actresses are active participants, and have made choices about the job they wish to do.’ But there’s a part of my brain that thinks, ‘Hmmm, that may be all well and good but I doubt very much whether the women at Circle (a popular roundabout in Accra, Ghana) are there because they had an array of choices in their lives about what kind of employment they could seek, and chose to work in the sex industry. At the same time I recognise that the sex industry is diverse. So my friend whose salary is low, and is unable to pay 2 years rent up front (as landlords frequently request in Ghana), in the past had to maintain a relationship with a senior executive in her company (who by the way is an upstanding member of his church) because he pays her rent. She doesn’t come from a privileged family, and so has not had the support that people like myself have had where their parents are able to make a contribution to their rent, or allow them to live in their house whilst only making modest contributions to the running of the household. Some may even argue that the married woman who regularly has sex with her husband (not because she enjoys the sexual relationship) because she wants to make sure her children’s school fees are paid, and that she is given an allowance to run the house is engaged in some form of sex work.

Diversity of bodies
So if we accept that sex work takes many forms, and that there is a certain form of sex work that women might chosen to express their agency, and to secure their financial independence, can we imagine what African feminist porn would look like? In my imagination such porn would first of all be produced (i.e. be backed financially) by an African feminist. Having African actors and actresses in front of the camera alone would just not cut it. Behind the camera would be producers and directors politically committed to the possibilities that radical African feminist porn could hold as a space of exploration, and the reimagining of diverse African sexualities. Needless to say this porn would showcase a diversity of bodies without the exoticisation (close up shots on Baartmanesque buttocks) that one tends to see with ‘mainstream black porn’.  Consent would be explicit and captured on camera through realistic lines like, “What would you like me to do to you?” What happens behind the camera would be critical. Actresses would be paid a fair wage. In my ideal utopian vision they would also get royalties when the film makes above a specified amount. Plot lines would include the use of various types of contraceptive devices especially dams and condoms. The gaze of the camera would be equally focused on what gives women and men pleasure. And African feminist porn would be available in multiple languages – Twi, Swahili, Ewe, Hausa…

If you were to imagine African feminist porn, what would that look like to you?

*Twi is one of the most dominant languages spoken by the Akans of Ghana
**By ‘they’ll see’ we meant that nobody would dare create a hard-core porn film in Ghana. This was well over a decade ago and although Ghana has a law stating that the sale of obscene materials is illegal it is very easy to acquire porn.