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By Pete Vonder Haar | March 2, 2005

Can porn stars be feminists? Does working in a field so often associated with exploitation and misogyny preclude women from developing and maintaining a strong, independent identity? These are a couple of the questions Louisa Achille’s documentary, “The Naked Feminist,” attempts to answer.
Achille trots out porn stalwarts Marilyn Chambers, Veronica Lake, and Nina Hartley to discuss their struggles to be taken seriously as producers and directors of adult entertainment, an industry that – most would admit – doesn’t exactly have the best track record in its treatment of women. The stories they tell are eye-opening, and the struggles many of them faced in conducting their careers in their own terms make it easier to understand why every female adult star doesn’t try and do the same thing.
At the same time, there’s a bit of disingenuousness going on here. The only younger generation actresses interviewed are Chloe and Kylie Ireland (“younger” in comparison to the other interviewees, both are in their 30’s), who discuss the way in which they keeps things to their liking on set. Fine and dandy, but what about everybody else? Hart, Chambers, and fellow former porn star-turned-director and producer Candida Royalle seem to have a nice gig going with their particular brands of female-friendly erotic entertainment, but last I heard, Vivid Video and Wicked Pictures were still the 900-lb gorillas of the “adult” industry. I was curious to hear from more of the younger women who are actively involved in pornography, to see if the industry is indeed as kindler and gentler as Achille seems to imply.
Barely touched upon are the genres of extreme or “gonzo” pornography, such as rape porn, or the continuing exploitation of young women by the industry. Chloe may be clean and sober now, but she’s only one of many who got their start in adult films to support her drug habit. I’m not going to go all Andrea Dworkin and claim every woman in the pornography industry is being strung out and exploited, but Achille could have gone a little further than simply showcasing a couple of shrill, 60-year old feminists to counter her arguments.
“The Naked Feminist,” for all that, is still a frank and engaging look at the questions of feminism and empowerment in the adult entertainment industry. My biggest problem with it was, with all the present and former adult stars out there, Louisa Achille couldn’t present more than a handful to support her case.

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