Oh, the infamous moneyshot. Let's talk about it. Male porn actor cums blissfuly onto banging babe's chest AND... *end scene*. As photographer Anita Cheung describes, the moneyshot is the normalized climax of pornography where the man reaches his moment of pleasure and then carries on to neglect his female partner's own pleasure and orgasm. It's not like all of those who watch erotica can afford or even know about the multitude of feminist and women-centric porn platforms floating around in the Internet world that do showcase a woman's satisfaction during sex, so it's only natural that many of us enter our own intimate relationships with this overplayed norm in mind. Is it harmful? Are women wrong to enjoy this "script" or if they attempt to change it, as Cheung puts it? And can it really be changed?
In this interview, Girls & Glory chats with yoga therapist and photographer, Anita Cheung, about her photo series #GLITTERGURLZ which seeks to redefine the "moneyshot" to be more attentive to the woman's gaze and sexual pleasure. Read more below!
Tell me about yourself. Who is Anita Cheung?
I am a 20-something yoga therapist by trade, entrepreneur by choice, and creative at heart. After wading through the swamp that is mental illness in my teens and early 20s (anorexia, depression, thoughts of suicide) I co-founded a first of its kind modern meditation members club in Vancouver last year (MOMENT Meditation) as a quiet sanctuary for people to find stillness and reconnect with themselves.
You mentioned that you're not a photographer by trade. Can you tell us a bit about how you ended up in this creative realm?
I think I've always been interested in design and bringing ideas to life. Coming from an immigrant family upbringing, the arts were never an imaginable career path (although neither is entrepreneurship). I taught myself photography in my late teens and early 20s after a boyfriend at the time bought me a DSLR because he wanted to support my burgeoning hobby. For a long time it was mostly shooting vacations but now, my photo & graphic design skills really come in handy for my business as it allows me to steer and execute the brand exactly how I want it without any extra costs.
I decided to create the GLITTERGURLZ series after telling my current partner about how I have had this idea for years, but continued to put it off as a "wouldn't it be nice to do" idea rather than a goal to realistically tackle. With his encouragement, I decided to give it a shot (pun intended). To be honest, because I never received any formal training and because I didn't do it for work, I never really felt like a photographer. Even the night of the show, I had women asking me if I was "the artist"--which was definitely strange to hear and even stranger to own.
How has your upbringing influenced your current creativity as a woman?
As I mentioned, growing up, creativity was definitely not encouraged (although it wasn't discouraged either). If anything, what those long summer days as a preteen in front of the computer have taught me is a "can-do" attitude. Even though I may not know how to do something now, I know I'll figure it out.
Another big influence behind this series was the time I spent in my early 20s teaching sex ed to high school students. I volunteered with a program that toured high schools, facilitating workshops around gender, healthy relationships, and sexually transmitted infections. The workshops were comprehensive--covering more than just your usual "this is how you put a condom on" demonstration. We touched on delicate topics like consent, boundaries, and gender fluidity. It's this ongoing training, and my fellow volunpeers, that I credit for my sex-positive outlook on life. That, and my weekly Dan Savage podcast.
In the press release for GLITTERGURLZ you mention that your first encounter with a porn website acted as a sort of sexual awakening for you. Can you tell us how the series draws from your own mentality surrounding positive sex?
I remember distinctly being 11 or 12 and one of the boys at school talking about a "dirty website". Curious, I decided to check it out myself and, *cue A Whole New World from Aladdin* because it was definitely an awakening of some sort. I grappled with feeling appalled and mesmerized at the same time.
For a long time after that, I felt like I was the only female I knew who watched porn. It felt like such a boys club--something that people acknowledged men did but something women never talked about. It felt like my sexuality and desire to have sex made me less female. Then when I started having sex, I found myself reenacting what I remembered seeing in porn--which I thought would make me "cool" and appealing to the men I was with. Sex was a script--but one that I bought into so much that I believed in it too.
It wasn't until I started listening to Dan Savage and in my current relationship that I began to dismantle the ideas and beliefs I had around sex--figuring out what part of the script I had spent years developing worked for me, and what didn't. For example, what did work: being enthusiastic about cum and oral sex. What didn't work: feeling like I had to want sex all the time in order to be a good girlfriend.
In this series I looked specifically at cum as a center point for dialogue. For example, does it make me less of a feminist that I like it when my partner cums on me? And then I dug even deeper into how cum and cumming (or "The Money Shot") is seen in porn as the "finisher", which as anyone who is sexually active knows, can completely leave female pleasure out of the picture. So I began to explore the series as a way to start a conversation around that: male gaze, female pleasure, and the duo-natured, partnered, realities of sex and consent.
Why is it important to you that people have access to pornographic images as realistic, raw, and empowering as opposed to the traditional hypersexualized images we're so often fed?
Great question! I think it all comes down to the script that I mentioned above. If most of us are learning about sex through porn, then we are fed an unrealistic viewpoint of what sex can look and feel like. If anything, it is an incredibly limiting script to pull from. Most heterosexual porn is approached with a male gaze, with little to no consideration for the females involved (instead, viewing females as objects which is a whole other issue on its own). It is violent and derogatory and frankly unrealistic. (With that said, there are communities who enjoy rough sex and there is nothing wrong with that so long as it is depicted with real bodies, consenting adults, and from both male and female viewpoints.)
I love using analogies and in this case, It's a bit of a stretch but I'll use this one: It's like if all the movies we watched were violent thrillers. We would begin to think that serial killers lurked everywhere in life as that would be the "reality" we would see regularly. If we didn't experience serial killers and ghosts in our lives, then we would think we were "abnormal" when in fact, as we know, that is such a minuscule percentage of experiences in this world.
When we show what's real and what is raw we are bringing people together in a connected and shared human experience.
What do you hope the series conveys to others?
I think if it gets people thinking about their own perspectives, scripts, and stories around sex--great! Consider why you feel the way you do and why you like the things you like; and recognize that there are other perspectives out there. (Related: During the shoot, one of the models was shocked that women actually "let guys do this to them," and to each their own!)
What advice do you have for young women and non-binary folk moving through the world today?
Get close to yourself: continue to learn about yourself, be surprised about yourself, date and romance yourself. Whether this is time spent in meditation or masturbation; when we know ourselves better, we are more readily able to move through this world, standing strong in our own two feet.