Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vote: 100 Sexiest Pornstars Ever!

It seems that Elegant Angel are putting together some kind of documentary type thing that will countdown the 100 sexiest pornstars, based on viewers' votes. I checked on any limitations, and I am told there are none. So, go here and email your personal choices - golden age, feature, gonzo, male, female, trans, gay, straight...whatever you want!

I encourage you to come and tell us who you voted for!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meet the Neighbours: The Morning After Podcast

Hi folks! Some of you may remember my efforts a while back to highlight what scant porn blogs and podcasts are available out there, and I'm still on the hunt. I recently noticed and subscribed to a new podcast, The Morning After, which brings comedians and porn stars together for an hour of conversation each week. I must admit, I was very skeptical going in to my first episode, but quickly realised that the hosts Eli and Jake are not interested in playing their subject for cheap laughs, nor asking their XXX star guests stupid or insulting questions. Phew! On the contrary, I found myself being happily carried along by the mellow and good-natured conversation, at the same time as I was itching to join in. Social issues such as race and gender are frequently addressed, as well as the things that I always want to know about porn: conduct on set, the process behind getting booked, relationships (both professional and romantic), star backgrounds and anecdotes, and a whole host of other interesting nuggets of porno BTS.

Anyway, I figured these fellas would be a good choice for the first installment of what I plan on being a series of interviews with the good folks out there who dabble in XXX interrogation. Enjoy!


Tell us about yourselves! Who are you, and what has led you to this point in life/work?

Jake: I am an aspiring stand-up comedian/writer/documentary filmmaker, a cat lover, a brother, a son, a Jew, a nice guy, a closet semi-feminist, and I tend to get very angry at homophobia.

Eli: I am a comedian and writer in Los Angeles. I met Jake at an open mic a while back and we got along really well. We both followed a lot of porn stars on Twitter and Jake had a habit of retweeting ridiculous stuff they posted. Eventually, I pitched a loose concept of the podcast to him and he was all for it. Jake didn’t think I was going to act on it so quickly. As soon as the show we did ended, I went home contacted a few porn stars about doing it. All three of them got back to me almost immediately. I got a friend of mine to do the tech work and we were good to go.

Tell us about your podcast, The Morning After - what is the format? what are the goals of the show?

Jake: The format of the show is loose and simple. Eli and I serve as moderators, and before each episode we come up with a list of questions and topics we want to discuss based on research we have done about the guests, but we don't hold the interview to any strict boundaries. We invite one comedian (who will usually be funnier than both of us) to provide comic relief, and one member of the adult entertainment industry (performers/sex bloggers/lawyers/producers/etc.) to discuss his or her career and involvement in the adult entertainment industry and whatever else comes up.

We are intent on discussing pornography in an interesting, enlightening, non-exploitative way. There are so many stigmas and misconceptions about the industry, and it doesn't help when shows like Howard Stern ask adult performers to get naked and act like idiots. That's fine if people want to listen to or see those kind of fireworks, but we prefer to keep things mellow and have normal pleasant discussions with and about the everyday lives of people in the industry. We want to get to know and portray our guests as fully dimensional people, which is not how people in the industry are normally portrayed in the media.

Eli: The Morning After to me is a roundtable discussion between Jake and myself, along with two guests: somebody working in the adult entertainment industry (generally porn stars, but that isn’t always the case) and a comedian. We talk about the business and tend to theme out the shows based on the guests. The guest comedian acts almost as a third interviewer and adds extra humor, which is nice for Jake and me, because there is less pressure on us to keep the momentum going.

At the end of each episode, we ask our guests if they consider themselves a cat or dog person, since Jake is super into cats and I’m a big-time dog enthusiast. Depending on the guests, it usually turns into a big debate. The reason we made this the final question is it keeps the show from ever getting too serious. If we had the most serious, non-comedy based show, we could get to this question and know there will be funny stories, etc.

The goal of the show is to highlight aspects of the business that are mostly sidelined. We aren’t trying to break barriers or uncover something people didn’t know about – most of it’s been found (be it race, feminism, etc). But we get to explore it for an hour each week and peel more layers from the onion. A lot of experiences the guests share are very personal, but a lot of is revealing parts of the business in a more day-to-day aspect, which I think is just as fascinating.

Why did you choose to make pornography the subject of your show?

Jake: Eli and I became friendly because we were always at the same stand-up comedy open mics around Los Angeles. Both of us told jokes about porn, so we started discussing it, and it turned out we both had a similar curiosity about the industry (as consumers and also on a sociological level). As a comedian in LA, you have to hustle and do whatever you can to get your voice heard, and many people have podcasts for that very reason. Because there are so many podcasts, it's hard for any particular one to stand out, especially if you are not famous (which neither of us are). We thought that since we both had an interest in the porn industry, and since the idea of a funny but informative porn podcast was a little different than most straightforward comedy podcasts, it was possible that we could have our voices heard through the help of the other guests on the show, considering the astounding number of followers so many porn stars have on Facebook and Twitter. So, it was a combination of our mutual interest in the industry as well as what we saw as an untapped niche in both the comedy and porn communities.

Eli: Starting a podcast was always a fun idea. There are so many good comedy podcasts, but there are a lot that are really self-indulgent and I didn’t want to do one unless there was a good idea that I could run with. Since Jake was as interested in the business as I was (and we both followed a fuckton of porn stars on twitter), it naturally progressed from there. Bringing on a fellow comic takes some of the weight off us and be it male or female, they are genuinely interested in our other guest and what they have to say. I have always been fascinated by the adult entertainment industry. I initially wanted to do something about it in a media outlet. For some reason I saw the finish line at film or television, in a scripted format. I felt this was a better way to analyze it by going straight to the source: people who work in the business, telling it their way, without adjusting it. That said, we do cut out some bits from the show just to keep it from running longer than it already is. Sometimes we go off on tangents that are really not germane to the episode.

Who are your audience? I have found that, in general, people tend to be either dismissive of any complex discussions about porn, arguing "it's just porn," or they tend to be very serious about it and shrink from any frivolous approaches. Have you found this to be the case? How do you think your show fits into what is currently available?

Jake: I'm not sure who our audience is. I know some of my friends listen to the podcast, as well as my family, and I am sure that many people who follow our various guests on Twitter are listeners, but it's difficult to figure out exactly who is listening. The important thing is, with the number of listeners in the thousands, the podcast is definitely being heard by people outside of my social circle, which is one of the main goals of the show.

I agree with how you characterize people's reactions to porn. People either seem to have the unfortunate, classic view that all of the performers were molested and are addicted to drugs, or they seem to understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with working in the porn industry, and porn is just another career people can choose for themselves nowadays. I can understand both sides (but I agree with the latter), and one of the reasons we do the podcast is so people can see beyond the absurd myth that you have to be damaged and destroyed as a human being in order to work in porn.

I think our show is relatively unique, which is why I enjoy doing it. Ironically, although our podcast is about porn, we don't even talk about sex that often. We are much more interested in people's career goals, their reasons for doing porn, how they deal with relationships, and social and political issues within the industry.

HBO makes some fascinating and insightful (and non-exploitative) films and series about the adult entertainment industry, but besides that I don't think there are too many podcasts/tv shows/movies that deal with porn in a sociological rather than exploitative way.

Eli: We’re still learning who our audience is. A lot of other comics have been very supportive in listening to it and people we know from prior to comedy are downloading it. We would love to get more feedback since some episodes are averaging 3,000-4,000 downloads and we’ve deducted it’s people googling the girl we have on that episode. We’ve gotten some kind words from a variety of places. A guy from London gave us a shout out on Twitter, as did a woman from Toronto. Fortunately, the responses we’ve gotten have been a varied demographic, which is great.

You couldn’t be more right about preconceptions with the podcast and the people we feature. A lot of people harbor this classic 1990s point-of-view that it’s the devil’s work and all the people operating in it are either a step above drug dealers or girls with daddy issues. I’m sure there are still cases of that today, but the majority of the people working in the business are doing it because it’s good old-fashioned capitalism. A close friend of mine and a fellow both talked it about in those pragmatic terms and really don’t plan on changing their opinions (it’s worth noting both the guy and girl are very liberal) and that’s a demographic that is always going to exist.

As Jake mentioned, we kind lucked out in combining the porn/comedy aspect. That's not to say we were the first to do it, but I think our genuine interest in the business, coupled with humor that comes from the atmosphere (rather than having cheap, hacky jokes about sex) carves into a nice, little niche. The things we pride ourselves in the most is not being sleazy or misogynistic and a lot of the stuff we talk about is not just based on our guests lives in the industry, but before and what they plan to do after. A lot of it is looking through the lens of someone in the business and how they deal with the outside world (relationships, family, etc).

Which of your episodes so far is your favourite? Why? And which of your guests made the biggest impression on you (positive, negative, or otherwise)?

Jake: I can't pick a favorite, but the Tyler Knight episode was specifically fascinating to me, because it went far beyond simply talking about porn and the industry. We were able to seriously discuss literature, racism, relationships and many other topics. I really felt like I came away from that episode with knowledge I did not have before.

That being said, I have learned something during each taping that I did not know before, and have made new friends in the process. Although I considered myself an open-minded person before we started the podcast, I now realize I had certain preconceptions and misconceptions about the industry that have since changed.

Eli: It’s a tough one because some episodes are a lot funnier than others, but others are much more informative. I think I’ll always have a place in my heart for the first episode because even though Jake and I had a format, we still didn’t know what to expect. Dana DeArmond was our first guest and we were freaking out because we couldn’t get a guest comedian on, our initial sound mixer was analog, and we couldn’t believe Dana DeArmond was coming onto the episode. Luckily, she was a firecracker and Jake, along with myself, were completely at ease. The stuff we learned, and the comedy that came from Dana, Jake, and me was note perfect. There was an Escape from New York/No Way Out debate that Jake and I got into around the 9 minute mark that still cracks me up.

Dana was also a huge help in spreading the word of the podcast and introducing us to future guests, not to mention vouching for us to other girls we were trying to book. In fact, right after we recorded this episode, she invited us to a party happening that night and introduced us to a ton of people that were totally interested in doing the podcast. I had been in touch with two of the girls by e-mail (Andy San Dimas and Bobbi Starr) and putting a face to name for both sides in person, was really cool.

What are your Top 3 favourite XXX movies, and why?

Jake: I wish I could give a good answer to this question, but most of the porn I watched growing up was on blurry VHS tapes, and it was usually only specific scenes, as I was always hiding my porn watching late at night so nobody in my house could know what was happening.

I was more inspired by narratives or documentaries about people who worked in the industry. Boogie Nights, though obviously not a porn movie, was a huge inspiration for me, in terms of wanting to be a filmmaker and it also gave me a lifelong interest with the porn industry. I also love the documentary series Pleasure for Sale (about brothels) by the Gantz Brothers and Taxicab Confessions was another HBO series that changed my life, considering how frankly and uniquely it discussed and portrayed sex.

Eli: Since Jake copped out; I’ll offer a few. Granted, I also didn’t seek out specific titles, and had to take what I could get way back when. These are things I found along the way, one in I found in high school, the other was studied in a feminist film theory class in college. The final choice is just plain goofy.

The Devil in Miss Jones: An obvious choice, but one that deserves to be on a list of best/favorite xxx movies. I felt like this is the movie Jack Horner was working up to in Boogie Nights. Like any coherent, narrative feature, there is a theme here: life is short. You spend all this time trying to be a “pure” person, but you don’t know what’s waiting for you after, so live it up. Of course, the movie does this by saying “fuck anything and anyone while you still have a libido,” but the message is all the same. Everyone involved took it seriously and the National Film Registry needs to deem this culturally significant already. (Also, the film’s director Gerard Damiano went on to direct Let My Puppets Come, which makes Meet the Feebles look like Sesame Street).

Bad Wives 2: It seems like Vivid doesn’t have the same notoriety they used to, but they were the closest to mainstream in the 90s with narrative features that had great sex and interesting stories. This is one of them. Raylene, one of my favorite porn stars, is the lead and Randy Spears was the antagonist (I think he and Evan Stone have great comedic timing, but are great at playing it straight too, no pun intended). It never goes over the top. I remember watching it in high school thinking in the last sex scene: that’s a scary looking devil! (Note: that devil in the movie no longer scares me, he looks just plain silly)

Tie: The Big Lebowski and Batman: A XXX Parody: This might be too soon, but I think it’s the right choice. Let me put this in SAT form.

Vampires: Teen Girls.

Porn: Parodies.

Porn parodies are all the rage right now and a lot of them, even though they're comedy, are taken very seriously. I think both of these productions organically fit the sex with the story and they are both vital to the production. I have to admit, I skipped a majority of the sex scenes because a lot of girls that have been on the podcast have scenes in the movie… it’s kind of awkward. Andy San Dimas and I bonded over B-Movies of yesteryear and Dana DeArmond and I talk about comedy all the time. It’s kind of like watching a sibling do porn, so I tend to skip those scenes.

You can find Eli and Jake's show on itunes, and check out their website where episodes are listed and all manner of twittery and facebookey links can be found.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Masculinity and the Flaccid Penis in Porn

Not to be confused with "wood problems," the flaccid penis is rarely glimpsed in pornographic film. In fact, the penis itself is rarely seen in media, while porn emerges as the most cock-dense media form currently on offer. These porno cocks tend to be big, hard, and always ready to fuck, and I think over the years the demand for the ever-ready erection has become more intense. You used to see flaccid penises during the preliminary moments of fellatio much more frequently than you do nowadays. In fact, I can't think of a movie from recent years where this has been represented.

However, the subject at hand for this post is a little more specific: flaccid penises in non-sexual scenes. So, in other words, full frontal, unaroused male nudity in narrative stretches of the film. The scarcity of this image in porn is conspicuous, as these perfectly natural moments of nudity are generally avoided in favor of the sexually active male and reassuringly erect cock, preferably fucking or being sucked. I say "reassuringly" because so much of porn (and media as a whole) carefully navigates masculine anxiety, typically placating it. Peter Lehman argues in his book, Running Scared: Masculinity and the Representation of the Male Body, that naked male bodies rarely feature in popular media, and when they do the male body must be active. In this way, the oiled and naked bodies of action movies are mediated by the high levels of violence, and the constantly moving male form. Passivity, associated with femininity, is generally forbidden when it comes to representing the male physique. Lehman also notes that when the flaccid penis is represented, its representation is carefully constructed to suggest either its sexual shortcomings (if the penis is small and shriveled), or to deny any difference between a flaccid and erect penis (if it is large or partially engorged, as in Boogie Nights). "If we are going to show the flaccid penis, in other words," Lehman concludes, "it had better look as much like the supposed awesome spectacle of an erection as possible" (250).

So, in a pornotopia of always-erect penises, when a flaccid one shows up in a non-sexual scene, it's worth taking note. And I have done just this, jotting down every flaccid penis I see outside of a sex scene. Accidental shots don't count -- they happen, but I don't include them because I am interested in premeditated, narratively-integrated soft dicks. It's worth considering why the filmmakers chose to represent something so culturally taboo, particularly in porn, and it is also significant that the frequency of these representations declines as time goes on.

I have argued elsewhere that, aside from changes in format from feature to gonzo, this decline and a heightened awareness of gay/straight divisions in general is ironically due in part to increased visibility of sexual minorities, as well as a proliferation of sexual categories. Such visibility seems to have intensified the homosexual taboo, a taboo that is condensed in heterosexual pornography. In other words, the increase in specific categories of sexuality has in some ways fractured sexual fluidity to the point where any perceived homoeroticism or "unmasculine" behavior can immediately label a person "gay." I think these anxieties are interlocking, affecting attitudes toward women, shifts in male bonding patterns, and various other signifiers of masculine crisis. In this way, pornotopia is more strictly regulated than ever, and cocks must be big and hard at all times.*

Without further ado, here is a selection of flaccid cock moments from the porn vaults:

Jekyll & Hyde (Paul Thomas, 2001)

There are several unconventional and risky representations of masculinity in this adaptation, this torture scene, where Molly's "Hyde" persona tries to force Utterson to tell her how she can find an antidote, being the most striking. Not only is a flaccid penis on display, but the male body is prone and passive.

'F' (Svetlana, 1980)

Cannonball (John Leslie) escapes from a romp with a couple of cavewomen, and is stopped on the stairs by a rhyming clown midget. Naked in all his flaccid glory, the camera lingers all over John Leslie throughout this weird scene (part of a generally weird and fantastic film).

Hot Legs (Bob Chinn, 1979)

Jessie St. James is a model late for a photo shoot because she's busy fucking. Once she finally decides to head off to work, she chats to her lover for a bit, before leaving him and his penis snoozing on the bed.

Jack 'n' Jill (Chuck Vincent, 1979)

Jack and Jill are a role-playing husband and wife, and though memory fails precisely, I'm sure this scene where Jack Wrangler is dragged up some stairs naked and tied down by a couple of men is part of some elaborate sexy role-playing game. Once again, forced passivity and unflinching flaccid nudity. The homoerotics of this scene are perhaps counteracted by a later sexual servicing by Annie Sprinkle in the same posture.

Tomboy (Hans Kristian, 1983)

Teenager Ted (Marc Wallice) is casually towelling off after a shower, providing an extended (and doubled via the mirror) view of him unaroused before Mrs. Robinson (Kay Parker) barges in an embarrasses him. I'm sure you can guess what goes on between them later in the movie.

Hot Rackets (Robert McCallum, 1979)

The Holy Grail of flaccid cock porn, this film about a tennis club where anything goes and everyone goes around without underwear, has a whopping seven scenes where soft dicks are depicted and no sexual activity is taking place. I can't show all the images, so I picked my favourite. Sexually frustrated wife, Candida Royalle, goes to her husband's tennis club to see what's going on. The pro-shop worker instructs her on the fine art of fantasizing, and encourages her to visualize him naked. This is what she sees.

* NB. I am addressing heterosexual porn, and the heteronormative masculinity that dominates Western culture. I'm not as knowledgeable about gay porn, but I wonder if there are different patterns of representation in this genre, or if it has inherited the same "rules of cock." In my limited viewing experience, it would appear to be the latter, but if anyone has any insight please do enlighten me.


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