The Anti-Sex Lady: Evil Come, Evil Go (1972)

Today marks my debut coverage of the notoriously fantastic output of Vinegar Syndrome, and (gasp) this one is softcore. I know, I know, GGG only covers hardcore, but allow me to explain. I went into this thinking it was hardcore, but by the time I realised, "Wait a minute, these two are just rubbing against each other," I already had something to say and so here I am, writing about a soft flick. [Editor's note: I often ponder and regret my lack of interest in softcore, as I miss out on a bunch of great films]. I should also warn you that now VS has started releasing a bunch of GGG favourites, this might turn into something of a VS lovefest. I will do my best to diversify.

The distinctly Flannery O'Conner-esque Evil Come, Evil Go tells the tale of Sister Sarah Jane, a traveling evangelist set on carrying out a mission from God. As she explains in voice-over during the opening sequence, "The lord come, and he told me, Sarah Jane, he said, you have a pre-ordained purpose in life. Your mission is, you are going to rid this world of all evil! Evil things, and evil men! Them men, with their honey sweet words and horny cheatin' ways, usin' them words to charm poor innocent girls, then laughin' and leavin' 'em like they was dirt! That's men for ya'. Evil. Eeeeevil things they be!" Sister Sarah plans to seduce men in bars and then kill them, and this she does in rapid succession, managing a little street evangelism, hotdog snacking, and accordian playing along the way. In addition, she picks up Penny, a sympathetic lesbian who is swiftly indoctrinated and put to work seducing men in bars so they can both "do them in." Penny is also useful in that she provides Sister Sarah with money, a bed to sleep in, transport, and the funding required to start Sister Sarah's evangelist TV show. You have to feel for Penny.
The 1970s: when shirts matched cups.

While Evil Come, Evil Go does have a lot of fun at Sister Sarah's expense, the film also presents her anger and disgust as righteous to an extent.
"I'm coming!"
Her second victim, for example, embodies classic misogyny and chauvinism. He fucks three or four women a week, has been married more than once (with no divorces), has a number of children scattered across the country, and doesn't pay child support. "Think you're a real he-man, don't you, Albert," Sister Sarah growls, "A real man show.[...] Not gonna' let no woman get the best of you." "There's no woman smart enough to get the best of me," Albert replies, adding, "Hey, look, why don't you give me some head -- that way your mouth will be full and I won't have to listen to your yakking. You know, you women are all alike. Yak yak yak yak or bitch bitch bitch bitch." Sister Sarah obliges, but when he climbs on her from behind, and announces, "I'm coming," Sister Sarah opens the knife on her switchblade and drives it into his back at (presumably) the moment of ejaculation. Empathy rests on Sister Sarah's side, then, but not for long. Soon, her message, "I'm against pleasurable sex in any form," accompanied by a healthy dose of hypocrisy, takes the floor and the sexual politics of the film emerge.
God is "Love" not SEX

--> While the film itself is ridiculous, it is also a strangely astute and timely piece of satire on conservative, religious sex panic. Sister Sarah's railing against "the new love generation" -- "Sex generation, that's what it is!" she spits at a couple of innocent hippies -- is comparable to the current state of things as concerns antiporn feminism. Sister Sarah herself appears to be an embodiment of antiporn feminism of the time and its strange bedfellow, the Christian Right (Editor's note: it is important to note that antiporn feminism did not reach its height until the late 70s, and while it existed in the early 70s it was accompanied by vibrant sex radical feminist voices that have since been buried. See Whit Strub's fantastic Perversion for Profit). The hypocrisy of these groups becomes clear after Sister Sarah has recruited Penny. On seeing Penny, Sister Sarah cries out, "Hey! I'm the anti-sex lady from the street! You gave me ten dollars!" So begins a relationship grounded in various forms of financial and emotional exploitation; while men exploit women by using their bodies for pleasurable and meaningless sex, Sister Sarah exploits Penny for her money, her lodgings, and her car within approximately 30 seconds of sitting down with her. Later, at Penny's home, Sister Sarah effortlessly rationalizes asking for a glass of Scotch via some liberal interpretations of the bible, and sets about indoctrinating Penny. Ordering her to kneel and vow to "do whatever Sister Sarah says, without any question. Complete secrecy and obedience to Sister Sarah."
Complete secrecy and obedience to Sister Sarah.

 While watching this film, I had a mixture of reactions. I found the film satisfying in its mockery of sex panic, grating in its female embodiment of sexual hypocrisy and conservatism (and in comebacks such as, "You know what you need? A good lay!" *shudder*), and satisfying once again in its violent disposal of creeps. I think these conflicting feelings go some way in unraveling the conflicting feelings many women currently have around being sex-positive and supportive of sex workers' rights, while simultaneously experiencing anger at a visual culture that routinely depicts women in distorted and harmful ways, sexual discourse that disregards female pleasure, and a pervasive rape culture that disregards female consent. In other words, what these conflicting feelings can show us is that there is no real conflict concerning these feelings, and that it is antiporn and religious dogma that has taught us that these feelings conflict in the first place.


--> So, I am left at a quandary as to whether we should jump for joy at the film's conclusion, which hints at the continued violent adventures of Sister Sarah and Penny, or whether we should feel horror at her strangulation of Penny's badass girlfriend Junie. (Seriously, Junie is a badass, and dead so soon!).


--> Feminist politics aside, Vinegar Syndrome live up to their stellar reputation. The picture quality is sublime, the colours oh-so rich, with audio to match. The DVD also comes with two other films -- the notorious Widow Blue (1970) and Cleo O'Hara-starrer Oh! You Beautiful Doll (1974) -- outtakes from Widow Blue, trailers, and a video interview with producer (and GGG favourite) Bob Chinn. I'm looking forward to digging into the rest of the impressive VS catalog.


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Cat in shot.


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The Politics of Porn Performance: Remembering Tim Stuttgen via an Interview with Aiden Starr & Adrianna Nicole

From Principien
Back in February of 2012, I received an email from Berlin-based porn scholar, Tim Stüttgen. I was unfamiliar with his work at the time, and enjoyed a few pleasant and deeply interesting email exchanges (primarily about Mason/Sam No, but also about Berlin, the post-porn scene, and...well, porn!), before benignly losing contact for a spell. I was grieved to discover that during this time Tim had passed away. In one of the emails, Tim asked if I would like to post an interview he had conducted with sex positive porn performers, Adrianna Nicole and Aiden Starr. I said I would, and as is the wont of part-time bloggers, did not return to the idea. In a gesture of remembrance, and to follow through on my promise to get the interview out there in English, I am posting the interview below with only minor technical edits. As someone new to the world of post-porn, I invited porn scholar Amy E. Forrest to write a preface. 

Enjoy.

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[Amy E Forrest is an independent scholar with plans to commence a Ph.D. Her main areas of research are post-pornography, violent women in media, and deviant, subversive forms of feminism in visual and social media. She is currently translating a queer porn website, and in her spare time, she manages the international network of early career scholars of pornography, XCircle_edu – check out the Facebook page and follow the Twitter stream @XCircle_edu. She blogs erratically at TheDissident Porn Scholar, and can be found tweeting about pornography and the representation of violent women in media @Amy_E_Forrest.]

Tim Stüttgen (1977-2013) was a German queer theorist, curator, journalist, and drag performer. He presented his most recent book, In a Quare Time and Place (2014), at the 2013 transmedialefestival in Berlin. He also contributed to Catch Fire (on behalf of whom, it seems, the following interview was conducted) and published articles in various newspapers and magazines (Jungle World, Spex, and De:Bug). Through his writing and performances, Tim made a sizable contribution to knowledge within many fields, including pornography, film, queer, gender, and performance studies.

One of his most significant works is his edited book Post / Porn / Politics (2009b), which is based on a symposium he organised in October 2006, that took place at Volksbühne Berlin. Embodying the post-porn theme of experimental and conceptual art, the symposium reader Post / Porn / Politics is an aesthetically disturbing but highly engaging collection of video stills, photos of performances and exhibitions, interviews, monologues, and academic articles. For those unfamiliar with the subject, post-porn modernism is an aesthetic and a cultural movement, whose art –post-porn– is sexually explicit. Its aesthetic is often derived from conventional pornography as well as drawing on artistic traditions, however, it is also characterised by a strongly critical, socio-political, and reflexive sensibility; indeed, post-porn conveys a political-aesthetic discourse. Post-porn indicates a rethinking and rewriting of traditional, modern pornography in its attempts to deconstruct and expose naturalised pornographic tropes. By disconcerting the spectator and attempting to make them self-aware, post-porn encourages a greater understanding of normalised attitudes and systems of oppression. Feminist and queer critique, then, is a central feature of post-porn, and one to which Tim was evidently drawn both on a personal and professional level.
  
Not only an accomplished queer theorist and journalist, Tim was also a radical drag queen performer (stage name: Timi Mei Monigatti). As a self-described ‘white, trisexual bioboi [...] and transvestite’ (2009a: 19), Tim’s personal life and politics informed his writing and theory. Following his passing in May 2013, his publisher, b_books, wrote: ‘As with many of his deeds, his texts were a constant violation of the norm. For him, they weren't about provocation or being an exception, but rather a gentle but uncompromising pressing onwards of the reconstruction of issues, a constant stream of objections and reflections being brought forward’ (translated from the German).

Thanks to a great deal of theoretical and practical background knowledge, Tim’s interviews with others often managed to touch upon fundamental contemporary issues, while retaining a personal, friendly touch. The following interview with Aiden Starr and Adrianna Nicole, conducted at the Porn Film Festival Berlin in 2010 demonstrates Tim’s enthusiasm and desire to probe into preconceptions surrounding many polemic issues to do with pornography. 

Tim approached pornography (and those people who worked on it, performed in it, and enjoyed experiencing it) just like one would any other domain. This, along with many others, was one of his most commendable traits. Ultimately, I express a hope that his dedication to transgressing norms and rewriting knowledge, as both a theorist and a performer, will not be forgotten.

Works Cited:
Stüttgen, Tim. 2009a. ‘Before Orgasm: Fifteen Fragments on a Cartography of Post / Pornographic Politics’, in Post / Porn / Politics, ed. by Tim Stüttgen (Berlin: b_books), pp. 8–21
--- (ed.). 2009b. Post / Porn / Politics (Berlin: b_books)
---. 2014. In a Quare Time and Place: On the Politics of Blaxploitation-Cinema and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturism (Berlin: b_books)
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INTERVIEW WITH PORN PERFORMERS ADRIANNA NICOLE AND AIDEN STARR AT BERLIN PORN FILM FESTIVAL

By Tim Stüttgen

CATCH-FIRE: What do you tell people, usually, to describe what you do for work?

ADRIANNA NICOLE: I usually tell people that I make dirty movies. I think it is a disarming way of saying that I work in the Adult Film Industry. It usually gets a laugh out of them, perhaps an uneasy one, but it almost always leads to an interesting conversation. People are curious and when they have genuine and thoughtful questions, I like answering them.

CF: There are many narratives about why women work in the porn industry. The most stereotypical narratives are maybe that they were either forced into doing it or just need tons of money after they ran away from home. Your background seems to be a different one though, and from what I remember I read about you, you were already part of fetish and s/m subcultures before you did what's considered mainstream porn.

AN: Yes, I started shooting bondage and fetish videos and I did that for two or three years before I did more mainstream kind of productions. I was always interested in different types of sexwork, but I never had the confidence that people would want to see me naked. I felt quite insecure, I think. With fetish-films I got used to sexually expressing myself on camera and having orgasms onscreen. I learned to tune out the camera and be in my own head, so that's what I did when I started doing boy-girl scenes in the mainstream world too.

CF: So you lost your shyness?

AN: I might be very comfortable performing an intense sex scene on camera, but when it comes to having to go on stage and speak in front of a large group, I might have a shaky voice or even be close to passing out. At a video shoot, it's also a large group but I’ve learned to take that out of my mind during my performance. I’m very comfortable with that.

CF: Can you tell us how many people are really around during a mainstream shooting?

AN: It can be only two people, when it is a gonzo- or POV-film, but it also can consist of a full crew plus a few performers who are shooting other scenes in the same project.

CF: There was a lot of talk in the last years that studio-porn is dying and all the shooting would be only one guy with a camera plus a performer – but it's not the case?

AN: There are still one-on-one or POV style shoots where the camera person is one of the sex performers. Big studio production seems to be doing a lot of movie parody production which I don’t really understand the appeal of. I like originality and thought, not just a familiar story line, bad acting and sex.

CF: How do you get jobs as a performer?

AN: When I started doing fetish work it was a lot of word-of-mouth, people that I would work with would refer me to other studios and companies. When I came to Los Angeles, where the mainstream porn industry is based, finding an agent to introduce you to the companies and directors was the way to go. I emailed and called a couple agencies and found one within a week or two.

CF: You have been a Spiegler-girl, and "Spiegler Girls" is a very respected agency. People say the Spiegler-girls have their own character, which is not the case with all female performers in the industry.

AN: Spiegler wasn't my first agent, but he was definitely the best one I had. However, porn has changed a lot in the past few years, a lot of companies don't exist any more and a lot of the performers that I really have enjoyed working with in the past have moved on. So, after being in the business for some time, I decided to take things into my own hands and be more selective when choosing who I shoot with. I’m a lot happier choosing directors and performers that I like to be around. I felt like there wasnt a reason to have an agent any more.

CF: When discussing the matter of agency, there are of course many different clichés regarding women in porn, especcially when they perform very rough and submissive scenes. Can you tell me how this thin line works for you, that on the one hand, you might be into very intense sexual experiences and you definitely did some scenes that are scary to some of the feminists out there. How can you stay distant towards insensitive directors or performers? Especially when you have a reputation for rough scenes, I imagine there might be men who totally overdo it and think it's kind of cool to perform as brutal as possible.

AN: Basically I like when some people are scared of what I do. It is interesting to challenge someone's idea of sex; what makes them uncomfortable. If someone is uncomfortable maybe it will make them stop and think about what it is that makes them feel that way.  So I like when my performances raise those questions. I think if a dominant performer is getting too rough it can be a reflection of their insecurity almost as if they have something to prove. A good dominant is able to read the scene and their partner. It is a back and forth exchange and I always try to talk with the performers before the shoot. It is good to discuss the scene and what a person likes and dislikes. If both are clear it makes for a better scene, one where everyone is happy with the outcome. As I started shooting porn in the fetish world, I think I became very good in communicating how I feel when I shoot a scene. I am very comfortable communicating when I want something to change. Maybe it would have been different if I started directly in mainstream porn or if I would have been younger than I was when I started shooting porn. Maybe it would have been harder to find my voice?

CF: When you start working with an agent, you also already define what sexual practices you do and which you don't. So if somebody books you some limits are already addressed.

AN: Yes, that is true. In my case, from the beginning, I did nearly everything. Some performers are like: First I’m gonna do girl-girl and maybe a year later boy-girl and another year later possibly anal. For me that was not the case. From the start I wanted to experience all of it.

CF: Today there seems to be a new double-standard, especcially when it comes to queer readings of pornography. On the one hand, queer viewers might get if a girl crossdresses masculine and fucks a guy or another girl with a strapon, but if the girl still looks femmy and performs a submissive role, it's totally stigmatized. You have a very femmy look while you perform both dominant and submissive roles.

AN: I perform both and take pleasure in both. It also has to do with your partner in the scene. For instance, there are people I want to be submissive to, and people I completely don't. There also might be scenes, where the director wants me to be dominant towards another girl, but I only would do it if I know she enjoys that type of scene. I want to have a conversation with her about things that turn her on while being submissive and things that make her uncomfortable. I want to do the things that turn her on. But everything in the end comes down to communication, that is something I find very important to remember.

CF: When talking about other girls in the business, I would like to know more about how difficult it is to relate to each other as colleagues in a solidaric or feminist way? In the end, a female performer is surrounded by a lot of other performers which posits a situation of direct competition.

AN: I think at the end of the day, my real competition is with myself. I look at things that I did five years ago and I am happy to see that I like what I do even more today. Making better scenes and negotiating my own limits, that's my competition. In regards to other female performers: We're not the same person, so there is no sense in comparing us. When I am on set, I also tend to keep to myself. I introduce myself if I don’t know anybody on set and it might be great to have a new experience with a new person, but basically I am not so interested in making small talk. I find it hard to relate to some of the other younger girls so I generally keep to myself on set in between scenes.

CF: How do you deal then with clichés that address you from two sides: On the one hand, people outside the industry think that porn is bad and women who work in porn are victims, while on the other side, you have pressure from the industry to represent their ideology, that basically porn is always fun, there is never exploitation and everybody is happy?

AN: I think I try to not interact with discussions that are too stereotypical. The American way of small talk is very boring - "So, what do you do for work" - totally on the surface and very uninteresting to me. It's a kind of small talk where nobody gives a shit and its content is forgotten five minutes later. For me, the most important point is to be truthful towards myself and to become more reflective about how a shooting went and how I like the scenes I did. If I am clear with that, I can be also more clear towards everyone else involved. For the people outside the industry, I dont really see the urgency to have to explain myself to them, it's just none of their business.

CF: How I understand the immanent logics of porn production, the whole system is relying on transgression, on pushing the boundaries, which is obviously becoming more and more difficult. Sometimes it seems as if everything has already been done. How do you deal with the pressure and how, at the same time, do you find a way to realise your own ambitions and push your own personal boundaries.

AN: I thought about that a lot as I was shooting more regularly. I think the answer to both questions for me was to shoot less and become more reflexive of what actually happens when I work. I totally was at this point where I asked: "Whats left? I've done kind of everything, with each person, a number of times, what else is there?" Now, as I don't do that much any more, its fun again. I really had to pull back though, and find a new distance towards what I do – and then I was actually able to fall in love with it again.

AIDEN STARR JOINS

CF: Aiden, I am really happy you're joining us, because both of you, to me, seem to symbolise, besides a few other women, a kind of new phenomenon in porn, which, in a sense also happened after the model of Belladonna. There seems to be a new kind of girl-posse around in the industry, and even though there have been both friendships and influential women in the porn industry before, I think your group of friends is somewhat unprecedented. Some of you,  such as you and Dana De Armond, have even been lovers for a long time. You are at the same agency, you perform very rough scenes, but at the same time seem really be able to process what's happening. Most of you also switch between dominant and submissive roles and seem very content. You, but also women like Bobbi Starr, Kimberly Kane, and Dana De Armond, also became directors... Can you talk a little bit about this new girl posse which totally disrupts the idea of the classic, somewhat passive performer and mainstream starlet, but also has nothing to do with the looks and circles that define diy-pornography and queer undergrounds...

AS: It's true, we are strange, hybrid creatures. One of my partners once called me "LA on the outside – New York on the inside"... We look very femme and very polished, we look probably more than somebody's expensive wife - but then we act like crazy gutterwhores. It's a huge dichotomy in how we look on the outside and how we act on the inside. And yes, it's a specific generation, all of us are around thirty, and there is a bunch of us. And we are all very interested in porn, both including the sex- and the business-side. 

We could do other things for a living but we choose not to. We are all very intelligent, some of us are very well educated. And we are very feminist, but we are not extensively loud about being feminist. We put our feminism in our practice, instead of endlessly walking around and talking about being feminist, like some of our queer sisters and bretheren. We practice more than we preach. I cannot tell you why we exist through a historical lens, but we are here and we do what we do in our own terms and that is a fact. So all of us are very complex performer-producer-director-complicated-sexworker-careerists who definitely also look different than your queer punk cliché.

CF: Even if cameras are now available to anybody and the internet gives everyone space to show her or his work, how difficult is it still to be respected as a woman filmmaker in the porn industry? I remember talking to Audacia Ray, who said to me: There might be a lot of cool girls now in the industry but usually they don't have the time and possibilities to develop as a performer or even become a director...

AS: To become a woman director in this business is nearly impossible. And of course this is totally ridiculous. You could have the best cameras and equipment and even the biggest budget but if you have a vagina and happen to be a director, you have to work ten times as hard as everyone else to be accepted.

CF: That's totally awful, it basically means nothing changed in the last thirty years.

AS: Yes, it's fucking awful! If you look at Kimberly Kane's work or Bobbi Starr's work, the films are beautiful pieces, they're very well thought out, there is hot sex in all of the scenes, all of the areas are very strong, from lighting to editing to the performances. All of these films have a very individual character, but to be succesful with that and be respected in the industry is still nearly impossible. But if we would be bunch of meatheads with a dick between their legs, the world would go round for us. Of course, not all male directors are meatheads, there are people like John Stagliano who are very creative. But there are also women (before us), like Mason and Belladonna, who are very creative too. To be honest, the situation is quite simple: A lot of men don't deserve their jobs and they should give them to us.

AN: We are treated differently because we are performers first, and they are definitely not viewed in the same class as directors and producers – which usually happen to be men.

AS: It also has to do with very different neurological forms of intelligence and how this plays out in desires of men and women. Men are very visual creatures and women obviously are more mental creatures. For men it is much easier to just look at our femininity and then have a fantasy with fits with that. But women's multidimensional sexuality is definitely beyond their fantasies. We can multitask with our sexuality.

CF: There seems to be a lot of creative knowledge in your bodies, a knowledge that people in the realm of (queer and feminist) theory often underestimate. How do you, for instance, know about all these different sexual practices and technologies? The Berlin Porn Film Fest has shown some of Tristan Taormino's work today, and she really does education-films, but I think that is an exception.

AN: We are just very experienced!

AS: Yes, we're whores, we're fucking sluts! We started our experimental sexlives way before working in the industry.

AN: I was always sexually very active and always inspired by porn, if it was things that I read or things that I watched. I was always into experimentation and I also came into the business out of curiousity.

CF: Even if I would argue that it was already the case with people like Annie Sprinkle, that she basically went into porn to really explore different fantasies and perversions, today Sasha Grey seems to be the first who embodies a different agency and is still accepted in the mainstream beyond porn. She never submitted to the victim-idea anti-porn feminists have, that women, besides obviously liking the pay, go into the industry to explore their own sexuality.

AS: Yes, lots of girls come to explore their own sexuality. But of course there are different girls and different stories. Somebody might really need the money, and somebody else might decide for herself, but still experience pressure to wear no condom in the scene. While it is very usual that people wear condoms in gay porn, doing straight porn is still based on doing an HIV test every month but perform without condoms. In the industry, people tell us that they could get performers from Eastern Europe to perform without condoms, so there really exists pressure regarding that question. But coming back to your question: I was instructed by older sexworkers and had a very interesting time working as a dominatrix in New York. I like the idea of sharing knowledge, so if a girl is nice, I might show her some tricks.

CF: One of the oldest but still very actual discussions around porn is the question of authenticity. Since pornography exists, at least that's what film theorist Linda Williams argues, porn always tries to prove that it documents real sex. How would you answer the question if your sexual experience in porn is authentic?

AN: I try to have an authentic experience. That's why I go there, to have authentic sex, hopefully. Sometimes it's not as planned and you feel a certain doubt about the team or the other person. Sometimes you might feel what's happening is not that great. I think there were at least four occasions - which doesn't sound like a lot, when one remembers I’ve done several hundreds of scenes - but at least after these four scenes I felt really depressed. It wasn't simply about me doing something wrong or another person, sometimes its just the mixture of crew, performers and atmosphere... It really is a bit of a bummer, but these things happen. Everybody has a bad day at work sometimes, we try to have really great days. I feel also lucky that maybe that happened only four times since I started doing porn. You can only do the best you can.

CF: On the one hand you have many (porn-)fans around the world which totally adore you. On the other hand outside the porn-bubble people don't really see or respect your qualities as performers. Like the director Mason once said: "I think it´s really important to appreciate the girls. They give so much." Do you think your work gets valued enough?

AS: I think that is a very good question.

AN: I am just very happy if people can appreciate it. That is the most I can hope for. I don't think everybody should think that it´s so amazing what I do, but it makes me really happy when people do appreciate it and when they're nice.


Marquis de Porn: An Interview with Danny Wylde

 
Thanks to ADT, I recently had the privilege of speaking with porn star, novelist, musician, blogger, activist, scholar (I could go on), Danny Wylde. Danny is one of my "go-to" performers in modern porn. There's something about his intelligence and obvious civic engagement that infuse his performances with a tangible human presence that I don't find in many other male performers. Yes, I find civic engagement sexy. Don't you? He has also emerged as an icon within feminist, ethical, and queer porn circles thanks to his consistent written and spoken work on the politics of porn, sexuality, and gender and bringing this consciousness to his performances. He recently became a published scholar of porn himself with the release of The Feminist Porn Book (2013) in which he has an article, "Our Pornography." Oh, and he makes great porn. We sat down to talk about sexual politics, alt porn, subcultures, porn studies, and a whole lot more. Enjoy!

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GGG: Hi, it’s nice to meet you!

DW: You too.

GGG: I know next to nothing about your background. Where did you grow up and what was your upbringing like?

DW: I grew up in a small town in northern California, it’s called Grass Valley. It’s not even a suburb, it’s a very small old mining town, very touristy, and a lot of people from the San Francisco/Bay Area ended up moving there when they got older. So, it’s a lot of kids of hippies.

GGG: Was your childhood the hippie culture you were talking about?

DW: No, not at all. I think my parents were both reformed hippies. My dad has a little bit more of that vibe still, but in a much more conservative way. My mom actually ended up becoming a fundamentalist Christian. I don’t want to say that in a bad way, or to demean her, even though that’s not my belief system. I don’t believe she was overtly harsh on me, or critical of me for any of the choices I’ve made. However, Christianity was a pretty big thing in my face, especially at a younger age.

Once I got into high school I was pretty open with my mom about being interested in sexuality. I don’t think I was a big slut or anything. I don’t think I had the opportunity to be. It was more like I wish I could have been. But no, she wasn’t telling me I can’t. The idea was that you should wait until you’re married, but I think she knew my ideological stance differed quite a bit from her by the time I was twelve.

GGG: So you had a dialogue.

DW: Yeah, I had a dialogue with my mother. I think when you tell people, “I have a fundamentalist Christian mother,” they think you were just put in this hole and you couldn’t do anything, but it wasn’t like that at all. She was actually really cool and she drove my friends and I to concerts all the time when we were in middle school. We had a dialogue and we still do to this day. She’s at least able to have conversations about it, even if she disagrees with it.

GGG: So she respects your career choices?

DW: Yeah. I mean, to the greatest possible degree that she is able to.

GGG: Were you aware of pornography when you were growing up? Did you have any kind of relationship with it?

DW: I was aware of it. I don’t think it was a big deal other than watching the TFP sites.

GGG: What is that?

DW: So, when I was younger, we didn’t have tube sites. There were those websites in the early 2000s and late 90s where internet porn was starting to get huge and they’d have little tiny thumbnails of thousands of sites and you could go to each one, but I didn’t actually pay for any of it because they had those ten second preview clips. So I just put those on repeat, the ones that I really liked. I could watch like 10 seconds of a porn clip over and over again. Then Kazaa came out, and you could download it all for free. But it wasn’t something that was in my mind like, “I’m gonna do this when I grow up!”

GGG: At what point did you start thinking about possibly working in pornography?

DW: It seemed to happen relatively quickly. I had gone to community college prior to going to university so that I could transfer in, and I was living in Santa Cruz for about six months prior to going to University of California, Santa Cruz. My mom had loaned me money to last a month or two to get on my feet. The idea was that I needed to get a job. I was like any 19-year-old kid, like, “Ok, I’ll go to the coffee shop,” or Trader Joe’s, or whatever the fuck stores are around. I applied and literally for a couple of months no one was getting back to me. So I started going on craigslist to look at the gigs section and I found these weird jobs where people, mostly gay photographers, wanted to take pictures of naked guys and will pay you $50-100 or something for the day. I started doing that here and there but that’s still not really a substantial income, so I found this ad that was for Kink.com (they used to be called Cybernet back then) and they were looking for men to do femdom stuff. Like, get beat up by girls and fucked in the ass. I wouldn’t say I was a part of the BDSM community but it was very interesting to me. I was like, “That would be cool to try out,” and I thought as far as porn goes, that if I did something that seemed to be very marginalized then my parents probably wouldn’t find it [laughs]. So I applied, and they got back to me the next day. I went there and they were so nice to me. It was really different from what I imagined porn would be.

GGG: What did you expect porn to be?

DW: I think I was like most people. I expected it to be kind of sleazy. It’s hard to look back because so much has happened but I’m pretty sure I had a pretty stereotypical view of porn.

GGG: Did you recognize that that the San Francisco identity might maybe set it apart?

DW: Not at all. I had no idea what that was. Kink.com wasn’t a big brand. It was just this weird ad on the internet.

GGG: Were you worried about the stigma of femdom stuff?

DW: No, I knew nothing about the politics of porn. I really was completely naïve to all of that shit at that point.

GGG: That’s nice though. I mean, if you have no regrets then that’s kind of a nice way of going into it.

DW: I agree, it was cool. I think it’s an unusual way to get started but at the same time I don’t think it would have happened for me otherwise.

GGG: Since then, have any of the stereotypes of pornography been either challenged or turned out to be accurate?

DW: Here’s the thing with porn. In the beginning, I met the coolest people in porn. I met kink.com, one of the most professional, sex positive companies. Then I met my ex-girlfriend up there who introduced me to people in L.A. I don’t know if you know Dana DeArmond?

GGG: Yeah, of course!

DW: We dated for, like, three years. She’s really responsible for breaking me into mainstream porn [editor’s note: thank you Dana!]. She introduced me to Eon MacKai and the Vivid Alt crew. So when I heard about that I was like here are these people making this stylistic punk rock porno, and I grew up listening to hardcore and metal and was really into that scene, and so I was like “This is something cool” and I could actually be proud of doing something like this. So that was my second step. Then I realized porn is really hard and I’m not that good at it. I moved to Los Angeles thinking I could work my way through school doing porn. Then I fucked up a lot in that first year, and I got this weird contract that I think really helped get my ego to the point where I thought I could do this for a living.

GGG: Who was the contract with?

DW: It was a company called Hush Hush.

GGG: Was that a good experience for you?

DW: Yeah, because it was really easy gonzo stuff. I was contracted to a website called MILF Invaders. At the time they were looking for a brand new guy who could be the face of this site, and act like an idiot all the time. This essentially allowed me to do whatever I wanted to. They paid me above my rate now and allowed me to work with my school schedule. It was perfect.

GGG: That’s awesome. What did you graduate in?
DW: Cinematic Arts, at USC.

GGG: How do you feel about the alt porn label? or even what it’s become compared to what it was?

DW: It’s not that important to me as a label anymore. I love Joanna. I think what she does is awesome. She’s one of the females who have stayed through the industry and been very supportive of all the talent she’s hired. She’s really cool to me. Back when I was with Vivid Alt, she was in a feud with both Dana and Eon MacKai so I wasn’t able to work with her [laughs]. But I think Vivid Alt is something that kind of came and went. Eon, particularly, was making something akin to indie film that was really based on music subcultures. He straight up had Wolves in the Throne Room, which is one of my favorite black metal bands, in a porno. You don’t see that anywhere else.

GGG: Do you see alt porn as a commercialized product that’s exploiting subculture? or do you see it as a valuable aspect of what is always going to be a product anyway?

DW: I think a little bit of the latter. You can say anything, when it becomes popular, exploits subculture. At the same time, the director, Eon, came from that. He even spoke about being really ambivalent about joining with Vivid. But the thing is there was no budget to bring all these people on board. You could bring all this subcultural stuff on board and not pay people, and is that more or less exploitative? It may be good to have a corporation behind you that can pay all these people. I don’t know in the long run if it actually made that much money because I think when you start to appeal to youth subculture in something like porn, or anything really, it looks awesome but you’re appealing to younger people who steal everything. No one these days is taking the time or artistry to make movies that incorporate that style which I think was very specific to Vivid Alt. They really felt like they came from that movement.

GGG: So, you went straight to Kink.com, and you were interested in alt porn. Were you always into subcultures and alternative culture?

DW: Yeah, pretty early on in life, by the time I was in middle school, I got interested in hardcore and metalcore, and then later got into more extreme forms like death and black metal. I played in metal bands throughout high school. I actually have formed one, Chiildren. So, it’s a pretty big part of my life. Although I probably go to less shows now. You’ve got to make a living, and get up in the morning, and be less pissed off 100% of the time.

GGG: You also wrote a novel, Come to My Brother. Do you see those projects as extensions of the work you’re already doing in porn?

DW: When I first started both of them, especially this first novel, and the beginnings of this next music project, I didn’t really think of them as having to do with porn. But the longer I go in porn, it becomes a bigger part of my life and therefore certain aspects of my other art projects draw on those experiences. I think certainly in the future I’ll blend those sorts of things together. I’m trying to no longer differentiate my personas. I think that has always had a negative effect on people. I mean, everyone knows—my family, my friends. I feel like the best route to go is to develop a synergy around all of the stuff that I’m doing.

My next [novel] that will hopefully come out in the next couple of years has a lot to do with my experiences in porn. Growing up with metal, I think there’s a certain element of incorporating fear or negativity in your work. I just like violence as an aesthetic. It’s a powerful metaphor for a lot of things. I think that when you look at pieces of my art there’s a different approach that maybe doesn’t always feel positive.

GGG: It seems like you’re interested in the horror-sex hybrid. People seem to be surprised when a horror-porn movie comes out but it goes way back. You can go back to the Marquis de Sade. That’s a hybrid genre you’re interested in specifically?

DW: Yeah. I made a little super indie porn that I sell on my blog called This is Love, which was actually my first foray into that stuff. I wasn’t able to sell it except for in exchange for Amazon gift cards because of the content. Not that it’s really that overtly explicit, it’s just that it dealt with themes of sexual violence in a relationship. You can’t market that unless you make it an art film. If you call it pornography, basically no credit card companies will work with you.

GGG: Pornography seems like a special case where very rarely until the internet (other than the 70s when all kinds of crazy stuff was being made) violence in porn is a no-no but you can have extreme violence in all other kinds of film.

DW: Right.

GGG: What are your thoughts on that? Do you think pornography is a special case? or do you think people should have completely free license?

DW: I think it’s all about context. And here’s the problem, because when you make a porn film that has the aesthetics of most porn, and it looks essentially like there’s someone in a room with a camera, when you don’t put a context around that and it’s just like someone’s being raped or killed or something like that, I don’t know what I feel about that. I feel a bit ambivalent about it. I’m all for free speech and so forth but if you put that out into the world, I don’t know what effect that has on viewers. Like, who are the kinds of people consuming that?

However, I started reading the Marquis de Sade when I was fifteen; I’m really into the author Dennis Cooper, who writes predominantly about necrophilia and youthful ideas about falling in love with people and suicide and death as a metaphor for unattainability, and growing up. I think you can, in an artistic way, pursue depictions that exist outside of your moral reality.

So, pornography that can be really hot in a fantasy way and look really transgressive has always interested me. I’d like to do stuff like that; I don’t really know how far I can go with that and call it porn, so I think especially in my fiction and music videos and stuff like that I can explore those ideas a little bit more.

GGG: So, your book is about vampires?

DW: Yeah. I wrote it when I was 20, before Twilight and all that. I’m proud of it. It’s a lot younger in style than what I do now, so I hope people keep that in mind.

GGG: If you wrote it when you were twenty, that’s a prime time for vampire angst.

DW: Yeah, totally.

GGG: Do you see vampires as an embodiment of a certain type of sexuality?

DW: I don’t know that I thought about it that much. I was really just trying to write about my experiences at that point in my life and make it a high concept horror book also. At the time it didn’t seem like anyone was doing that shit especially when it involved a queer sexuality and pornography, especially a first-hand account of pornography.

GGG: I saw you’re scheduled to speak at CatalystCon West. There’s a real boom in porn studies, really since the 90s, but especially now. What are your views on the academic study of pornography?

DW: The first time I heard anything about porn studies was, I think, a professor of mine called Ed O’Neill. I took a queer film class with him and he showed me some early Bruce LaBruce movies. Super 8 1/2 and Hustler White and stuff like that. I had never heard of queercore or homocore or anything like that. It was this very punk rock aesthetic but with people actually having sex. Not in full pornography scenes, but you saw hard cocks and dudes jerking off on Mein Kampf. It was very intense. I didn’t hear about [porn studies] until after that, when I met Tristan Taormino, who got me involved in The Feminist Porn Book. I think it’s cool. I’m really supportive. Feelings about pornography are entirely culturally relevant. It’s one of the most consumed forms of media on the planet and that has implications no matter what you think, so to be able to study that as a genre, as a medium, I think is incredibly important.

GGG: It’s only fairly recently that sex workers speaking for themselves has been taken seriously. The Feminist Porn Book is really the first book that brought academics and sex workers as scholars together in one space.

DW: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right and it’s still weird for me to look at it as that groundbreaking. It’s like, I just know these people. They’re my friends or at least good acquaintances. But when I look at that objectively I think it’s pretty important.

GGG: You’re also on MakeLoveNotPorn, the Cindy Gallop site. What is your view of that as a company or a movement?

DW: I think it’s gotten a lot of flack from people in porn because of the title. And I think if I were to just read the title without having met her first, I’d be a little standoffish. Cindy approached me a long time ago, before the video portion of her site went live. She explained to me the concept, which didn’t seem to be antiporn at all, and she comes from the advertising world and she’s smart. MakeLoveNotPorn is a slogan that gets people talking. Even people who think pornography is problematic are willing to have her talk about it and she usually does a good job of explaining that her site is not antiporn, it’s about knowing the difference between porn and real sex. But since then, I’ve written about it on my blog and said you know, you can still show realistic depictions of sexuality in porn. It’s not impossible.

I don’t think you can even really say [MLNP] is not porn. It’s videos of people having sex, which I think by and large you can call porn, but it’s curated in such a way that it eliminates most porn tropes. So, Cindy asked me to be a part of it. My ex-girlfriend and I were in the midst of our relationship and we submitted two videos, and I think they did quite well. I have no regrets. I think it’s awesome.

GGG: In feminist, queer porn and MakeLoveNotPorn, authenticity seems to be valued. It’s as if porn is responsible for showing us “real sex” not fantasy “porny” sex. What are your thoughts on that?

DW: I’m glad that the movement has brought that to the foreground, and I think that’s certainly something that needs to be there. But I’m all about the other type of porn too. I wrote a little piece for Medium.com called Context, to try to differentiate some of the things we do, and I was like, listen, I do the MakeLoveNotPorn stuff, I do feminist porn, but I also participate in Kink.com’s hardcore gangbang on a very regular basis, and some of them aren’t really that fun to be in, to be completely honest. They’re a lot of hard work, and sometimes if we’ve had a lot of technical problems and we still have to get a certain amount of footage, no one really wants to continue, but we have to. This is what we’re getting paid for. At the end of the day, it’s a fantasy. I don’t gangbang anyone in real life. And usually the set-up is totally non-consensual other than the interview at the beginning, or they have these fantasy scenarios. You can’t really argue with what your brain thinks is hot, and in the same way that I was talking about the art stuff earlier, sometimes things that just don’t seem to be morally ok turn you on. It obviously works for some people to watch and I have no problem with that as long as you can differentiate that this is a fantasy.

I think that’s another really important part of porn studies. People need to have some sort of media literacy when it comes to pornography. Because it happens in every other form of art.

GGG: What about anti-porn feminism? That has enjoyed a similarly huge resurgence in probably the last five years.

DW: I tried in the beginning to be conscious of that too, to investigate it. It’s obvious some people enter porn because they have no other options in life, and this is something that can make them a substantial amount of income, at least in the beginning. And maybe they’re doing things they don’t want to do, and that’s sad. That’s sad in any person’s life to have to go through that experience. But it’s very obvious at this point in time that there are people doing it for the exact opposite reasons. They enjoy sex, or maybe they like making money and like having sex. I think you can link most of those arguments to any industry. I think it’s really demeaning to women to tell them you don’t have any agency. I think that’s completely fucked up and demeaning to women to say that they don’t have a choice in the matter.

GGG: People seem to think there are two mutually exclusive views. To me, you can create space for that agency and still acknowledge that misogyny exists.

DW: Yes. I’m not going to sit here and say all porn is amazing and people aren’t exploited. They are. That’s a fact of capitalist society. I’m aware that happens; it’s happened to me. Early on, after working for Kink, I ended up in some guy’s living room letting him such my cock for money that I didn’t agree to, and I felt really shitty about it afterwards. It didn’t ruin my life though. I went home and decided maybe I should be a bit more self-aware when I get into situations like that and say no. I was young and naïve and made mistakes and I let someone exploit me. It sucks, but I think that happens in any sector of society and to blame an entire industry, I don’t think you can make that kind of distinction.

GGG: I think it’s easier for people to just pick one really small area to focus all the misogyny, racism, classism, capitalist exploitation, and just put it all in one space so we don’t have to deal with the overwhelming fact that it permeates every single aspect of our culture. Porn gets scapegoated. No one’s going to stand up for it. But you have stood up for it. You’ve been politically involved in the Measure B stuff, attending the meetings. Is that something you still think is important?

DW: Yes, I did go to those meetings, I was very vocal about it. Things have been getting much more complicated in this past year and it’s hard for me to have as straightforward an opinion on all that stuff. With all politics it’s hard to figure out peoples’ real motivations. The thing is, I don’t know what would happen if we started to use condoms. If you have companies fighting tooth and nail not to use condoms because they feel like they’ll go under financially speaking, I tend to base that on some reality. We rely on those companies to pay us. Particularly in the past, my stance was that there’s a certain risk you take being a sex worker to contract STIs. We have a testing policy in place. It’s not perfect but it’s been pretty good at keeping out potentially deadly STIs. At the end of the day, this is a career, people are trying to make money, and we’re doing things that most people aren’t capable of or don’t have the opportunity to do and that’s why they watch it. It’s a novelty, and it’s really kind of hard to do once you start incorporating more and more safety measures.
GGG: They could increase the safety measures on the testing side.

DW: Yes, and I think in the last several months we’ve been starting to do that. But in the last couple of months a lot of really bad fucking stuff has happened, so at this point what is my responsibility? What is a producer’s responsibility? I’m a little ambivalent about it. I don’t know what to say anymore.

GGG: What do you feel about the inconsistency between gay porn and straight porn testing (or non-testing)? I really resent the homophobic attitude toward crossover stars, but there is that disconnect.

DW: Yeah. I have been pretty open about having done gay porn in the past and before we had this crazy resurgence of STI exposures about three years ago I was like, you know what? I seem to be a fairly established performer, a lot of gay fans really like me, and my friend Wolf Hudson asked me to do a bisexual scene with him and another woman. I went ahead and did it, then about two weeks after it was released Derrick Burts contracted HIV, the industry went on a fucking crossover witch hunt, and my old agency wrote an email to every agency in the industry saying that I was an HIV risk. I’ve since been blacklisted from working with any of their girls. It was really scary for me for about a year. Since then, I think people have realized that I’m fairly responsible, I hope. They trust me enough that I’m not fucking peddling HIV everywhere. But my decision since then has been that I’m not going to do gay porn or bi porn because it’s going to fucking destroy my career. No one’s going to want to work with me. And a lot of that, when I listen to people talk on set, has to do very specifically with homophobia. You work on a gangbang, and you’ve been DPing a girl and rubbing your cocks together inside a girl and then they’re all sitting there talking about faggots? “Oh that’s a health risk.” Um, what is more bisexual? Me rubbing my cock on a guy inside a girl or me sucking a cock while I’m with a girl? Like, what is more gay? You know what I mean? It’s completely stupid.

However, I have to acknowledge the reality of my situation. There is a reality of pos guys working in gay porn. And, you guys don’t test all the time, and I know they have condoms on most sets but condoms break, and people are getting HIV in gay porn. But there’s also a history in the gay community with HIV and from what I understand they try to keep the positive performers together and the negative performers together. A lot of companies have begun to test. I think men.com tests, I think Cocky Boys tests, and some other companies test. It’s just too inconsistent. So there’s two things going on there; there’s an intense degree of homophobia, but the reality of porn is you just have to pick a side if you’re a guy. But I would just like to reiterate that sexual orientation is not a risk. It’s behavior.

GGG: You were in The Canyons. What was that like?

DW: Oh man. The Canyons was funny. I’m not trying to get a mainstream acting career. I grew up reading Brett Easton Ellis; I fucking loved his books in high school. Paul Schrader I didn’t really associate by name, but I’d seen Taxi Driver and American Gigolo and I those are fucking really good movies. My roommate [Chad], who’s also in my band, called me up and he goes, “I’m friends with the casting director for The Canyons and they’re trying to fill these two roles.” He spoke about one role in particular. They needed someone to get naked. More than that, there’s this scene in the movie where a guy makes out with James Deen and then pretends to go down on him, and Chad is 100% straight but asked if I would be into it, and I was like fuck yeah, why not?

At the same time, when speaking to the producer, it occurred to me that James Deen might not be ok with that. So I texted him, “Hey James they’re asking me to do this movie, but they want me to play this role. I don’t know if you’re comfortable with that.” He texted me back, “Dude, we DP girls together. I don’t want to think about making out with you.” So, they came back with this other role. You also et naked and in this one you kiss Lindsay Lohan. And I was like, “Yes! Of course I’ll do it.”

I play this guy who they find off this weird app on the internet that’s for hook ups and they invite me over and I get naked and jerk off while James Deen goes down on Lindsay Lohan. I look like a creep. It’s hilarious. I’m such a bad actor.

GGG: It’s like the year of the Hollywood porn film. What do you make of the Hollywood interest in porn?

DW: I haven’t seen too much of the Hollywood movies about porn that have come out recently. The most realistic movie I’ve seen about porn is Bucky Larson. Actually, you know there was this movie called Starlet that came out a little bit ago, and it’s not like porn is the central theme but that actually portrayed the industry incredibly honestly. What you would call “mainstream” porn. They’re just young people trying to figure out their life and they happen to be doing it – they basically live like other kids but they have a little more income here and there and some of them are emotionally rash.

GGG: There seem to be more projects created by porn stars who aren’t saying “Oh I quit porn and now I’m doing this.” There’s more of an overlap. It’s exciting to me, it must be to you too.

DW: Oh totally. I think it’s really cool.

GGG: What are your goals for the future? Do you think there will come a time when you quit doing porn and move into some other part of your life?

DW: I’m pretty sure, unless something drastically changes, that I’ll be involved in the industry for most of my life. I think at a certain point I have to stop performing. I think that’s inevitable. I think that’s going to realistically turn into producing porn. My ex, Lily LaBeau and I, did quite a bit of work on making stuff for website that didn’t happen, but in just the past couple of months I finally got distribution for the first feature we did, Man Hunt Ibiza, which she directed. I’ve also just started a clips4sale store for a lot of the scenes that we did. It’s called Future Sex Shock. I’ll be promoting that the rest of this year and hopefully continuing to shoot scenes for that. However, I’m just trying to get some of this stuff out there; we shot a year’s worth of stuff that never saw the light of day. Hopefully people are into it.

Keep up with Danny on his excellent blog, Trve West Coast Fiction where he writes about porn and sexual politics, and posts updates about his various projects.


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