A journalist emailed me several months ago and we ended up meeting at a coffee shop down the street from my apartment. She wanted to interview me about something. I wasn’t exactly sure what. There was a piece she was working on about porn, though my participation was irrelevant to the way it would turn out.
Still, she wanted to talk. And I was interested in some of the things she had to say. I don’t remember any of them exactly, but I do recall an idea she proposed in regards to a common claim. The journalist told me that she’d often heard about the disconcerting influence of pornography on young people, mostly due to its rampant accessibility and lack of accompanied context. Then she said that I was an example of evidence to the contrary. That now, more than ever, there is an overwhelming degree of context. If only people are willing to look.
My role as an “example” has to do with the fact that I am a porn performer and I write about porn. Sometimes for websites or print publications, but often on an unofficial blog format (Trve West Coast Fiction). More common still, I spew thoughts, jokes, interests and pornographic pairings on my various social network feeds.
I’m not the only one. Most every porn “star” I know has a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, blog, etc… on which thoughts, feelings, images, interests, fantasies, and truths about pornography are shared on a daily basis. If nothing else, this array of information provides some context for what transpires on (insert-pirated-tube-feed-url).
Of course, there is an age at which any human being has little ability to gather much context. Certainly, the younger a child is exposed to hardcore internet porn, the less likely he/she is to know what the fuck is going on. Though as one ages, some responsibility must be laid on either a severe lack of economic privilege or the state of being a boring, lazy consumer. For those who can afford both a computer and high-speed internet access, I’m going to assume the latter.
Think about it like this:
The first exposure a child has to music might be something like Hannah Montana or Justin Bieber. This child may believe, for a time, that watered-down pop music is the only music that exists. He/she might even grow up and continue to listen to such music. But if by age sixteen, the child is unaware that “music” is as broad a category as “mammal,” Hannah Montana is a fictional character played by (Miley) Destiny Hope Cyrus, and Justin Bieber did not ascend to stardom by virtue of his talent alone, something is wrong. Social ineptitude, lack of exploration, an oblivious nature in regards to one’s environment, or….
Okay, this is not an entirely fair analogy in regards to porn. A kid watches — for the first time — a video of two naked people fucking. The parents don’t want to talk about it. The school doesn’t want to talk about it. His/her peers have little knowledge on the subject. The process of exploration is immediately hostile and restrictive.
Until one addresses the internet.
My friend, Cindy Gallop, runs a website called MakeLoveNotPorn.com which provides what I believe to be very basic information. The concept is that pornography expresses a certain view of sexuality and it doesn’t always correlate to real-life. Essentially, “Porn is different than sex.”
At first, I found it obvious. But I’d watched porn, had sex, participated in porn, and then had more sex. I knew my experience in front of the camera was not exactly representative of the general public. There was a chance my view was skewed.
I witnessed feedback to the “Make Love Not Porn” site and began to understand how skewed it was. A lot of people found the discussion around pornography being different than real-life sex to be somewhat profound.
Why? Perhaps we weren’t doing enough. I mean those of us who work in porn. Maybe we weren’t allowing for an authentic discourse on our own, widely-consumed product.
Then I went online and saw all these people talking about porn. “Were they around several years ago?” I couldn’t answer the question. But I know they’re here now.
Cindy Gallop’s site has been featured on news outlets all over the world. She even invited me on daytime, network television to talk about it.
Last month, I attended a conference on feminist porn. One of the speakers (and a spearhead of the feminist porn movement), Tristan Taormino, talked about context as implicit to the production of her films.
Mainstream porn stars like Jessica Drake and Stoya have written articles and columns about their work, and often acted as sex educators.
Professor, Constance Penley, has been teaching university courses on pornography since the early 1990's and has inspired a whole field of study. There is now an academic journal entirely dedicated to the subject.
From my perspective, context is everywhere.
I know this is a bit difficult to address in regards to youth culture. It’s illegal for kids to watch porn, so adults don’t know how to talk about to them about it. Yet kids are the ones everyone’s so worried about. Because adults were kids once too, and most of us got our hands on some porn.
Sure, it’s easier to find now more than ever. This reality must have its ramifications. But for those who grew up prior to the internet porn revolution: “What context did you have when you found your first wank mag?”
The necessary constant is that sex, like anything, requires a certain degree of learning and experimentation, and often begins with awkward strides. The challenge of youth is that there will always be more “stuff” to dig through, learn about, and digest than there was for the prior generation. I’d say it’s the responsibility of older generations to arm the youth with the tools to cope. Namely, education and context.
Are we arming the youth? Perhaps not explicitly. We’re not explicitly marketing porn to them either. But kids are interested in sex and they’re smart. They’re going to find porn because it’s there. My hope is that they’ll find the context too.
And this is where I feel responsibility shifts to the individual. Information is easy to find. We live in an information age. If it’s there — and I believe it is — seek it out. Otherwise, we exist in a state of barrage from imminent censure (to “save” us, or whatever).
Like any censorship movement, anti-porn advocacy states that porn is about ________. Fill in that blank with violence against women, exploitation, or any other unappealing trait one can attach to a skin flick. It is generally a statement based on a real-world observation. However, with such ultimatums, this is basically like saying that food is about factory farming and cancer-inducing chemicals. Maybe that’s true if your culinary experience extends no further than McDonald’s. But I’d rather tell someone about their local farmer’s market than simply say, “Food is harmful and you shouldn’t eat it.” That’s the adult responsibility part.
The consumer part is to simply figure it out. I can’t entirely put this on kids. But say by the time you’re eighteen, or at least twenty-one. You can’t move along in life accepting the first thing presented to you as an essential truth.
Maybe you saw a Brazzers porn scene at age twelve and found it influential. Some slut getting pounded by a chiseled, well-hung stud. She came repeatedly in reverse cowgirl, on the kitchen counter no less. He choked her out and then came on her face. At the end, she snowballed it with her best friend. Great fantasy, right? Well, try recreating that scenario on the night you lose your v-card. I guarantee it won’t turn out too well.
And if that’s all you know about sex (or even porn) by the time you’re an adult, something is wrong. In the age of information, you failed to find anything useful. Except how to masturbate by yourself. Which — granted — is a good thing to know.
But what is all this useful context? I suppose it’s not fair to just say, “It’s out there,” and leave it at that. Here are a couple things I find important. If you find them obvious, great! For an adult, they should be.
First, look at all those porn star social network feeds. If you grew up thinking that a person who has sex for a living must be ________ (fill in the blank with any arbitrary quality), you’re probably wrong. Some of us may fit the description down pat. However, porn performers are people. We’re complex beings with interests, motivations, dreams, and aspirations. My point is that a girl may be called a “whore” right before she begs for some guy’s “cum.” Immediately after, she might walk off set to continue running her business or go home to take care of her kids. A porn star does not exist only within the confines of his/her performance.
Why is this important to know? Well, I’ve read quite a few real-life stories about street harassment or unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. The frequency of this behavior suggests that the many people hold a belief (whether conscious or not) that aggressive sexual advances are appropriate in any environment, and will be accepted with open arms. Ask yourself whether you would like to be masturbated upon in any and all situations pertaining to your life. If you answered, “No,” that’s probably because you’re a human being. Remember that even the dirtiest porn star shares this trait with you.
Second, pornography is a visual medium like cinema or television. There are documentaries and big budget spectacles, and everything in between. When it looks really staged and elaborate, it’s probably because it is. And when a performer addresses the camera to say, “This is how I really have sex,” you might have the inclination to believe them.
Let me give you a few examples.
I recently did a scene for a Naughty America site called MySistersHotFriend.com. It should be out in the next month or two. My co-star was Kleio Valentien. Our sex was a performance. However, it was about as good as it can get given the circumstances. We were obviously into each other, we made out a lot, and we had fun. Still, I opened my hip and pulled at the side of her ass so the camera could get a better view of penetration. I leaned back when the photographer approached me from behind to allow him a “point-of-view” shot. These are things I would never do in real life. They aren’t practical and they don’t make the sex better for me or my partner.
If you compare the above scenario to the video I submitted with my real-life partner to MakeLoveNotPorn.TV, you will see some differences. I don’t open my hip. I don’t pull her ass to the side. Often, you don’t see the penetration at all. Our bodies are much closer to each other. There is more foreplay.
Now I also regularly perform for a site called HardcoreGangbang.com. Most of the scenarios involve five-to-seven men having sex with one woman. There is usually a fantasy introduction sequence in which the girl is kidnapped or forced into sex. And the scenes are typically rough and involve double-penetration.
I’ve never participated in a gangbang in real life. Outside of porn, there is only one instance where I’ve have sex with more than one person at a time. And after performing in a few dozen on-screen gangbangs, I can’t imagine wanting to recreate one in my personal life. They’re incredibly difficult to pull off.
There’s a lot of stopping and starting. We have to reposition so that the camera can see what’s going on. The girl often needs a break. Guys lose their erections. There’s a lot of standing around and masturbating. It’s work.
Yet, from a fantasy standpoint, the gangbangs look great when they’re pulled off well. It’s over-the-top sexual bravado. The pornographic equivalent of a Michael Bay film. Proof that no matter the medium, people enjoy spectacle.
Are any of these films better than the other? Objectively speaking, “No.” However, some are strictly for entertainment purposes and others may have real-world value (such as introducing ways to connect with sexual partners).
Part of growing up and learning should be the ability to tell the difference. Because yes, you can watch an action movie and then go out and shoot people. But it’s a terrible idea. And you should fucking know better.
So take some responsibility and learn about the things you’re interested in. We live in an internet age and it’s pretty likely you watch porn. Maybe you should seek out some information about it. Get some context. There are a lot of people doing their part to provide it. The older you get, the more it becomes your fault if you don’t have any. It means you’re not paying attention.