Porn Star Philosophy

What do porn stars communicate through their tattoos?

As an information superhighway, arguably the web’s greatest gift is giving a voice to anyone who has access to it. A close second, though, would be the prolific amounts of pornography it brings to adults. I am not arguing that it’s a good gift—or a bad one for that matter—but there is undeniably a lot of free porn out there. The combination of these offerings is a unique philosophical class that has been long overlooked. At this internet intersection of educational forum and adult entertainment are the women who may be most muted in our society—our porn stars. To learn from them, you don’t need listen to their views, just watch closely.

Any augmentation to that surface affects her career, and therefore it can be reasonably argued that pornography must factor into the thought process as a diva of blue material decides on an ink design.

On screen Nikki Benz sits in a tattoo parlor chair, looking fit to be tied. The tagline explains that it is her birthday, and she came to get her first tattoo. However, at some point—during the wait in the suspiciously empty parlor—Nikki got nervous. The solution? Why, only a good screw would do.

Porn stars have a story to tell, with a certain perspective unique to members of an oft-maligned profession. Discovering where the story lies, however, presents an obstacle, since you certainly will not find one among the dialogue in most of those movies. Instead, look at the tattoos on these starlets. Among the lines of ink on many actresses of blue material, they have penned dark and brilliant philosophies on their bodies.

When delving into skin deep stories, a possible point of contention must be dealt with. What is unique about porn stars? Why are their tattoos, and the resulting interpretations, any more pertinent than some other professionals’ ink? People in other fields can have skin art that has no bearing on their careers. The difference can be summed up with one question in response: Do you think porn stars get breast implants because they need a self-esteem boost? The skin flick starlet is not an ordinary woman who wants a little more attention around the office. Arguments of acting skills aside, the porn star’s marketable talents sit at a surface level. Any augmentation to that surface affects her career, and therefore it can be reasonably argued that pornography must factor into the thought process as a diva of blue material decides on an ink design.

Now, boundaries must be established in this exploration of overlooked tales for two reasons. First, since this subject skirts the line of propriety, it must be guarded against completely crossing over that line. Second, as I have yet to see another article like this, consider it an introduction to porn star philosophy. Just as college freshmen introduction courses stick to the basics, so we will do the same. All tattoos covered here will be less complex than sleeves, so stop picturing the femme fatales from Suicide Girls. On the other hand, to continue the analogy, high school subjects will be glossed over for the most part. Insignificant tattoos such as barbed wire armbands and “tramp stamps”[1] will not appear here. Those ill-advised designs more closely resemble a teenage essay that tests the boundaries by including a swear word than a college term paper that merits a true discussion.

To talk about porn star philosophy, one must begin with the exceptions, the women who walk out naked, sans ink. Nearly all of these women are barely more than girls, the younger generation just entering into the profession. It makes complete sense that they have yet to put stories on their skin. Freshmen—fresh women—to the scene, these ladies have much to learn. The rest are the dilettantes, the women who responded to a casting call, sent in a video on a whim, or any number of reasons that found them in front of a camera, giggling and blushing about how this is the first time they ever did something so wild. What about the experienced star, who has flawless skin, or if not flawless, at least lined only by nature’s cruel hands? Well, she doesn’t exist. You swear, you saw her? No, of course, you did not see her, but your friend told you about this gorgeous girl who was all natural. Tell “your friend” to tear his eyes off her breasts for a little longer, and he will discover some type of tattoo. Sure, it might be something as insipid as a dolphin or broken heart, but experience does not imply profundity. Somewhere on her body is a jot of ink in memory of a moment or idea that seemed more important at the time.

These silly, sometimes hidden, little scenes—like a pair of lips just beneath their already low panty lines, or hummingbirds fluttering around a shoulder blade—are an inevitable part of pornography’s body of work. Not every storyteller can philosophize; some prefer to pen tales that belong in the Young Adult section of Borders. Take Brooke Skye for example. Her low riding jeans hardly hide the pair of cherries inked on the inside of her right hip. Ms. Skye, intentionally or not, brings irony to her story, a porn star who has permanently kept her cherries. Since she almost exclusively performs solo, or with another young woman, her story reads like a dramatically ironic tale about the desire to hold on to a younger, more innocent self-image. If Brooke Skye bears the Harry Potter of tattoos, then Capri Cavalli has the Twilight series—mundane retellings that everyone seems to want due to a little extra sexuality. On her lower back she has put the obligatory tribal[2] tramp stamp, and Asian symbols sit just beneath the belt. The Pacific Rim ink reveals little more than a sham attempt at appearing profound. Admittedly, good stories should be translated and shared with the world, but an author with something to say says it first in her native tongue.

The experienced porn star philosopher starts off among the pack and works to elevate the quotidian to the realm of the exquisite. Jenaveve Jolie has the tattoo equivalent of a rough draft. Across her upper right bicep, a tribal tattoo swirls like the feminine form of barbed wire. Two large feathers from a dream catcher design dangle in the middle, making it just different enough to avoid banality. As with any student’s work, the audience must wonder how much is intentional and how much is random, albeit striking, juxtaposition. Did she understand the ties between the tattoos of ancient tribal cultures? Did Ms. Jolie realize the connection between the speculated migrations of early Asian peoples that populated the Pacific islands as well as North America? The way her tattoo wanders suggests a parallel to the wandering of an entire culture throughout history—sharp turns and dead ends culminating in a web of dreams. Even her stark coloring, all in grayscale, hints at a philosophy still in development. On Jenaveve Jolie’s right wrist can be seen her first aborted attempt—smudged writing and a crude cross—but like many authors, she tends to hide her early creations.

In fact, the wrist tattoo has developed into the porn star’s version of the writer’s coffee and cigarettes. Morgan Layne sports her own carpal lettering and makes another connection between writers and porn stars: the age of the philosopher—whether she writes on a white page or her own peach skin—has little to do with the insight conveyed. In modern times both professions have realized that youthful fervor and mature experience have their niches. Ms. Layne, young enough to pose for shoots that contain some combination of the words “barely” and “legal,” has the largest quantity of tattoos of any of the women examined here. While the adage holds true—quantity does not mean quality—both art and philosophy benefit from practice. Ignoring irrelevant tattoos, Morgan Layne has two silhouettes of a reclining woman, one outlined on each hip so they sit facing each other, and three stars climbing up her right side from just above the head of the silhouette to the bottom of her ribcage.

Taking into account Morgan Layne’s profession in the interpretation of her ink, the sensual female outlines and their location at her hips mean that those tattoos will be seen in nearly all of her productions. They have no faces, no distinguishing features at all in fact, just a suggestive shape. The suggestion, besides sexual, is of universality, both negative and positive. On one side, making no distinction between women is one of the greatest non-religious arguments against pornography. Ignoring the individuality of a woman is the essence of misogyny. The misogynist generalizes women in order to treat them as objects. On the other side, sexuality is itself an ambiguous, faceless force. Only individuals can fail, be hurt, become victims, but a force is free of those concerns. Above the sexuality rise three stars. One star connotes dreams and wishes, whereas two nautical—five pointed—stars denote guidance, the minimum necessary for a sailor to find the way home. You wish upon a single star and plot a path with two, so three stars would imply finding a way to make dreams into reality. The combination of tattoos results in a philosophy of submission, not to people, but to raw forces in order to realize true dreams in spite of taboos.

While Morgan Layne’s penned philosophy may seem complex, Charmane Star takes a less convoluted approach to ink. Originally from the Philippines, Ms. Star lacks a tribal tattoo, which means two things: she sidestepped a popular pitfall, and routinely makes appearances in Asian themed films. What philosophy course would be complete without an entire Eastern perspective crammed in at the end of the semester? Charmane Star has only a black circle, tattooed on her upper right arm. It stands out, stark and simple. It compliments her musculature, stretching over her deltoid instead of mundanely wrapping around her bicep. The circle appears sexy, strange, and exotic in its simplicity. Contained within the circle is the softly moaned or loudly screamed “Oh” of orgasm, the void of an unfilled vessel, and the continuity of life itself. Dan Brown may contend that a “v” represents the feminine better, but he has obviously been looking too long at paintings of a modest Venus, naked and yet still covering all of her circles. The black circuit symbolizes the repetition of history, the sensuality of the subtle nature of sexuality, and the power of pornography.

Philosophy has partnered with mathematics since Pythagoras, and the circle synthesizes that relationship. The circle is perfect in a way a woman could only hope to be. Near or far, it appears the same to the viewer. The ratios of a circle also remain consistent. A woman strives for her personal preference of proportions, chest to waist to hips, but the circumference of a circle can always be divided by pi to find its diameter. A woman works to hit her specific weight, while the formula for the area of a circle has constants. The circle, curving and perfectly symmetrical from right to left, also makes a perfect tattoo for a porn star.

To wrap all of this up—I beg forgiveness for the pun—turn your attention back to Nikki Benz in the tattoo parlor. Did she or did she not get a tattoo? A little research reveals no answer to that question, but something even more interesting. Ms. Benz used to have ink, but underwent a removal process at the end of 2007. Some more digging shows that her tattoo was a tramp stamp. Almost unanimously her viewers rejoiced over the news of its disappearance, filling message boards with appreciation and predictions of growth in her fan base. Nikki Benz displays a whole new philosophy and story with her skin. Maybe even the most permanent-seeming decisions need not haunt us for our entire lives. Or, she might also have a new philosophy, freshly inked. Guess you will have to keep watching pornography to find out—for purely philosophical reasons, of course.

 

[1] Tramp stamps are tattoos found on the small of the back, stereotypically worn by women, and lacking in creativity (butterflies, hearts, and so on).

[2] Tribal tattoos refer to a large variety of tattoo designs that originated among the islands of the Pacific Rim. Most are identified by a pattern of undulating lines, resembling stylized waves, or exotic barbed wire.

 

Read more on Body Modification on The Good Life.

Image credit: IvanG/Flickr

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About John Dwyer

John Dwyer is the co-editor for The Strip (adult language but SFW). Learn more about him on his website or contact him through email, Google, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    When you make your living with your body, especially in a visual medium, then it makes some sense that your skin might be a canvas for art or for personal messages. I can also imagine that tattoos are somewhat individualistic in a medium where people really do start to look alike. Perhaps they even act like a bit of documentation, like a signature? “You refuse to pay me because you said I wasn’t in that movie, but I was, and I can prove it to you!”

    I think tattoos also serve as a kind of personal property in contexts where you may not feel like you own your life. I suspect people in prison get tattoos in part because they don’t really get to own anything but their own skins. You can have everything taken away from you in prison, but it’s hard to steal a tattoo.

    And, it could be that the primary audience for a porn star’s tattoo is not the porn viewer. The main message may be from herself to herself.

    I know there’s a whole subfield of criminal justice/corrections that’s compiling an encyclopedic database about all the tattoos found in jails and prisons and all the coded meanings they seem to have. Perhaps there needs to be similar funding to study porn tats?…..

  2. I always assumed women in porn got tattoos for the same reason the rest of us tattooed women did. Because it meant something at the time we got it or because it was the in thing to do or because it seemed like fun at the time. Usually it’s one of those reasons that I hear from the non-porn public. My reasons are because mine meant/mean something to me.

    I try to not analyze why people get tattoos too much and that includes porn actresses because realistically there are sometimes just no deep reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as it makes my ass look hot and eve hotter when I wear this bathing suit or this pair of jeans.

    I’m honestly a little surprised when I see tattoos in mainstream porn on the girls since from what I understand from a vocal bunch of men some men just don’t like seeing that stuff on women. Though I suppose to a degree the actresses in porn are a dime a dozen… here for a couple scenes and then gone again. No real staying power in this industry anymore.

  3. John Dwyer says:

    I really love the idea that you could use a tattoo as proof of identity that wellokaythen put forward. That’s a side I hadn’t even remotely considered. It’s also a very valid point that both of the commenters here make that the audience for the tattoo may just be the starlet herself. I don’t want to say that you have to have deep reasons or think of others before getting a tattoo, in fact that’s what I tried to touch on with tribal tattoos and simpler designs. I just wanted to get into the designs that might spark more conversation, so admittedly, I rushed past the “just cuz I wanted one” tattoos.

    I completely agree with Kat about the surprise, and I think you understand where the article came from, then. If you’re making money by showing you skin to an audience (among other things) and that audience has their own preferences, any conscious alteration makes a difference in the audience you’re appealing to, the money you can make, etc. So it is surprising and worth thinking about when a mainstream star has a tattoo, which is why I tried to specifically find stars that had made a name for themselves and weren’t terribly niche.

    I would say this porn star tattoo argument actually extends to non-taboo film stars as well – look at Angelina Jolie or Alyssa Milano and the discussions that erupt over their tattoos. I just find porn stars to have more interesting ink (maybe even a little more thought under the surface as well).

  4. What do porn stars communicate through their tattoos? Who, beyond their friends and family, cares? Very few people are watching porn for any messages conveyed by the performers’ tattoos.

    This also answers Kat’s question. Even guys who prefer their women tattoo-free are not going to be so bothered if an otherwise attractive woman in a porn flick has a tattoo. Know why? Cause they’re about to watch her perform sex acts, that’s why. Tattoed actresses in mainstream films, on the other hand, often have to get their skin ink covered up.

    Anyway, I can’t help but think this article was written as a dare.

    • “Even guys who prefer their women tattoo-free are not going to be so bothered if an otherwise attractive woman in a porn flick has a tattoo. Know why? Cause they’re about to watch her perform sex acts, that’s why.”

      Not true. Guys have appearance standards for the porn they prefer, and for some of us those standards include the presence/absence of tattoos. Just as a guy who like “big uns” won’t watch flat-chested ‘barely legal’ porn because those women don’t appeal to him, a guy who hates tattoos will turn off someone like Jenna Jameson because he finds the tattoos a turnoff.

  5. This post just landed you on the Poseur Alert section on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/10/poseur-alert.html

    Sorry.

    • John Dwyer says:

      Thanks for the heads up, and I am assume you’re not Mr. Sullivan so no need to apologize. That’s unfortunate that someone thinks I’m a poseur, but more unfortunate that the humor and thoughts behind the piece did not have an effect on him. Some people benefit from a second reading, though, and some day I am sure I would benefit from getting around to reading whatever sort of article it is that he writes.

  6. sedanchair says:

    Jeez, what a load. Do you feel a little better about whacking off now?

  7. Is this a joke? I learned nothing here.

  8. I sincerely and honestly cannot tell if this is a prolonged sarcastic attempt at humor, or if the author is actually being serious. If the latter, for the love of God, go get yourself laid. I’d pay good money to see what these porn starts would have to say about your deconstruction of their tats. They’ have sex on camera for money; they’re not profound existentialists.

    • John Dwyer says:

      Some might be profound philosophers. Have you ever seen Zombie Strippers? It’s got Jenna Jamison and more Sartre non sequitors than you can shake a stick at. That movie is actually what pushed me to put this out, but I didn’t want to admit to watching that movie with the volume turned on.

      But prolonged sarcasm aside, you bring up a good idea that I am trying to follow up on myself – I really would love to see what any of the ladies mentioned here have to say. I just hope they firmly grasp the respectful humor here that seems to be a little too dry for some. Buh-dum-ching.

  9. wellokaythen says:

    There’s also this interesting self-referential thing going on, where women dressed like old-fashioned pin-up girls are wearing tattoos of pin-up girls that look just like themselves. They look like the tattoos and the tattoos look like them. Now, if only the tattoo of the pin-up girl had a tattoo of a pin-up girl….

    The tattoo as documentary proof idea is just total speculation on my part. I keep thinking like a labor lawyer. Never underestimate the business acumen of porn actresses.

  10. I came over from the Dish. I enjoyed your post and wish you well.

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